Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lord give me Grace, and dancing feet

"Music is an invasion of the ear and mind that brings a conscious awareness of emotion." -Mookie
Saint Kele
Good afternoon men and women of the Church of MUSIC, In All Capital Letters. We congregate today to reflect on the end of a year and with hope for the next.

As the world of nations is to be pervaded by musical influence in this new year, so the world of Record Labels shall be, not annihilated, but transfigured in the understanding of how to best serve us. The Music Industry was cursed for the sake of the MP3 to thrive and grow, redeemed by the iTunes store and $0.99 song downloads. Now is time to open your virtual wallets; in this new year the Promised Land; and after that shall be the new world wherein the Record Labels and our Lord and Savior the Artist shall be all in all.

Soon we will all be counting down the last few seconds of this year with parties and laughter. I know that most of you view these parties with anxiousness and fear. Worried you may be tempted by the darkness of the calming shadow of the Lamp Shade, speaking in tongues basted in liquor. Fear not flock, for I will share with you the words of our great savior and shepard Kele Okereke. Please open your song books and MP3 players as I take this next passage from "The Prayer" Book of Bloc: Weekend In The City Track 4:1.

Click to hear the Sermon of Bloc Party - The Prayer

Lord give me grace and dancing feet
And the power to impress
Lord give me grace and dancing feet
Let me outshine the moon

Is it so wrong to crave recognition?
Second best, runner-up
Is it so wrong to want rewarding?
To want more than is given to you?
Than is given to you

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle, I will outshine them all

Standing on the packed dance floor
Our bodies thrown in time
Silent on the weekdays
Tonight I claim what's mine

Is it so wrong to crave recognition?
Second best, runner-up
Is it so wrong to want rewarding?
To want more than is given to you?
Than is given to you

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle, I will outshine them all

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle, I will outshine them all

May the power of music give you all you need to party and amaze. May the music ring on throughout your next year. Whatever your year has been like, whatever sorrows or joys it has seen, however you will remember 2011 (or maybe you'd like to just forget it). As we look forward to 2012 and beyond, we rejoice in the good news of Kele, who brings meaning and hope and promises untold to the vanity of this life. Keep your eyes on the horizon, and keep your faith and trust in him. Amen and Rock into 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

brother vs. brother, brother

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a bit of a slacker to say the least. Between posting here far too infrequently and so many other ways I procrastinate my way through life, I'm not sure how I get anything done. Here's an example that will be worth your time in the end.



I heard The Civil Wars on NPR (A Prairie Home Companion, if you must know) earlier in the year and was very impressed. I made a note to pick up their album Barton Hollow, which was released in February, and promptly did nothing more about it. This week as I was going back through the albums I loved this year I realized I needed to finally grab a copy and see if their studio work held up. Damn, it certainly does.

The Civil Wars is a duet comprised of Joy Williams and John Paul White. They make something like dark folk music with incredibly woven harmonies, but there's a distinctly Southern feel mixed in. At times it reminds me a lot of Damien Rice's duets or something from the soundtrack of the movie "Once." That's a glowing review.

Click to play The Civil Wars - Falling

There's actually been a lot of hype about The Civil Wars, from their first big exposure as a featured song on "Gray's Anatomy" to touring with Adele to being hailed as the future of music. I usually don't get behind the hype machine but I think these guys do deserve it if anyone does. Here's "Poison & Wine," the song that more or less gave them their big break.

Click to play The Civil Wars - Poison & Wine

So I'll admit it's long overdue, but at least I'm finally getting more word out about this group. Pick up a copy of Barton Hollow and see what they're about if you haven't already.

And while I'm playing a bit of catch-up, let me throw a couple other recent albums that are worth the listen: Undun by The Roots is touted as a concept album but it's just a good album overall, regardless of whether you pay attention to the themes or not. El Camino by The Black Keys is not as strong as last year's amazing release, Brothers, but it's still a great blues-rock record. The Dreamer, The Believer by Common is making a lot of folks throw that "album of the year" phrase around. I can never fault someone who lovingly samples ELO, but take a listen and decide for yourself. And have a merry Christmas or whatever you may celebrate.


Click to play The Roots - I Remember


Click to play The Black Keys - Run Right Back


Click to play Common - Blue Sky

Friday, December 16, 2011

Our Hearts On Fire Will Light The Way

Do you know what Mookie and I used to do?

We had record store dates. For a week or two, we would collect the names of artists we'd like to check out, and then we would go to Zia. We might try them out at listening stations, we might make tough decisions on which CD to discard, or we might buy them just because of something we heard or because of the album art.

Then we might drive around town listening to our new CDs, or in some way, shape or form, we would listen to our new CDs within a few days of getting them.

I'm listening to JJ Abrams on the Nerdist podcast. And he says, "...As things become more accessible, and more effortless; in terms of... You want that album, you can click that button, that's not even a real button, and you have it. Even though you can't see it or feel it. We're living in a time of virtual existence, you know, paying for things with money you don't see to get something that you can't actually hold. That feeling of having a record that you might not actually listen to, because it was such a breeze to get a hold of it. And then you don't even take the time to listen to it."

I'm not sure of the exact count, but I believe there are about 14 albums I have received in the last week that I have not yet listened to. Something is wrong. Do you know what else is wrong?

Abrams goes on to say, "It is a kind of curse that we are not appreciating the stuff that used to take some effort... The thing that's so crazy is, the idea that you're with someone, talking to someone, and your phone makes a little vibrating sound, and you just look away. There's so little respect left for being in the moment... The rule has become that elsewhere and other takes precedent over here and now... Because, 'Oh, well, what else is there?'"


So OK. Let me go into my recently-received albums, which were acquired by pushing not-really-a-button, and see if I can find any gems.

Well!

Speaking of getting music easily. We're sitting around spinning records... Wait. No, we are virtually in a room together, clicking buttons to play music across the interwebs for each other, and an old friend is losing his mind trying to figure out how to get IAMDYNAMITE prior to its release on the net. Oh sure, google it now and you will find all kinds of hits. But before the first single dropped this week, all you could get was maybe some Black Eyed Peas hits. Anyway, he loses his mind when he finally acquires it and within a week he is seeing them live. Now that's love.


But IAMDYNAMITE has been sitting in my virtual music vault since Monday. I might not have even realized I had it. No appreciation. But I was missing out, Oh My God.

Click to play IAMDYNAMITE - Riot in the Neon Light

The album is mostly a repetitive collection of high-energy songs, but the energy is such a fun one that you mostly don't mind. Why should you? You need something like this. Let this be what you're listening to so that you can be distracted from the "here and now"... Because otherwise you're just standing in like with a Keurig machine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond smelling the farts from the asshole in front of you.

When you're done for the day, just repeat the following mantra...

Click to play IAMDYNAMITE - Take Me Home

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Or Are You Gonna Be Free

AISHA TYLER ASKS: "Are you, at this point in your life, with everything you've done, and the amount of political work you've put your passion and your energy into, do you feel more or less optimistic than you did, say, when you were first in Rage?"

TOM MORELLO REPLIES: "I feel much more optimistic, and that has to do, principally, with fatherhood... The purity, and the innocence that I see in my kids makes me...wanna fight for their world...
When I see it reflected in other things, for example...
The first song I wrote for the latest Nightwatchman record... There was a factory in Korea where they make [the low-end Gibson guitars]... The workers in that factory formed a union, and because they formed a union, they were all fired. The factory was moved to China... So these Korean workers were out of work, came to the United States looking for help.

"They of course found The Nightwatchman.

"I was happy to do a benefit show for them, but the day before the benefit show, the earthquake in Haiti happened. So these Korean workers had traveled six thousand miles, and were in desperate financial need for their wives, their children, their strike fund; voted to donate 100% of the proceeds from THEIR benefit show to the Haiti Relief Effort.
And it was a very moving gesture of international solidarity.
They went home penniless.
...That day, when they did that, I wrote the song "Worldwide Rebel Songs", sung it the night of that show, and it became the cornerstone for this new record.
Because it's a reflection of, and a window into, the kind of world that I'd like to live in. The kind of world that I fight for in my music.
The kind of world that I want my children to be able to enjoy, you know, free of the fear and the pain and the sorrow that afflicts much of the planet due to crushing poverty and awfulness. You know, and environmental terror.
There are moments like that when you really see how good humanity can be, and I see that in my kids... A purity and a goodness that gets spoiled by... You know...
The world can be the world we make it. There is no ceiling to it.
So let's make one that's good for little kids like mine."

Click to play The Nightwatchman - World Wide Rebel Songs

Fortunately The Nightwatchman does more good than just write flaccid songs. Don't hold that against the talented guitarist.




Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Paying my dues

My idea of a perfect government is one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke. The man is chosen based on some kind of IQ test, and maybe also a physical tournament, like a decathlon. And women are brought to him, maybe ... when he desires them.
 --Ron Swanson


How does Mookie turn a bad day into....well something better? He folds cards for four hours and then someone gives him $400. Boom.

I haven't played cards in awhile. Poker. No Limit Hold 'Em, in a tournament format, is my game of choice. The last game before my hiatus I beat a nice sized field for a nice sum of money. The opportunity to play after that just never came. Got busy...side work, got married, just didn't want to go grind my teeth for 4-6 hours.

A friend of mine, who still plays regularly, had kept on me to come play a tourney. After a rather shitty dinner with a family member, I decided to take him up on his offer to play the 10PM tournament at Treasure Island. I finish deep, but just outside the money. It was a horrible beat in my first hand after the break. I look down to see pocket aces with the short stack on my right moving all-in. I also push with the player on my left also pushing in. No other callers, we flip over our cards and I see some bad news. the other two players both have AQ off-suit. You might think this is good, but you would be wrong. I have only a small chance to improve in this hand. With no more Aces in the deck, I need the board to blank out. Dealer burns a card and we see the flop.

J - 9 - 7

Fuck. Bad texture...

Turn: 10

River: 8

Unbelievable.

The next day, was not a great day. Disappointment and dissent. I'm not gong to get into it, but it ends with my kicking and punching a wall and screaming in my garage. I decide to leave before  my neighbors call this disturbance in. I need to get my mind off things for a bit, and I'd like some redemption from the night before. MORE POKER IT IS!

I'm off to the South Point to play in the 7PM tourney. I have a pretty good start, but the cards turn cold...and I fold cards and steal the occasional pot with my tight image and smart betting. I had mostly been listening to the podcasts of Marc Maron on the iPhone, but decide to switch to some music. Music has always been a tradition for me in the late stages of a tournament. The albums that lead me to victory tend to become favorites of mine (this is what they call foreshadowing, kids). I look through the music I have loaded on my device and see that I have Prof's latest album King Gampo.

I learned of Prof months back from one of our regulars, known as the "Doctor", in our room on turntable.fm. The song "Gampo" was one of the Doc's party starters, and it's always been a hit in our room, so I went ahead and downloaded the free album from Prof's bandcamp page. Having never listened to the entire album, I decided Prof would be my soundtrack to victory. The road was longer than expected, so the album got two full spins before victory was mine.

Prof calls the Twin Cities home and recently went on tour with blog favorite Atmosphere. There is a silly party mentality in the lyrics of Prof, much which revolves around girls and drinking. I mostly  pick up on the seriousness of some of the heavy mental pictures that Prof paints in his rhymes. Even if the message doesn't interest you, or escapes you entirely, you can't help but appreciate the wide range of Prof's ability in the delivery, or the big party-inducing beats he uses as his vehicle.

"Gampo" happens to be the first track off the album, and still remains as my favorite.

Click to play Prof - Gampo

You can find me stiff, like a samurai, on a llama ride, down a waterslide, getting sodomized / I’m a wallaby, I’m a king of a colony / By the way I’m Wil’n’out you would think I just won the lottery
The lyrics are silly, but how can you not love that song?

How did the night end up? Four players left and I had just folded an 8 and 3 off-suit hoping to get one final hand to play before I went broke in the big blind, only to get another 83 off-suit with all my money in the pot. Two players call my all-in bet and when the players cards are all face up, I see some bad news. I see that my 3's are dead since one player has what I call "shrubs" (pair of threes) and another player has AQ off-suit. I need an 8 to win, and also dodge an Ace and a Queen. Which is what happens! I win the main pot, and the player with pocket threes knocks out the player with AQ from the game! Down to three players and I'm still in the game! We decide to split up the prize pool and I take my cut and I leave the poker room listening to "On My Way"! Now I'm only  punching the air... in victory!

Click to play Prof - On My Way



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Now life is carefree and equally as boring

in medias res Because if you were here, the two of us would be a venerable force. You and me? Together? We would always make sure they were taken care of. We would make sure we were taken care of too. I know you would make sure of it for me. I absolutely know I would make sure of it for you.

I can't do it alone. It's not fair to expect it of me. I don't get credit for what I achieved. It's fine. They probably never gave you your due either. Today I yearn for you to be here more than I ever thought I could. Please send help? I need it. I'm broken and weeping and I need you. I'm not both of us. They need both of us. I can't provide it.

And flowers might wilt when we walk past
And self-help might help when it makes us laugh
Only finding questions in answers
You and I are just walking disasters


Click to The Wombats - Walking Disasters

I picked up on The Wombats by hanging out on turntable.fm. I played the song "IOUs" based on a turntable suggestion, and was totally struck by the line Just cause she came here alone/ Doesn't mean she's not got the baggage of a long haul flight for a multitude of reasons. The Liverpool dialect for starters. But the beautiful imagery weaved into such a dreadful tale that surely has no fairytale ending...



This Modern Glitch was released in April 2011, and "IOUs" is a track off an EP that seems to have been released more recently this year, curiously carrying the same title as the first track off the album. I apologize I don't have further research or accurate info for you. You should check out everything you can find. 2007's A Guide To Love, Loss, and Desperation is just as enjoyable, if for no other reason than just for the opportunity to chant the chorus here's another song about a gender I'll never understand. If this is a rom-com, kill the director.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So The Kids They Dance and Shake Their Bones

And that we did when the Furthur bus rolled into town. The night began with some pre-show “tailgating” in the parking lot, (even though it was a blustery November night in Wisconsin) with stories of first shows, how many shows attended, Jerry shows and post-Jerry shows being shared. Ahh... some things never change and that makes me smile. However, being the wimp that I am, freezing my ass off overtook the nostalgia and I didn’t last long in the parking lot and had to move it on in.

As Bob and Phil waltzed on stage my space got smaller as the crowd shifted forward. It’s a concert, I know there will be close quarters and my personal bubble will be challenged, but when I have a seat and have to try to find my way back to it after a bathroom break and nobody will let me through... well that just pisses me off. I know, who goes to the bathroom during a show!? Yours truly! Yes, I have considered Depends.

“The Golden Road” got things shakin’ inviting us to “come and join the party every day”. CLICK TO PLAY THE GOLDEN ROAD
Some people have taken that invite literally when they decide to follow the Grateful Dead and their affiliated projects, on tour. In theory that sounds like fun, but again, wimpy me, likes her own bed and a daily shower.

Two of my favorite Dead songs were played and of course, I got misty eyed. “It Must Have Been The Roses” CLICK TO PLAY IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE ROSES and the encore, “Black Muddy River”, CLICK TO PLAY BLACK MUDDY RIVER always grab my heart and apparently everyone else’s as the dancing slowed to a group sway and we became a community.

“Black Muddy River” will forever be remembered as the 2nd to last song Jerry sang live with the Dead at Soldier Field in Chicago before his death in 1995. As sad as we Deadheads are that he is no longer smiling down on us from the stage here on earth, we are fortunate to have the next best thing in John Kadlecik. As a former member of the Grateful Dead tribute band, Dark Star Orchestra for 12 years, his Jerry vocals are spot on. If only he had the belly and the beard.

As the songs intertwine it’s always fun guessing what the next song they’re leading into is going to be. It’s a game we Deadheads play. I think I got one right... I shall blame it on being over served. At any rate it was an amazing show! We got some Dead songs, we got some covers (Dylan, Rev. Gary Davis and The Young Rascals), we got to shake our bones, we got to sway. We got a miracle!




www.unbrokenchainfoundation.org/whats_next.html

www.furthur.org/






Sunday, November 27, 2011

shuffle

I didn't have anything exciting and new (other than a lame "Love Boat" reference) to write about today, so instead I'd like to play a little game. It's about as simple as a game can be and you may find yourself playing it at home sometime. Just put your music player on random, listen to 3-5 songs, and explain why they're in your library. I call it Shuffle.

The general idea is this: we all have vast, ever growing libraries of media. As much as we'd like to go through and get rid of those albums we'll never listen to again, it just doesn't happen. Shuffle forces you to own that music along with everything you actually do listen to, but not every time. You can get amazingly great playlists, you can get complete crap, and then there's everything in between. The only real recommendation I have is to be brutally honest, and to use a digital music player instead of LPs or CDs. That just doesn't work the same.

Ok, enough build up for a basic concept that I'm sure isn't at all unique or inventive. Here's my game of shuffle for today. I'm linking all the songs right here and you can read more about them below while you listen.

Click to play Aphex Twin - I
Click to play D-Sisive - The Superbowl Is Over
Click to play TV On The Radio - Blues From Down Here
Click to play Curtis Mayfield - Give Me Your Love (Love Song)
Click to play The Black Crowes - Evil Eye

Aphex Twin. "I." From the album Selected Ambient Works 85-92.

I haven't written about him on this blog before, but I think Richard D. James (or Aphex Twin, or AFX, or whatever he chooses to call himself at the time) is some kind of genius. I prefer his more frenetic, drum and bass-y moments, but this short ambient tune is a perfect intro to any playlist. One thing that continues to amaze me is how sounds this guy was using in the late 80s and early 90s keep popping up and sounding fresh today. He has always been way ahead of his time. Luckily, we're living in the right time to hear it.

D-Sisive. "The Superbowl Is Over." From the album Let The Children Die.

D-Sisive is/was a Canadian rapper with an ear for samples and dark themes. This album may not be a true masterpiece but it's very good. I believe I found it while diving deeper into the likes of Atmosphere and Sage Francis, but that was a very long, twisty road.

TV On The Radio. "Blues From Down Here." From the album Return To Cookie Mountain.

There's not a whole lot I can say about these guys you don't already know. Their music defies categorization and they are just cool. When you get a TVOTR song in your game of Shuffle you're doing well. This song in particular made a great segue from rap to what came next.

Curtis Mayfield. "Give Me Your Love (Love Song)." From the album Superfly.

My god, the soul. The soaring falsettos. This is music as only Curtis Mayfield can make it. He's been mentioned on our blog before but seriously: if you don't own Superfly go get it right now. It's not just a movie soundtrack. It's a soul/funk work of art. I'll even go so far as to say it makes Shaft sound weak. Isaac Hayes got the Oscar, but Curtis got the soul.

The Black Crowes. "Evil Eye." From the album Three Snakes And One Charm.

I used to be crazy about these guys, and I still stand behind The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion as a fucking brilliant album, but this was right around when they started to lose their luster for me. The song is fine, and there are some elements I really like about it, but overall there's something missing. That said, the psychedelic blues somehow wrapped up my playlist nicely so I won't complain too much. Let's write it off to growing in different directions and call it an amicable split.

So there you go. Five random tunes that made up a nice little playlist to start the day. I got lucky this time. You'll know what I mean the first time you get three Enya songs in a row. Wait, if you have Enya in your library what are you doing reading this blog? Oh, never mind. We love you no matter what.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RdioFTW

rdio.com
There are many options for listening to music online, or on your mobile device. Everyone is working to be your music platform of choice. Hypem, Pandora, GrooveShark, and Spotify to name just a few. My favorite online streaming music platform is Rdio.

Rdio is a new social music service, founded by Janus Friis with Niklas Zennström, The name, Rdio, is a combination of the words radio and audio, and is  pronounced ar-dee-o.

The Rdio formula isn't all that differnet then the popular Spotify. Rdio takes the work out of deciding what to play next by following  friends and people with great taste in music, and being inspired by what they're playing. Both platforms allow you to listen to your friends' playlists.

With Rdio's mobile apps, music on your computer and mobile phone is finally connected without needing a cable. Collections and playlists are instantly updated and you can sync music and listen, even when you're offline.

The thing about Rdio I like most is that you can select an artist you like, and Rdio can suggest both artists similar to this artist as well as artists influenced by this artist. That's the kind of tool that really helps to discover new bands you might like (and new bands to write about!).

I was looking through the collection of albums that AbsolutePunk had listed on their profile, and came across the band Heatmiser. The name sounded familiar, so I started checking out the album Mic City Sons while I got some work done in the office. I loved the first 5 songs in a row, and stopped working to learn more about this band. Here is the information Rdio shared with me:

The Portland, OR, band Heatmiser was best known for launching the career of singer/songwriter Elliott Smith, but other members of the group went on to have successful music careers long after Heatmiser's demise.
Let's check out "Get Lucky" because, let's face it...I'm running bad lately.


Click to play Heatmiser - Get Lucky

That song, as you might have been able to pick up, was one off the album from Elliot Smith, but the other singer/songwriter on the album is Neil Gust. Gust's work on the album is just as good as Smith's. It's a nice combo of talent.

After playing this album a few times, I wandered over to the "Inspired" section of the Rdio profile for Heatmiser. Only one band listed here, which must be an oversight, so I click on The Gone Jackals to check them out. The bio on Rdio says this:

The Gone Jackals are a hard rock quartet from San Francisco, CA. The leader, Keith Karloff, who is the brother of New York City guitarist Johnny Gale, relocated to San Francisco from New York City, where he had been performing in the 1980s as a solo artist using the name Keith Gale.

I begin checking out the the 2005 album Out And About With...  and it's another winner.

Check out my favorite off the album, "Can't Slow Down" which is a perfect drunken sing-along anthem that reminds me of AC/DC. I'm just giving you the preview from Rdio, but I totally suggest you sign up and listen to the whole song!



Friday, November 18, 2011

Over The Moon And I Aint Yet Fit To Come Down

As I dosed off sometime in the middle of the night in a dumpy motel after a long day of traveling and visiting relatives, the sleeping soundtrack my man had put on struck me as a brilliant piece of music.
It wasn't until the next morning, when, as if realizing what I had dreamed, I said, "You put on some really great music last night. Who was that?"
"Yeah, it was good wasn't it? That's The Low Anthem."
Yes. It was good! It was an aromatic mix of Ray LaMontagne and Elbow, with a touch of Ben Harper thrown in for the Bam!

I listened to What The Crow Brings from beginning to end three times when we got home before I realized that I was listening to their debut album, released in 2007. It turns out the band, a trio of instrumentalists from Rhode Island and together since 2006, recorded that album in their apartments and fully self-produced and distributed it. They hand-painted and hand-numbered the 600 albums they released. Pretty awesome.

Their sophomore album, Oh, My God, Charlie Darwin was also self-recorded, only this time they hand-painted and hand-numbered 2000 albums for release. They toured a bit to promote the album, and somehow found themselves in the UK where they signed record deals and got their album re-released. The Low Anthem moved on from there to play several US festivals and European shows, add a member, play David Letterman, lose a member, add a member, and occupy an abandoned pasta sauce factory to record their third album, Smart Flesh. Oh, and PS, Mike Mogis mixed the album.

Using the big, empty space at the factory added to the sounds on this album. In fact, the band refers to the space itself as an instrument they used. Add that to the World-War-II-era pump organ, dulcimer, clarinet, trumpet, fiddle, musical saw, and a handful of other instruments used by the band. They carry all of these instruments on the road with them, and will sometimes have to borrow replacements when things like a bass amp or an upright bass break!

Click to Enjoy The Low Anthem - Hey, All You Hippies!

"Hey, All You Hippies!" is a great anthem collecting various observations of the under-achieving, over-entitled soft-palmed class of disaffected under-30 college grads and hipsters swarming our streets and coffee shops of late. Wait. Maybe that's not the intent of the song. But it's what I hear.

Click to Enjoy The Low Anthem - The Ballad of the Broken Bones

The song that enchanted me was the first track off the first album. And on the second, I couldn't help but fall to the charms of the Harper-esque "Champion Angel." Enjoy this bonus.

Click to Enjoy The Low Anthem - Champion Angel

And make sure to find them live. This band takes the time to make sure the sound they deliver to you is right and good. They're in the cold and wet European interior right now, but come January they will be back in the states with a Portland show on the 16th, some Pac-No borderhopping throughout the month, and on to Minneapolis in February. Check the schedule here. They're touring with City and Colour, another inALLCAPS favorite.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

the baddest around

It seems you either love Tom Waits or hate him. I, for one, am in the love school. I realize his voice can be difficult for some people to get past, but his music is like nothing else in the world. It ranges from jazz to Vaudeville, from sailor shanties to sweet, sweeping ballads. In my opinion he's one of the best songwriters/composers we have around today. He also seems very witty and would probably be a blast to hang out with. Tom, if you happen to be reading this I have a bottle of scotch I'd be happy to share.



Waits' latest album, Bad As Me, was released on October 21st. This is the first new studio material we've heard since 2006, and his first "proper" studio album since 2004. It was well worth the wait. The first track, "Chicago," hits you like the train ride it alludes to and there's no stopping this express from there. Here's that opening track:

Click to play Tom Waits - Chicago

In typical Tom Waits fashion (as if there were anything typical about him) the textures of the album shift constantly, but there's always a charm and a nostalgia present. I'm not sure what to call it but true Americana. Not the folky sound that has become a genre definition; songs that touch on American music from its roots though its development and even, at times, its collapse.

One thing I've always loved about the man's music is the way it can swing from personality to personality and still make sense. Take for example, the tracks "Back In The Crowd" and "Bad As Me." The two are back-to-back so you move directly from a soft, latin-infused ballad to a sinister, frantic attack. It keeps you guessing and demands your attention, in the best way possible.

Click to play Tom Waits - Back In The Crowd

Click to play Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Overall, I'm putting this up there with the best of Waits' albums. In a way it feels a lot like Mule Variations, which is widely considered a masterpiece. I'm just happy the guy keeps making such brilliant music, and I'm glad he's around as a foil to a lot of the nonsense that's on the radio these days. You probably already have the album if you're a fan. If not, get it now. If you're new to Tom Waits, give it a shot. This is a pretty accessible album and shouldn't frighten you too much.

Click to play Tom Waits - New Year's Eve

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hilariant


"Comic genius" --GQ "Man Of The Year" issue 2010

Reggie Watts is brilliant. Hilarious and brilliant. I'm not sure if he is more hilarious than brilliant. I think it's 2 parts hilarious one part brilliant.  Wait...I think I got that reversed. Reggie Watts is one part comedian and one part musician with two parts awesome.

Reggie released his debut comedy cd/dvd 'Why $#!+ So Crazy?' on Comedy Central Records in May 2010. His latest album entitled 'Reggie Watts Live at Third Man Records'  is available on limited edition vinyl. He was also the lead singer in the band Maktub, an arabic word meaning "it is written". That's an awesome group, but hasn't released anything of note since 2009.

Reggie's improvised musical sets are created on-the-spot using his voice and a looping machine. He doesn't ever do the same song again, and although he disappoints fans of his albums at live shows since he can't play the "called-out" requests. You can count on an experience that's 100% unique to you and those in the room. He layers beats and melodies, runs that and his voice through some effects pedals, and there you have it. It's simple and effective. Once he has his beat he just sing/raps improvisational lyric over that. 

I just think his creations are so unique and amazing, and I'm sure you would love checking out his music and his comedy DVD. Go check those out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Click to play  Reggie Watts - F@ck Sh!t Stack and/or Maktub - Just Like Murder




Monday, November 7, 2011

Ghost On The Canvas

After a diagnosis with Alzheimer’s in June 2011, Glen Campbell agreed to record one final album and perform one final tour. His story and the lyrics throughout Ghost On The Canvas have touched me deeply, as I lost my Gramps to Alzheimer’s 5 years ago on Nov. 12.

There’s nothing I can say better than the legend himself, so in Glen’s words...

Ghost On The Canvas is the last studio record of new songs that I ever plan to make. I’ve been saying it to my friends and family, but now that it’s in writing, it really seems final. I’ve done a lot in my life - played, sang, toured, hosted a TV show, acted in a movie - most of the things that happened were because of music, because of the records, and now it’s time to just close that book.


My friend, Julian Raymond, helped me make this album, and it’s probably the most personal one I’ve ever made. He got some folks - like Jakob Dylan
CLICK TO PLAY NOTHING BUT THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD

and Paul Westerberg CLICK TO PLAY GHOST ON THE CANVAS

to write songs specifically for me, and then Julian and I wrote some others. It’s really a series of snapshots of my life and career. And that life has been greater than I ever could have imagined.


I was born in Billstown, Arkansas, one of 12 children. We lived on a farm where me and all of my brothers and sisters were expected to take care of the fields and the milking and the tilling - I got just enough farm work to know I didn’t want to do farm work! But I also got a guitar, and Uncle Boo was the first person to ever show me how to play one. I never learned to read music, I just always played by ear, and when my uncle gave me an opportunity to play on a radio show in Albuquerque, I was outta there!


I learned a lot on the radio and in the clubs in New Mexico, and in just a couple of years, I moved to Los Angeles and landed with some of the best studio musicians in the world. Years later, they called us the Wrecking Crew - there were a bunch of us that played together in different combinations, and I got to work on a lot of the big records of the day: “Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra, “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, “Everybody Loves Somebody” by Dean Martin, “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, “Surf City” by Jan & Dean, “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard, “Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by The Righteous Brothers. But that was just the start. When Brian Wilson stopped touring, I became a Beach Boy for about half a year, and by the end of the 1960’s, I got a chance to host a television show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. I performed on that show with a lot of people who made a mark of their own: Johnny Cash, Cher, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray, Ray Charles, Jerry Reed - it was really an amazing period. I also got to work with John Wayne on the original version of True Grit.


Not that it was all great. Fame can bring a lot of temptations, and I learned about that firsthand. I had some tough personal years, and it’s a big reason why the first line on this album is “I’ve tried and I have failed, Lord.”

Fortunately, the good times were much greater than the bad ones. And the songs - “Wichita Lineman”, Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Southern Nights”, “Galveston”, "By The Time I Get To Phoenix” - I’m still proud of all I got to do.


All of my little rollercoaster ride - the laughter, the tears, the successes and the failures - are part of who I am now. They helped create the Glen Campbell I am today, and that’s what Ghost On The Canvas is about. It’s the “now” Glen, with all the ghosts of the old Glens still kind of hanging around. In some ways, it’s a musical biography. But hopefully you’ll find a little bit of yourself in there too.


Everything I have in this world is, in some way, connected to music. And I give it to you. Enjoy it. I made it with a smile. And a real sense of gratitude.


I hope you feel the same thing.


~Glen Campbell

www.alz.org







Friday, October 28, 2011

Just Because Your Father Did

I just started listening to Admiral Fallow's album Boots Met My Face. I see constant pictures and stories in my head while listening, but it has been hard to nail down what it is about these songs that I am reacting to.

Known as Brother Louis Collective until last year, Admiral Fallow is a group from Scotland formed in 2007. They recorded this album in 2009, and "Squealing Pigs was released in Scotland early in 2010. The entire album was re-released as Admiral Fallow a year later.

Click to Enjoy Admiral Fallow - Squealing Pigs

I am at a lake in northern Wisconsin. The lake reflects the gray sky above, and I know that various life forms are awaking and scurrying about in the trees that shroud the lake's edges, but for now, there is no sound. I barely notice the quiet because my head is full, screaming full, of the voices of my family. My evaluations of their life choices. My reluctance to make decisions that will better my own life.

I could be anyone, standing anywhere, but this is who I see when I imagine someone being moved by the song "Squealing Pigs."

That's Sarah Hayes providing counterpart harmonies throughout the album to lead singer/songwriter Louis Abbott's. Hayes also plays the flute in that haunting, vulnerable, I-will-let-you-hear-me-take-breaths way. Double bass, clarinet, guitar, and drums round out the ensemble and deliver a heartfelt, at times melancholy, at other times brutally honest sound to match the album title, which by the way comes from a depiction of a beating Abbott received as a kid.

Compared to Wilco, compared to Decemberists, influenced by Elbow and Springsteen, Admiral Fallow headlined in the UK earlier this year and also enjoyed a slot at the US South By Southwest festival. BBC2 actually did a documentary outlining all of the Scottish bands at this year's festival, entitled "Scotland Rocks at SXSW". The hour-long program also featured The Twilight Sad, Kid Canaveral, and Rachel Sermanni. Check out more about the program here.

As for my earlier reference to Springsteen, you might wonder where on earth a Scottish band that makes indie music might conjure up a Springsteen reference. Well, I hear the influence on "Old Balloons." Check it out...

Click to Enjoy Admiral Fallow - Old Balloons

Currently playing a few gigs here and there in the UK, watch festival schedules as they are announced for the '12 and bet money you will see this name.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blues to lose your blues

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
On Sunday, Kilter wrote a post about being blue and what he does to get out of his funk. He does what I do. Well, I like to add booze to the the mix, but to each his own. When we are bummed out, we turn to music. I'm guessing you do the same, since you are spending your time reading a music blog instead of working/getting off couch/exercising. True to the music nerd he is, Kilter cranks up the Blues to lose his blues. Following that, Film Bird posted a concert review of the funky Warren Haynes Band


These posts reminded me of a bluesy-fun-soul outfit that go by the name of Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears; a blues band for OUR generation. 


While working at a pawn shop in Austin, Joe Lewis first picked up the guitar. For the next few years, he performed around Austin at open mic nights and various weekly gigs with his blues trio. The Honeybears formed after Zach Ernst, a member of the University of Texas Music and Entertainment Committee, booked Lewis to open for Little Richard at the University of Texas' annual festival Forty Acres Fest. After gaining local acclaim, the band toured as openers for Spoon and Okkervil River in 2007. The rest, as they say, is history.


The band describes their latest album Scandalous  as "All killer, no filler, the fittingly titled, take-no-prisoners". I'd say it's an accurate description.  The album—like the the two albums before it, was produced by Jim Eno, moonlighting from his main gig as Spoon’s drummer.  It's a tasty stew of Rock, Blues and Funk, well seasoned with a dusting of Punk. 


Joe Lewis
Listening to BJL & The Honeybears is like hearing James Brown or Howlin' Wolf, The Meters, or even, on occasion, Sam Cooke for the very first time. Much like the artists he's influenced by, Lewis writes from his often gritty experiences. The songs of Scandalous speak about bad relationships, money troubles, and the difficult and sometimes so-crazy-it's-funny road of life. You've been there, and it feels good to relive these blues, if only to release them.  


The highway tale of “Mustang Ranch” tells, in hilarious detail, about a drive between Salt Lake City and San Francisco, that detours into a well-known Nevada brothel. Joe says this about the story: 


“It was a long, ridiculous drive, and we got the idea of stopping at the Mustang Ranch. We were like, ‘Let’s go, man—we got nothin’ better to do.’ So we stopped in there, and it was a really odd experience. We figured out that we don’t fit brothels that well, and the girls are all fuckin’ busted. But nobody caught anything. Then we left, and we stopped in Reno at six in the morning. It was a freaky experience. We went into a casino and got a cheap breakfast, and all the burnt-out gamblers were walking the town like zombies out  there in the early morning. There were even weird lights hovering in the sky. That song’s a true story, pretty much.” 


Makes me kinda regret never taking the trip for myself, if not for the stories I might have to share! 





It wouldn't have been so bad to get my...my...haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam glazed...


The song "I'm Gonna Leave You" is an electrifying blues song about getting out of a bad relationship, before it gets out of control. It's a close call, as it always is in those situations.


Click to listen to Black Joe Lewis - I'm Gonna Leave You


There is no shortage of blues and funk bands, and then everyone else is stealing the best of the genres for their own alt/punk/folk/indie hybrids, but Joe Lewis is the real deal. A Blues and Funk sound that's fresh and new, and made for you.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Warren Haynes Band

Last night at the Capitol Theater in Madison, WI, Warren Haynes got functified with his latest project, “The Warren Haynes Band”. I’ve seen Warren live with The Allman Brothers Band, The Dead and Gov’t Mule, but I have to say, this may have been my favorite Warren show so far.

The funked up, soulful tone was set for the evening when they opened with the title track from the album, “Man in Motion” CLICK TO PLAY MAN IN MOTION
followed by a shout out to all the protesters with, “River’s Gonna Rise”. CLICK TO PLAY RIVER'S GONNA RISE
And then... the real magic happened when they covered “A Change is Gonna Come”, which literally moved me to tears. To Warren’s right all night was Alecia Chakour who has the voice of an angel. I really lost my shit when the Brooklyn soulstress and the rest of the sextet weaved from “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” into my favorite Warren song, “Soulshine” (Yes, that’s my big mouth in the beginning of the video and forgive my camera work... DP I am not.)



The night continued with one of my favorites off “Man In Motion”, “Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday” CLICK TO PLAY EVERYDAY WILL BE LIKE A HOLIDAY
and ended with a little Skip James “22-20 Blues”, into a couple rounds of Beck’s “I’m a Loser Baby” and wrapped with Sly and the Family Stone’s, "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", with the crowd clapping and singing along as the band sauntered off stage and then sauntered back on to a standing O.

It truly was a perfect show. A little funk, a little soul, a little rock ‘n roll. Some originals, some covers, amazing vocals, amazing musicianship. Ahhh.... doesn’t get any better than that! You still have time to catch WHB live. Tour dates are listed at http://www.warrenhaynes.net/shows
Do it, you won’t be disappointed!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

tell me a story

Some of the best stories are told through music. It's been a while since I posted so I'd like to tell a little story of my own through songs. Bear with me because this is going to be a loose interpretation.

I've been in a funk for the last month or so. Not the good, James Brown kind of funk; the kind of funk where you don't want to get off the couch. There are lots of reasons but I won't bore you with the details. Let's just say it's time to make some changes, whether I like them or not.

So what do you do when you have the blues? You turn to the things that cheer you up. Blues music is written for that express reason: to sing your blues away. It can also be good to listen to when you're down. My struggles pale in comparison to Leadbelly's. In fact, I've had a pretty cushy life when I put it in that perspective.



And the blues lead to some of classic rock's greatest works. The Rolling Stones were practically a blues cover band when they started out. John Mayall, The Yardbirds, Cream: they all took the blues to another place. And of course, Led Zeppelin took it even somewhere else.

Which takes us to a song that I've had on constant repeat lately. It's not Zeppelin's raucous blues, but it's beautiful and epic. I just sink into it and relax for 8 minutes of bliss.

Click to play Led Zeppelin - The Rain Song

I'll be back in form soon and get back to reviewing new music. For now I'm enjoying the comfort of familiar tunes that lift my spirits.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I'll Feel Better When We Get Some Weather

You remembered what I said and you wrote it on the fucking concrete


Washington.

Amazing.

Why are we not hearing this in the States? Megan Washington is a musician from Australia who goes by the name Washington. Washington won two Australian ARIA awards in 2010 for the debut album, I believe you liar. She has called upon various talented musicians to back her up and was able to afford to take them with her to play SXSW in 2010 only because she won cash and airfare in the Vanda and Young songwriting contest for her efforts in "How to tame lions".


Click to Enjoy Washington - How to tame lions


She got a lil money to make some videos, too...



The entire album is really a vivid demonstration of what talented indie girls are supposed to sound like. It's delightful to hear. But my favorite track is the third track, "Cement."

Click to Enjoy Washington - Cement

Here is another video for you... Megan Washington's cover of "Hallelujah" by Mr. Cohen.





Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Musicians On Call


I know I say a lot of things are genius, but this is TRULY GENIUS! I came across the program Musicians On Call and was so thrilled to see this program exists. Working in the health and wellness industry and with oncology patients, I know the importance of complementary medicine and the effect it can have on those who are suffering from illness, are bed ridden and/or home bound.

Hospice Care provides expert physical, emotional and spiritual support to patients and families dealing with life limiting conditions with their goal being to improve quality of life of those no longer responding to treatment. A 2009 survey that surveyed hospices, revealed that they offer at least one complementary therapy. The 3 most common were massage therapy (87%); music therapy (74%); and energy healing (65%). It has been demonstrated that music has a direct effect on people: it lowers blood pressure, helps with pain management, reduces stress and alters mood, assists Alzheimer’s patients in recalling the past, Parkinsonian patients find that the rhythm of music is crucial in helping them with temporal structure and organization. For more info on studies and testimonials go to
http://www.musiciansoncall.org/site/PageNavigator/About/Studies_Testimonials.

MOC offers three different programs. Bedside peformances (Volunteer musicians give bedside performances for patients going room to room), CD Pharmacy (At no fee, MOC provides hospitals with complete CD libraries and personal CD players for patient use. and Project Playback (Gives patients the chance to have their own music recorded and produced.



So please, donate, volunteer, spread the word, change a life.
www.musiciansoncall.org

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stop Me When My Stories Change

I think I know Los Campesinos! because I am familiar with their name. But I believe that is because their name has been on the billing at all the festivals I never make it to. Which ones? I don't know. To quote the effervescent Sarah Palin, "Oh, all of 'em!"
But I think a festival with this seven-piece band on its roster is definitely on my Must Have Soon list. Even if it's in Alaska or practically in Russia.

Los Campesinos! is comprised of seven young indie-poppers, the original few meeting in college across the pond and the rest of the members joining as interests and performances collided. And that's what the music sounds like. But in a good way. It's a jovial marriage of happy melody, marginally annoyed and disaffected lyrics, and garage rock distortion. You've got glockenspiel, violin, keyboards, horns, and everything else required to ignite mania.



I've learned more from toilet walls than I've learned from these words of yours

Click to Enjoy Los Campesinos! - We've Got Your Back

I think we need more post-coital, and less post-rock


Click to Enjoy Los Campesinos! - Straight in at 101

Together for the last few years, the band's current record, Romance is Boring, has been out for over a year. Get to know them well and impress your friends when you pick up their new album when it drops next month: November 15. It will be called Hello Sadness. So don't say I never told you. Pick up their prior works, get this new one, and understand why all the emo kids have "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" tattooed on their chests.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I'll be all right alone...

I remember how you make me want to surrender...

Alex Clare - Damn Your Eyes by Alex Clare

 I don't think she deceived me, or made me believe what I wanted to see, but DAMN her eyes. Even looking into those eyes a little after 10 AM Saturday morning, the thought went through my already overloaded mind... Damn, Damn your eyes.

I've surrendered it all to her. I'm saying "I do" with barely a breath left in my lungs, while looking at those beautiful blue eyes of hers.

I first heard the song while anxiously practicing my toast for the wedding only two days away. It stunned me and I had to wonder again, what WAS I about to do? Always those eyes, how could I say no to those eyes. Those eyes would always win over any common sense or logic I might have. Those eyes own me. Now, those eyes belong to me, and I have never been happier!

Alex Clare
After hearing that silky smooth and sexy cover of Etta James, I found myself owned once again. This time by British singer-songwriter Alex Clare. I quickly downloaded the debut album The Lateness of the Hour and discovered  my new favorite artist. Alex, formerly known as Alexander G. Muertos, has a beautifully warm and soulful voice and sings over a tapestry of bass-driven dubstep and dance music. The combo has been done before, most never such a succinct package of work.

It probably helps that the album was produced by Switch and Diplo. Switch is a UK-based record producer that is well known for his DJ sets as well as his songwriting. Diplo is an American DJ from Philadelphia that started a record company and has started working on producing projects for many notable pop stars. Both Switch and Diplo got a major boost in recognition working with and on various M.I.A. tracks; together they created the Grammy nominated track "Paper Planes".



From the dancehall vibe of "Up All Night" to the piano ballad of "I Won't Let You Down" I was literally floored. Curled up in the fetal position, gently rocking myself, and repeating "OMG. OMG!"

Here is the whole album available to stream: The Lateness of the Hour by Alex Clare

Here's a bonus remix track you might totally love also. Alex is in the studio I hear, and I cannot wait to hear what other beautiful music he will release into the world.

Click to play Alex Clare - Too Close (Distance Remix)

So. I'm married. That's why both TLO and I have not been updating the blog as much as we have in the past. We are doing the honeymoon early next year...so you can expect us to get back to work and write a ton of posts until we leave for our dream honeymoon and vacation. Thanks for sticking with us.

I love her... She's my wife now! Amazing!