Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Okkervil River, Live On Conan, 8-28-2007

Okkervil River, supporting what might be the album of the year, got Conan all excited and exclaiming nonsense last night, and if you missed it, this is what it sounded like:

Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe (Live on Conan 8-28-2007)(mp3)

Own The Stage Names

Ben Lee, Live on The Current, 8-28-2007

Ben Lee's new album, Ripe, hits stores September 10th. To support the release, he played 3 songs in MPR's The Current studio. Stream the performance and listen to the interview when you get a chance. How can someone who has been in the business as long as he has be so unpretentious? How can you not like this guy??

Ben Lee - Live at MPR's The Current (8-28-2007) (mp3s)

Love Me Like The World Is Ending

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

For Such a Long Time, Been Drinkin' This Wine

DGC Rarities, Vol. 1, which featured B-sides, demos, and other rare tracks from Nirvana, Weezer, Beck, and others, came out in 1994. Here are a few selections that DGC Rarities saved from the Cemetery of Forgotten Songs.

1. Teenage Fanclub - Mad Dog 20/20 (mp3)

This was an ode to teenage life in Teenage Fanclub's hometown, where you could find the kids "drinking cheap wine in summer parks, trying to work out when the future starts." It also works as a tribute to the symbolic drink of young low-wage workers and students everywhere. Some of my best friends in 1994 were "dorm rats," which is slang for low-ranking enlisted single military people living in the dorms. Barely 21, with budgets as small as their closet-sized living spaces, surving on a diet of 5-minute chow hall lunches and ramen, and barely able to afford a date, the "rats" spent their summer nights with each other at picnic tables or in rooms with 19" TV sets and stereos with 15" woofers, and their choice of drink was cheap beer or Mad Dog 20/20, which gave them the courage to approach any new hotties who just moved in down the hall.

2. Sonic Youth - Compilation Blues (mp3)
A reject from the underrated Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star album, this is a great song to slip into a mix as you're enjoying an ice cold MD20/20. When the conversation gets a little too serious, discuss the difficulty of screeching like Kim Gordon in this song, and also remark on how the alternate guitar tuning on the acoustic adds depth to the chord changes. Then take another swig because this song goes down way easier that way.

3. The Sundays - Don't Tell Your Mother (mp3)
This B-side to the Sundays' first British single, "Can't Be Sure," was written with A-side worthy lyrics in 1988:

don't tell your mother about
where you go when the lights are down
and don't tell your mother how
you're up to no good, nowhere to be found
well, it's time to learn not to work so hard
or not at all
how will we know when the end is nigh
on a day much as any other

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bringin it on down to ya

Young Senators - Jungle (mp3)
The Fawns - Girl In Trouble (mp3)
Bobby Franklin's Insanity - Bring It On Down To Me Pt. 1 (mp3)

The liner notes say it all:

3. Young Senators – Jungle

Originally trading as The Dimensions (before The 5th Dimension’s management forced a name change), the Young Senators are regarded as one of Chocolate City’s earliest and most important exponents of go-go. A seven-piece outfit, they hailed from Northwest Washington and cut two funky singles on their own Sound Innovation label in the early ‘70s. The second of these was this excellent cover of The Jungle by fellow DC favourites and Atlantic recording artists Black Heat, which hit number one locally. Around this time, the Young Senators met the late Eddie Kendricks and became his touring band, a relationship that lasted eight years. As such they also became the first road band to record with a Motown act, backing Kendricks on whoppers like Keep On Truckin’ and Boogie Down.

5. Bobby Franklin’s Insanity – Bring It On Down To Me (Pt.1)

Flexing a heavy bottom end, fuzz guitar and flute, this 1969 Curtis Mayfield production was one of several sides Bobby Franklin’s Insanity cut for Thomas Records, run by Curtis Mayfield and Eddie Thomas. BFI later moved on to Westbound Records in Detroit, where they continued to bring the funk, notably on a cover of Hit It And Quit It by label-mates Funkadelic.

7. The Fawns – Girl In Trouble

The Fawns were originally sisters Michelle, Ann and Avis Harrell. They cut two singles for the short-lived DC imprint TEC before disbanding following the release of this Supremesesque number, which tackles the thorny subject of an unplanned pregnancy. Maxx Kidd revived the name with a new line-up and signed them to RCA Records for whom the single Problem Child was their only release

Own the 2-cd compilation of rare, dusty D.C. soul & funk, Superfly Soul: Riding Through the Ghetto

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'm the scarecrow.

thinkin of a way to
get you to stay and

i promise to
fight the wind

and waves for
you. hour to hour

with tired eyes i'm
the scarecrow

in the skies

Seabear - Arms (mp3)
Seabear - Summer Bird Diamond (mp3)

From The Ghost That Carried Us Away, by Seabear.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A New Pornographers Checklist

1. Got The New Pornographers' fantastic Challengers?

2. Bought tix to a concert coming near you?
check...Trocadero, Philadelphia, last weekend in October. Anyone else going?

3. Watched & recorded their performance on Letterman on the 20th of August?

4. Put the mp3 of the performance of My Rights Versus Yours (Live on Letterman, 8-20-2007)(mp3) up on the blog?

How's your progress?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thurston Moore - Contained Chaos

Maybe it's because he's an icon of avant garde noise rock, the first artist that made me connect emotionally with the scrape and howl of noise. Or maybe it's because there really is something there in the music, beneath the surface, subtly placed, like a poet manipulating the reader with accent, line, and rhyme. Whatever it is, Thurston Moore's songs always carry a certain gravity for me, even when they're relatively spare, light, accented with strings, and not quite so experimental. Take Never Light (mp3), which is a tamed and beautiful acoustic song. At the two minute mark, there's a break consisting of violin with acoustic guitar strings struck firmly, which resolves at 2:17. As a SY fan, you can't help but imagine that section as a distorted guitar scream. That's part of the joy of his new solo album, Trees Outside the Academy. It's a gorgeous listen, steady and assured. You relax to it, but still, there's a part of you that braces for the chaos you know Thurston can unleash at any moment.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Real Return Of The Rentals - Two Live In-Studio Performances

With their recent in-studio performances at WOXY and Minnesota Public Radio's The Current, and a new EP of scintillating pop songs, The Rentals have made a triumphant and welcome return.

The Rentals - Live on Minnesota Public Radio's The Current, August 11, 2007 (mp3s):

Last Romantic Day (stream the video)
Life Without A Brain (stream the video)
Sweetness & Tenderness

The Rentals - Live WOXY Lounge Act, August 17, 2007 (mp3) (same songs performed)

Own The Rentals' The Last Little Life

Friday, August 17, 2007

Murder Ballads

Nick Cave & PJ Harvey - Henry Lee

Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue - Where The Wild Roses Grow

Clap Hands.

Beck - Clap Hands (Live on SNL)

Beck - We Live Again (2000-10-03)

Beck - Lost Cause (Union Chapel, London, The Twenty-Eighth Of September, Two Thousand Three)

Don't Stop Believing.

When I was in high school "piano lab," this kid named Duane and I tossed out our prescribed sheet music for days and worked on Journey's Don't Stop Believing. It was a lot trickier than it sounded, but we worked our way through it, and we beamed with pride. I see you snickering. A little jealous, maybe?

Believe it or not, I don't play a lot of Journey nowadays, but this cover by Petra Haden brought back that memory, and also made me hope that Petra would do a Journey cover album the way she did The Who Sell Out.

Petra Haden - Don't Stop Believing (mp3)

Own Guilt By Association, a compilation of indie artists' guiltiest pleasures.

As We Proceed.

Former Dismemberment Planner Travis Morrison's new album is a musical fun house. Surprises, like a sudden orgy of brass, or an unexpected guitar stutter, lurk around random corners, and sometimes jump at you before the turns. Unsurprising, when you look at the quirky titles like I'm Not Supposed To Like You (but), You Make Me Feel Like A Freak, and Just Didn't Turn Me On. Morrison clearly listens to a lot of music, is convention-averse, and gets his high on innovation and risk-taking. As We Proceed (mp3) is a radio-friendly song that jump-starts with single-string staccato guitar bursts, and ends with an ascending bass line, and a mysterious repeating "whoop" sound.

Git Travis Morrison & The Hellfighters' All Y'all

Stream the album here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hazards of the Flying High Kick

The harrowing moment at 5 minutes, 10 seconds into this clip illustrates why you should be very careful when attempting the flying high kick.

The Black Lips - Live on Fair Game, 8-13-2007

The Black Lips played four songs on Faith Salie's Fair Game on Monday.

The performance was determinedly unbridled, a band that lassoes the rock beast and lets it drag the musicians around wherever it wants to go, kicking up dust in fury's wake.

The Black Lips - Live on Fair Game (8-13-2007)(mp3s):

Buried Alive
Cold Hands

Own their live CD, Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's Okay. You'll Answer Me Someday...

The mixtape would be extinct if people like you and I stopped making them. These two vintage songs made it on the one I'm working on now. What's on yours?

Bran Van 3000's Exactly Like Me! (mp3) made it for its playfulness:

I like what your t-shirt says:
I'm with stupid and stupid's with me.
Let's climb to the top of the state bridge and see how stupid we can be.

Your house, your house, your house I will explore
Your cold marble floors and secret doors,
The fine lines of your architecture,
And if you need me, I'll come and see thee, and be your visitor,
We'll play kissy kissy and have a baby and figure out,
What we're alive for.

The Comas' Falling (mp3) is so spare and bittersweet. It's a great song to play on the acoustic, but listen closely to the way the other instruments create distance.

You are falling through outer space
but it's okay, cuz you're coming back someday
and I have been crawling through outer space
it's okay, cuz you'll pick me up someday

Now I'm stuck here in this room
While you're tethered to the moon
but you will soon come around
and i'll be waiting on the ground

Now you are falling through outer space
but it's okay cuz you're coming back someday
and I have been calling through outer space
it's okay, cuz you'll answer me someday

Own BV3's Glee and The Comas' Conductor

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Hives, Black Cat DC, Oct 17th

I saw The Hives at the Black Cat in July 2004 with my friend Randy. It was one of the most electric, adrenaline-fueled shows either of us had ever seen, and between us, we've seen quite a few. They're coming back to the Black Cat on the 17th of October, and tickets go on sale Friday.

If you're going, I'll go.

Here's a taste:


This is the B-side to Aesop Rock's Coffee 12 inch (iTunes/emusic), which features The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle.

Kill the television.

Aesop Rock - Citronella (mp3)

The Somnambulants

Remember Evacuation, that great song by The Somnambulants from the entrancing Half Nelson soundtrack? The band's follow-up album is called Paper Trail, and here are two of its beat-driven, synth-heavy packets of dance floor energy:

Somnambulants - Take It On (mp3)
Somnambulants - Beat Down (mp3)

Stream the album and watch a video here.

Sarah Blasko - Planet New Year

In the video for her beautiful new pop song, Planet New Year (mp3), Sarah Blasko takes musicophilia to a new level. Her obsession with her craft shows in her lyrics as well:

Do you want another try--
rewrite some lines?
Do you want to spend some time?
If your hands are open like mine
underneath a setting sun,
your hands are open like a child’s
like mine...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Patti Smith - Live on The Current, 8-7-2007

The legendary folk poetess Patti Smith made a rare appearance at Minnesota Public Radio's The Current studio this week, and played three very special songs.

Patti Smith - Live on The Current, 8-7-2007 (mp3s):

People Have The Power
My Blakean Year

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Black Box Recorder

Remember this? Where did the last 7 years go? And where have those 7-year old dreams go? I don't remember what the first song meant to me back then - all I remember is that it meant something.

Black Box Recorder - The Facts of Life (mp3)
Black Box Recorder - French Rock 'n' Roll (mp3)

From The Facts of Life

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

So Hard Being A Loser

...and the Sharon Jones puts me in the mood for classic Motown. Maybe it does the same for you. This might not exactly be the Motown vibe that you're used to, though.

The Contours - It's So Hard Being a Loser (mp3)
Brenda Holloway - Just Look What You've Done (mp3)
The Elgins - I Understand My Man (mp3)

From the Limited EditionComplete Motown Singles, Vol. 7: 1967TREASURY, which includes "rare cuts, promo only singles, and several surprising alternative mixes, from Stevie Wonder's "I'm wondering" to the temptations' B-side, "I Truly, Truly believe," with a forgotten alternative lead vocal."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

100 Days, 100 Nights: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Here's reason #1 that I don't want to have to wait for the new Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings album, 100 Days, 100 Nights: the title track. No one does that classic soul sound better than Sharon Jones. And then there's the brass. And then there's the drums. And then there's the guitar...

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights (mp3)

Pre-order 100 Days, 100 Nights, out October 2nd.

Okkervil River: 10.1.

It's so meta to discuss a Pitchfork review.

So please pardon me for being meta today, and for hyping like a U.K. critic.

Once again, unsurprisingly, Pitchfork disappoints with a gross underrating. This time it's Okkervil River's The Stage Names, which it scored a measly, non-ivy-league 8.7. The review insults the album by calling it merely "powerful," with an opening song that passes as "potent."

What else...

Here, buried at the end of the fourth paragraph, the review calls the album "artistically unsurpassable" and "emotionally devastating." I suppose that comes a little closer to doing The Stage Names justice, but I personally would have liked to have seen a smudge or two on the page where the tears fell as the reviewer listened and wrote.

And then skip down to the last paragraph, where the review calls the band "vastly talented," and offers that "these songs are so good and so moving that they only give us stupid, stubborn hope." Yes, they're good and moving - they will tie your heart into a knot, stop it cold, rip it open, then reassemble it and crank-start it again with an adrenaline lever. Will Sheff leaves his own heart on the page, and on the stage, as he did in his SXSW performance earlier this year, with lyrics like these, sung like a devastated man to a distant person in the upper stands:

What breaks the heart the most is some rock and roll fan
Exploding up from the stands
With her heart opened up
I want to tell her "your love isn't lost..."

...this lifted by a simple, unforgettable repeating riff straight from the heart of Purgatory, and closes with a guitar that chimes high the way that The Edge, or maybe Thurston Moore at his most heavenly, would do it.

It will give us stupid stubborn hope AND a modern classic that will provide a lifetime of listening for the musicophile, and may indeed be the defining moment in the creation of a generation of musicophiles.

And not only that. Nowhere in the review did it mention the financial wisdom in buying the album. Each track is worth the price of the album itself. So, at 9 tracks, it's worth about $135. You're going to get it for about $13.97 plus tax, which means you'll pocket the remaining $120. Monster savings!

Seriously, though, I'm glad to see that the review was glowing by PF standards, and hope that the band gets all the attention that it deserves. Still, I wonder: if The Stage Names, which is as perfect an album as you'll hear this year, and probably better than a lot of the classics that you've been listening to all your life, only gets an 8.7, then what does it take to get into the mid 9's?

Okkervil River - Unless It's Kicks (mp3)
Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe (Live at SXSW, 3-16-2007) (mp3)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007

M.I.A. - Live on KCRW, 8-2-2007

M.I.A. brought equal parts jungle and street to the KCRW studio yesterday with a live performance on Morning Becomes Eclectic, featuring new music from her forthcoming album, Kala. It was primal & in-your-face, daring & convincing, even at the end of "Twenty Dollar," in which she boldly sang verses from The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind."

M.I.A. - Live on KCRW (8-2-2007) (mp3s):

Bamboo Banger
Twenty Dollar
Hustle Bird FluBoyz
Paper Planes

Own Kala.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bat For Lashes, Live on KCRW, 8-1-2007

Bat For Lashes, a.k.a. Natasha Khan, fresh off her 2007 Mercury Prize nomination, played seven songs for KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic yesterday. She filled every little corner and crack of the studio with all the dramatic tension it could contain.

Horse & I
Sad Eyes
What's A Girl To Do
The Wizard
Moon and Moon

Own Fur & Gold.

Watch my favorite video.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It Was Just Funk.

For me, The World's Rarest Funk 45s, Vol. 2 - Sixteen heavy-weight super-tough deep-funk ultra-rarities, another Will "Quantic" Holland compilation, is every bit as good as the first. There are surprises in all of these selections, and the funk is strong and willful.

Innersouls - Just Take Your Time (mp3)
"We innersouls was a small band that was just funky, man, it was just funk," bandleader Otis Ware states simply. "The guys were so good you could just feel one another." - from the liner notes.

Rev. Jamel & Bob Johnson - Walking On The Moon (Men Are Starving) (mp3)
Man, we need help all over the land.
You said it. What you said.
And they're spendin' all that money goin' around, goin' up to the moon.
And everybody's starvin'.

Order the compilation from Dusty Groove. Highly recommended.