Friday, July 30, 2010

The Half Assed Weekend Mix

Sorry, kids, but ye olde inbox did not get too full too quickly this week. Most of my normal traps turned up crap, quite frankly, and a lot of other stuff came just over the last day or so. Most be a tantric issue. For those of you who happen to submit to LET, get your stuff in early, folks, so we can give the people what they want when they want so they won't sit all the time. It's only fair, jah?

Instead, kids, because of those other lazy slow pokes, all you get is this half assed weekend mix.

J'accuse, slackers!

100 Shows of 2010 - #45: Bryan Elijah Smith & The Wild Hearts @ Fireflies, 7/24/10

I’ve got some pretty talented friends, it must be said. I don’t often cover them, for fear of my natural predisposition to automatically love what they’re doing slanting my writing. But every now and again I feel the need to make an exception, like when my friend Jeff told me he would be playing up here in my neck of the woods. So to Alexandria went I, and I tell you what, dearlings. Friends or no, Bryan Elijah Smith & The Wild Hearts (i.e. the aforementioned Jeff Miller slaying the banjo and also including the unfortunately absent fiddle prowess of Jay Austin) pretty much made my weekend.

MINI RECAP: Bryan Elijah Smith & The Wild Hearts = Better Then The Average Bear! Overall score: A.

Bryan and Jeff sat themselves on the stage and proceeded to play over two hours’ worth of a mix of wonderful original material and wonderful cover songs. Let’s face it, any song that starts off with a cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” is gonna be a good one. The two of them made one heck of a pair; Bryan with his acoustic guitar and harmonica, and Jeff with his banjo. It was a simple, classic sound they made, stripped down and pure. And Bryan’s voice, well, that’s something else altogether. You know me, I’m sometimes easily impressed, but this boy has one hell of a voice on him. It’s breathy and rich, a little reminiscent of Ryan Adams and those sensational Love Is Hell EPs, along with shades of the great Joseph Arthur, but with the honesty and purity of the mountains coursing through it. Very salt of the earth, you might say. The timbre of his voice backed by the genuine simplicity of the acoustic and Jeff’s banjo was nothing short of beautiful.

Among the set were excellent covers of Creedence’s “Fortunate Son”, more Cash (“Ring of Fire”), a jaw-dropping rendition of “Wonderwall” that rivaled the Oasis original, and “Blowin’ In the Wind”, to name but a few. And I’ll just go ahead and blaspheme, but this version of “Wonderwall” eclipsed the Ryan Adams cover, in my humble opinion. Each song, cover or no, was given special care, and was played with attention to detail. Towards the end of their set, the boys took requests from the persons in attendance, and my request for the Rolling Stones was kindly granted by covers of “Wild Horses” (gorgeous) and “Dead Flowers”, which sounded a wee bit like that amazing Townes Van Zandt cover.

When it was all over, and Bryan and Jeff packed up and headed off into the night, I was left feeling totally impressed, and rather proud. Hearing a voice like Bryan’s is rare indeed, and I can’t encourage you enough to go see the guys if you happen to get the chance. Fellow Virginians, the trio has dates all over scheduled for this summer, so make sure you don’t miss ‘em.

mp3: Other Side Of Town (Bryan Elijah Smith from Forever On My Mind)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Predominately Blunted Beats

Today, we're focusing on a bunch of beat music that's found it's way into my grimy little hands of late. It's no secret i love this stuff. i only wish DC had its own Low End Theory (sorry, 18th Street Lounge, but you ain't it) or similar beat scene. Oh well, at least we have the Interwebs giving us sorts of goodness from around the globe.

Baths' Cerulean is easily in my top ten albums for 2010. This 21-year-old electronic music maestro tears it up on this one, combining glitchy electro with an assortment of found and created sounds that makes a pastiche of creamy goodness. Though he dropped the CD a while back, he just released another single, "Lovely Bloodflow," for our free listening pleasure. Better yet, it's one of the best tracks on the CD, adding some haunting vocals to the click clack. Not for the faint of funk. (Ed. note: today's post is entitled "Predominately Blunted Beats" because we don't want to piss off young Baths any more than Pitchfork did recently by assuming he's a poth ead.)

A top notch jazz prodigy pianist and one of Brainfeeder's finest jamming together? Um, yes, please. Austin Peralta tears it up with Strangeloop from this set recorded at the Roy O. Disney Theatre Performance at CalArts on July 22, 2010.

Thanks once again to the majesty of random Hype Machine surfing, i stumbled upon yet another genius beat producer in the making, Shigeto. The currently Brooklyn-based DJ just dropped a new EP, full of ghostly machinations and otherworldly beats. While everyone who is anyone on the beat scene seems to be coming out of L.A. or London these days, Shigeto looks to even the score for those of us who find ourselves on the East Coast without a champion of our own these days. i'm telling you, keep an eye on this kid.

Thanks to the stellar article in XLR8R, i recently stumbled upon the website for the We Did It Collective, home to such geniuses as Shlomo, Jonwayne and others. As luck would have it, they tend to post a lot of tracks, many of which are free. i've stumbled across a few definitely worth sharing. One up is from an artist i believe named Chris Adams, though the accompanying text for his new EP is sparse, to say the least. It does explain that he used no synthesized sounds, recording all the noises used himself. All i know is it sounds good, and he looks suspiciously like a guy who used to deal me pot. They've also recently hosted a crazy mix by Jonwayne, definitely worth the download. While most of the We Did It stuff is beat-centric, they've also had some dope ass rhymes by 0. Anyone who can rhyme "cunnilingus" and "dingus" in the same verse is A-OK in my book, children. At the risk of giving away a source of endlessly good shit, bookmark their site, peeps.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blog-On-Blog Love: For Your Poolside, Occasionally Booty Thumpin' Good Times

As is the case with most folks these days, i imagine, i tend to find myself more interested in individual tracks these days than full albums or even EPs. Well, some of my fave writers from around the blogosphere have unearthed some pretty damn good full affairs lately, for FREE, no less. Far be it from me not to spread the love like peanut butter syrup over banana pancakes to you fine dead beats.

While Gorilla vs. Bear tends to find and post some incredible 7 inchers and individual tracks, i was pleasantly surprised when they recently hipped me to Monster Rally. At the time, GvB was pimping Monster Rally's latest, Palm Reader, over at his bandcamp page. Fortunately for me, the band had an additional EP up there for my listening pleasure, every bit as good as the latter. MR samples 50s and 60s polynesian and surf music, plain and simple, but he does it to brilliant effect. Plus, he's got one of the best MF Doom remixes i've heard in quite some time. While the Doom track is the exception, both the EP and Palm Reader are winners from start to finish. This is tiki torch pool party music right here, children, and it's good stuff.

Apple Juice Break continues to be an excellent source for beat music, and their taste for mixtapes and remixes is on par with the best of 'em. So i guess it was no surprise that i found out about Exile's Radio Bonus Album from them. What did come as a huge surprise is how freaking good this thing is. i'm almost afraid to buy the "original" when it comes out August 31. Exile has some monsters on duty for the remixes here, including Teebs, DJ Rhettmatic and Dibia$e. Plus, it's got the first heavy opera sample i've heard in a long, long time, so you know you're interested. You've got some of the bigger names in beat production, plus some damn fine up and comers, all for your listening pleasure. Highly recommended, he said bluntly.

Completely by fluke whilst perusing Hype Machine, i found unouomedude on Dead As Digital. More spacey, poolside music, with reverb drenched vocals over ethereal beats and keys. i've never much bought into the whole "the season makes the music" mentality, but this music clearly would be wasted in an igloo, and you'd be a fool not to have it booming next to your deckside summer chair.

And to close things out, a nod to our very good friend over at Berkeley Place. As fate would have it, he did a post earlier today on Chiddy Bang. Just this past weekend, one of my hip hop head buddies suggested them as a new band to check out. While i've only listened to it once myself and still am forming my own opinions, if those two recommend it, hell, that's good enough for me, which should be more than enough for you jackals.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Live Review: The Black Keys at DAR Constitution, 7-26-10

i'm beginning to think the Black Keys are incapable of putting on a bad show. i've seen Dan Auerbach tear it up solo apparently while suffering from the flu, and while last night may not have been my favorite time seeing them, to claim the boys were in less than their usual rarefied air would simply be untrue.

It might have had something to do with the fact that my ass hat of a brother who i also bought tickets for showed up almost half an hour late, or it may have just been the fact that i'm not a huge fan of DAR, but i couldn't quite get into the swing of things last night.

It certainly wasn't openers The Morning Benders. While my knowledge of them is largely limited to that cover CD they put out a couple of years ago, they certainly performed admirably. While they seemed somewhat mismatched with the harder sounding Keys at first, by the time they closed with "Excuses," damn near the entire house at that point (let's say just over half full) gave them a standing ovation, myself included.

Maybe i was thrown by the fact that Patrick Carney didn't wear glasses for the entire set, a first for me, and i've seen them at least a half dozen or so times already. i'm not sure how this is possible, but the heir apparent to John Bonham's frenzied style of playing appeared somehow even angrier than usual, beating the skins with a renewed passion one does not typically see outside of long-term, abusive relationships of the type found on "Cops" reruns. His drumming, however, remained flawless. The same should be said of Auerbach's guitar work, if anything better than the last couple of times i've seen him play solo. The song selection wasn't bad, either. Once they got "Stack Shot Billy" and "10 a.m. Automatic" out of the way, they pretty much covered my bases. More than half the show was dedicated to their earlier CDs, though they did bring out a bassists and keyboardist (another first for me seeing them), which wasn't a half bad affair at all, to help with their newer material. i'm not sure they added a whole hell of a lot, but they certainly didn't detract in the least. From the new CD, they played my faves again, ("Everlasting Light," "Next Girl," "Tighten Up," "Howlin' for You"), so it couldn't have been that, either. They did play their Twilight track, and while a kick-ass tune, teenage vampires do piss me off something fierce.

i dunno. Maybe my shoes were too tight, because upon further review, they obviously rocked last night.

Never mind. These are not the droids you're looking for. Move along; move along.

100 Shows of 2010 - #44: Wye Oak @ Rock’n’Roll Hotel, 7/22/10

This show was, in a cruel, cruel way, a wee bit ironic. I can’t remember the last time a show at the Hotel started at a time even close to the scheduled start time. But of course, on a night when it takes me nearly half an hour to park the car, the show naturally starts on the dot. The end result of that unfortunate promptness was that I missed the daggum amazing Gamble House, but it wasn’t all gloom and doom. I did witness a pretty darned triumphant set by Baltimore’s own Wye Oak, and that turned my little frown right upsidedown. Hot diggity dog, indeed.

MINI RECAP: Wye Oak = Shiver Me Timbers! Overall score: A.

There I was, sulking away in the corner as Wye Oak set up. And then they started to play, and my little black cloud of a mood was instantly mollified. They totally caught me off guard with the sheer awesome of their live sound. Starting off with a big, beefy swell of noise, they kept things turned to 11 for the vast majority of their set. Jenn Wasner’s voice absolutely blew me away, steamy and smoky and alternately sultry and slightly snarling. The driving beat of the drum and that voice together made for quite a pairing, this is a band with big time bite. At times the band veered wildly between ethereal beauty and threatening darkness, and lord knows I love a little dark/light juxtaposition. The noise was extreme, and I loved just about everything about it. Wye Oak, on this night, was a lot more raw than the recorded material I’ve heard of theirs, and the ferocity of the set sounded some kinda wonderful to me.

I must confess, as bummed as I initially was, if I had to miss Gamble House, Wye Oak was certainly more than ample as a runner-up prize. I’d never been much of a fan, but after seeing this set, I might be more inclined to pay due diligence to Wye Oak from now on. You might should do the same.

mp3: My Neighbor (Wye Oak from My Neighbor/My Creator)

Album Review: She & Him – Volume Two

I tell you what, y’all. The wait for this one sure felt like a deep, dark, black hole of oblivion. But the end result, Volume Two certainly proves that old adage that very, very good things come to those who wait. Well, in this instance anyway. She & Him's adorable Zooey and dreamy M. put their heads together once more and came up with another batch of beautiful songs, heavy with the ghosts of country and girl group greats. These two together are utterly irresistible, between Zooey’s voice and M.’s guitar play.

They really hit the ground running straight away this time. Volume Two seems more polished than the volume that preceded it. It’s shinier, newer, and even sleeker. “In The Sun” shimmies along with that big symphonic sweep of the golden olden days, full of Zooey’s inherent quirkiness and undeniable catchiness. “Don’t Look Back” calls to mind both early Beach Boys and classic Motown, with “doo doo doos” aplenty and a ravishing retro wash to the song’s production. “Ridin’ In My Car” is impeccable in its throwback sound, with Zooey and M. showing off fantastic boy-girl vocals and the whole shebang sounding like a soda fountain classic.

I love the mix of British Invasion sounds and that twangin’ guitar of M.’s on “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”, which also lets Zooey unleash some of that Baby Patsy Cline she’s got in that voice of her. “Gonna find somebody that’s twice as cute/cuz I didn’t like you anyhow,” she prettily pouts, as M. strums along. The acoustic guitar intro to “Sing” is pretty special, and the song itself is just another gem. “Over It Over Again” is one of my favorites, a classic She & Him song with girl group sashaying alongside country and pop to dazzling effect. O, how I love it.

Now friends, with an album of this length, you might expect some throwaway songs. Well, there aren’t any. Each and every song is as good as the one before and after it. I wasn’t sure if lightning could strike twice for this unlikely dynamic duo, but strike it did. I might still be slightly partial to Volume One, but with enough listens to Volume Two I very likely could soon be singing another tune. Hot damn, these two have found musical soulmates in each other, and I’d say we’re all pretty lucky these kids got together to make music. Now, the big question is, are we gonna have to wait this long for Volume Three?

mp3: In The Sun (She & Him from Volume Two)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Scott Pilgrim Soundtrack

No, we don't have an early leak of what sure's to be this year's most kick ass soundtrack. i'm actually referring to the series of graphic novels here. While i have high hopes for the flick, i've been a fan of Bryan Lee O'Malley's comic book masterpiece for a few years now. He just released Book Six last week, which i finished last night. Not quite as fun and upbeat as Books Four (Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together) and Five (Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe) (my two favorite of the series), but a pretty decent ending nonetheless.

Anyway, this is a music blog, not a comics blog (go here for the best combo you'll find on that), so today's post actually is a recreation from the end of Book Three. On the final page, in a section marked, "this is kind of like a blog," O'Malley mentions he puts together mix CDs for each novel he writes, then proceeds to list a bunch of tracks from said mixes. Well, after much searching, i finally was able to procure each and every track, which i'm sure you're dying to hear, too. While it's predominantly indie, there's a surprising amount of alt-country, too. Title track "Scott Pilgrim" by the Plumtrees could be my new favorite, peppy indie track. Too bad i'm getting to the table a few years late on this one. Other notes of personal interest--includes the first Neil Young solo track i've ever liked, introduced me to the Flying Burrito Brothers, furthered my interest in learning more about Joel Plaskett, and has kick ass tracks by Spoon and the Old 97s. That's good eatin' right there, folks.

If this mixtape had a face, i'd kiss it.


Album Review: These United States – What Lasts

What do near-death experiences, a stolen laptop, and the Keystone State have in common? The answer, friends, is the latest These United States album, heretofore known as What Lasts. The fourth TUS record (recorded in Pennsylvania, after singer Jesse Elliott’s near-drowning, the poor boy also having had his laptop stolen) is, as I’ve come to expect and look forward to from this band, a triumph. Running through the record for the first time, I awaited the start of each song with baited breath weighted down with heavy anticipation, because as you all know, TUS is most assuredly one of LET’s most pet of pet bands. And once more, they’ve proven their worth as one of the most relevant, most important bands of our time.

Turning another page in the goodness gracious great story that is the tall, tall These United States tale, Jesse Elliott and the fantastic four (aka Robby, Justin, Colin, and Tom) that have become permanent fellows of TUS exhibit nothing short of master class on What Lasts. The record itself feels more intimate, more personal than has any TUS record before it. At times it’s even rather stone cold sobering, the more winsome musical follies of, say, Crimes, a distant memory down a dusty road in the rearview mirror. What lies ahead is the wide open, big sky country sound of maturation, the sound of melancholy, and the sound of serious contemplative introspection.

But lest you think These United States has left the good jangle behind them, fret not. Songs like the splendid “The Great River” and “Water & Wheat” proudly fly that old faithful TUS jingle pop folk banner. It must be said that the bulk of What Lasts is indeed on the more serious side of the coin, though, which while initially disquieting becomes more and more appealing as the record goes on. “Life&Death She&I” is cause for both sadness and joy, regarding the subject matter and 70s-esque feel to the beat with that foxy steel, respectively. Title track “What Lasts” is music to mope to, with the haunting, shimmery steel and Elliott’s voice taking on particularly plaintive emotional tones. They often seem to tread water that greats like The Band might approve of, and that I most certainly do.

Sure, it’s the most serious These United States record to date. It made me furrow my brow just a touch. But What Lasts is a tremendously fantastic record. And hell, I’m still waiting for Jesse to put a foot wrong when it comes to his lyrics. He once more shows the kids how to write a record full of amazing songs. They’ve come such a very long way from the gate to the garden of Eden. And yet, perhaps they’ve just come full circle. When it comes to These United States, only the old devil moon really knows. And that’s the way it ought to be.

mp3: The Great River (These United States from What Lasts)

Happy Birthday, Mick

Y’all know this already, but perhaps it bears repeating that I love The Rolling Stones. Love above just about all else. To me, it doesn’t get much better than Mick & Keith, and that blanket statement applies to many things (voracious appetites for the rock lifestyle, affinity for skinny pants, unbeatable songcraft, etc.). And as such, I certainly couldn’t let the birthday of the leader of my beloved band of legends pass by unheralded.

Yes, little lads and ladettes, today is the birthday of Mister Mick Jagger, otherwise known as The Voice (or The Lips). When it comes to frontmen, there is none better than this man. Nor, possibly, will there be better. Those pouty lips, those undulating hips…his primal persona behind the mic (and probably behind closed doors, too) means that the man is and forever shall be walking sex. And let’s face it. In the realms of rock, that’s exactly how it should be.

A very hearty, lusty, and enthusiastic birthday to Mick.

mp3: Dead Flowers (Townes Van Zandt from the Big Lebowski Soundtrack)

mp3: I'm A King Bee (The Rolling Stones from England's Newest Hitmakers)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Crossing The Pond #1: dante

Yes, my little sweeties, yours truly has been known to be quite an Anglophile. And seeing as I’ve been feeling a wee bit nostalgic regarding my many wonderful months spent in bonnie Scotland, I figured now was the perfect time to launch a feature focusing on, you guessed it, bands from the United Kingdom (and Ireland).

I couldn’t ask for a better band to start things off with, given my love of those bands from north of the Borders. Dante is a band of “Edinburghers and Shetlanders who make alt folk music,” but that’s just the very vaguest of overviews of what this band does. Yes, there is indeed folk in mass quantities in their music, no doubt about it. But these wonderful souls also incorporate hearty doses of traditional Scottish music into their fine, fine songs, mostly exhibited with that fantastic fiddle. It’s a delicate balance of old and new, and it works together seamlessly, beautifully. At times you might hear shades of my beloved Idlewild, be it in the dark contemplation of the lyrics to the building walls of instrumentation present in dante’s songs. And on certain occasions, you might just think you were dancing at a traditional ceilidh somewhere in the countryside as the fiddle does cartwheels all around.

Dante is a band not to be missed, ye lords and ladies. Whet your appetite with the pair of songs below, and prepare to fall in love.

mp3: Monochrome (dante from the Monochrome EP)

mp3: This Island (dante from the Monochrome EP)

Album Review: Washed Out – Life Of Leisure EP

I’m deathly afraid of sharks (mamas, don’t let your kiddies alone with Jaws when they’re young and impressionable), which means of course that I don’t venture out into the surf much if I can help it. However, the weather here in the greater DC metro area has been so disgustingly, abysmally, horrifyingly hot and humid lately that the cover of Ernest Greene's, better known as Washed Out’s Life Of Leisure EP makes me want to be that girl, floating along in a glassy sunset sea, preferably while the sharks are otherwise engaged and Washed Out is playing somewhere on a stereo nearby. This EP is a damn fine way to take the edge off the summertime, my sweets, from the very first breath to the last. It takes those hazy crazy days of summer and mixes and undulates and sleeks them into something effortlessly, breathtakingly beautiful.

“Get Up” is a slow, dreamsicle of a song, hithering and thithering along on a placid rhythm, as cool as the other side of the pillow. If possible, “New Theory” is even cooler, icy beats and presenting itself as a perfect party-by-the-beach-fire song. Or the perfect lounge-by-the-pool-while-double-fisting-frozen-drinks kinda song. You get the idea. It’s all things lovely and summerproof. Things keep drifting along gloriously with “Hold Out”, which at three and a half minutes clocks in as the EP’s longest song. “Feel It All Around” has an air of back in the day to it, a song that certainly lives quite a life of leisure. Yet again, the downtempo meander hits the spot. “Lately”, well, that’s another hotdiggitydog song. And “You’ll See It”, friends, if you haven’t already heard it, is nothing short of hypnotic. The liveliest of the songs, it is just about perfect in every way. It’s so good you just might end up listening to it for hours, over and over and over and over. And yes, I am speaking from personal experience.

Sweltering temps regardless, Washed Out has hereby produced one of the finest damn EPs of recent memory. It’s new and old and fresh and clean and hot to trot and ice cold. I suspect I’ll adore this collection of songs just as much in the dead of winter as I do today, in the midst of the sizzle of late July. I love it so, and you might just love it too.

mp3: New Theory (Washed Out from Life Of Leisure) (song removed by request, sorry kiddos. Don't blame us.)

The Most Inappropriate Wedding Mix You Ever Will Hear

In a few hours (why the hell am i awake this early on a Saturday?), The Missus and i are off to partake in the nuptials of a couple of her friends whom i have not yet met. With my wonky back, i am afraid i shall not be able to pull off the appropriate breakdancing moves at the reception, but with enough free booze in one's system, who knows what's possible? If you don't hear from me by Monday afternoon, it's probably safe to assume that the six-step into a helicopter into a windmill combo i attempted to pull off did not go well.

In honor of the impending marriage, i offer up The Most Inappropriate Wedding Mix You Ever Will Hear.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Free Music Friday: The Fat Assed, Not Hard, Pot Surviving, Explosive, Prestidigitatious, Hearing Impaired Version

Seriously, you unwashed masses better appreciate the fact that this is the umpteenth Friday in a row i've opted to stay indoors at HQ to bring you a bunch of new music freebies as opposed to hanging out at the comic book store or other nerdly pursuits. i really an a hell of a guy. You'd try to marry me if you could. You ain't gots to lie, Craig.

To kick things off, i finally got my hands on a copy of Mt. Kimbie's Crooks and Lovers. Hot damn, this thing is good. For fans of smoothly glitchy, softstep (that's right, i'm coming up with a new genre classification, bitches!!!), you are going to love this one. Plus, it's got one of my two favorite CD covers so far this year.

Proving that the 80s synth sound has not been fully exhausted, Soft Metals has this bedroom pop track that seemingly would appeal to anyone sporting a Flock of Seagulls, Wigwam slouch socks and/or fluorescent, tiger-striped bandannas. Not that i would know anything about that. Also, thank god for there not being cell phone cameras back in the 80s.

Sure, this whole surf sound revivalism has been fun. Same for the girl group thing. But i can't be the only one who has been waiting for the sound to grunge itself up a tad. Enter Grass Widow. Kind of like the Raveonettes, only different. Regardless, i'm digging this track on a Friday.

One of my favorite folk-girl bands, The Be Good Tanyas, has their frontwoman step to the fore on her latest solo affair, Firecracker. Frazey Ford (how cool a name is that?) brings the heat banjos and ooh ooh ooh backing vocals, then turns the heat to simmer with some burbling keys, on lead single, "Firecracker."

Well, it wouldn't be a Free Music Friday without some hip hop thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, we've got a new banger from Orland's own Prolific. i'd actually heard this one making the rounds before they reached out to us, but i like it then and am happy to share it now. Sampling one of Nina Simone's finest, "Spell on You," displays some adroit lyricism and oh so smooth flow. It's the juxtaposition of the faster drum beat and the slower strings that keeps throwing me for a loop, though.

And to conclude on a similar note of hip-hop-itude while throwing in a charitable component, there's a new CD out raising money to help protect and empower Congolese women called Raise Hope for Congo. Compiled by former KCRW Music Director, Nic Harcourt, the album includes the likes of Bat For Lashes, Imaad Wasif, Konono No 1, Damien Rice, Amadou & Mariam, Norah Jones and Mos Def. You can stream the whole thing here, though we've got Mos Def's track for your downloading pleasure. Or you can just go straight to the source and donate here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's Covered: Summertime Blues

Mother Terrible recently mentioned that summer is about over, and that school is just around the corner. While her exaggeration is obvious, it got me to thinking that if i'm going to do an "It's Covered" on the classic "Summertime Blues," i better get off my duff and into action.

Originally penned by Eddie Cochran and his manager, Jerry Capehart, it started life as a B-side before eventually peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 29, 1958 and #18 on the UK Singles Chart. It's been covered by dozens of folks, and i've got more than a couple of versions for you to sample, from the original to a Japanese release only version by the greatest rock band playing today to the speed punk of the gods that were Guitar Wolf. i understand there's an Olivia Newton-John version out there i'm dying to get my hands on for reasons i can't even figure out myself, but there you have it.

Hopefully, it cures what ails ya.

100 Shows of 2010 - #43: The Capstan Shafts/Twins Of A Gazelle @ Black Cat, 7/15/10

To put it mildly, the evening of The Capstan Shafts and Twins Of A Gazelle show was yet another in a seemingly endless stretch of horrid, humid, stolidly stultifying days. My general crankitude was off the charts, but thankfully, as so often seems to be the case, music soothed the savage beast that my temperament had become. I felt like I was alternately seeing the Arcade Fire and reliving the glorious early 90s. And that, friends, was an interesting and fairly pleasing place to be.

MINI RECAP: The Capstan Shafts = Fuzzily Fab! Twins Of A Gazelle = Not-So-Secretly Canadian! Overall score: B.

Twins Of A Gazelle got going just a few minutes after I arrived at the Black Cat. I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen so many people crammed onto that stage before, and somehow, the masses of musicians made it work. Right off the bat, something inside me said, ”I’ve heard this one before.” The brain was racked, and landed upon those cheerfully dour Canadians of the beloved Arcade Fire. Something about the vocals and the lush landscapery of all those instruments together was very much in the vein of the AF. It must be noted that violins seem to be the new black, and quite a few bands I’ve seen lately have been utilizing them to great success. While certainly less gloomy than our Northerly neighbors, locals Twins Of A Gazelle didn’t veer all that much from their sound. “We sound a little bit like this band,” they said, as a cover of “Wake Up” was thrown into the set. Truth be told, I’m not sure how I feel about a cover that sounds kinda sorta like the original version. I really dug their new single, “Constellations,” which sounded the least like the Arcade Fire of any song in their set. It was jaunty and poppy and exuberant, and hopefully that’s the direction in which the bountiful band will move.

And then, it was time for something completely different. Dean Wells, otherwise known as The Capstan Shafts, creates pretty neato lo-fi nuggets that suggest those denizens of fuzz Guided By Voices, among others. Wells, adorable as he is, showed himself to be a true frontman, eschewing instruments to direct all his energy to the task of vocalizing his lyrics. Backed by his interesting assortment of friends, Wells and his voice endeared himself to me at once. Taking his songs out of the bedroom, Wells was charmingly affable and guardedly self-deprecating, saying “We’re open to criticism. Not terribly open to criticism, but open…” The songs benefited from the expanded instrumentation, particularly that drummer, who won serious points for his take-no-prisoners approach to hitting the skins on quite a few songs. Mixing it up sonically, at times the band shredded with rock and fury, while other times the songs took a gentler, quieter tone. The lo-fi approach wasn’t the vibe of the night, for sure. There was a slight air of discomfort onstage, which kept things feeling slightly off-kilter to me during the set. Whether or not Wells would rather be back in the bedroom studio he didn’t say, but somehow the awkwardness worked, for the most part. I was rather happy to have been around for the band’s “first second show somewhere.”

It was an unusual pairing, I think, but I was still rather entertained by the musical endeavors of the two. I’d reckon both bands would be worth seeing again, and you might just want to check ‘em out, dearies.

mp3: Middles Of June (The Capstan Shafts from Fixation Protocols)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Mixtape Madness

Obviously, the greatest mixtapes you're ever going to hear are put together here at LET, but it would be unfair of us not to give credit where credit is due when we come across winners from others (second place is respectable, too, folks, so good on ya', mate!).

While LET probably is never going to be your definitive source for outside mixtapes, you know we're going to hip you to the good stuff.

Believe it or not, Tri Angle Records has just dropped a Lindsay Lohan inspired mix. In their own words:

"Inspired in part by Lindsay Lohan’s grotesquely fascinating black hole existence and in part by my unwavering belief in the power of pop music as an artform, I saw an opportunity to create something interesting with her music, and decided to ask some friends to reinterpret some of Lindsay’s songs. 'Tri Angle Records Presents: Let Me Shine for You' is the result. Even though we are all fond of Lindsay in our own ways, there is no FREE LINDSAY agenda here. We all love pop music and this is merely an experiment. All of our intentions are very sincere."

While this simply could have been a joke, the tracks are surprisingly good. It certainly doesn't hurt that some top notch talent was assembled to add tracks. Think somewhere between drone and chill, but without wearing its panties in the limo while people stand around taking cellphone pictures.

While we've posted tracks sponsored by Red Bull before, clearly i was uninformed on just how into the music scene your favorite vodka mixer actually is. Seems that since 1998, they've been sponsoring a traveling music academy. Essentially, they set up an HQ for two fortnight-long terms in a different musical metropolis each year, pulling "together pioneers of days-gone-by and musical legends of tomorrow from all aspects of rhythm and sound." This years' 60 participants set up shop in London, resulting in a pretty damn kick ass 41-track mixtape, bringing together some of the biggest names in instrumental electronic music. Seriously, TokiMONSTA and Oddisee on the same track? Do not pass go without picking up this bad boy. Be forewarned, however, at least i had a bitch of a time extracting the files from the zip. With that in mind, here are a couple of tracks to prove it's worth the effort of figuring it out yourself.

mp3: River Song (J-Wow & Sui Zhen from Various Assets - Not For Sale - London 2010)

mp3: Jackin4beats pt. 4 (TokiMONSTA feat. Andreya Triana & Oddisee from Various Assets - Not For Sale - London 2010)

i've inadvertently been sitting on a mixtape from Alex Ludovico for so long now that's he's since put out another one. You might recognize AL from various mixes we've put together ourselves, but his own stuff tends to be pretty damn good by itself. Homeboy spits fiyah and tends to kick it over dope beats. Expect to hear more about and from this up and comer.

And finally, we recently received an interesting, homemade mixtape coming in at a handful of tracks at under ten minutes. As fans of the DIY ethic, here's a nod of the cap to Alex Gladwell. Sure, the production is a bit rough, but we all have to start somewhere. Plus, i'm pretty much a sucker for any beat that heavily samples Disney. Snow White in the house, y'all!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Biggest Cry Baby Mix You Ever Will Hear

So i started physical therapy for ye olde broken down back today, and suffice to say, it was not a painless affair. As such, i'm circumventing witty and going straight for tears.

You, you lucky bastard, get the Biggest Cry Baby Mix You Ever Will Hear, assuming my barely suppressed sobs don't get in the way. Seriously, call me a baby all you like (certain folks pay big bucks for that kind of treatment), but having a catheter inserted wasn't as painful as today's workout back spasms.