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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

DeVotchKa & the music of Little Miss Sunshine

I recently got to see Little Miss Sunshine at its opening screening here in Colorado Springs, and I was pleased as punch with the quirky, bright, eclectic music throughout, provided mainly by DeVotchKa and Sufjan Stevens. I was even more pleased (and instantly knew I would have to write something about this) when our local paper The Gazette ran an article about DeVotchKa's Colorado heritage. It spurred me to take a closer listen to the so-called "indie rock with a circus-polkacabaret-Eastern-European spin" featured in the film.

For a movie like this, you are looking for music exactly like DeVotchKa: it has to be jangly and a little weird, not afraid of experimentation but catchy & likeable -- just like the characters in the movie. Music producers for the film heard DeVotchKa on Los Angeles radio and sought out the Denver band, who ultimately ended up writing the bulk of the film's soundtrack alongside composer Mychael Danna.


Til The End Of Time - DeVotchKa

No Man's Land - Sufjan Stevens

**Buy the soundtrack here

As for the film itself, on the surface Little Miss Sunshine is a humorous look at a quirky family road trip (kind of like a very dysfunctional Partridge Family with less singing and more porn?). While there are wildly funny parts, and it is being billed as a comedy, there are also interactions and lines of dialogue which cut a lot deeper than that. In keeping with the #1 rule of moviemaking, the road trip is never just a road trip, but instead a path to some sort of redemption for each character involved. Overall it was a satisfyingly idiosyncratic flick that fosters some deeper thinking as well (topics like parenting, failure, unreturned affections, self-image, child beauty pageants, all that good stuff).

BONUS: One other reason why I love Steve Carell (who shines in this movie): Watch as he interviews himself about the filming of Little Miss Sunshine, with great background music of "Walkin' On Sunshine" and The Flaming Lips:

(This just reminds me how I can't wait for The Office to return.)

"But it was okay, because it was a dry heat?"


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

World Music Wednesday

A recent exciting discovery for me for those days when I am feeling global and exotic is the National Geographic World Music site. A very cool foray from the grandaddies of all things international, and a logical extension for them, this site features a FREE weekly download of a world music track (this week's is an upbeat calypso "punta rock" track from Belize's Andy Palacio).

In addition to the free weekly download, you can search by region, by artist, by genre, and more. There are video features, guest DJs from around the world, and free World Music podcasts. It really does the job so well that I could just completely surrender the effort of finding stuff on my own and just let that be my hookup from now on.

So whether you studied abroad and long to return, spent a fabulous vacation on some alluring isle, or have a heritage to explore, you should take a gander - http://worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com

National Geographic: It's not just pictures of women with really, really long breasts anymore.


Matt Nathanson announces Fall tour: I think you should go

I am a big fan of Matt Nathanson, as I have amply chronicled here, here and here. I 've only seen him live once, which sparked my fandom. So I've been checking for tour dates on and off over the last year, but nothing in my neck of the woods . . . until now! Matt has just announced a fall tour, co-headlining with Carbon Leaf (who I know nothing about except for that they have that tune "Life Less Ordinary," and their brogue reminds me of drinking songs to sing heartily after a few pints).

The good tour news is: three stops in Colorado. And likely your hood too.

Matt Nathanson gets my highest recommendation as an artist you should check out live if you can. As I have said before, not only does he write stirring, incisive songs, he's also one of the funniest mofos you will ever see live. It's like getting a stand-up comedy routine thrown in for free along with your concert.

You will go home with your sides aching (and if you don't, then your humor thingie is broken and I don't want to talk to you).

Sep 15 - Austin, TX Austin City Limits Festival
Sep 20 - Mill Valley, CA The Sweetwater Saloon (RAD venue!)
Sep 21 - Los Angeles, CA The Roxy Theatre
Sep 22 - San Juan Capistrano, CA The Coach House
Sep 25 - Tempe, AZ The Clubhouse
Sep 26 - Tucson, AZ Club Congress
Sep 28 - Park City, UT Suede
Sep 29 - Denver, CO Bluebird Theatre
Sep 30 - Ft. Collins, CO The Aggie Theatre
Oct 1 - Boulder, CO Fox Theatre
Oct 2 - Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
Oct 3 - N. Minneapolis, MN Fine Line Music Cafe
Oct 4 - Madison, WI Palace Music Club
Oct 5 - Chicago, IL House of Blues
Oct 6 - St. Louis, MO Mississippi Nights
Oct 7 - Louisville, KY Headliners Music Hall
Oct 9 - Nashville, TN The Exit/In
Oct 10 - Cincinnati, OH 20th Century Theatre
Oct 11 - Cleveland, OH Beachland Ballroom & Tavern
Oct 13 - Indianapolis, IN The Music Mill
Oct 14 - Detroit, MI St. Andrew's Hall
Oct 15 - Toronto, Ontario El Mocambo
Oct 17 - Philadelphia, PA Theatre of Living Arts
Oct 18 - Pittsburgh, PA Rex Theatre
Oct 19 - Baltimore, MD Rams Head Live
Oct 20 - Washington, DC 9:30 Club
Oct 23 - Burlington, VT Higher Ground
Oct 25 - Providence, RI Lupo's at the Strand
Oct 27 - New York, NY Irving Plaza

SONGS: There's a new recent live set from Matt a few weeks ago in Seattle (on the Live Music Archive) when he opened for my boys Toad The Wet Sprocket. There is this cool Flash plug-in thing at the top where you can stream all the tracks and then decide if you want to download it or not. Tres cool.


Odds & ends

۞ News of the day (well, MY day, anyways) is that The Lemonheads have announced Fall tour dates. Yippee!

۞ Forget Busted Tees, man. If you truly want to stand out (in an ironic, laid back way) at all the back-to-school parties this fall, make yourself up a Chuck Norris-ism shirt on this site. Mine would probably read: "Chuck Norris has two speeds: Walk and Kill." Read some of my other favorites in this post, or visit the mother archive here. Dang funny.

No wait, I just saw this and I think I want my shirt to read: "Helen Keller's favorite color is Chuck Norris."

(That's gonna be one that my dad calls about and says, "Heather? I don't understand that joke on your blog.")

۞ Several of you have emailed me looking for a place that you can buy the new Ryan Auffenberg EP, Under All The Bright Lights. The good news is that it is now available on CDBaby! It gave me quite a kick to see that the description of the artist on the CDBaby website is a snippet from yours truly. I laughed out loud at that one.

Related download: Check out the acoustic session that Ryan did with iChannel (free download, right click save as).

۞ For you Pearl Jam fans, I found this great lil blog with a bunch of live shows available for download. It's creatively entitled "Pearl Jam Bootlegs," and there's some fantastic stuff on there.

۞ For you completists, there is a Doors Box Set ("Perception") coming out on November 21: "This collection offers up re-mastered versions of the Doors' six studio albums on both CD and DVD, complete with rare video and audio tracks such the seventeen-minute cut "Celebration of the Lizard" and a previously unreleased version of "Indian Summer," among other alternate takes and rarities. Hyperion will also release the first authorized autobiography of the band, "The Doors by the Doors," on November 7th."

Remember that Doors movie with Val Kilmer? Remember the scene when he is running around (as I recall) naked, stoned out of his mind? In high school my friend Lance and I decided to watch that movie on Christmas Day one year. His whole extended family was there. I remember being embarassed. That's my best Doors story.

۞ You know those times when you just need to say "FRICK yeah. I am AWESOME" to the naysayers in your life (or into the mirror)? Well Fabulist has put together a three-part series of "Confidence Rock." And. It. Is. Awesome. (I mean, it includes the song from Karate Kid. It doesn't get much better than that).

۞ Ten years since Trainspotting? Aquarium Drunkard has a nice soundtrack featurette on the jumpy British flick that turned a generation on to all things Brit-Pop. "Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a starter home. Choose dental insurance, leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose your future. But why would anyone want to do a thing like that?"

۞ What WOULD Uncle Jesse do? That is an excellent question that, until now, we have not had a website to answer.

Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) shares a birthday with me, and I share some some of his swaggering coolness (I like to think so, anyways). So now I can hypothetically run through a host of scenarios and see what Full House's coolest uncle might have done.

۞ The Scatter'O'Light post on Michael Hutchence made me think of this picture that I once saw in a fantastic music exhibit:

Regardless of your feelings on the INXS topic, is that not a SUPERB photograph? I love it.

Her post also made me think of this song, still my favorite INXS song 'cuz it makes me think of dancing in my friend Britt's bedroom at the age of ten. I can't describe the dance we were doing, but I can picture it clearly in my head. I contend that this is still a great song - listen to that harmonica! Flashback of the day:

"Suicide Blonde" - INXS

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, and 40 years gone by

Considered by many to be The Beach Boys' seminal album, Pet Sounds turns 40 this year and still is as influential and fresh-sounding as ever. I was surprised recently to read that Pet Sounds was something of a commercial failure when it was released; it was viewed as a bit of an anomaly, musically dense and somewhat difficult to digest. Thankfully it has aged quite well, and continues to gain new fans (and make peoples' Top 5 Desert Island Disc lists) to this day.

Capitol is celebrating the anniversary this year in an aptly commercial way by releasing some fancy reissues:

1) The green suede CD/DVD combo features the original album in mono, followed by the bonus track, “Hang on to Your Ego”; immediately following that is the original album in stereo. So you can tickle your ears both ways.

2) Then you also get the DVD, which includes rare and previously unreleased promotional and documentary film footage, and a photo gallery of classic band images from the era.

3) Finally there's a limited edition, numbered vinyl (10,000 copies worldwide), with mono and stereo mixes of Pet Sounds on yellow and green vinyl in a gatefold sleeve. Super hard to find online (or maybe I am just not looking in the right places), but I think it would be a cool thing to own. Some albums just want to be heard on vinyl, and I would argue that this is one of them.

One very cool feature that won't cost you a red cent is the neat-o podcast series that The Beach Boys are recording and putting up over at iTunes to correspond with the release. So far there are two episodes, each which pairs all-new Beach Boys interviews with information and the sounds of every tune on the album. You can subscribe here for the rest of the podcasts, there will eventually be 15 total.

"Wouldn't It Be Nice" - Pet Sounds podcast (mp3)
"You Still Believe In Me" - Pet Sounds podcast (mp3)

Oh, and Justin's re-upped that fantastic 1967 Beach Boys reheasal session audio over at Aquarium Drunkard. An absolute must-have, check out the evolution of these songs. This is probably my favorite bit of the bunch:

"God Only Knows" (1967 Rehearsal Session) - The Beach Boys

Pete Yorn's Nightcrawler & podcasts

Since Pete and I are, like, BFF now, I just wanted to remind you that his new joint Nightcrawler hits stores today. Even though it has been emailed to me about 5 times in the last 2 weeks (thank you), I have withstood the peer pressure to partake and I will be picking up my own copy of the CD and spinning it the old fashioned way.

If you are interested in hearing more about the songs on the album (and a preview of the tunes), check out Pete's podcast series. Here's what we've got so far:

Nightcrawler Podcast #1 - Pete Yorn

Nightcrawler Podcast #2 - Pete Yorn

Nightcrawler Podcast #3 - Pete Yorn

And he's got a few more tour dates recently announced:
09/08/06 - CHICAGO, IL - SCHUBA'S
09/09/06 - CHICAGO, IL - MARTYRS
09/12/06 - NEW YORK, NY - JOE'S PUB
09/14/06 - NEW YORK, NY - CBGB'S


Monday, August 28, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

Well I am glad everyone is enjoying my Sub Pop Singles Club collection. I had more fun compiling it than any other post I can recall, so I share in your joy. One of you commented "What a tremendous act of public service" and (ha!) that is kind of exactly what I was aiming for. It's almost like getting to create a living musical museum exhibit, isn't it? That's part of why this is such a cool forum.

Moving on from all that goodness of the '90s to a few new sounds from more recent times which I think you'll dig:

"When I Laugh"
The Glands
I greatly enjoy our local college radio station here (KEPC), and one of my favorite "games" to play is trying to figure out the artists responsible for the songs they play. Their playlist is so varied that they often throw in things that I haven't heard, like this song. When I listened to it in my car, I was like, "Is this Westerberg? Or Jesse Malin?" Kind of has that same rockin' warbly quality to it. I like it a lot. It's actually The Glands, a little five-piece out of Athens, Georgia, and this is from their favorably reviewed self-titled 2000 album, out on Velocette Records.

"O Dear"
The Honey Brothers
This is the side project of the really ridiculously good-looking Adrian Grenier, of the wickedly addictive HBO series Entourage (he drums here under the alias "Fluffer Honey"). The Honey Brothers are self-described as being a "New York based country-glamrock-ukulele band." They are being featured here because
a) the song is lovely and has a nice banjo/electronica/piano thing going with a chorus that seriously channels some of the Jack Johnson that I can stand, and
b) you must hear the description of their band from their website:

"The Honey Brothers formed about one dog year ago at ukulele fantasy camp in Requiem, Mass. They learned to harmonize by listening attentatively to the usual: Bill Munroe, gospel, early Wings recordings. They experimented lots: e.g. mastered the art of fa-so-la singing, advanced human beatbox technique in ways that have gone underappreciated to this day." Sounds good to me. This version is off their Winter Tour EP, and a live version is available on their eclectic 2006 CD Songs For Your Sister. (thx Clea!)

Amos Lee
The self-titled debut album from Amos Lee was easily one of my top musical finds last year (check out "Colors," "Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight," and especially "Seen It All Before"). His tenor voice just slices right through me, penetrating to my core. It's sweet and sad, lovely and literate all at once. His highly anticipated sophomore album Supply and Demand is due out October 3 on the superb Blue Note label. This is my favorite track out of the handful I've heard so far, with a warm soul feel and gospel undertones. His new album reflects the richness of his life on the road of the last two years, as he's travelled relentlessly in support of his music. With the new disc, I am looking forward to hearing his "Night Train," a rhythmic lonesome tune that I once heard him do live in concert, with lyrics that channel Johnny Cash: "I been workin' on the night train, drinkin' coffee, takin' cocaine. . ." An interesting departure from his other work; the overall feel of that song is the perfect embodiment of riding on a train through the darkness.

"Top Of The World"
Patty Griffin
This song from from Boston-based songwriter Patty Griffin is not new, but it is one I was discussing this week and needs to be listened to intently if you haven't heard it before. My first introduction to this -- one of the saddest songs ever recorded -- was the cover done by the Dixie Chicks on their 2001 Home album. It is an example of fine storytelling through songwriting; saturated with broken dreams, unfulfilled promises, and these images that just make you ache in the way that the best lyricists can do. The line, "I pretend to be sleeping when you come in in the morning, to whisper goodbye, go to work in the rain. I don't know why, don't know why. . . " emanates a quiet sadness that is almost tangible. Now perhaps you don't want to walk around on a lovely Monday morning feeling sad, but you can save this for a time when you can handle that and want to appreciate a truly excellent songwriter. This is from her 2004 album Impossible Dream.

"No Backbone"
The Lemonheads
I know this has been posted on a few other biggie sites, but I couldn't resist also adding it here because I like it very very much. There is something inherently good and enjoyable in Evan Dando's golden voice. This is a cover of a Smudge song from their album Mo Poontang (seriously) and it fits Dando like a glove. Lovely, rocking, cannot wait for the new "Lemonheads" disc (out 9/26 on Vagrant). It's been too long.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sub Pop Singles Club: A Retrospective

From November 1988 through December 1993, and then again from April 1998 until its final permanent demise in February 2002, the Sub Pop Singles Club (of the famed Seattle independent record label) offered its subscribers some awesomely rare gems on a monthly basis by mail.

If you were musically aware enough to be a member of the Sub Pop Singles Club, you would have gotten a 7" record every month with two or three songs from someone on Sub Pop's roster, which has hosted some of my all-time favorite bands. I remember once on a college-scouting trip to Seattle how I sought out the Sub Pop record store on 2nd Avenue and felt like I was standing in my own personal Mecca. Picture the sound of angels singing, like in the movies, with me shrouded in golden light, surrounded on all sides by Polaroid pictures of the patron saints of rock.

I found this eloquent description on The Ratio of the allure of the Sub Pop Singles Club. It encapsulates why this was such a cool concept and why I wanted to write about it today:

"The concept of the Singles Club occupies an exalted position in my imagination, an altar at which I often pause to reflect on its multifarious beneficences.

o the music snob, it promises to fulfill the fantasy of being repeatedly introduced to completely mindblowing songs by completely unknown bands.

To the parcel enthusiast whose aesthetic sensibility is entirely bound up in the impractical, it assures the sublime and elegant monthly delivery of a brown cardboard sleeve in which is concealed a 7” disc of coloured vinyl that must be spun at 45 RPM and demands that i
ts listener get up from his or her seat every two minutes to flip it over.

A 7” from a singles club is the antithesis of a CD bought at HMV or an iTunes download.
It is tactile, scarce, secret, and beautiful."

To give you a sense of the offerings from the Singles Club, the first three 7"s were Nirvana, Mudhoney & Sonic Youth, and The Flaming Lips. Yep, and it all progressed from there, with some of the final offerings being from groups like Death Cab For Cutie, Modest Mouse and The White Stripes. In retrospect, I don't know why I never joined this club (maybe because I was 9 when the club started? and then a poor high school student for the second round? or maybe I didn't have a record player?), but here are some examples of the cool 7"s that I would now have if I had been a member from the beginning:

Update 11/12/06: COMPLETE ZIP FILE re-upped

"Love Buzz" - Nirvana
"Big Cheese" - Nirvana

"Touch Me I'm Sick" - Mudhoney
(notable tie-in with Singles, one of my favorite movies)
"Halloween" - Sonic Youth

"Strychnine/What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love & Understanding" - The Flaming Lips
"Drug Machine" - The Flaming Lips

"Joe #1" - Fugazi
"Break-In" - Fugazi
"Song #1" - Fugazi

"Shove" - L7
"Packin' A Rod" - L7

MAY 1990
"House" - Babes In Toyland
"Arriba" - Babes in Toyland

JULY 1990
"Earache My Eye" - Rollins Band
"You Know Me" - Rollins Band (don't have)

"Psychobilly Freakout" - The Reverend Horton Heat
"Baby, You Know Who" - The Reverend Horton Heat

APRIL 1991
"Neon Zebra" - Shonen Knife
"Bear Up Bison" - Shonen Knife

MAY 1991
"(Now That's) The Barclords" - Urge Overkill
"What's This Generation" - Urge Overkill

JUNE 1991
Alice Cooper Tribute
"Is It My Body?" - Sonic Youth
(and 3 other songs)

"Big Yule Log Boogie" - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
"My Christmas Wish" - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

APRIL 1998
"Birthday" - The Jesus & Mary Chain
"Hide Myself" - The Jesus & Mary Chain

MAY 1998
"Never Ending Math Equation" - Modest Mouse
"Workin' On Leavin' The Livin'" - Modest Mouse

"You Alone" - Ron Sexsmith (don't have)
"We'll Manage" - Ron Sexsmith
(no cover art available)

"10 Minutes" - The Get Up Kids
"Anne Arbour" - The Get Up Kids

JUNE 1999
"Let's Start A Family" - Bonnie "Prince" Billy
"A Whorehouse is Any House" - Bonnie "Prince" Billy

JULY 1999
"Song A" - Pedro The Lion
"Song B" - Pedro The Lion

"Butterfly Stroke" - Mudhoney
"Editions of You" - Mudhoney

MARCH 2000
"Underwater" - Death Cab For Cutie
"The Army Corps of Architects" - Death Cab For Cutie

"Party of Special Things To Do" - The White Stripes
"China Pig" - The White Stripes
"Ashtray Heart" - The White Stripes

MARCH 2001
"I Will Be Grateful For This Day. I Will Be Grateful For Each Day To Come" - Bright Eyes
"When The Curious Girl Realizes She Is Under The Glass Again" - Bright Eyes

"Leaving On A Jet Plane" - J Mascis
"Too Hard" - J Mascis

"Jam Eater Blues" - The Mountain Goats
"Straight Six" - The Mountain Goats
"Store" - The Mountain Goats
(no cover art available)

MARCH 2002
"Call Your Boys" - Iron & Wine
"Dearest Forsaken" - Iron & Wine

A (mostly but not 100%) complete Sub Pop Singles Discography is available here.

Ones I wanted but couldn't find (let me know if you can help me out!):
JANUARY 1991: Nirvana -- "Candy" & "Molly's Lips" (live)
MARCH 1993: Dead Moon - "Dirty Noise" & "Dark Deception"
SEPTEMBER 1998: Ron Sexsmith -- "You Alone"
APRIL 1999: Beachwood Sparks -- "Midsummer Daydream" & "Windows 65"

There are a dwindling number of leftover singles available to purchase on the Sup Pop site. When I strike it wildly rich (and have, like, $4500 to spare), I am going to buy me the complete back catalog of these singles on eBay or something (to complement the complete set of vinyl Pearl Jam Christmas singles that I have and am most proud of).

Oh, and PS - I have a record player now. Thank goodness.

Fuel Concert Contest: Gov't Mule, Wolfmother and Two Gallants

As if all you cool kids livin' in the city weren't already lucky enough (New York City, that is), here's a special little contest that I am helping to co-sponsor along with the folks from ICED Media. Win yourself some tickets to the hard-rockin' (or with this stuff do you have to say "BALL bustin'"?) September 9th show featuring Gov't Mule, Wolfmother and Two Gallants:

One lucky reader will win a pair of tickets to the show Saturday 9/9 at McCarren Pool. Here are some sound samples for you to mull over. And for all of you that won't be winners, you can listen to these songs real loud on your iPod and pretend that you are damaging your hearing for REAL, live at the concert.

Dimension - Wolfmother
(as a pal wrote to me once, "Listen to Dimension and try not shaking your ass. Go on. I dare you...." He was right. This is from their self-titled debut album.)

Brighter Days - Gov't Mule
(from the new High & Mighty CD)

And to download 4 unreleased Two Gallants tracks, head over to the always-fantastic Daytrotter.

ENTER HERE. Good luck and godspeed.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Odds & ends

Some random interesting things I've seen in recent days (to sate you while I put the finishing touches on my most favorite post maybe ever, coming shortly):

۞ This looks interesting -- "Revenge Of The Book Eaters: Shows That Ask The Eternal Question: Words or Music -- Which Is Better?"
In Chicago tonight with Ben Gibbard & Dave Eggers (and more), Los Angeles on Saturday with Jenny Lewis, Aimee Mann, Dave Eggers, The Mountain Goats and more, and San Francisco on Monday with Zach Rogue (of Rogue Wave), Aimee Mann, Jonathan Richman, Mark Kozelek, Dave Eggers (and more). Finally it hits Seattle on Sept 1, with some of the above folks plus Smoosh and Colin Meloy. (Audio from the recent NY event here, featuring Sufjan and David Byrne duetting).

The Bookeaters events kind of tie in with the recent podcast I contributed to, exploring the relationship of books and music, eh? In any case, sounds like something I would totally love to attend. How 'bout a Denver date? We read a lot here.

۞ Recommended reading from The Rawking Refuses To Stop -- Reinventing The Wheel: Indie Labels In The Digital Age. Thought-provoking reflection on the nature of blog downloads, album sales, hypothetical profit vs. the benefits of publicity for an independent band in the blogging world.

۞ This one's for all you '80s fans out there: A John Hughes Soundtrack Retrospective put together by Derek over at the PureBoredom blog. It includes all those songs you either love or despise from National Lampoon's Vacation, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And in the immortal words of Ferris: "A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, 'I don't believe in The Beatles, I just believe in me.' Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus but it still wouldn't change the fact that I don't own a car!" Ahh, the wisdom of the '80s movies. They could write a book.

۞ So you think you know songwriting? How do you feel about folks like Tom Waits, Brian Wilson, Isaac Brock and Robert Smith judging your tunes? This year's International Songwriting Competition is open now through October 16. Have at it.

۞ Here's one to file under "Huh. I didn't know that but now I can squirrel that away in my vast musical memory": Jesse Malin writes in his latest update on MySpace about the progress of his new album: ". . . Had Kim from The Muffs sing a haunting melody on a track, repaying the background wo-oh's me and Danny Sage did 10 years ago on the Muffs cover of "Kids In America" on the 'Clueless' soundtrack."

Listen for yourself:
Kids In America - The Muffs (with Jesse Malin & Danny Sage on BGVs)

۞ Finally, dude sues for the right to bring his dog (Cheekies. Yes, Cheekies.) to the nude beach with him. Because of a debilitating skin condition and post-traumatic stress disorder, the dog is apparently his only true companion. I think if I saw him and his skin condition with Mr. Cheekies at the nude beach, I might develop some sort of disorder myself. I just shivered.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Format rocks my socks off

I saw The Format last night in Denver as a birthday present from my sis, and what a present it was. Even though Kristy and I questioned that we somehow exceeded an unspoken age limit among the other patrons (which seemed to be about 15? 16?), I was absolutely blown away by these guys and am still smiling the next day.

Background: I have both of The Format's full-length albums (Interventions + Lullabies and Dog Problems), as well as a collection of other tracks. I like them very much, I sing along, etc. etc. HOWEVER, as good as their CDs are, they truly pale in comparison to seeing them live, which makes everything just click together into one of the best concerts I have seen in a while.

Now, I know that I am an enthusiastic gal, especially when it comes to music that I like. I'll give you that. And while I certainly stand behind all of the musical recommendations that I have made thus far on this site, this next one comes with a disclaimer that I REALLY MEAN IT. Like, 200% more than other times I have said "Hey, this band is really good." I wish I had stronger words to express my strong emotion here. So listen:

The Format is essentially frontman Nate Ruess & multi-instrumentalist Sam Means, along with a host of musician friends when they tour. Nate is a fireball of charisma on-stage, with swagger and presence and a magnetism that reminded me of a consummate rockstar like Steven Tyler, oddly enough. He really connects with the crowd and got everyone singing along, jumping & clapping. It is nice to see that confidence and connection in an age of shoegazers and mumblers (nothin' wrong with that in its place, but I'm just saying . . .)

Nate has an unusual voice, that's undeniable. I wasn't sure where to file it in my mental catalogue until I saw them live, and then it all makes sense and I want to hear him sing all day long. It's a powerful instrument he's got there in his pipes.

Backing Nate were no fewer than EIGHT musicians of various stripes: guitar, bass, vocals and drums, sure, but also shakers and keyboards and trombones. Come on. Sheer pop goodness. Sometimes it sounds like a circus, and sometimes they channel Queen a bit, but there is no denying the well-crafted nature of their songs, the creative lyricism, and the downright danceability and quality rock 'n' roll.

Although they are in completely different veins, my sister remarked that the vibe at the show was like fellow Arizonans Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers in concert, if you've heard me rave about them. It was the same electric sensation throughout the crowd that uplifts and unites and (at the risk of sounding like a cornball) reaffirms your faith in the power of a fantastic live music experience.

I agree with blog buddy Nathaniel when he says, "I've seen a lot of shows, and The Format rank up there with the very best of them." Very very best indeed.

Here are your remaining chances to see them live on this tour. If you've ever said to yourself, "Hey, Heather has made some decent musical recommendations," then TRUST ME ON THIS, lay down the twelve kopecks or whatever and GO SEE THEM. You absolutely will not be disappointed:

Aug 23 - Salt Lake City, UT - In The Venue
Aug 25 - Seattle, WA - Neumo's
Aug 26 - Portland, OR - Loveland
Aug 27 - Orangevale, CA - Boardwalk
Aug 28 - San Francisco, CA - Slim's
Aug 29 - Anaheim, CA - House of Blues
Aug 31 - Hollywood, CA - Avalon
Sep 1 - San Diego, CA - Soma
Sep 2 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues/Courtyard
Sep 22 - Birmingham - Carling Academy
Sep 23 - Manchester - Apollo
Sep 24 - Leeds - Leeds University Union
Sep 26 - Cambridge - Corn Exchange
Sep 27 - Southampton - Southampton Guildhall
Sep 29 - London - Carling Academy Brixton

(Note: Does anyone know where I can find a good quality live/electric set from The Format? Here! Right here! Highly recommended: 2006 Western Tread Showcase set)

Tune Out (Interventions + Lullabies)
One of the first few songs, and everyone (including me) sang along at the top of their lungs when the chorus broke. It was a great moment.

She Doesn't Get It (off the new A+ album, Dog Problems)
Introduced as being a song about casual sex and Duran Duran.

Give It Up (Interventions + Lullabies)
They nailed this one last night. This is the first song I heard by The Format, and still one of my favorites.

The First Single (from the EP)
The final song, anthemic and sweaty and once again, everyone sang along. (Who names their first single "The First Single"? These guys do.)

TWO BONUS COVERS, just because:
The Lottery Song (Harry Nilsson cover, since some say they share a vibe)

For You (Bruce Springsteen cover from the Light of Day tribute CD)

For the quantity of Format videos on YouTube, the good quality ones are quite hard to find.

"Tie The Rope" (officially shot video):

If you want to get a sense of The Format from where I was standing last night (in the roiling, churning, 15-year-old crowd), check out this girl's video clips from the Hartford, CT show. I wanted to embed the one of "She Doesn't Get It," but darn YouTube won't let me. It demonstrates Nate's patented microphone toss, the clapping and some of the fantastic crowd chemistry.

This one is of a poorer quality, but totally watchable, and I am including it because you can get a sense of how well the crowd knows the songs and sings along:
"Tune Out" video (7/14/06)

And because I forgot my camera, the lovely pictures above come from Taylor's post.

I had a strong sense watching these guys that they definitely have "IT" -- that star quality and superb music that could take them all the way to the top. Why are they not all over the radio and on everybody's iPod? I have a feeling that they will be soon.

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