Friday, May 28, 2010

Video Vixens

Just this morning i learned my old boss, Buddy Guy, is opening his new club tonight in Chicago. As i worked at the last one (greatest job of my life), i felt obligated to attend the new opening. Add in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, and guess who decided to book a flight a couple of hours ago to Chicago? That's right, biyatches, me. Still, i didn't want to leave you with nothing before i left, so enjoy the following for your viewing pleasure.

Finally looks like that Sir Lusciouc Leftfoot is going to see the light of day. If the couple of singles floating out there are any indication, expect a triumphant return.

Shutterbug (Big Boi from Sir Luscious Leftfoot ... Son of Chico Dusty)

This has become my most favoritest Josh Ritter track, and quite frankly, the most bittersweet love song i've heard in a long time. And dig this--the drummer also is a master puppeteer, so HE MADE THE VIDEO!!! Now that's talent right there, kids.

The Curse (Josh Ritter from So Runs the World Away)

i mentioned this track to you cats a while ago, and it's since started to blow up pretty nicely. See? Once i saw this video, i knew you needed to see that, too.

mp3: Snowflake (Malachai from Ugly Side of Love)

And here's one of my old boss at the old club. Le sigh. i'm feeling a bit verklempt now, so talk amongst yourselves for a moment.

Hoodoo Man Blues (Buddy Guy & Junior Wells from Last Time Around--Live at Legends)

Yes, i was there for the recording of that CD. i was bar backing that night, as a matter of fact. They planned on releasing even more tracks from the two night affair, but we were making too much noise in the background. i thought breaking bottles would give it that Janis Jopline "Turtle Blues" effect, but the sound guy disagreed. And there's your meaningless factoid for the weekend.

And i'm out. i gots to gets on a plane, suckas.

Album Review: The New Pornographers – Together

Man, it’s been a rough week. Not only do I have to admit to not being into Beach House (an oversight I have heartily fixed), but now I have to ‘fess up to my lack of devotion when it comes to The New Pornographers. I really don’t know how it happened. But year after year went by, and I just never gave the twang-lovin’ Canadians a chance. I come to you today, however, a convert. Their new record, Together, has shown me the light. Because, rather simply put, it’s nothing short of a masterpiece.

It’s a party on this here record, eh? With a sound that sounds a lot less country-rock than I expected, Together is a nothing short of a big ole beautiful beast of a rock record. The songs are luxuriously expansive, filled to the brim with epic sounds, though mercifully stopping short of over-the-top bombast. And naturally, I’m inclined to love any record that features the incomparable vocal talents of Miss Neko Case. But I suspect I’d love Together even without Neko’s vocal perfection. From the fabulous fragmentation of the instrumentation on opener “Moves”, I knew I was in for a treat. It, and a vast majority of the album, has this fabulous, broad sound. To me it sounds like bits and pieces of the wonderful noises made by bands like T. Rex, Roxy Music, and Slade, though missing some of that excessive decadence.

“Crash Years” I love because of the influence of Neko, though it’s pretty perfect on the whole. “There’s no other show like it ‘round here,” states Case, and she just about hit the nail on the head. “Your Hands (Together)” sounds more than a little like an early 80s stadium rock song, with all that ferociously grandiose guitar and strong vocals. And man alive, is that Bryan Ferry singing lead vocals on the sassy “Silver Jenny Dollar”? Yet another song on Together that I totally, utterly love. “A golden age is upon us,” croons Case in a painfully gorgeous vocal performance in the painfully gorgeous “My Shepherd”, a grownup lullaby fit for the heavens. Neko might well be singing about this record with that line, for it does indeed apply. “Valkyrie In The Roller Disco” is yet another class act, with just a little twang (courtesy of some delicately-played banjo) and a whole lot of raw emotion.

Let this be a lesson to you, my beloveds. It’s never too late to make up for past musical mistakes. Owning Together will most assuredly raise your musical stock, but more importantly it’ll make your day. Quite possibly your week. Guaranteed.

mp3: Silver Jenny Dollar (The New Pornographers from Together)

Happy Birthday, John

Now this, this is a birthday I can totally get behind. Mister John Fogerty has given the world so much good music, primarily while running things with Creedence. He's so good at the craft of songwriting that it's scary.

Those CCR songs of his are so darned great that I can even forgive him for those couple of baseball-related songs he inflicted on us all in the 80s (I can't even bear to name them).

Faux pas aside, (and really, it's not like he was alone in 80s faux pas-ing, the entirety of the 80s was one big faux pas for people like Rod Stewart) Fogerty is an absolute legend. When I was a young girl, I thought he was as Southern as they come, realizing later that this bayou boy was really from California. He even did well in covers, both the covering of good songs and being covered himself. After all, just think of how spectacular the CCR cover of "I Put A Spell On You" is, not to mention the Ike & Tina cover of "Proud Mary". Fogerty knew what was up, friends.

So put on your copy of The Big Lebowski, pour yourself a cold one, and remember the unrivaled radness of Fogerty in the glory days. Because for a while there, it sure was glorious.

mp3: Penthouse Pauper (Creedence Clearwater Revival from Bayou Country)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Live and Direct: Living for the City Concert featuring Stevie Wonder; Verizon Center; 5-26-10

When The Missus told me she snagged a couple of extra tickets to see Stevie Wonder last night, i was pumped. He's clearly one of the greatest musician/performers of our lifetime, the type of cat one should see if ever the opportunity arises. When i checked out his and the VC's websites and neither mentioned the event, however, i feared perhaps The Missus had been misinformed, and that we would in fact be going to see the world's greatest drag Stevie Wonder impersonator or some such thing. Turns out, Stevie wasn't in town for the latest stop on an on-going tour, but was chosen to headline an event sponsored by the Pollin family to say "thanks" to both VC employees and DC civic workers called, "Living For the City."

Except for the roped off VIP area (read: the entirety of the floor where the ice normally would go at Caps games), there was no assigned seating, so folks just kind of meandered to where ever they felt like it. i've been to a lot of big venue concerts, and i can honestly say, i've never experienced a more cordial crowd in my life.

The evening kicked off with not-quite-brief statements from the Pollin family. It was their party, and the crowd was more than willing to applaud just about every time someone paused to take a breath, regardless of what had just been said. While it was a nice gesture from the house, it had the unintended effect of dragging the start of things out unnecessarily.

Once Stevie took the stage, however, all was forgotten as the man proceeded to put on a two-hour-plus review of how to rock the house. He dipped into a catalogue even deeper than i realized he had. While the hits were obvious ("My Cherie Amour;" "Signed, Sealed, Delivered;" "As;" "Sir Duke;" "I Wish"), he played some lesser knowns ("Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing") and at least one or two i couldn't place at all. For covers, he did a Motown Medley that included "Heard It Through the Grapevine" and then later the blues standard, "Further On Down the Road." Each one, though, he knocked out of the park.

Interestingly enough, he did not sing "Living for the City," the song for which the event was named. What can you do?

While he complained of a sore throat and required a hot tea towards the end, the man still has a honey-drenched voice that can hit highs and lows like a champ. Equally impressive, Stevie has a smile that is more contagious than any i've ever seen. When he flashed the pearly whites, you could feel the happy factor in the room rise noticeably.

Towards the end of the evening, following the obligatory "having two audience members sing on-stage with the Master," special guest Frederic Yonnet came on-stage. The two dueled on harmonica for a bit, and while Stevie arguably could have allowed Yonnet a bit more time to show off his skills, everyone knew why the crowd was there in the first place, so no blood, no foul. It's a shame, though, as Yonnet's played with everyone including Prince lately, and i would have loved to hear some more of his chops. Oh well, there's always next time.

It was mentioned at the start of the evening that the entire affair had been thrown together in three weeks time, and it the roughness around the edges did show occasionally. It was clear Wonder was doing a private show that had not gone through full rehearsals, as cues were missed and the mic-ing wasn't too hot on all the players. However, he's clearly played with those cats for a while and was comfortable seemingly without a playlist, simply playing whatever suited him and/or what the crowd requested.

On a down note, apparently some 1,500 tickets were stolen prior to the show, and Stevie was so pissed he essentially ended the show saying he'd pay $5000 of his own money if anyone had any information that lead to an arrest. Now, i got my ticket from The Missus' friend, spinner extraordinaire, the incomparable Miz Schooley, who happens to work for the Metro, and hence our in, furnished our tickets. Seriously, though, stealing from a charity event for the community? Not cool, dude. Not cool at all.

The rest of the affair, however, was thrown with panache and good will. That's the kind of thing that makes DC a great place to live in, so a tip of the hat to the Pollins for making it happen. And that's one more name i can take off of my "Must See" list. Which is nice.

mp3: As (Stevie Wonder from Songs in the Key of Life)

mp3: Living for the City (Stevie Wonder from Innervisions)

Album Review: Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

I’m beginning to wish they all could be California bands. No, really. The latest conglomeration of Californios I’m currently salivating over is Local Natives. They’ve arisen from the hipster haven of Silver Lake (though technically hail from elsewhere) and shot me through with many Cupidian arrows of musical amour. Gorilla Manor, their new full length, is at this very minute making my heart go pitter-patter, and quite possibly might induce swooning at any moment.

Gorilla Manor takes its name from the house the band once shared, and in which substantial portions of the record were written. A friend of mine once lived in a house dubbed The Rape Cave, in Richmond, but that’s neither here nor there, really. I’m not holding my breath for an album of the same name. Digressions aside, Gorilla Manor, the record, is choc full of loveliness in many forms.

The full-on foxiness of the record begins immediately. “Wide Eyes” opens the album with some haunting harmonizing and entrancing drumming, not to mention that blissful guitar, the sum total of which is magnificent. At times, Local Natives sound a whole lot like Fleet Foxes, hitting perfectly glorious notes of harmony heavenliness. It kinda sorta makes me think of Fleet Foxes vacationing in LA, sitting in Adirondack chairs watching the sun descend over the hills.

“I wanna lift/my hands towards the sun,” they sing in “Sun Hands”, yet another gorgeous summery shimmer of a song. “World News” practically blows my mind with all the impeccable harmonizing (really, it’s almost like they’re showing off at this point) and overall glorious noise. It’s painfully beautiful, but isn’t meant to be put on the mantle in the formal living room in which kids aren’t allowed. There’s some definite kick to Gorilla Manor, for as lovely as the songs are they’ve got some spicy feistiness. And I like it.

Gorilla Manor. A name definitely not giving anything away in terms of the depths of golden beauty to be found in the album’s twelve songs. But it’s a name you should definitely make yourself familiar with, if you haven’t already. And go ahead and just accept the fact that it’s one of the best records of the year.

mp3: World News (Local Natives from Gorilla Manor)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Last Second Tickets and Sympathetic Music

Guess who got last second tickets to see Stevie Wonder tonight? Expect a review tomorrow. Stevie definitely is one of the greatest artists of our times, and he's definitely on my list of "Artists You Must See Before You (Or They) Kick The Bucket." Certainly a nice surprise to start my day, but it means i can't spend hours making you kids the Greatest Mix You Ever Will Hear About Rectal Microbicides or anything. You'll just have to take a couple of mp3s and deal with it.

So here's a track by Stevie, and De La Soul using it as excellent sample material.

i'm sorry, but i just can't do a Stevie post and NOT embed the funkiest Sesame Street jam of all times.

LP Lust: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

There are no actual record purchases involved in this here post. It's more of a reaction to a post a friend had written about the horror of splitting up a record collection at the end of a relationship (read the Lightning's Girl post here). While never having faced the trauma myself, I still manage to have an opinion on the subject Tracy has raised, namely, should you or shouldn't you merge record collections when entering into a serious relationship? For my part, I agree with Tracy. I think combining record collections, while perhaps an excellent idea in theory, is in truth a terrible, horrible, no good very bad idea. And here's why.

I've worked very hard at building my record collection. And while small in stature, I'd venture to say it's a pretty awesome assortment. One of these days I might meet a great boy with an equal, or even greater passion for vinyl. This would be pretty special, obviously. However, the question might eventually arise: hey, if we move in together, what about our records? I'll just go ahead and nip any future debate in the bud right here. My record collection will not be merged. No way, no how. Friends, please remind me of my stance here should my judgment falter in the future. Merging the records can only end badly. Tracy likens this to having one's fingertips sawed off, and I think that's probably fairly accurate. Our record collections, one might argue, are a part of our personalities. No matter how impressive your partner's vinyl might be, it isn't necessarily cause for blending record families. While additional records are indeed cause for great joy and increased listening happiness, the idea of laying the "what's mine is yours" umbrella over records is dangerous to be sure.

And then, when the inevitable're totally, utterly screwed. Dealing with a breakup is hard enough, but if you've merged your record collections together, it'll be infinitely worse. Bitter insults and stinging words thrown around while arguing over who is the rightful owner of that pristine copy of your favorite record. Thanks, but no thanks. If you must blend together your vinyl, make sure to mark each and every record, so no arguments can be had later on. But probably a more ideal solution could be his'n'hers record cabinets. Keep 'em separated, folks. It's not worth the heartbreak.

Album Review: Leslie & The Badgers – Roomful of Smoke

Leslie Stevens of Leslie & The Badgers sure does have a mighty fine voice, doesn’t she? It’s a little bit Dolly, a little bit Emmylou, and a little bit Loretta, with a little somethin’ extra purty thrown in for good measure. Roomful Of Smoke, her new record, is a kind of paean to the divine, honeyed past of country, odes of joy (even when they’re not so joyful). It’s a first-class tribute from the acolyte to her inspirations, and it’s full of California dreamin’.

We begin with “Los Angeles”, a soft, sweet sounding acoustic number. Stevens waxes poetic about the City of Angels, where “enchantment can be found/but not quite bliss”, making this one a lovely, contemplative ditty about the beautiful yet hard city. The mellowness of the song nearly hides the subtle frustration Stevens works into the lyrics. But before the album sinks into the weight of introspective sorrow, we’ve moved into title track “Roomful Of Smoke”, a lively toe-tapper that really plays up to Stevens’ finely-honed retro sound. It’s not a stretch to imagine Stevens, and her band of backing Badgers, playing at some backwoods, country hole-in-the-wall, in a dark room choked with cigarette smoke and filled with whisky-swilling plaid shirted gents, complete with tapping cowboy boots. “Roomful Of Smoke” is definitely one to take a turn around the floor with your old man or old lady to.

“Love is what the angels will bring,” croons Stevens in the excellent “Winter Fugue”. It’s full of don’t-do-me-wrong lady sentiments that would do her predecessors proud. “My Tears Are Wasted On You” definitely channels the golden era of popular country (i.e. the 70s), with the syrupy strings and country-fried guitar. Stevens also really lets loose vocally, pouring on the glorious, wounded dejection that she does so well. Another standout is “Ballpark Lights”, in which Stevens sweetly proclaims, “I sing for hearts in love”. It’s a good slow-dancin’ number, as the organ sways and swells and Stevens fights off the breaking in her voice.

It’s as though Stevens has taken the sound and feel of the best country albums of the 70s and reworked them to her purposes, adapted them to our current times and places. The themes are the same, but the execution tweaked just so. Roomful Of Smoke is an album deftly done, well-recorded and well-played. It’s a great blend of the humidly haunting South and the golden magic of the Canyon, and it sure does put a big ole smile on my face.

mp3: My Tears Are Wasted On You (Leslie & The Badgers from Roomful of Smoke)

Album Review: Beach House – Teen Dream

Ok, so it pains me to admit this, but I’ve never really been all that into Beach House. Sure, they’re from just up the road in Baltimore. Sure, they’ve been getting serious love for years from bloggers all over the place. I’m the first to admit I sometimes miss things. And hey, I truly didn’t give them a fair shake. Until now, that is. A mere seconds into new release Teen Dream, I might just be turning into a Beach House fangirl after all.

Right from the get-go, Teen Dream is gorgeous. “Zebra” opens the record in magnificent fashion, dreamy and transcendent, probably the most glorious song ever written in homage to one of nature’s most unique creatures. Not only do I love this song, but I love Beach House for writing a song inspired by those brilliant stripes. “Silver Soul” is languidly seductive, with that warm, glowing guitar and gentle, steady beats. It’s a song to which a boy should catch the gaze of his beloved from across the room at a house party, in slow-motion, of course. Totally, incomprehensibly, spectacularly hypnotic.

I just love the layers, the beautiful, decadent sonic layers that comprise each and every song on this record. It comes at you from all angles, wrapping around you in a heavenly swirl, creating an utterly disarming and magical effect. Listening to Teen Dream is somewhat akin to listening to musical interpretations of the best days of your life captured on record by people you’ve never met, yet who hit the nail on the head with exquisite accuracy. “Walk In The Park”, for example, took my breath away the first time I heard it. It’s stunning, simple as. And “Used To Be”? It’s just about alive with a glittering, gossamer glory. Is this a record wherein life is but a dream, and everything comes up roses all day every day? Of course not. But the music, o the music. It sure could fool you into thinking we do indeed live in a perfect world. I hereby testify that this record is a little slice of heaven, believe you me.

Teen Dream is a thing of beauty, my friends. But then, you probably already knew that. I might be a little slow on the draw, but I am here today to sing the praises of Beach House from sea to shining sea. If you, like me, were a little behind the times when it comes to Beach House, do not despair. The mere acquisition of Teen Dream will make it all ok.

mp3: Silver Soul (Beach House from Teen Dream)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Greatest, Shortest Ticket Scalper Mix You Ever Will Hear

Man alive, going to see the Blackhawks play in the home opener is not looking to be an easy deal. It would be nice if Ticket Bastard and the NHL could get their shit together enough to make an official announcement about when tickets go on-sale. Or has the time already come and gone? You can't tell from either of their websites. Should i risk it and hope a scalper makes my day? i need music for these types of decisions.

As such, here's The Greatest, Shortest Ticket Scalper Mix You Ever Will Hear.

LP Lust: DC Record Fair Edition

Lord have mercy, it’s been a long damn time since I’ve done one of these here posts. I’ve been spending not nearly enough money on vinyl, though clearly there’s a reason for my lack of irresponsible record costs. Sunday was clearly a case for making an exception, as it was the second installment of the Record Fair, held at the Black Cat. When last I visited the Record Fair, it was during the Blizzards of 2010, and the snow wasn’t the only issue. It was too dark, too crowded, and thereby too hard to paw through the crates of lovely, wonderful vinyl.

Well, the Record Fair folks definitely used the time between Fairs to make improvements. The lighting was illuminating, the crowd not nearly as heaving as the last Fair (though this could be do in part to getting their halfway through the event). And most importantly, there were mimosas to be had. What’s better than geeking out over vinyl with a pint glass of mimosa in your hand? Just about nothing. Also on offer? Blueberry pancakes down in the café. My purchases are all from Som Records (just a few doors down, and though tiny boasts a hugely awesome selection), though there sure was a lot of tempting treats to be had at the Record Fair. I’m already impatient for the next one.

*The Hullaballoos – The Hullabaloos
*Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs – The Best of Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
*The Allman Brothers Band – Brothers and Sisters
*Archie Bronson Outfit – Coconut
*The Strange Boys – Be Brave
*Various – That’s Truckdrivin’
*Cat Mothers and the All-Night Newsboys
Albion Doo-Wah

mp3: Magnetic Warrior (Archie Bronson Outfit from Coconut)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Greatest Sugar Free Chicago Mix You Ever Will Hear

We try to stick to all things music here at LET, but we do have other interests, too. You may recall my mentioning my hockey fanaticism just a few weeks back. While i'm a Washington Caps fan (and season ticket holder) by location (with highly inappropriate feelings for AO and Backs; what can you do?), i am, of course, a Chicago Blackhawks fan by birth and by blood (which hopefully explains the equal bromance felt for Johnny Toews, shitty playoff beard or not). With yesterday's sweep of the perennially snakebit San Jose Sharks, the 'Hawks are on their way to their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1992, but we don't really need to go into that one right now.

As a tip of the hat to a job well done, i've put together a Chicago mix that clearly doesn't have "Sweet Home Chicago" in it. i've got to have something to post when they win the whole thing, right?*

As such, here's The Greatest Sugar Free Chicago Mix You Ever Will Hear.

And for the 'Hawks enlightened:

*That's right, i'm trash talking, bitch. And you know what elese? Your mother dresses you funny. What about it?

Album Review: Neverever – Angelic Swells

Take two hot Scots with a penchant for retro, uproot them from the gray of Glasgow and move them to the sun and surf of Los Angeles, and what have you got? I’ll tell you what. You get the absolutely adorable Neverever, and their feisty little debut record Angelic Swells. Neverever is Jihae and Wallace Meek, a couple of musically-seasoned performers who now call each other bandmates as well as their better halves. Angelic Swells is outta sight, daddy-o, and you should absolutely definitely positively own it.

It begins with a rainstorm, gentle 60s guitar strumming, and Jihae’s voice singing “I was crying/half a world away” in a tone somewhere between off-key and the perfect girl group pitch. The song is a reinvention of those classic, early 60s lovesick pop songs, knocked on its ear with some serious riffage as the song progresses. And then, the rain brings the song to a close, and we’re already onto the wickedly wonderful “Blue Genes”. Neverever takes on another persona here, paying homage to some of the finest Glaswegian bands of the early 80s, namely Orange Juice and the fine, fine Josef K. The song possesses some rather good guitar jangling, and is sure to get the kids moving on the dancefloor. And damned if I don’t get a huge kick out of “Bitch Boys”, sounding a bit like a meeting of the minds between Bow Wow Wow’s “C30 C60 C90 Go” along with a hefty dose of girl group (perhaps Spector-esque, even) and a splash of surf.

Moving through Angelic Swells, several things become clear. First, and most obvious, is that this is one heck of a record. I can’t fault a single song on it. Next, Scottish kids really know how to make music. Especially if they’re from Glasgow. And finally, moving to LA seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Hey, it worked for Mr. and Mrs. Meek. They added the best of both cities, the influence of great Glaswegian bands of yore with the chirpy pop sounds of the sun-drenched SoCal landscape and wrapped the strains of the 60s, 70s, and 80s around it all to create their sublime sound. It’s required listening for 2010, my loves, so snap to it.

mp3: Young And Dumb (Neverever from Angelic Swells)

Happy Birthday, Bob

Hard to believe it's time once again to wish a Happy Birthday (69, if you're keeping track) to a legendary fellow Gemini, Bob Dylan. Geminis do it better, it's official. I started celebrating last month, when the two-disc biographical flick "No Direction Home" found its way off my Netflix queue and into my mailbox. I verily enjoyed the insights into Dylan's childhood and early years, and found myself able to relate to his thoughts on college ("I didn't go to classes. I just didn't feel like it."). Though, I suspect he missed a whole lot more class than yours truly. And he's probably just a wee bit more gifted. But I digress.

Dylan will, most likely, be looked to for inspiration and revered for years and years and years to come, and rightly so. While initially a Woody Guthrie fanboy, he turned into one of the best lyricists musicdom has ever seen, and is likely to see. He blew typical songs to smithereens, and I think you'll agree that his style was a welcome change. So here's my probable favorite Dylan song, as a little gift from me to you, in honor of the birthday boy.

mp3: Isis (Bob Dylan from Desire)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #25: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra @ Black Cat, 5/19/10

‘Twas my second time seeing the Montreal-ians of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra live and in living color. At All Tomorrow’s Parties 2008, they were great, and made my tipsy little heart so very happy. At the Black Cat, they were just as great. And I made sure not to sneak in a flask of homemade happy juice, just to make damn sure.

MINI RECAP: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra = Hallelujah havoc! Overall score: B+.

They began with “I Built Myself a Metal Bird”, from that fantastic new record of theirs, Kollapz Tradixionales. Immediately nice and loud, the song full of tumbling textures and drowsy with drone. Things got a bit haunting, almost eerie towards the end of the song, the violins sending shivers down my spine. It was one of many glorious musical clusterfucks the band would spew out on this night. The combined “Metal Bird” with the song that follows it on the record, “I Fed My Bird The Wings Of Other Metal Birds”, which made for one heck of an epic soundscape.

Continuing to highlight new material, the band then launched into “There Is A Light”, the slow molasses of the intro seeming even more spiritual than on record. The fairly attentive crowd was huddled in attentive silence, reverently enraptured by the loveliness of the introduction. But of course, this is Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra here, and so it doesn’t stay quiet for long. The song soon builds to a noisy wall of climaxing sound, violin managing to temper the storm of the explosive loudness somehow, some way. Soon, the harsh outburst is replaced with more relative quietude. And then, nearly twenty minutes later, it’s done and the crowd claps heartily.

Also included in the set was “God Bless Our Dead Marines”, the plucking of the upright bass somehow making me think of good old Macbeth, and those witchy sisters proclaiming, “Something wicked this way comes”. It felt almost raw, this song, unraveled even. I’d liken their affinity for such rambling songs to those people who run away on totally random tangents whilst telling a story about something totally different. And yet, unlike those distracted storytellers, the result with TSMZMO is incredibly awesome.

There was even an encore, “Microphones In The Trees”, jagged guitar battling the angelic violin. It was transfixing, not just this particular song but their whole set. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra make devilishly daring music, loud and twisted and deformed and alive. And to see them in the flesh is an experience not to be missed. The band might be of the opinion that “Canada does not rule”, but I would beg to differ. At least, as it applies to bands, that is.

mp3: There Is A Light (Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra from Kollapz Tradixionales)

Album Review: My Sad Captains – Here And Elsewhere

“One by one they appear in
the darkness: a few friends, and
a few with historical
names. How late they start to shine!”

(from the poem “My Sad Captains” by Thom Gunn)

A poem and a band, both with the name My Sad Captains, and both beautiful. Though the band, unlike the subjects in Thom Gunn’s poem, are shining sooner rather than later. London-based, though certainly sounding not at all like residents of the Big Smoke, My Sad Captains make positively lovely music. It’s prettily pastoral, with a hefty dose of wistfulness. To me, it’s the soundtrack you might want driving through miles of country, perhaps running away from (or running toward) something or someone.

Here And Elsewhere is a delight from start to finish. It’s sublime, placid, delicate. They remind me of a somewhat subdued Fanfarlo, they’re more low-key and a little lighter on the dramatic flourishes, though MSC is definitely in the same league when it comes to gorgeous music. It’s an album of sweeping tranquility, and mercy me it’s sensational. If I had to guess, I’d say MSC was listening to a whole lotta Beach Boys, Teenage Fanclub, and early Belle & Sebastian just before they holed up in the studio.

“Great Expectations” makes an excellent opener, jaunty and full of playful jangle and fantastic harmonizing. “Hello Bears” is a favorite, reminding me a little of Mercury Rev with its wavering vocals, somewhat sorrowful tone, and sleepy tempo. That dash of horns definitely adds to the yearning that pervades the song. “I’d rather be unknown,” they claim in title track “Here And Elsewhere”, a delectable slice of mope with dainty tinkling on the xylophone and pulsing with plaintiveness. Newest single “You Talk All Night” is a joy, with a magical opening and a punchy bassline, along with some soft piano that’s the cherry on the sundae. It’s a breathtaking song, but then, Here And Elsewhere is full of them.

It’s been a year of pleasant surprises, but perhaps finding My Sad Captains is the most pleasant surprise of all. Here And Elsewhere is simply stunning, full of subtle beauty and positively glowing with glory. Do yourselves a favor, my darlings, and pick this record up. It’s to good to be missed.

mp3: You Talk All Night (My Sad Captains from Here and Elsewhere)

Happy Birthday, Morrissey

He’s the crush of many an indie girl and boy the world over. In fact, a good percentage of my friends (and of course myself) all had crushes on this magnetic, moody bastard at some point during our formative music years. It’s something about that expertly coiffed hair, the doleful, heartbreaking lyrics, and that rather good-looking face…he’s a brooding, soulful, miseryguts. And he’s totally irresistible. His skill at moping and being miserable has certainly set him apart from the rest, and his songs have been the soundtrack to our sadness for many a long year. He has made a career out of being sad, and he's definitely got a knack for it.

So then, let’s all tip our caps to the one and only Mopefather. Because be it with The Smiths or on his own, nobody does it quite like Morrissey.

mp3: I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (The Smiths from Strangeways, Here We Come)

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Covered: He Needs Me

Sometimes ye olde iPod simply lands on a song i feel like sharing. Today would be one of those days. Some time ago, i was given a copy of Ndidi Onukwulu's The Contradictor to review. A few of the tracks jumped out at me, particularly a certain track called "He Needs Me." i recognized the tune from somewhere, but couldn't quite place it. As i had received a digital copy of the album, i had no liner notes to refer to, so i just placed it in my typically overflowing "Shit to Think About Later" pile and moved on with my life. Shortly thereafter, i'm watching the allegedly coke driven performance of Robin Williams in Popeye on cable, and what do you know, there's Shelley Duvall singing the original. So then i knew, thereby completing half the battle.

Flash forward to earlier this week, and i'm half asleep on the couch when what should come on the boob tube but Punch Drunk Love, the Adam Sandler vehicle that not only used the song in the film, but had Jon Brion piano it up a bit for an instrumental bit. Today, of course, the Shelley Duvall version popped on the Pod, and i decided now was as good a time as any to make sure It's Covered.

In my quest to find the original version, i quickly find the original was penned by none other than
Harry Nilsson himself. Also, Robert Altman, of all folks, directed the flick. Of course, now i clearly need to see the movie again, so hopefully TiVo won't let me down when i get home this evening. That didn't do anything to help me get you cats the original version of the song, though, which i quickly learned never made it past vinyl. Thanks to the Google Gods, however, i found the wonderfully informative For the Love of Harry blog. Should you need to know anything about Mr. Nilsson, i cannot recommend enough you go check out that site. Not only did they have the original album in mp3s, but i'll be damned if they didn't also happen to have the original demos, too. So today, you get a cover, an original, a couple of demos and a version that i swear is slightly different, but i could be crazy. At the 1:33 mark in the Popeye version, you can hear an almost unintelligible Robin Williams mumble, "But I do." In the Punch-Drunk Love version, i am positive that is Adam Sandler's voice overdubbed. Of course, i take a lot of drugs, so i could be off on this one.

Regardless of all that, enjoy. There's a bittersweet joy to this song that i just dig. i believe you shall, too.

mp3: He Needs Me (Shelley Duvall from Popeye Demos)

mp3: He Needs Me (Spanish Version) (Shelley Duvall (maybe?) from Popeye Demos)

mp3: He Needs Me (Shelley Duvall from Punch-Drunk Love Soundtrack)


By the by, if any of you happen to be fans of the Popeye soundtrack, i cannot for the life of me figure out who is singing (either real person or movie character) "Din' We." i know it didn't make the movie, but it's driving me crazy nonetheless. If anyone else knows, PLEASE hit me up in the comments or directly. Not knowing which cartoon character sang a song on an obscure 80s soundtrack is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night, but it also makes me nigh invulnerable in Trivial Pursuit, so there's that.

Album Review: Common Prayer – There Is A Mountain

The first time I listened to Common Prayer’s There Is A Mountain, I was driving home from an afternoon spent in Tappahannock, a lovely little hamlet on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Eastern Virginia. The sun was starting its slow descent into the countryside, and the car was covered by a blanket of tall trees along the roadways, peachy sunlight poking through and creating long shadows along the pavement. It was, without question, the perfect accompaniment for the first haunting taste of Common Prayer.

Common Prayer is the brainchild of LET friend and favorite Jason Russo, pied piper of superior Brooklyn band Hopewell. Taking a break from his Hopewellian duties, Russo decided to pick up stakes and decamp in the United Kingdom for a spell and work his magic in the countryside. The fruits of said labors can be found in the form of the fantastical record I shall discuss with you now.

There Is A Mountain deftly explores Russo’s gift for the beautifully quirky, and shows off his charmingly off-kilter vocal and lyrical stylings. Opener “commonprayer” sets the idiosyncratic tone straight away, with gently-strummed banjo and Russo’s enchanting, offbeat lyricism (example: “I’ve been singin in and out of tune/it’s always been to you” and “I offer up my heart on a stick”). Mr. Russo and his helpers have made one of the finest records of the year, hands down. It’s overflowing with character unlike anything else you’re likely to hear, and its’ slanted and enchanted sound makes my little heart go pitter patter. “Hopewell,” perhaps a nod to Russo’s main project, kinda sorta makes me think of “My Darling Clementine.” Don’t ask, I can’t quite figure out why. It’s certainly not because of the Harrison-esque guitar sound, but the resemblance is there. My favorite, “Us vs. Them,” is sensational. Tinkling, twinkling piano and a dash of falsetto, well, you just can’t beat it. “I have my suspicions,” sings Russo, “that nothing’s real,” as the spritely swirl swells around him.

To make a potentially long story short(er), may I just say that There Is A Mountain is glorious, darling, magical, and almost as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. As much as I adore Hopewell, Common Prayer is quite a breath of fresh air. Don’t be surprised to see this here album perched on the Best of 2010 list, not just here, but all over the place.

mp3: Us vs. Them (Common Prayer from There Is A Mountain)

Album Review: The Frequency – Absence Of Giants

Today, friends, I woke up and felt the sun streaming into my room and thought to myself, “It’s time for something a little shoegazey, a little psychy, with some hot synth action.” With the sultry heat of the day beginning to simmer, and the blue of the sky seeming alive, I turned on The Frequency. And what a good move that’s turned out to be. The band’s latest release, Absence Of Giants, is a heady, intoxicating blend of all those little sounds that make yours truly very happy. And on an pre-Summer Summer day, it’s the perfect fit.

Hailing from LA, this band was chosen to be on the bill for the Austin Psych Fest this year, and it’s not hard to see why they were picked. The record opens with my favorite song, “Love Is One”, a mini opus in the key of drone. Its’ languid, slow-motion feel and seductively sliding guitar, not to mention the slightly muddied, perfectly-pitched vocals, make this particular song hard to stop listening to. Bleeps and sentiment follows in the brief “It Can’t Hurt You”, an ode to love (“Love can’t hurt you”). Not sure I agree, but it’s a good little song nonetheless. “Statues and Angels” has an almost industrial feel, thanks to some wailing guitar effects and the fixed beat of the drum. “Forwards”, another favorite of mine, is almost anthemic in its steady building and emotional-heavy lyrics. “Humans Play” treads trip-hop lines, with the repetitive line “Humans play with each other” backed by an almost dancey background that for some reason makes me think of the band Faithless.

Throughout the record, The Frequency shapeshifts from song to song, showing a mercurial style that’s pretty dang appealing. Their sound is all over the place, yet they somehow make it work. Each incarnation of their sound is rather agreeable, and being a fickle Gemini I sure do appreciate the need for constant transmutation. And I tell you what, the more I listen to Absence Of Giants, the more I want to see this band live, so boys, make it happen.

mp3: Love Is One (The Frequency from the forthcoming Absence Of Giants)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Greatest Good News vis a vis Back Surgery Mix You Will Ever Hear

Saw my fourth back doctor today, only to hear that the previous guy was a quack (his opinion). i immediately trusted the new doc because he wasn't too pretty (previous guy was). Never trust people that are too pretty.

New back doc called the last one's suggested surgery "a bullshit tip." Instead of the multi-day, majorly invasive surgery the last one wanted to do, the new guy will be done in one afternoon. My four month recovery time has gone to "I'll put you on a six week moratorium from doing anything stupid, but I expect you back on your feet within a week." Essentially, he's going to put a tiny pin-like object in-between my vertebrate.

i was delighted to hear this, as who doesn't enjoy a little screwing now and again?

And the insurance company is paying.

Not sure if i can go six weeks without doing anything stupid, though.

i think i have a crush on my new doctor.

And you know what that means? That's right. Time for The Greatest Good News Vis-à-Vis Back Surgery Mix You Will Ever Hear.

mp3: Good (Morphine from Good)

Meet The Vermilions

As more than a little bit of a self-confessed history nerd, I'm inclined to think of Fredericksburg, VA, in a purely historical context. One of my last trips down 95 to Fburg was to ogle all the famously glorious plasterwork on the ceilings of Kenmore, for example. But all of a sudden, here comes a band that might just give me another, non-nerdy reason to love the 'burg, and to think of it not just as a history-laden little hamlet but a place from which good ole fucking rock can be spawned.

The band in question? The Vermilions (one "l" in the name, if you please). I saw them warm up the crowd for The Black Lips not long ago, and they did rather well. Somewhere around that time, I was fortunate enough to get my mitts on the band's self-titled EP, six songs of garage-y glory, coated with nods to the past (well look at that, history and rock'n'roll) and occasionally bluesy undertones. This little band kinda sorta gets me going, thanks in no small part to that dirty guitar sound they've got going. Even on the demo songs, it's obvious that Vermilion Jeremy knows how to play a mean goddamn guitar. He shreds and wails and rips this joint with the best of 'em. While this guitar massacre is going on, Vermilion Evan plucks his bass with dutiful, meaty precision, and Vermilion Dan hits the skins with filth and fury. Having seen them live, and now hearing them on record, I can definitely hear the Detroit sound pulsing through their veins (Motor City burning in Fredericksburg? Who knew?).

I'm hoping for big things from this trio. If this here EP is anything to go by, they've got quite a promising future ahead of them.

mp3: Second Time Around (demo) (The Vermilions from The Vermilions EP)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

100 Shows of 2010 - #24: These United States/The Mother Hips @ Black Cat, 5/15/10

Man alive. Now this, this friends is a show. Throw together a band I’ve been dying to see live for something approaching ten years (i.e. The Mother Hips) and a band that I’ve seen plenty of times but never, ever get tired of absorbing (i.e. These United States), and you’ve got good odds that my little head just might explode with molten, golden joy. And truth be told, it very nearly did cause cranial combustion.

MINI RECAP: The Mother Hips = Interminable Wait-Worthy! These United States = Predictably Peerless! Overall score: A.

Mother Hips, O Mother Hips. How long you made me wait to hear your saucy, smooth yet tangy rock und roll. Fifteen years is a really long time to stay away from a city, which is the approximate time lapse the band surmised between trips to my fair land. As I knew I would, I fell totally further in love with the band as they played and played and played. To hear them, be it getting their twang on or totally rocking out, was a beautiful thing indeed. Their sound is so warm, so much like a wonderful cocoon. They rocked my world, but in a cozy, comfortable way. They have the ease and casual awesomeness of a band that’s been around the block many a time, like elder statesmen, if you will. Their set was non-stop wonderfulness, and I just hope it doesn’t take them another fifteen years to get their little keesters back this way.

After the incredible fabulousness of The Mother Hips in their set (and encore!), it was time to bring on my local band numero uno. These United States have, from my very first time seeing them, constantly and faithfully wowed me live. And as such, I knew I (and the rest of the folks who wisely attended the show) was in for a treat. I wondered to myself what would be played, though assuredly it would all be splendid. And sure enough, it was. To me, they’re one of the best live bands around, and once again they proved it. It began with “The Business”, an old (well, old for TUS) favorite that I’ve not heard in donkeys. From start to finish, the members of These United States were full of vim and vigor and panache. Bands, this is how you play live.

“Everything Touches Everything”, title track of the band’s most recent LP, was up next, and featured the gleeful undulating and gesticulating and probably other –ings of the irrepressible Jesse Elliott. In fine form, Jesse made sure to give thanks where thanks was due. “Thank you, Oregon,” he mischievously stated before the band launched into “The Important Thing”, full of fine, thumping bass action. Elliott was in such a mirthful mood that he was actually giggling throughout the set, and frankly, I think there’s not enough giggling in rock these days. Another newish song, “The Secret Door”, broke up the giggling, as did old favorite “First Right”, which sounded lovely as played with the newer, meatier lineup. Formerly ethereal and light, the song took on a new, full-bodied flavor. In a nod to the new additions, Elliott finagled some lyrical wrangling as he changed the lyric, “There’s a picture of the three of us at the gate to the garden of Eden” to “There’s a picture of the six of us at the gate to the garden of Eden”. All together now, aww.

Elliott was full of proclamations and explanations, as per usual. “The Black Cat is the goddam greatest venue in the history of the universe,” he cheerfully opined, before voicing a totally killer rendition of “Good Bones”, one of my favorite songs from the newest record Everything Touches Everything. One of the many things I love about this band is how much of a group effort their performances are. As one goes so too do they all, and I’ve been lucky enough to see them on very, very good nights wherein everyone is kicking musical ass and taking names. When introducing “Honor Amongst Thieves”, Elliott elicited some giggles from the gaggle as he proclaimed, “This is just one of our greatest songs ever.” True words, friends. True words. But then, there are so many greatest songs ever with this band.

As the set went on, it was clear that the band was in the zone. They were in their special, happy musical places, and it was pretty dang magical up on that stage. They closed the dozen songs in the set with the excellently poppy “I Want You To Keep Everything”, and it was divine. My question as to whether or not there would be an encore was soon answered, and as the band strolled back to their places, Elliott smiled as he said, “I can’t believe we forgot to play these songs!”. First came a dead perfect cover song, “Can You Picture That” by Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem. The ramblin’ rose lyrics are just the sort of song you’d expect this band to cover. “Slow Crows Over” really did finish the proceedings, and it was brilliant. Hot damn, do I love this band.

‘Course, I can’t let them get by with a totally gushing review. Next time, boys, please make sure to include “Night & The Revolution” in the set. But otherwise, the set was fanfuckingtastic. If you haven’t seen this band live yet, make it a priority.

mp3: Honor Amongst Thieves (These United States from Crimes)

Album Review: The Futureheads – The Chaos

Ah, The Futureheads. Some of Sunderland’s favorite sons won my heart back in 2004 when they released their self-titled LP, a brilliant pantheon of slick, angular Brit garage rock, peppered with memories of Madness, vintage Blur, and one hell of a kicky Kate Bush cover (I’ll never think of “Hounds of Love” in the same way again). Their subsequent couple of records didn’t quite grab me as much as The Futureheads did, so I was a little wary of latest release The Chaos. But guess what? Seems I’ll never learn my lesson, because this little album is pretty bloody good indeed. It doesn’t quite have that breathtaking spark of The Futureheads, but then again, it doesn’t need to.

The Chaos begins, quite rightly, with “The Chaos”, a punchy, taut number highlighting the sharp angles the band can still knock out with much aplomb. “Struck Dumb” keeps up the frenetic pace, and sees The Futureheads churn out their satirical social commentary backed by fast and furious guitars. It’s a straight up 80s revival for the cheeky poppy song “Heartbeat Song”, which seems almost, dare I say, youthfully sweet in its exuberance. “The Connector” totally makes me think of the glory days of Adam Ant, somewhat silly and verily unstoppable. The proceedings come to a hearty close with the fabulous “Jupiter”, with its humming intro, especially jangly guitar, and almost Queen-esque harmonizing. Well, without the Freddie falsetto, that is. And I love that chant of “Jupiter” as the song reaches its’ finale.

Listening to The Chaos reminds me a whole lot of how it felt and sounded when I first listened to the self-titled LP back six long years ago. The songs are so very good, so very catchy, and so very addictive. And while I’d hate to spoil all the frivolous fun, but in a way The Chaos seems a bit, well, mature. It’s like the band has grown up…maybe just a touch. Maturity or no, it’s a well-played return to form for The Futureheads, and I’m certainly impressed with this latest offering.

mp3: Struck Dumb (The Futureheads from The Chaos)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Album Review: The Black Keys' Brothers is So Good I Want to Mount it Like a Bull in Heat

Is it just me, or is 2010 already turning out to be the best year in while for new music? Hell, Erykah Badu and Broken Social Scene alone have made it a year to remember, album-wise. And then today comes Brothers, the latest from the greatest touring blues rock duo in the known universe, The Black Keys. Of course, i purchased the "For Fanatical Fans" package, but if you want a chance to win your own, head on over to LET fave HearYa for a contest to do just that. Feel free to comment to an almost unnecessary degree about your love of beards while there. Those cats dig that stuff.

i feel it's slightly premature to say this is not only the Key's best work, but the best CD of the year so far, but that's only because i haven't had a chance to listen to it at eardrum shredding levels in my car yet. Suffice to say, it's a damn fine album, kids, and i cannot recommend it enough. Once Dan opens things up singing falsetto, it's pretty much a swampy, sludgey, funky, nasty affair from there on out. Think the audial equivalent of banana pancakes with crunchy peanut butter syrup for your earholes. To call any of the tracks standouts would be to imply the entire album isn't incredible, but after just a couple of listens on ye olde computer during work, "Everlasting Light," "Next Girl" and "Howlin' For You" are the tunes that i can't wait to hear live when they hit DC in a few months.

Of course, the boys are pimping the hell out of the thing on their own site today. Sign up for the fan list to get your own copy of free mp3, "Ohio," previously only available as a 7".

They've also got this new "Tighten Up" video going, which could be their best yet, even without Frank the Dinosaur.

You can go listen to the entire album yourself over at NPR, but since i know you vultures want to get your fix of free tunes here, you lazy bastards, here's the boys playing the John Peel show back in '03.

mp3: Set You Free (The Black Keys from the Peel Sessions, 4-20-03)

mp3: Hard Row (The Black Keys from the Peel Sessions, 4-20-03)

mp3: No Trust (The Black Keys from the Peel Sessions, 4-20-03)

mp3: The Moan (The Black Keys from the Peel Sessions, 4-20-03)