...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Friday, March 31, 2006

Still feelin' nice and Luce

You may remember Luce, who I raved about earlier this year. It is in your best interest to take note that they've got a slew of tour dates beginning tomorrow night, thoroughly entertaining my California friends and then going all summer long across the country until they end up in my neck of the woods. Yay! If you get a chance, go see these guys live. Really great music out of San Francisco (represent!). As I wrote before, Luce makes catchy, clean, sharp, melodic guitar rock, with just the right blend of ebullient brass & harmony. Luce cites Lennon & McCartney as influences, and it's hard to feel blue while you listen to this stuff.

I think my favorite track on their 2005 release Neverending is "The Sweetest Smile," which I have been listening to in the sunshine when I go running lately (because it is an outdoor, sunny type of song, even though I think he sings about aliens). I am stoked to see that eMusic has both of their releases for purchase here, because now you have no excuse (oh no! why did eMusic classify them as "emo"? What does that even mean?! Disregard.). Definitely one to look into.

4/1/06 Great Basin Brewing Co., Reno, NV.
4/5/06 The Attic, Santa Cruz, CA
4/7/06 University Of Alaska, Anchorage, AK
4/14/06 The Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, CA
4/21/06 Little Fox, Redwood City, CA
4/22/06 Little Fox, Redwood City, CA
4/29/06 Sweetwater Saloon, Mill Valley, CA
5/5/06 The Bottleneck, Lawrence, KS
5/6/06 Off Broadway, St. Louis, MO
5/8/06 Underground City Tavern, Springfield, IL
5/11/06 Majestic Theater, Madison, WI
5/13/06 Ten Bells, Grand Rapids, MI
5/14/06 Mickey Finn's Pub, Toledo, OH
5/16/06 Wilbert's, Cleveland, OH
5/17/06 Club Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA
5/18/06 Dogwood Festival, Phoenixville, PA
5/20/06 Harper's Ferry, Boston, MA
5/23/06 Tin Angel, Philadelphia, PA
5/24/06 Jammin' Java, Vienna, VA
6/27/06 Mitchell Park Bowl, Palo Alto, CA
6/30/06 Dutch Flat Hotel, Dutch Flat, CA
7/14/06 Concerts In The Park, Greensburg, PA
7/19/06 New Town After Hours, Williamsburg. VA
8/5/06 Quixote's True Blue, Denver, CO
8/9/06 Steve's Guitars, Carbondale, CO
8/11/06 Arnold Hall Ballroom, Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO
9/8/06 Downtown, Pullman, WA

And here is a lovely little song from their Media Vault on their website:

Good Day (acoustic) - Luce

What a great song to stroll into the weekend with. And if you are an Air Force cadet and go to the show in Colorado Springs, come say hi to me, I might be working the merch booth!


Tim Buckley video: Song To The Siren, Monkees TV Show 1968

I had never actually heard Tim Buckley sing before I found this video, only read about him and seen his pictures. After seeing David Gray perform this amazing song a few weeks ago, I became driven to learn more about it and I found this video to be phenomenal. Probably what I found most interesting is how much Tim and Jeff obviously resemble each other physically, but that they sound so completely different in terms of voice. Where Jeff is dramatic and gorgeous and soaring, Tim is very straightforward Irish-folksy sounding to me. Here is the story behind it, from David Browne's marvelous book I am reading, Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff & Tim Buckley:

"One fall morning over breakfast, [poet friend Larry] Beckett came over [to Tim Buckley's apartment] with his latest well-honed, slaved-over lyric . . . Guitar in-hand at the dining table, Tim looked at Beckett's lyrics and pushed them away 'like unwanted mail,' Beckett remembers. After eating, Tim took his guitar, pulled Beckett's poem back over, and out of nowhere began playing a melody that complemented the words.

The song, which owed a debt to Homer's The Odyssey as well, was 'Song To The Siren,' a forlorn ode to unattainable love that used the call of a mythic siren as a chilling metaphor. Both its music and lyric captured the fatalistic Irish part of Tim's soul.

Long afloat on shipless oceans,
I did all my best to smile
'Til your singing eyes and fingers
Drew me loving to your isle
And you sang, 'Sail to me, sail to me
Let me enfold you
Here I am, here I am
Waiting to hold you.

In late November, not long after it was written, Tim premiered the song at a taping of the final episode of the Monkee's television series . . . Tim had befriended wool-hatted Monkee Michael Nesmith at the Troubadour's hoot nights. 'This is Tim Buckley,' announced Monkee Micky Dolenz. With Beckett standing offstage, holding the lyrics in case his friend forgot them, Tim walked onto the set - an old car with a smashed windshield - and slumped atop the hood. Accompanied only by his crystalline twelve-string, he caressed the melody, his large brown afro slowly bobbing back and forth as he sang."

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

After 16 years, new ones from the 'Mats

Replacements Reunite For New Songs
(Info from Billboard.com, Pioneer Press, and Pitchfork)

The web was abuzz earlier this week after a mysterious photo circulating on the Internet sparked rumors that the Replacements had reunited to record new material.

The picture, which was posted Monday on the gossip site Buddyhead.com, shows Replacements drummer Chris Mars, bassist Tommy Stinson and vocalist/guitarist Paul Westerberg posing in a recording studio with session drummer Josh Freese. By mid-day Tuesday, it had been removed from Buddyhead.com as well as from a Westerberg fan site.

However, as of today 'Mats fans everywhere are doing the happy dance after it was confirmed that Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars reunited to record two new songs for an upcoming retrospective, Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?: The Best of the Replacements. Due June 13 via Rhino Records, the set will feature "Message to the Boys" and "Pool & Dive," the band's first new recordings in 16 years.

Session drummer Josh Freese was behind the kit for the new recordings, while Mars, who in recent years has foregone music for an art career, contributed backing vocals. The songs were written by Westerberg and were recorded at producer Ed Ackerson's Flowers studio in Minneapolis. Currently it is unclear if any further activity is brewing within the Replacements' camp.

Westerberg said in 2005 that he still reflects fondly on the Replacements' early days, especially "when we were riding in the van and we ripped the seats out and would just listen to tapes and listen to Black Flag. [We would] sort of slam dance and stuff around in the back of the van and be drinking hard liquor at noon and it was just, you know, carefree times. We didn't give a damn."

Meanwhile, sources say the long-awaited Replacements boxed set is still in the planning stages and will not be out until 2007 at the earliest. Rhino is also working on expanded editions of the Replacements' albums, but no release date has yet been announced for those packages either.

Here is the track list for Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?:

01. Takin a Ride
02. Shiftless When Idle
03. Kids Don't Follow
04. Color Me Impressed
05. Within Your Reach
06. I Will Dare
07. Answering Machine
08. Unsatisfied
09. Here Comes a Regular
10. Kiss Me on the Bus
11. Bastards of Young
12. Left of the Dial
13. Alex Chilton
14. Skyway
15. Can't Hardly Wait
16. Achin' to Be
17. I'll Be You
18. Merry Go Round
19. Message to the Boys *
20. Pool & Dive *

On a related note, Jerry Yeti has recorded an interesting observation about the Replacements. And the zip files of Westerberg and Replacements rarities that I posted a few weeks ago are still live links for the taking.

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Stereophonics: Fire burning in their chests

Cymru am byth. My people hearken from Wales way back, and although I have not been there (yet), something inside compels me to listen to the Stereophonics, arguably Wales' best-known export of recent years (not counting Tom Jones, whose tan kind of scares me).

Stereophonics formed in 1992, with the three original members (Kelly Jones, Richard Jones, and Stuart Cable) growing up together in the small Welsh village of Cwmaman. They were originally known as Tragic Love Company, a name inspired by three of their favorite bands Tragically Hip, Mother Love Bone and Bad Company (that is awesome). One of the first groups signed to Richard Branson's fledgling V2 Records label, the Stereophonics have released five studio albums in the last 10 years, with the four most recent all going to the top of the UK charts, including their first #1 single - "Dakota" - off their 2005 release Language. Sex. Violence. Other?.

The gravelly-voiced melodic rockers are coming out with a new live album on April 21 called Live From Dakota. The 2-disc set will feature:

1. Superman 2. Doorman 3. A Thousand Trees 4. Devil 5. Mr Writer 6. Pedalpusher 7. Deadhead 8. Maybe Tomorrow 9. The Bartender and the Thief 10. Local Boy in the Photograph

1. Hurry Up and Wait 2. Madame Helga 3. Vegas Two Times 4. Carrot Cake and Wine 5. I'm Alright (You Gotta Go There To Come Back) 6. Jayne 7. Too Many Sandwiches 8. Traffic 9. Just Looking 10. Dakota

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt as comfortable onstage as I have done recently,” says frontman Kelly Jones (on their MySpace page). “We’ve got a lot more confidence than we’ve ever had before too. Getting back to playing as a three piece onstage – as opposed to having extra musicians there – has really worked, it’s what we were originally and we feel stronger for going back to it. We’ve been really fucking energized too.”

“We’ve got that raw feel back too,” adds bassist Richard Jones. “Even just when we were rehearsing it felt really energetic, gritty and in-your-face. As soon as we started playing with [new drummer] Javier [Weyler] it felt so natural. We felt like a unit onstage – it was like the old gang mentality. It was just the three of us and we knew we all had to pull together. The shows last year were among the best we’ve ever played. The energy and excitement was similar to when we first started playing big shows. We have the same fire burning in our chests now as we did then.”

Kelly adds, “We wanted to do a live album because it feels like a celebration of the year we’ve had and also of the ten years that this band has been going. It is hard to re-create the buzz of being at a gig -- when you’re out, you’re tanked up and having a good time with your mates. Hopefully this is as close to being at one of our gigs as you can get."

For a little preview of their blistering live vibe in recent days, here is the urgent & rocking 4-song set they did at the Live 8 concert in London (July 2, 2005, pictured above):

"Bartender and the Thief" (live) - Stereophonics

"Dakota" (live) - Stereophonics

"Maybe Tomorrow" (live) - Stereophonics

"Local Boy in the Photograph" (live) - Stereophonics


Onion News: Two Hipsters Angrily Call Each Other 'Hipster'

From that bastion of hilarity, The Onion:

Two Hipsters Angrily Call Each Other 'Hipster'
AUSTIN, TX—An argument between local hipsters Dan Walters and Brian Guterman has devolved to the point where each is angrily calling the other "hipster," those close to the pair reported Monday. "Hey, hipster! Here's 12 bucks—why don't you go get yourself a bucket of PBRs at the Gold Mine?" Walters, 22, is said to have told Guterman, 22, invoking the name of a local bar known for its "poseur" clientele. "Whatever you say, scenester," Guterman allegedly replied. "Don't you have a Death Cab For Cutie show to be at right now?" Acquaintances of Guterman and Walters trace the long-running conflict back to high school, when they reportedly threw pencils at each other and argued about who was more "emo."

Addendum: Read the HILARIOUS Onion story (37 Record-Store Clerks Feared Dead In Yo La Tengo Concert Disaster) that someone posted in the comments by clicking on the "6 comments" link right below this. It's one of the funniest things I've read all month:


The tax man cometh

Okay, so if you are an American and you ended up owing Uncle Sam on your taxes this year (or if you are procrastinating filing because you fear you owe taxes), you might want to stop reading now because this will only make it smart more. Pouring lemon juice on a papercut, baby.

Through some overly-eager withholding, I have just discovered that we will pleasantly be getting back like $2700 from our various federal and state taxes this year. You know what that means? Same thing it meant last year: New iPod for Heather! It's my commission for doing all the grunt work filing the dang paperwork (well, Turbo-Taxing it).

I am getting a spiffy new 60GB iPod because my 30GB has runneth over. I get butterflies in my stomach looking at all the sexy gigabytes available on the Apple Store website. Does that mean I have crossed the line into uber-nerd?

I like the personalization thing (free), so I need some suggestions on what to etch in the back. What do you all have on yours? I am leaning towards a variation on this most excellent Pearl Jam lyric:

Turn the jukebox up he said
Dancing in irreverence
Play C-3
Let the song protest

I am thinking the first and last lines of it. What else should I consider?

In a tribute to the taxman (I know, I know, I need to adjust my withholding because otherwise it is just an interest-free loan to the goverment, yada yada yada), here is a demo version of a Weezer song from their 2002 Maladroit album (one that didn't make the cut). Nice and poppy, with trademark Weezer "doo-doo-doot"s:

"Mr. Taxman" - Weezer

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jeopardy soundtrack

As I sit here and wait for the online Jeopardy test to begin (03:31 remaining until test time), what, pray tell, is my soundtrack?


"Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

Yo, His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting...

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo,"

I am compelled. Thanks Eminem.

UPDATE: It was brutal and bloody. We'll just have to wait and see if I am as smart as I think I am, they don't give you a score or anything. What playful American invented the mobile? Who would know "Calder"?? I totally blanked on Gabriel Garcia Marquez, even though he is one of my favorite authors. And a question about Renoir threw me because they gave the English translation of the painting name instead of the French, which is what I learned (sniff). That business is harder than it looks on TV! (but to my delight it even played the Jeopardy music in the browser window)

Counting Crows 1993: "This is the beginning of our first tour, ever, so we're kinda kicked about that"

In around 1993/1994 I used to babysit for this lady that worked at Shoreline Amphitheatre as an usher, and seemed to know a lot of people in "the business" and got all kinds of great music. I would come to her house armed with a secret stash of blank cassette tapes and I would clandestinely dub her good music onto them after her daughter was safely tucked into bed. Naughty nannies, I know (ah, she didn't mind).

In this manner I got lots of good stuff, one of them being a soundboard recording of a very early Counting Crows show at the historic Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, from 8/27/93.

I absolutely wore out the tape, listening to it so many times that I know the entire set and all the dialogue by heart. Then tapes kind of went by the wayside in my life and now I think I've lost the original. I've spent many hours trolling the web looking for these songs. Then reader Jeff turns out to have this very show on mp3 and just sent it to me and made my WEEK (no, month!). In listening to it again for the first time in years, my ears are extremely happy.

This is a snapshot of the Crows at a critical juncture on the edge of stardom in their career, as the announcer says, "This band is so new, even *I* haven't heard of them yet..." and calls them an "up and coming new hot band" in the Bay Area. And as Adam Duritz says, "Uh, we're Counting Crows and this is the beginning of our first tour, EVER, so we're kinda kicked about that."

The set is full of enthusiasm, affability, and some excellent-quality renditions of rare songs of theirs that I LOVE but that they have never released officially. Both have those fabulous lyrics that I love Counting Crows for. Listen to the story in Open All Night. It's a simple story, evocative of a conversation shared between two strangers. If we were listening to this together, I've put little stars** next to the lines where I would shush you and make you listen closely, favorite parts of the song for one reason or another:

Exit 8 **
Small cafe **
Georgia moonlight **
It's 3am and I've been driving all night
She had a funny air, red-brown hair in the porchlight **
She said 'we're open all night
so won't you come inside
It's gonna be alright...'

She said 'tired?'
I said 'I'm a little bit unstable'
She said 'child, I will help you if I am able
See there's a bottle of relief upon the table
And we're open all night
so won't you come inside
It's gonna be alright...'

She said 'I was born the year the rockets landed **
Circa 1969 and I got stranded **
Yeah but the comet's getting close and I can't stand it **
Said we're open all night
So won't you come inside
It's gonna be alright...'

Exit 8
Small cafe
Georgia moonlight
It's 8am and I've been drinking all night
But there is nothing I will not do to make it alright
She said 'we're open all night
so won't you come inside
It's gonna be alright...'

. . . And Margery - This one is a bit more wordy, but just absolutely beautiful as well. It reads like a poem. As a huge fan of Counting Crows I like to see these early personifications of names that will recur in songs over the next ten-plus years for the Crows (Margery and Anna). Here's partial lyrics. I started starring ** lines in this song and realized it would be every line, so just shush and listen to all of it. Ow, beautiful.

In still water she lies down
shaking through the press of sunlight
We rolled into Lexington
she shakes off a drop of daylight

Water beading off her chest
bleeding down between her knees
Rivers in Kentucky flow
beneath the bluegrass wavy seas

And oh, Margery
sticks the knife once more inside of me

. . .

Dust me off and shut me down
and dream of where I haven't been
Close the door inside my heart
And stuff in the south Atlantic wind

I have hollow eyes
haunting only to myself
Even so I can't stop carving,
scraping hollows in myself

I took the train from California
to the far side of the continent
Woke up in Kentucky
Where the wedding was about to end

I looked up at Anna
she turned back to look at me
It's best to kill the ones that matter
render blind the ones who see

But oh, Margery
takes the blade and walks away from me

Oh, Margery
love like blood is pouring out of me

Oh, Margery
my heart won't stop bleeding over me

Oh, I can't shut it in
it's got far too many doors to block the wind
Oh, I can't shut it in
it's got far too many doors to block the wind

Adam reveals that his favorite song on "our new album" (August and Everything After) is Perfect Blue Buildings, (which is a perfect, opalescent, unspoiled, melancholy gem in my book) because, as he says, "It will never be a single." Plus, the Van Morrison Caravan cover can't be beat. As Adam says, "This is our favorite song, period, and . . . we didn't write it. But I wish we did."

ENJOY, my friends. You are in for a huge treat.

Counting Crows
Live at the Fox Theatre, Boulder, CO
August 27, 1993

01. Intro
02. Round Here
03. Open All Night (unreleased)
04. Rain King
05. Time and Time Again
06. Margery (unreleased)
07. Anna Begins
08. Perfect Blue Buildings
09. Caravan (Van Morrison)
10. Murder of One
11. Sullivan Street

(you need this whole set, not just as piecemeal, yo.)


Jeff Buckley channels Lady Day: Strange Fruit

Lovely reader Lisa, who is like my little Jeff Buckley drug-dealer appearing randomly with small packages of goodness to slip to me, sent me along the version he did of Strange Fruit that many of you were asking about after my recent post.

Lisa says, "I believe it was Billie that inspired Jeff's mournful, cutting, anguished version. This, in 1994, from a young 'white boy' from Southern California. He certainly could inhabit a song, couldn't he?"

[expired] Strange Fruit - Jeff Buckley
KCRW Man on the Moon, Jan 1994

Also, please anticipate that I will be entering into an even larger Jeff Buckley jag than usual, as I just bought the superb Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff & Tim Buckley (by David Browne, no relation) today. I just finished the introduction and already got a bit emotional in the bookstore. So this could be messy, but beautiful. Such is life.


World Music Wednesday

Aaaah, coffee. The beverage of the gods and the required kickstart for my days.

A nice atmospheric soundtrack to your morning java respite is the lovely Putumayo compilation entitled Music From The Coffee Lands: an aromatic blend representing Peru, Kenya, Hawaii, Uganda, Mexico, Colombia, Zimbabwe, and more. Sounds like . . .

Below The Bassline - by Jamaican jazzmaster Ernest Ranglin

Kothbiro - by Kenyan lyre (nyatiti) player Ayub Ogada. Haunting.

Soltarlo - jazzy acapella scatting and layered vocal "percussion" from Colombian singer/songwriter Claudia Gómez

The slack-key Hawaiian guitar piece by James "Bla" Pahinui and the feisty "Guajira Bonita" track by Julian Avalos & Afro-Andes that opens the CD are both also favorites of mine. Check this one out.

To learn more about where your favorite drink comes from, and to buy fair trade blends, check out Cafédirect.


Mike McCready on KROQ Monday: Pearl Jam news

Mike McCready, one of the god-like guitarists from Pearl Jam, did an interview on KROQ Radio this past Monday (3/27/06). Topics discussed include their new album, opening bands for the tour (Kings of Leon, Sonic Youth), the Surfrider Foundation, and the 30-50 odd songs that they have in their vaults that no one has heard. Mike also talks about how "rocking out is in [his] blood." Amen.

Listen to it here:

Mike McCready, KROQ Radio, 3/27/06 (mp3, about ten minutes)


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Odds & ends

1) Where does he find all this stuff? Justin at Aquarium Drunkard has unearthed another Black Crowes lost album, this one even more rare: The Tall Sessions. Amazing. He puts my music-finding skills (skillz) to shame. GOOD stuff.

2) A nice little set of live songs to download here from Norwegian Sondre Lerche from 5/19/03.

3) The excellent Mr. Josh Ritter has announced some West Coast tour dates coming up in June. Mojo and Q Magazine both gave his new record The Animal Years 4 stars (April 11 release in the U.S.), and I still love the epic beauty in Thin Blue Flame.

4) This blog which looks startlingly identical to mine (but it's not) has another new track by The Streets, "You Can't Con an Honest Jon." Yeah, I do not care for this song (but you might). Oh and it starts out loudly and abruptly, so don't download it in your quiet cubicle at work and then go and embarrass yourself when it starts playing.

5) So I cannot listen to this without laughing, I just re-discovered it. It's a Jerky Boys comedy track: "I hit your restaurant!" This was one of the CDs my husband brought into our first home together, and we used to laugh and laugh over this even though it is admittedly lowbrow and, well, The JERKY BOYS. But we would lay in bed at night in the dark, and one of us would be almost asleep and one of us would go, "Ohhhhhhhhhh," (listen to 0:13 through 0:23 for reference). And then we'd just get the giggles all over again. Do you want to go to see The Lion King with me?

"Tarbash's Cab Trouble" - Jerky Boys

6) Eagles of Death Metal continue to make me laugh (and you're still rockin' out to that track I posted last week, aren't you? Don't deny it, it's okay). Even though this song is not as fabulous as the "I Like To Move in the Night," here is the video for their song "I Want You So Hard" (Quicktime required, or go here) Yep, that's Dave Grohl and Jack Black in it. And I kinda wish I had a guitar that could do that.

7) Blog, Blog Me Do is a Beatles blog. Who knew there was still enough fresh information & news about the Beatles to post several times daily? But this blog has a lot of cool obscure stuff on there; memorabilia, news, concert chronology, etc.

8) This just in: Top Ten Worst Albums EVER
(according to The Independent, with their comments IN ALL CAPS)

*Duran Duran: Thank You (pictured) "DOWNRIGHT INSULTING"
*Spice Girls: Any of their solo albums "WRETCHED"
*Various Artists: Urban Renewal "WORSE THAN THE ORIGINAL"
*Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music "TOSS"
*Billy Idol: Cyberpunk "RISIBLE"
*Naomi Campbell: Baby Woman "GOBSMACKING HUBRIS"
*Kevin Rowland: My Beauty "HIDEOUSLY MAWKISH"
*Mick Jagger: Primitive Cool "SOULLESS FUNK-ROCK"
*Westlife: Allow Us to Be Frank "AN UNCALLED-FOR MAULING"
*Tin Machine: Tin Machine II "A DISASTER"

Um, to that list I think I would add this gem. Why was it made? WHY?!

9) Jennings makes me laugh. He says the following about yours truly in his post tonight on The Replacements (with some GREAT bootleg stuff you should download post haste): "One last: Heather, who has kicked every bloggers' ass the past week or so, has more Replacements." At least I kick something! Thank ya sir!

10) Pete Doherty continues to implode. No surprises there. I can't figure out why everyone is still listening.

Finally, kids, today I surpassed 50,000 hits to this blog. I know some of you probably get that before your morning coffee, but that completely blows my mind -- something I certainly never expected when I started this happy experiment a few months back. I am glad you all like hearing my thoughts about music as much as I like thinking them. Here's to the next 50,000!

(Sort of) new from Matt Costa

I was a little confused when I read in the slew of new releases today that 23 year-old acoustic songster Matt Costa was listed as releasing his "new" album Songs We Sing, since this is, in fact, the same title & cover art as his mellow & pleasant independent 2005 release.

So, after some investigative sleuthing I have deduced that this is the re-release of his first album on Brushfire Records. It is apparently remastered, partially re-mixed and with a new track listing. So, if you've never checked him out before, now you can get the new improved version (and who, in today's consumer culture, doesn't like that?). See, you never even knew what you were missing.

One reviewer wrote, "Costa's songs hark back to an age when singer-songwriters were happy to perform, bare their souls and if anyone bought their records, well, that was jolly nice. Costa's output is emotive without being too... emotional, as on the heart-achingly beautiful 'Astair.' His layered vocal harmonies on tracks such as 'Sunshine' recall the halcyon days of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the boy can also rock, as on 'Sweet Thursday' or the mid-tempo'd and haunting 'Yellow Taxi.'"

I like this guy's sincere acoustic vibe. I featured "Sunshine" on a Monday Music Round-Up back in January. Here are live versions of 3 of the four new songs that are on the new release. These are from a great show at El Cid in Los Angeles on 8/7/05. It is soundboard quality, I do believe.

Sweet Thursday - Matt Costa

These Arms - Matt Costa

Ballad of Miss Kate - Matt Costa


Eels Tour & Free NYC Show

News from the 'ole inbox:
"EELS officially announce their 2006 NO STRINGS ATTACHED Tour with many new dates, starting with their traditional tour warm-up shows at The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, May 25th & 26th, then winding through the west, midwest and northeast of the United States and Canada on their way to rock Europe for festival shows and more."

Free summertime show in New York City at the World Financial Plaza on June 13! You lucky ducks.

Cuddling in bed with E is probably optional.

May 25 Los Angeles, CA - Roxy Theater warm-up show
May 26 Los Angeles, CA - Roxy Theater warm-up show
May 27 San Diego, CA - House of Blues
May 28 Santa Ana, CA - The Galaxy Theater
May 31 San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
June 1 Sacramento, CA - Harlows
June 3 Portland, CA - Roseland
June 4 Seattle, WA - Showbox Theater
June 6 Salt Lake City, UT - The Depot
June 7 Boulder, CO - Fox Theater
June 9 Indianapolis, IN - The Vogue Theater
June 10 Pittsburgh, PA - Three River Arts Festival
June 11 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
June 12 Philadelphia, PA - Theater of the Living Arts
June 13 New York, NY - World Financial Plaza - Free show!
June 15 Somerville, MA - Somerville Theater
June 16 Montreal, QUE - Le Nacional
June 17 Toronto, ONT - Mod Club Theater
June 24 London, England - Hyde Park Wireless Festival
June 25 Leeds, England - Wireless Festival
June 26 Glasgow, Scotland - ABC
June 28 Rouen, France - Exo 7
June 29 Paris, France - La Cigale
July 1 Rotterdam, Holland - Ahoy Open Air Festival
July 2 Werchter, Belgium - Werchter Festival
July 3 Frankfurt, Germany - Batschkapp
July 4 Vienna, Austria - Flex
July 8 Kildare, Ireland - Oxegen Festival
July 9 Balado, Scotland - T in the Park Festival
August 5 Chicago, Illinois - Lollapalooza

Here are two live Eels tracks, to get you in the mood. These are from the excellent KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic session last May:

Grace Kelly Blues (live) - Eels

Girl From the North Country (live, Dylan cover) - Eels

And one more, a bit more upbeat, from another session at KCRW:

Packing Blankets (live) - Eels

Oh and remember, as Steve Perry says (somewhat inexplicably), "E is real Ball-z."


Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday Music Roundup


So this is totally the week I qualify for Jeopardy in a shimmering haze of glory. Well, I mean, I'm gonna try with this online screening on Wednesday. Can't promise anything, but I do routinely impress the figurative pants off anyone watching it with me. Just ask my sister; it borders on abnormal. It's like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day ("What are the Finger Lakes?") - I love that movie. Now I've gone and set myself up, haven't I?

Okay...on with the music!

The Rakes
This song is from The Rakes' first EP released state-side back in October, and also on their Capture/Release full-length album. I hear that they rocked SXSW, and are getting a lot of buzz for their (albeit becoming familiar) jittery Brit-pop sound. Nothing revolutionary, but quite fun. One gal who saw them in Austin said, "Equal parts updated Blur-pop and JCrew's autumn pullover collection, these savvy Brit rockers got the floor moving with their exuberant performances, and frontman Alan Donohoe has the best angular, nerdy dance moves since Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club."

"My Doorbell"
(White Stripes cover)
KT Tunstall
Scottish folk chanteuse/rootsy rocker KT Tunstall takes on Jack & Meg with really good results. Her thumping acoustic handclap-type guitar rock sound lends itself well to the bluesy groove of this track.

"Cold On Me"
I have been meaning to write about these chaps for months now, ever since their self-titled debut album was the unofficial soundtrack of my summer. Now, I find it hard to wrap my mind around this, but half of this duo is actually Balthazar Getty (actor, currently playing reticent, mysterious new special agent on ALIAS). Whoa. Celebrity side-project or no, I like the clean sound and the melding of the electronica beats with an appealing guitar sound - the whole debut album is eminently fresh & listenable. Their sound may remind you of the band Phoenix, and the vocals remind me a bit of E from Eels. I did hear their excellent song "Struggle" in a car commercial, but let's ignore that. Get the album.

"It's Just A Thought"
Creedence Clearwater Revival
I found this lesser-known Creedence track on someone's celebrity playlist on iTunes and it's quickly become one of my favorites. It's honest and takes the classic Creedence sound to a bit slower, poppier level. I remember laughing when I first found it because whoever's playlist it was on (memory failing) said "This is more 'emo' than anything out there today." Ha. Fogerty as emo. It is a great song that I have listened to a hundred times since last year - it was part of my "May" playlist and it just evokes springtime for me. There's just something deeply good about CCR. From their 1986 album Chronicle Vol. 2.

"Storm-Broken Tree"
The White Birch
One of my lovely Italian readers, Fabio, sent me a bunch of good music, and said that this track by Norwegian trio White Birch reminded him of falling snow. The first thing I thought of when I listened to this hypnotic & relaxing piece was that it also reminded me of Sigur Ros, and a little of Radiohead. The restrained ambient disc Come Up For Air is their fifth release, and if you like it they have three other mp3s for free download on their website.

MOODY MONDAY BONUS (you are starting to expect these, aren't you?!) - great Elliott Smith video ("Say Yes") from what sadly was his last concert ever. Such a pretty song; he seems so introspective and inaccessible while he is singing it. Affecting. Thanks pal Chad!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Essential protest songs

Viva la power of music. That's the message behind the list of fourteen "Essential Protest Songs," put together by the American Sociological Association in the latest issue of the journal Contexts.

Here is the list of the 14 they came up with, reflecting a varied and long musical history. I appreciate how the list shows songs from many genres and time periods, and musicians of all stripes. You can listen to a selection of the song clips here. And if I were writing the list, I might also suggest the addition of Otis Redding singing "Change Is Gonna Come" (aching with festering oppression and a longing for a new day) and Marvin Gaye doing "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)." How 'bout you - what suggestions would you add?

Their list reads:

“Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Lyrics by James Weldon Johnson; music by J. Rosamand Johnson. Key lyric: “We have come over a way that with tears has been watered / We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.” Known as the “Black National Anthem”—the antidote to “America, the Beautiful.”

“Which Side Are You On?” By Florence Reece. “Don’t scab for the bosses, don’t listen to their lies / Us poor folks haven’t got a chance unless we organize.” Written during the labor struggles in Harlan County, Kentucky, in the 1930s, it was later adopted by the civil rights movement.

“Pastures of Plenty.” By Woody Guthrie. “Every state in this union us migrants has been /‘Long the edge of your cities you’ll see us, and then / We’ve come with the dust and we’re gone in the wind.” Guthrie’s ode to America’s migrant workers.

“The Times They Are A-Changin’.” By Bob Dylan. “There’s a battle outside and it’s raging / It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls.” Tough call between this and Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” “Masters of War,” “With God on Our Side,” etc., etc.

(MY NOTE: Speaking of Dylan and his protest anthems, I wanted to post something about "Masters of War." The first time I remember hearing it (in a backwards way, I know) when I was 13 or 14 when Ed Vedder performed it at Madison Square Garden in 1992 at a tribute to Bob Dylan. Some attendees remember Vedder's unbridled emotional performance as the highlight of all the performances that night. While Vedder and I have decided to an "agree to disagree" arrangement when it comes to many political issues, the power he injects into this song cannot be denied. He practically spits the lyrics. Because of Vedder, this was probably the first Dylan song I remember learning by heart.)

"Masters of War" (Dylan cover) - Ed Vedder, Mike McCready, and G.E. Smith. 10/16/92

Back to the list ...

“We Shall Overcome.”Adapted from a gospel song, the anthem of the civil rights movement. “Deep in my heart, I do believe / We shall overcome some day.” Infinitely adaptable.
“Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.”Also adapted from a Negro spiritual. “I’m gonna keep on walkin’, keep on talkin’ / Fightin’ for my equal rights.” Another powerful civil rights anthem.

“I Ain’t Marching Anymore.” By Phil Ochs. “It’s always the old to lead us to the war / It’s always the young to fall / Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun / Tell me is it worth it all?” An antiwar classic, complete with a revisionist history of American militarism.

“For What It’s Worth.” Performed by Buffalo Springfield. By Stephen Stills. “There’s something happening here / What it is ain’t exactly clear / There’s a man with a gun over there / Telling me I’ve got to beware.” Eerily foreboding.

“Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud).” By James Brown. “Now we demand a chance to do things for ourself / We’re tired of beatin’ our head against the wall and workin’ for someone else.” A Black Power anthem by the Godfather of Soul.

“Respect.” Performed by Aretha Franklin. By Otis Redding. “I ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone / Ain’t gonna do you wrong ‘cause I don’t wanna / All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you come home.” The personal is political.

“Redemption Song.” By Bob Marley. “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds.” Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” is also a contender.

“Imagine.” By John Lennon. “Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man.” Lennon as utopian socialist.

“Fight the Power.” By Public Enemy. “Got to give us what we want / Gotta give us what we need / Our freedom of speech is freedom or death / We got to fight the powers that be.” An exuberant hip-hop call to arms.

And the last one on their list is another one I want to talk about:

“Strange Fruit.” Performed by Billie Holiday. By Abel Meeropol. “Pastoral scene of the gallant south / The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth.” A chilling protest against lynching. Maybe the greatest protest song of all time. Read all the lyrics here.

I've heard this song but never listened to it, you know? I didn't know it was about lynching. Being young enough that I tend to take for granted civil rights and human equality in this country, it really is chilling to the bone to concertedly listen to this song and to picture a time when the reality of life for a black person in the American South could be something altogether terrifying.

"Strange Fruit" - Billie Holiday (1939)

To me, the intro sounds tinny and redolent with sadness - like the soundtrack to an old black and white silent film, the accompaniment to a news reel showing black human beings strung up in trees. Billie's wavering voice is pregnant with sadness and suppressed anger. And I can only imagine what the reaction must have been when this song first came out, when people first heard it over their radio as they stood in their kitchen washing dishes, or when it came on as they drove along a dark highway at night. It is absolutely arresting when you actually listen to it.

When I read the Strange Fruit lyrics, they reminded me of a line from the rich Toni Morrison novel, Beloved. I'll give you the whole paragraph, because it is a resonant, poetic, sad picture (as is the whole book). Morrison's writing gives me chills, and this book is probably my favorite literary work to read in terms of style and depth. This passage is Sethe, an ex-slave, talking about a flashback to her days at Sweet Home, the plantation where she was enslaved:

"And then sopping the chamomile away with pump water and rags, her mind fixed on getting every last bit of sap off -- on her carelessness in taking a shortcut across the field just to save a half mile, and not noticing how high the weeds had grown until the itching was all the way to her knees. Then something.

The plash of water, the sight of her shoes and stockings awry on the path where she had flung them; or Here Boy lapping in the puddle near her feet, and suddenly there was Sweet Home rolling, rolling, rolling out before her eyes, and although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream, it rolled itself out before her in shameless beauty.

It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place too. Fire and brimstone all right, but hidden in lacy groves. Boys hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. It shamed her -- remembering the wonderful soughing trees rather than the boys. Try as she might to make it otherwise, the sycamores beat out the children every time and she could not forgive her memory for that."

Recommended reading (and re-reading): Beloved, by Toni Morrison
(and please, I beg you, do not let the movie substitute for reading this stunner)

Keep on singing.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

You want more Springsteen? Well bring it, baby. Bring it.

Wow, huge interest in that last Springsteen post - traffic set a new record for the Fuel blog. Thank you for all of your heartfelt comments, I am just glad to see that my emotional ramblings about beauty and madness made some sense to you as well, and that y'all understood the essence of what I was trying to say.

Oh, and how beautiful was that little Pearl Jam trio of songs? I loved 'em the best, Vedder's quavering and earnest renditions, especially of No Surrender, just get me.

Lots of you guys sent me tons of cool Bruuuce-related mp3s. So, here goes again, round two of covers with The Boss:

(LINKS RE-UPPED 11/17/06)

Rain King --> Thunder Road - Counting Crows (gorgeous!)

It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City - Bowie

I'm On Fire - Tori Amos

And then a slew from the UNCUT Springsteen covers CD (thanks Mike!) - Disc 1. Some of these are good, others are kind of ho-hum, pale imitations of the original, with all the soul sucked out of them, but you be the judge:

Thunder Road - Badly Drawn Boy
Atlantic City - The Band

Cover Me - Thea Gilmore
Streets of Philadelphia - Marah
Book of Dreams - Dion
Nebraska - Dan Bern
Tougher Than the Rest - The Mendoza Line
Racing in the Streets - Townes Van Zandt
I'm on Fire - Big Country
Stolen Car - Patty Griffin
For You - Greg Kihn
Jackson Cage - John Wesley Harding
Born to Run - Suzy Quatro
Fire - Link Wray
If I Should Fall Behind - Grant McLennan


CD 2 has Jesse Malin doing Hungry Heart (got it), Steve Earle doing "State Trooper," and The Knack with "Don't Look Back." Anyone have it?

And now I definitely feel done with Springsteen covers for a bit. I crave the original, the real thing.

BONUS: Kevin Smith writes about his love of Bruce on his blog: "For years, I tried to deny the Boss – simply because I was a quietly rebellious Jersey lad who refused to dig on Bruce simply out of a sense of Central Jersey pride. But by the time I was twenty, I couldn’t escape the fact that I, too, dug Bruce." Read the whole excellent entry.

No retreat, baby. No surrender.


Feelin' all limericky

You guys all rock. Thanks for making me laugh with all the great limericks submitted in my first Fuel Contest. The world would be a better place with more widespread use of rhythmically metered speech (but I guess that's what P Diddy has been trying to tell us all).

THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED! I wish you could all win (and I'd like to buy the world a Coke, I know, I know....)

My grand poobah victor who gets the Brandi Carlile CD was actually also the first limerick I received. Congratulations to Jethro at the Phidelity blog, straight outta New Hampshire. His submission made me laugh, it's relevant, and while it's not flawless in terms of the traditional limerick metering, it's apropos for us blog-lovers, so it takes the tops:

there once was a band called death cab for cutie
sufjan stevens, and the polyphonic spree
there was of montreal
and dashboard confessional
forgive me father..... i downloaded them all on mp3

My friend Heidi actually delivered this limerick gleefully in person late Wednesday night while she was out walking her dog ("was that someone knocking at the door?") so she gets bonus points for that, plus she is the one who used the word "ergo" AND her meter is impeccable. BUT if she won it all, I would fear cries of "nepotism!" and a rebellion on my hands, so she gets second prize and a Heather-made mix CD for this one:

In the musical climate we're in
So much of the story is spin
The issue, ergo
is my need to know
If Britney is knocked up again

And finally an honorable mention goes to Mr. Ekko of the Berkeley Place blog, who wrote me this sweet little reflective piece:

I cannot write a limerick
But I do feel really sick
ain't thinking of buyin'
any more Ryan
Cause Lost Highway records sucks dick

Aaah, poetry.


Jeff Buckley: Satisfied Mind (Live at the Knitting Factory)

Oh, it almost hurts:

That is one of my favorite songs that Jeff ever recorded (a raw and unfinished version appears on Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk), and is my favorite rendition of this song out of all the other artists who have also put their unique stamp on it. I love the way the bluesy guitar practically weeps, and how his voice soars and reverberates. The beauty in this song just kills me.

In the liner notes for My Sweetheart The Drunk, Bill Flanagan writes:
"Jeff's mother decided the end the album as Jeff's memorial service ended, with a tape of him singing 'Satisfied Mind.' It's a good reminder that music for Jeff was, more than anything else, a source of joy. These recordings capture him in all his talent and contradictions, full of life. Though the sadness of his death will never fade, his joy will still come through."


Friday, March 24, 2006

Am I actually posting on a band called Eagles of Death Metal?

(Yes, yes I am). Never thought I'd post on Eagles of Death Metal but, by gum, this is a perfect song for the weekend. As Bruce says, don't let The Darkness score all the points on irony.

"I Like To Move In The Night" - Eagles of Death Metal

I came across this yesterday via Ben at the Work For It blog and I was going to save it for the Monday Music Roundup, but this is SO NOT A MONDAY SONG. It's clearly a Friday song. Ben said: "goddamn, i love the eagles of death metal. i love the bluesy-rock sound that they absolutely nail perfectly without sounding fake. the track, 'i like to move in the night' is a phenomenally well put together track. it's got a very sexy rock and roll sound to it that is hard to come by without sounding sleazy. i can imagine myself listening to this album in the summer, shitfaced, in my backyard, grilling up some burgers."

As for me, it makes me want to strut around like Mick Jagger or something, and shake it. It has a sexy, killer, swaggering riff that has Stones written all over it, a driving drumbeat out in front, and the vocals remind me some of the falsetto panache of The Scissor Sisters. This is a great track, although I couldn't listen to this kind of stuff all the time or my head might start to swim with all the testosterone. But come on. There's even cowbell.

From their upcoming album Death By Sexy (yes seriously), to be released 4/11/06 on Downtown Records. They are currently on tour with The Strokes.

Kevin of So Much Silence has another track of theirs, "Don't Speak (I Came To Make A Bang)," over at his site if you like 'em. And Travis at Medication has two tracks: "I Gotta Feeling, Just Nineteen" and "Cherry Cola" (Sample lyric: "I can be your daddy, be your rock and roll-a, you can be my sugar, be my cherry cola").

Travis says of the band: "Turn these jams on anywhere and you've got yourself an instant party. It practically tears people's clothes off and it even makes me (almost) wanna dance (and I don't f*ckin' dance man) . . . like Jon Spencer if he wasn't a total fun vacuum."

Happy rawkin' this weekend. Sunshine is finally coming to Colorado and the BBQ will be fired up!

A weem-o-way, a weem-o-way

I thought this was an interesting article. I know a lot of music historically has been ripped off of the original authors, esp. African Americans, whether we are talking the Lion Sleeps Tonight or blues or rock 'n' roll that was re-recorded by white artists. It's good to see it being addressed, thanks to an investigative exposé by Rolling Stone. I find it to be a fascinating bit of music history:

Women win battle in 'Lion Sleeps' case
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — Three impoverished South African women, whose father wrote the song known as The Lion Sleeps Tonight, have won a six-year battle for royalties in a case that could affect other musicians. The story surrounding the song that never seems to go out of date amounts to a rags-to-riches tale, replete with racial overtones.

No one is saying how many millions will go to the daughters of the late composer Solomon Linda, who died in poverty from kidney disease in 1962 at age 53. But the family's settlement last month with New York-based Abilene Music gives Linda's heirs 25% of past and future royalties and has broad implications.

Linda composed his now-famous song in 1939 in one of the squalid hostels that housed black migrant workers in Johannesburg. According to family lore, he wrote the song in minutes, inspired by his childhood tasks of chasing prowling lions from the cattle he herded. He called the song Mbube, Zulu for lion.

It was sung, in true Zulu tradition, a cappella. Linda's innovation was to add his falsetto voice, an overlay of haunting "eeeeeees," to the baritone and bass main line. To this day, this style is called Mbube in South Africa. The song sold more than 100,000 copies over a decade, probably making it Africa's first big pop hit.

In the 1950s, at a time when apartheid laws robbed blacks of negotiating rights, Linda sold worldwide copyright to Gallo Records of South Africa for 10 shillings — less than $1.70.

The song became one of the best known songs in the world as The Lion Sleeps Tonight, attributed to George Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. American singer Pete Seeger adapted a version that he called "Wimoweh," making it a folk music staple.

Owen Dean, South Africa's leading copyright lawyer, argued successfully for Linda's family that under the British Imperial Copyright Act of 1911, which was in force in South Africa at the time Linda composed his song, all rights revert to the heirs, who are entitled to renegotiate royalties. "Now the way has been shown," Dean told The Associated Press. "Others in similar circumstances can fight such injustice, and I have no doubt that there are other people in this position." The 1911 act affects all countries that were part of the British Empire at that time — a third of the world.

It remains to be seen how the settlement with Abilene, which holds the copyright to the popular songs that grew from Linda's composition, will affect his family. Abilene couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Kevin Chang, a Jamaican reggae expert, said the case means that "musicians living in poverty, and other artists, may finally be rewarded for their work." Chang believes the decision could be applied to an ongoing British court case in which Carlton Barrett of Bob Marley and the Wailers is suing Marley's estate for royalties, arguing songs he co-authored are being credited only to Marley.

Websites list hundreds of versions of the Lion, including many top of the pops over the years. Folk, swing, minstrel, big band, reggae and R&B versions have been sung over the years. The New Zealand Army had it as a favorite tune for a while. The song's captivating rhythm poured from the soundtrack in Disney's blockbuster musical The Lion King— one of at least 15 movies in which it's been featured.

"The musical was netting millions of dollars and Solomon Linda's daughters were trying to survive as domestic servants, not earning enough to feed their families," Dean told the AP. Along the way, the song is said to have earned some US$15-million in royalties - but not for Linda. The musician died in 1962 with less than R100 in his bank account. His widow couldn't afford a headstone for his grave.

Also, read this longer, riveting take on the same story from the SouthAfrica.Info page, and here is one example of the song's varied appeal:

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight (live)" - R.E.M.

What a great tune, another one that you can't be unhappy while listening to. It makes me feel like I should be heading off to summer camp in a hot car with sticky, sweaty vinyl seats, singing at the top of my voice with the windows down.

Contest reminder: DO it

Hey guys, if you were going to try your hand at limericking for the Brandi Carlile CD, today is the last day to do so. Please submit a limerick to me about "the current state of music," however you define that, and at the end of today I will pick a winner (but you are ALL winners inside). Gotten some good submissions so far, both by commenting and through email (either is OK) - including one with use of the word "ergo" which is pretty much the most under-used excellent little word ever.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

"A Short List of Records My Father Threatened to Break Over My Head If I Played Them One More Time"

One of the most enjoyable books I've ever come across is A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel. I tore through it, often laughing OUT LOUD in inopportune public places (you know, when you are reading something funny and you kind of guffaw and then catch yourself, stifle the laugh, and look around to see if anyone is watching?).

It's hard to explain what it is about, because it is really just what the subtitle says: "Growing Up Small In Mooreland, Indiana." It's an autobiographical collection of impressions, moments, memories, funny stories, dares, characters, struggles, and ephemera from the childhood of a unique & hilarious girl (nicknamed Zippy) as she goes about her days in the late '60s/early '70s in a very small town. Sounds like a totally touchy-feely Babysitters' Club premise for a book, right? But it is intelligent, well-written (she really captures the voice and the perception of herself at 7 or 8), emphatically NOT-schmaltzy, and funny as all get out. And also shreddingly poignant at times when you least expect it.

I am currently ripping through her follow-up novel, She Got Up Off The Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana, and laughing just as much. I recommend both very highly - after I read Zippy, I bought like 7 copies and gave them out like manna from Heaven to my friends and family. Here is an excerpt from She Got Up Off The Couch.

I love lists, especially lists about music:

A Short List of Records My Father Threatened to Break Over My Head If I Played Them One More Time

1. "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," by Paul Simon.
You need only to listen to this song once to realize it is the greatest work of genius since "Beep Beep (The Little Nash Rambler)"; by The Playmates. Also it provides a person with the bonus of rewriting the chorus 700 times a day. For instance, a girl might say, "I'm ridin' my bike, Mike," or "I'm goin' to my sister's, Mister." She could also string together many sentences, as in, "I'm feelin' sad, Dad. Maybe you could get me some candy, Randy. Don't be such a slob, Bob, just listen to me."

2. "Beep Beep (The Little Nash Rambler)," by The Playmates.
A morality tale about a little car, a Cadillac, and a transmission problem. This song brilliantly gains momentum, and is sung faster and faster right up to the hysterical ending. Could be sung in the truck so frantically the father in question would sometimes have to stick his head out the window while praying aloud.

3. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," by Elton John.
I understand only one line of this song: "And butterflies are free to fly, fly away." The rest is completely lost on me. I assumed the British did not speak English, which was a puzzle as they were sometimes referred to as the English. Not understanding the lyrics required me to listen to the song hundreds, perhaps thousands of times, filling in with nonsense words, which my sister said made me look oxygen deprived and sad.

4. "Somewhere They Can't Find Me," by Simon & Garfunkel.
In addition to "50 Ways To Leave your Lover," this was probably my most obvious theme song. It could have been written for me. The singer has done something terrible and now his only option is to sneak away: "Before they come to get me I'll be gone, somewhere they can't find me." Oh, indeed. How very, very true.

5. "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by the Osmonds, featuring Donny Osmond.
A lie, as anyone who knew my brother could attest. But if it was sung by Donny Osmond I could try to believe. I wanted to believe. This was a favorite to play not at top volume in my bedroom, but downstairs on the stereo that was shaped, improbably, like a Colonial desk. I liked to sing along with Donny (we had the same voice) while simultaneously pretending to draft a version of the Bill of Rights, using a fake quill pen. (In truth, a turkey feather.) This was a combination of activities my father found interesting, blasphemous, and wrong.

6. "Along Comes Mary," by The Association.
A wordy song. A wordy, psychedelic song, the meaning of which has never been determined by humans. Tailor-made for me. From the beginning, the song's just one long puzzle. "Every time I think that I'm the one who's lonely someone calls on me." Who? (Mary, my sister would explain through clenched teeth. Yes, but Mary who?) What follows is so unusual it doesn't bear repeating, although I most assuredly could.

7. "I Started A Joke," by The Bee Gees.
Again, a world-class head-scratcher. He started a joke, and it started the whole world crying. I sensed astonishing depth in the Bee Gees' lyrics, and also were they all boys? Including the one with the Bugs Bunny teeth? Was she truly never funny and that's why the world wept? I knew people like that. Later in the song one of them, a Bee or a Gee, begins to cry and gets the whole world laughing, so everything turns out fine in the end. (An additional work of genius is "The Lights Went Out In Massachusetts." Massachusetts: A state? A prison? Dad was silent on the issue.)

Buy A Girl Named Zippy here and She Got Up Off The Couch here, or visit your local library. (Ooh! I feel so Reading Rainbow! LeVar Burton would be proud - These are books you might enjoy, but you don't have to take MY word for it!).


Unreleased Black Crowes album at Aquarium Drunkard

Aquarium Drunkard, as usual, rocks my face off. He's got a "lost" Black Crowes album, The Band, from 1997 up on his site. Some good, good stuff. He says:

"The Black Crowes' lost album The Band (aka Meet The Band) recorded in Atlanta in 1997, was to be the follow-up to Three Snakes & One Charm. Mixed and sequenced, it was shelved and Crowes released By Your Side in it's stead. One listen and it is evident The Band is twice the Crowes experience By Your Side is. Crowes fans take note: I consider this album practically in the same realm of quality as Southern Harmony and Amorica."

These have been floating around since 2002, but if you don't have these tracks head on over there to download:
"Never Forget This Song"
"Paint An 8"
"Another Roadside Tragedy"
"If It Ever Stops Raining"
"My Heart's Killing Me"
"OK By Me"
"Wyoming & Me"
"Only A Fool" (I love this song!)

Oh, also, he has a jubilant Replacements post in which he uses the phrase "burst into rock & roll flames," which I think is a pretty apt description.

Have fun!


Let's Shack up

Nice little tune I want to share with you guys. Actually, it's a racy little song, wrapped up in elegant retro brass and pleasant singsong harmonies. So you'd never know unless you really listen, which makes it all the more devious.

The band is called Shack, and they are from Liverpool. Formed by brothers Mick & John Head from the ashes of indie-pop cult-favorite the Pale Fountains, Shack has had a long & rocky 20 years of making music, including a studio fire in 1991 that burned their master tapes for their sophomore album Waterpistol. According to NME, their fourth studio album (The Corner Of Miles And Gil) is due May 15 on Noel Gallagher’s Sour Mash label.

Called a "deep guitar-soul classic – all kaleidoscopic melody and jazzy, dreamscape trumpets," I dig the sound. First single ‘Tie Me Down’ is all about restraint techniques in a sexual relationship, which is always a nice departure from the socially accepted and publicly-discussed norms (ha!). Shack supported Oasis in February 2006 at several of their arena shows. Be their MySpace friend and check out their other site as well if you are hankering to learn more. And if you are in London, they are having a free gig next week (29 March), details in the News section of their site.

"Tie Me Down" - Shack

"And Dad's in the Navy, so use the granny knots next time."
Funniest lyric ever?

"I wrote this today. It probably sucks."

We can all admit that there's just something exciting and memorable about The First Time.

Here is an mp3 of the first performance of "Come Pick Me Up" by Ryan Adams on Valentine's Day 2000 (how appropriate) in Seattle. Thanks to Jon for posting it.

This initial unveiling is acoustic & emotional, pre-harmonica, and with different lyrics throughout.

Missing are the lyrics:
When you're walking downtown
Do you wish I was there?
Do you wish it was me?

With the windows clear
And the mannequins' eyes
Do they all look like mine?

Glad he added those later because they are crystalline and scathing in their imagery, a few of my favorites (in a long line).

Come Pick Me Up (acoustic/first performance) - Ryan Adams

And another BONUS for you dear reader, since we are on topic: A tune called "The Battle" written by Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown co-conspirator Caitlin Cary for her album While You Weren't Looking (2002).

This was featured on a limited-issue bonus disc. Man, they harmonize in a such a sublime way together, don't they? Thanks to Tongue-Tied Lightning for the track.

The Battle - Caitlin Cary and Ryan Adams



Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The only important thing these days is rhythm and melody, rhythm and melody

Hey - that's catchy!!

Dance Hall Hips posted this Postal Service remix of Feist's Mushaboom, which I know, practically every blog I've been to lately seems to be talking about in one way or another, but it's dang catchy and I thought I'd share. I like the way the beat skitters along. You'll dig it.

Mushaboom (Postal Service remix) - Feist


The great Elizabethtown road trip

So I finally got around to watching Elizabethtown. I had been hearing about this ever since, oh, last August, all about how Ryan Adams had a bunch of music in it, blah, blah, blah. And then I remembered in a flash of glee that my Uncle Dave used to be the big impressive principal at E-Town High School (as those of us in-the-know call it), so I was doubly excited.

Turns out my anticipation was for no good reason. The movie is tolerable, its salvation largely being the soundtrack, and also because Cameron Crowe just *knows* how to make a movie. I mean, all the elements are there - adversity of mythic proportions, family illness, quirky relatives, and even a perky love interest who shows no end to the depth of her random comments and bed-a-bility. What's not to like? Well, the low point for me in the movie = Susan Sarandon tap dancing. Well, most of it was really speedy tap-dancing because it was on fast forward. Holy Moses. Did I mention it was at a memorial service? There was some poignant sighing in the crowd, some tears for the exuberant display of LIFE in the face of DEATH --- aaaaand we're done. No.

While most of the movie was drivel, and even a little annoying (his sister in the film was unworthy of the name Heather because she bugged the crap out of me), the best part of the movie was absolutely the last 20 minutes where lead guy sets out on a roadtrip with many CD mixes made by aforementioned perky love interest girl to accompany his every vista and curve in the road. Also included with the CDs is a heavy-handed and, let's face it, unrealistic handmade "roadmap"/scrapbook that I kept thinking she would have NO time to make, what with the rigors of flight attending, talking to lead guy on the phone at all hours of the night, painting her toenails, apparently knitting her own hats, and just generally being adorable (which is hard work, let me tell you).

But what this roadtrip was really about for me was the glimpse it offered into the always fascinating musical mind of Cameron Crowe, who undoubtedly is THE best soundtracker in the known world. One reviewer referred to it as "Crowe's gold-standard back catalog tastes," and that is exactly what he has. I want to be his friend so we can ride around in his car and listen to his iPod on random. That would be fun.

The best part about the last 20 minutes was not just hearing Crowe's mixes and feeling the flow, but also seeing what images he chose to juxtapose alongside those songs. It tapped into my unfulfilled dormant desire to have an epic road trip with The Perfect Soundtrack to accompany all the amazing things I was seeing. Like I've said before, I wish my life had a soundtrack. This is pretty close. Here are a few gems I enjoyed, either played or mentioned in that poetic and sprawling segment:

That's Life - James Brown
(first song of the journey - I love how it starts out with the trademark James Brown "Hey!" and then a little "Unh!" and a "One more for the road!")

Don't I Hold You - Wheat
("Some music just needs air. Roll down your windows.")

Words - Ryan Adams
(right after lead guy drives across the Mississippi and there is a mention of Jeff Buckley. Also notable is the use of 'English Girls Approximately' at the Farmer's Market - I absolutely LOVE that song and was stoked to hear it in a movie)

Sugar Blue - Jeff Finlin
(singin' about stuff like the "raven's song that breaks the night" - lovely and rough-sounding)

Salvador Sanchez - Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon
(scrawled in the scrapbook list of songs, but I don't think it was played in the movie itself?)

Now where are my car keys?

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