I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy Hour with Evan Dando

For those of you Evan Dando fans who did not heed my advice last time around to sign up for the webboard at www.evandando.co.uk, NOW is the ideal time to do it.

I just caught wind of the fact that for all 24 hours of February 1 the site will be having a "downloads happy hour" with all previous video and audio files from the download section made available.

Bacchanalia. At no charge.
Zip on over.

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A million little disappointed Oprah fans

I recently finished the roller-coaster ride that is James Frey's (mostly) autobiographical novel A Million Little Pieces. Surely many of you have seen the controversy over this book which has left Oprah "very disappointed" in author James Frey. She feels taken advantage of by the fact that he seems to have fictionalized several incidents in the book. It is unfortunate that Frey lied (his book would have been just as good with strictly the truth), and I am not condoning lying (am I?), but let's hear Heather's take on it.

This is an astoundingly riveting book which I picked up in an airport bookstore in spite of the Oprah's Book Club sticker on the front. Raw and affecting, Frey's memoir reveals the "self-inflicted apocalypse" that is hard-core drug addiction. It offers unflinching insight into the loathing and despair that comes with it, and the very long, very hard road back from it.

The book opens with Frey waking up on an airplane at age 23 after ten-plus years of intense, regular, hard drug use. "I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the feeling of something dripping down my chin. I lift my hand to feel my face. My front four teeth are gone, I have a hole in my cheek, my nose is broken and my eyes are swollen nearly shut." Frey has no idea where he is or how he got there. When he lands in Chicago, he is met by his parents who take him to a rehab facility. It's either that or he will end up dying from the copious drug use which has almost exhausted his system; mind-staggering amounts of alcohol ("every day, when I wake up, as much as I can"), cocaine ("every day, as much as I can, lately crack, but in every form that exists"), pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP, glue. When he takes these things, it temporarily quiets what he calls "The Fury," the murderous, screaming fury inside of him.

As Frey works through all the crap in his life and tries to salvage his relationships, who he is, and come to terms with what he has done, his writing reverberates and aches with pain and honest intensity, but I appreciate that he doesn't slide into maudlin prose. It is terse. It is to the point. He is dealing with The Question posed to him on the rehab self-assessment quiz:

"My sins are unpardonable. True or false?
I stare at the question.
My sins are unpardonable.
I stare at the question.

My sins are unpardonable.
I leave it blank."


I thought that the merits of this book outweigh the fact that there are fictionalized incidents. To me, it's like that whole period in his life was so out of control, so destructive, blurred, surreal, so....falling apart, that the point remains even if the details were not exactly as they occured. The essence of the book, for me, remains the same in light of the current revelations. It's not as if I went and sobbed in a hot shower, curled in a ball, when I heard that not *every* incident in the book happened exactly like he said. It is a still a recommended read on my shelf.

Feb 2 Update: James Frey writes an addendum to his book in which he apologizes and acknowledges. He says, "This memoir is a combination of facts about my life and certain embellishments. It is a subjective truth, altered by the mind of a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. Ultimately, it's a story, and one that I could not have written without living the life I have lived." To read the rest, see the Random House website. The statement does take responsibility, but it does leave me wondering what, exactly, is "subjective truth"? That's kind of a hedging-your-bet statement, no?

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Define: raconteur

Thanks to Connor and Nathaniel, I now know that a raconteur is "one who excels in telling stories and anecdotes," and it is also the joint musical effort bringing together Mr. Jack White and Mr. Brendan Benson (along with Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler) for a little bit o' musica. The Raconteurs' 7" single was released today (well, technically yesterday) in the UK/Europe, and hits stateside on March 7.

Side A: "Steady, As She Goes" - The Raconteurs
Side B: "Store Bought Bones" - The Raconteurs

And I agree with iGIF that The Raconteurs' website is one of the most glorious things I have seen lately, since my first computer was in like 1983, a TI-99 for Christmas with a screen just as lo-tech as their site.

And since we are vaguely, loosely, talking about the White Stripes, let me also throw this cover out there. It sucks (maybe because I just like the original so much) but I suppose it is all in good fun, and interesting, so it gets blogged.

"Seven Nation Army" - Damien Rice & Vyvienne Long

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Monday, January 30, 2006

The Redwalls: Rare track & Oasis tour

One of the freshest sounding releases I bought last summer was De Nova from The Redwalls, whom I mentioned a few days ago in my post about OK Go. Some of you expressed an interest in learning more about them, so here you go (look how easy that was).

When I first heard "It's Love You're On" by The Redwalls last February, I thought they were some '60s band I'd never heard before - pleasing vocal harmonies, catchy hooks, a great crunchy sound. This Chicago quartet (vocalist/guitarist Logan Baren, vocalist/bassist Justin Baren, vocalist/guitarist Andrew Langer, and drummer Ben Greeno) ranges in dewy-fresh age from 20 to 22 years old, but sound much more mature to me, musically.

I was blown away seeing them live. Four young guys, shaggy dark hair, tight pants, pointed boots - like straight-up British Invasion brought back to life (oh wait, did it ever die?). They looked so young; I remember telling my friend Heidi that I felt like we were at a high school talent show (albeit one of very high caliber, minus the teenage band names like Janitors Against Apartheid and Liquid Courage). These kids have stage presence and swagger galore (although, really, who at 22 opening for all these great bands *wouldn't* swagger just a tad?).

The Redwalls are opening for Oasis on five shows this March. If you live in Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Nashville, or Houston, for the love of all that's holy go check them out! They'll be huge.

I just got emailed a rare Redwalls track from the vault, off the Japanese import version of De Nova. Enjoy!

Memories - The Redwalls

BONUS: For another little sample of their sound, here is one of my favorite tracks off De Nova. I highly recommend their album:

It's Alright - The Redwalls

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Monday Music Roundup

It's Monday, new music for the week.
"We happy?"
"Yeah, we happy."

Ol' 55
Sarah McLachlan
There's been some Tom Waits love goin' around in the blogosphere lately (even Jesus loves him, but I guess Jesus loves everybody), which reminded me of one of my favorite covers ever, a Waits song from Sarah McLachlan's Freedom Sessions. This track was recorded this very late one night/early one morning, after Sarah & her band had been imbibing large quantities of red wine. Not everyone knew the song, so those that did were mouthing chord changes to the others. She sounds better drunk than I do sober. (But oddly enough, not as good as I *think* I sound drunk. Ironic.)

Tiger Man (live)
Eels

On their 2003 tour, Eels often opened their show with this Elvis cover, a classic swaggering song of sexual bravado. I can picture Elvis The Pelvis making all the teenage girls scream with this one. With E, not so much, but with his unique sound he can pull it off. Rockin' good fun from the Ancienne Belgique show. Thanks to Giacomo from www.eelsitalia.com!

These Things
Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions

You may remember Hope Sandoval as the dreamy-velvet voice of Mazzy Star. While Mazzy Star lies dormant, Hope has gone on to release some newer material with her band The Warm Inventions. This track is from her 2002 EP Suzanne. When I listen to this, I picture a voice coming out of a black, black room - like you are sitting somewhere in the dark and suddenly you hear this lolling voice, like a slowly swirling river, out of nowhere. It's just her and a slow bluesy guitar for most of the song. Very evocative.

The Shins
Flake Music
As Chris puts it, "Way before The Shins were going around changing Natalie Portman's life in overrated movies, they were Flake Music." Matthew posted this track by Flake Music (from their 1997 CD When You Land Here, It's Time To Return) and I have been enjoying its poppy vibe for the last month. Shimmery goodness, as one would expect from they-who-would-become-Shins. And yes, so you're not confused (or, even worse, accuse me of a typo!) the song is in fact also called The Shins. Whoa.

Why Don't You Do It For Me?
22-20s
Big thumping drums and a retro-rockabilly/blues feel to this group distinguishes the 22-20s from the rest of the next-big-thing bands over in Britain today. The 22-20s took their name from a track by Delta bluesman James, and it's clear from listening to them that these chaps have studied their musical roots. Liam Gallagher (Oasis) has been rumored to have said about music these days, "Everything's sh*t. Except for the 22-20s." So there you have it. That may or may not be an incentive for you, but (Liam or no) this is some good stuff in the Heather Browne book. From their self-titled 2005 debut album.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jeff Buckley live

I love Jeff Buckley so much that sometimes if I listen to him at night, in the dark, his music almost makes me physically ache. That's how I felt when I heard this live track. Am I melodramatic? Of course.

But for real, LISTEN to him singing Nina Simone (Nina Simone!) and see. If it does not touch you, then perhaps you have a cold block of ice in your chest in place of a beating and sentient heart.

If You Knew - from Live at Sin-é

Also, here is Buckley covering Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan. Interesting live radio studio banter as well. Sometimes I forget that he was a real person, if that makes sense.

All Tomorrow's Parties (live) - Jeff Buckley
Mama, You've Been On My Mind
(live) - Jeff Buckley
(there is a great studio version of this as well on the Grace Legacy Edition CD)

And in the news, there is a Jeff Buckley documentary (Amazing Grace) which I am somehow just now hearing of. It apparently screened at the Cinequest Film Festival back in San Jose in March when I was totally still living there. How did I miss that?

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Why is the whole world not listening to Marah?

Hey there, Marah. Where've you been all my life? This is a really, really great folk-punk/roots/garage-rock band making some quality tunes, a largely undiscovered gem in the lexicon of rock music today.

Formed in 1993 by brothers Dave (singer-songwriter-banjoist-guitarist) and Serge (harmonica-guitarist-vocalist) Bielanko, this Philly-based band has been compared with early Replacements and a younger and urgent Springsteen, and depending on the song I definitely hear both influences. They've jammed with Springsteen in concert and in the studio, and have shared the bill with the likes of Ryan Adams, Ted Leo, and Jesse Malin live.

Marah writes solid, multi-layered songs and their most recent album If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry harnesses an immediate and melodic beauty. Since many songs on this album were recorded in no more than three takes in a Brooklyn kitchen, there is a raw and unpolished edge to them.

They are playing tonight in San Francisco at the cozy Cafe du Nord, for all you cats from my homeland. Then they are on the road pretty much through March, including SXSW, so you might want to check them out live. Their shows are rumored to be "sweaty, feel-good rock'n'roll with an urgency that makes you feel alive."

And one interesting thing I noticed from their website was that the March 25th date in Oxford, MS will feature Nick Hornby (the author). I am not sure in what capacity Hornby will be appearing with Marah, but he wrote a really lovely op-ed piece in the New York Times mentioning Marah and is a confessed fan. Hornby, always poetic in his love for good music, says the following about Marah:

"Indeed, in the shows you can often hear their love for the rock canon uninflected - they play covers of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait," or the Jam's "In the City," and they usually end with a riffed-up version of the O'Jays' "Love Train." They play an original called "TheCatfisherman" with a great big Bo Diddley beat, and they quote the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and the Who's "Magic Bus." And they do this not because they're a bar band and people expect cover versions, but because they are unafraid of showing where their music comes from, and unafraid of the comparisons that will ensue. . ."

From If You Didn't Laugh You'd Cry (2005):
  • "Walt Whitman Bridge" - Listen to the harmonica in this one, and the story in the lyrics.
  • "City of Dreams" - a little Dylan-esque, rolling folk with a hint of the Beatles.

From Let's Cut the Crap & Hook up Later on Tonight (1998):
great album title. come on

Bonus Live Tracks from 8/12/00 show in Tempe, AZ:

  • "Can't Hardly Wait" - Replacements cover, homage to one of their sonic predecessors
  • "Reservation Girl" with a superb opener of one of my favorite guitar instrumentals ever, Sleepwalk

I think what I like the best about listening to Marah is that each song is really different from the next. But it's all good - and it might just restore your faith in the pure and heartfelt honesty of rock'n'roll.

I'm glad I ran into them.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Lucinda Williams

This is really not a musician birthday blog, but the ever-changing celebrants offer a good reason to rotate who I feature. Yesterday was Lucinda Williams' birthday and I meant to post this but then I got lazy, what with all the uploading, the picture-finding. Whew. So today, here is a festive salute to the "agony aunt" of today's alt-country/americana blues sound.

I am not super-familiar yet with her work, I think I downloaded this track off someone's celebrity playlist on iTunes. Can't recall. But she is really great, and this track showcases her unique voice and rough gravelly sound. It is a pitch-perfect, rollicking wrencher about having a bit of trouble recognizing the end of a relationship, off her perfectly-descriptively titled 1998 album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. As one reviewer says of the album, "the entire Deep South is reduced to a sleepy small town filled with ex-lovers, dive bars, and endless gravel roads."

There is some *delicious* slide guitar (I think you have to say gee-tar with this one) throughout in the vein of Ben Harper, and a leg-slappin', toe-tappin' beat. Stand up and listen to this and if you can be still throughout, then I think your rhythm-appreciator-thingie is broken.

"Can't Let Go" - Lucinda Williams

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Odds & ends



Here is some random interesting musical ephemera for your Thursday evening.

Chad, bless his heart, has composed another fabulous and exhaustive post about Elliott Smith and The Beatles with lots of great tunes. Head over to Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands post haste.

I thought this was a funny article in the Guardian (UK) about eight musicians swapping iPods and having to guess whose iPod they had. Interesting concept. What would my iPod say about me? Swapping iPods is lovely fun.

If you are considering getting more into Ray LaMontagne (and really, you should be and you know you want to), click yourself right on over to I Guess I'm Floating to see how much Nathaniel and I love Ray LaMontagne and download some really good album tracks from Trouble.

Aquarium Drunkard has the video of Ryan Adams on Austin City Limits for download if you missed it - you know, like if you were out doing something on Saturday night and your VCR is broken. Ya know. His excellent set included Games, Cold Roses, Hard Way To Fall, Call Me On Your Way Back Home, Now That You're Gone, Let It Ride, and A Kiss Before I Go.

Do you like banjo? (wow, there's a great conversation starter at a crowded party). If you do, Beat The Indie Drum has a nice mix of songs featuring said instrument entitled "Pling Twang Pling." I appreciate the way it always sounds so bright and golden, like a shiny penny.

And finally, members of Weezer have been tapped to play Velvet Underground in upcoming Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl. They've also re-recorded a new version of the Underground song "Heroin." Pitchfork is not too keen on the idea. I say give 'em a break, ye hipster cynics!

Side track, but I think Velvet Underground was a fabulous choice for a band name. It's got it all; mystery (ooh, they are underground), sex appeal (velvet? come on. hot), and just this coolness factor (the two together sound like the name of a really classy, but DANGEROUS, strip club. Not that I would know, but I've seen it on TV).

I just want to play on my panpipes. I just want to drink me some wine.

What a quirky evening of joy it is to spend a few hours with Cake. Seeing them live is always a treat, what with the crowd providing the background vocals, the dry acerbic wit of singer John McCrea (a true showman), the prominent percussion and thumping bass grooves.

Plus, I got to see the Fillmore Denver, which tries to be as cool as Fillmore San Francisco, but of course cannot. But don't hold it against Fillmore Denver which is just a baby venue which will grow in stature and favor with the people. One excellent thing that Fillmore Denver has in common with Fillmore San Fran is the plentitude of concert photographs from the performers who have graced their halls over the years. I realized as I stood there just how happy it makes me to look at those photos. For years growing up every time I went to the Fillmore SF I would always look at the photos. I always look at the pictures first before reading the caption to see how many I know. When I feel that flash of recognition from their faces, rather than from reading their names, the songs and the music all comes to me in a rush and I remember great shows I've been at with these folks. I always feel surrounded by friends when I see photos of all that superb musical history in action.

And it may be late and I may have been drinking, but if I was the boss of concerts, let me tell you a little thing or two about how it would be. I would only invite very small people. Short folks who would never obstruct my view. If you tall folks insisted on coming we would have a special section for you. Tonight it was ridiculous. I said on many occasions, "Self, could more tall people stand in front of you?" It was like, hey, you're 6'3"? 6'4"? Could you stand in front of Heather? That would be super.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

World Music Wednesday

Many of you may have heard Brazilian singer Seu Jorge's covers of David Bowie songs for the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. That CD is a fine introduction to his tropical acoustic sound, but I have been pleased to also discover his recent solo album Cru (Sept 2005, the title translated means "raw").

Seu Jorge is now a popular star in the Portuguese world, regularly selling out his live shows at home and abroad. But 32-year old Jorge was once a homeless kid who grew up in a favela, a Brazilian slum. He has come a long way from his hard-knock past, and worked his way up through local theater and musical opportunities until he landed a role in the critically acclaimed and wrenching 2002 movie City of God, where he played the part of Knockout Ned.

That same year he also released his first album, Carolina (2002) which had much less of the organic feel you may be familiar with, and experimented with different Afro-Brazilian funk sounds and hip-hop/dance music. Carolina was named Album of the Year in his native Brazil. Cru is his sophomore solo release, and is closer in feel to his Life Aquatic sessions - highlighting his hypnotic voice and laid-back sound. Some selections:

"Fiore De La Citta"
Jorge sings in Italian, and it is gorgeous and very mellow.

"Don't"
Yes, an Elvis cover. Listen to how he re-invents it! Jorge said of this track, "[Elvis] took from black music in the first place, and I was taking it back, imagining myself in cowboy boots."

"Bem Querer"
A bit more uptempo, with subtle and refined electronica backing, gentle guitars, and stirring vocal chants.

Other standout tracks on the album include "Tive Razão" and (yet another) Serge Gainsbourg cover, "Chatterton" (which I just realized makes three straight weeks in a row for me of World Music Wednesdays which have included a Gainsbourg cover). Anyway, I find the breadth of his music remarkable and very enjoyable: from his choices of whose songs to reinvent, to his own explorations of samba, folksy reggae, and bossa nova, all infused with his own unique sound.

“If you had to nominate someone as the coolest man on the planet, for this week anyway, Seu Jorge would be a good candidate.”
—Peter Culshaw, The Telegraph (UK)

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Etta James

Happy birthday Ms. Etta James, born today in 1938. While best known for the delicate string serenade and huge vocals of "At Last," I prefer her more raucous bluesy side, of which this song is a perfect example:

"I Just Wanna Make Love To You" - Etta James

Oh, you have GOT to love the lyrics, "All I want to do is wash your clothes . . . All I wanna do is make your bread, just to make sure you're well fed. I don't want you sad and blue, I just wanna make love to you, oooooo." Every man's domestic dream?

Although that is a whole intimidating lot o' woman to love.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

OK Go see them on tour

OK Go is one of my pet bands of 2005 since they rocked my socks off in concert when they were touring with The Redwalls last summer. I've posted about OK Go before, and today got the good news that they just announced some new tour dates. They have intelligent, scathing lyrics and a really great, tight pop sound (handclaps abound), so you should take some time to see if they jive with you as well.

DOWNLOADS:
Oh Lately It's So Quiet - OK Go
The boys get all falsetto Prince-throwback on this fabulous track. It's sexy and a bit mysterious (about getting over an old flame) but still fun. "Darlin', if you're not here haunting me, I'm wondering whose house are you haunting tonight? Whose sheets do you twist, whose face you kiss...whose house are you haunting tonight?"

A Million Ways - OK Go
Please tell me that you have seen the dance video for this song (above) because it is sheer brilliance. Again, clincher lyrics do it for me on this cut:
"Sit back, matter fact,
teasing, toying, turning, chatting,
charming, hissing, playing the crowd.
Play that song again, another couple Klonopin
A nod a glance a half hearted bow.
Oh such grace, oh such beauty
and lipstick and callous,
and fishnets and malice.
Oh darling, you’re a million ways to be cruel."

You've also gotta love the backing lyric to the chorus "One, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero cruel." Baby, it's as good as it gets.

I highly recommend both of their CDs, OK Go (2002) and Oh No (2005).

TOUR INFO EMAIL
"...As for OK Go, they've spent January widening the rock-hole over the United Kingdom with a severely sold-out tour. America, it's your turn now. (And look alive, Canada, because you're next.):
Headlining Shows:
1/24 Brooklyn, NY--North Six
1/25 South Burlington, VT--Higher Ground
1/26 Providence, RI--Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel
1/27 Boston, MA--Paradise Rock Club
1/28 New Haven, CT--Toad's Place

Supporting Controller.Controller:
1/30 Moncton, NB, CA--Manhattan
1/31 Halifax, NS, Canada--The Pavilion EARLY SHOW
1/31 Halifax, NS, Canada--Stage Nine LATE SHOW
2/02 Montreal, QC, Canada--Cabaret Music Hall
2/04 Kingston, ON, Canada--Grad Club EARLY SHOW
2/04 Kingston, ON, Canada--Grad Club LATE SHOW
2/06 Guelph, ON, Canada--Vinyl
2/07 Hamilton, ON, Canada--The Casbah
2/08 Waterloo, ON, Canada--Starlight

Supporting Motion City Soundtrack:
2/16 Milwaukee, WI--The Rave
2/18 Marquette, MI--Northern Michigan University
2/20 Lawrence, KS--Granada Theatre
2/21 Englewood, CO--Gothic Theatre (dang, I'll be in Cali!)
2/22 Salt Lake City, UT--Lo Fi Cafe
2/24 Pullman, WA--Washington State University
2/25 Seattle, WA--Neumos
2/26 Portland, OR--Loveland
2/28 San Francisco, CA--Slim's
3/02 Los Angeles, CA--Henry Fonda Theatre
3/03 Pomona, CA--Glass House
3/04 San Diego, CA--Soma
3/05 Tempe, AZ--Marquee Theatre
3/07 Austin, TX--Emo's
3/08 Dallas, TX--Gypsy Ballroom
3/09 Houston, TX--Meridian
3/11 St. Petersburg, FL--State Theatre
3/12 Orlando, FL--House of Blues

Bonus Show:
4/21 Forth Worth, TX--Main Street Arts Festival--FREE SHOW

Sheck it out.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

It's Monday, time again for me to open wide the vast musical archives (which are actually quickly filling up my 30GB iPod - I think I need a new 60. Your favorite friendly music blogger is currently accepting donations) to pull out some selections for y'all. And today's caveat is that EZArchive (which stores the songs) may be acting weird. If you can't get the tunes, stop back by later.

In the meantime I will give EZArchive a stern talking-to.

Satisfied Mind
Johnny Cash
I first heard this song done by Jeff Buckley on his Sketches (For My Sweetheart The Drunk). His version is saturated with a gorgeous and rich beauty (and was, incidentally, played at his memorial service - side note). Ben Harper also does a bluesy-gospel version with the Blind Boys of Alabama. But Johnny Cash, as always, puts his signature desolate and wind-blown sound to this song (from the Kill Bill 2 Soundtrack of all places) and it makes me feel all nostalgic and Grapes-of-Wrath-ish just to listen to it. God bless Johnny Cash.

Cayman Islands
Kings of Convenience featuring Feist
I posted on Norway's Kings of Convenience before, but never about the lovely Canadian songstress Feist, who I have been hearing more and more professions of love for from the mouths of my musical friends. Feist paired with Kings for a few tracks on their album Riot On An Empty Street, released in 2004. This is a very mellow song with a nice blending of voices, with folksy finger-picking simple melody and lilting vocals. Check out "Homesick" from the same album for a straight up Simon & Garfunkel reunion.

Hard Times
Eastmountainsouth
This duo has now broken up, but Eastmountainsouth was a lovely surprise discovery that I made in 2004, scoring free tickets to go see them in a small club in San Francisco. Kat Maslich is from Clinch Mountain, Virginia, and she joins Alabama/Tennessee native Peter Adams on their evocative eponymous 2000 release. Maslich's warm and powerful alto voice leads the album, alternating and meshing seamlessly with Adams. The organic and rural-sounding album employs a variety of styles of music, mostly centering around folk and acoustic melody, but incorporating hints of plucky bluegrass guitar and resonant piano. I highly recommend the album, and I wish you could still see them live as they were stunning. Oh, and this song was also featured on the Elizabethtown soundtrack last year.

Sunshine (live 11/13/03)
Matt Costa
I just got reminded (by a little birdie of sorts) of this great track that I've had sitting in my "To Blog" playlist for about three months now. Matt Costa was was number three on Fader Magazine's "Top Ten Things You Didn’t Appreciate Enough In 2005," - an acoustic singer-songwriter in the vein of pal (and informal promoter) Jack Johnson. Costa has toured with Jack, as well as Donavon Frankenreiter (and probably G. Love), so you get a sense of his vibe. Costa also collaborates with Jack on the new Curious George soundtrack, which I buckled and pre-ordered on iTunes so I could get the excellent track "Upside Down," which makes we want to swing in a hammock somewhere. But, again, that's sort of off-topic. Sorry. "Sunshine" is from the 2005 album Songs We Sing. Check it out, you flip-flop-wearing surfer, you.

Reach Down
Pearl Jam with Chris Cornell

Once again, I had something else here in the number 5 spot, but then I realized today's line-up was waaay too sparse and mellow and I am feeling a bit rockin' today myself. So let's rock a bit. I am getting all excited to receive the 2005 Pearl Jam Christmas Single vinyl. 'But it is January,' you say, 'not Christmas.' Well, in the 12 or 13 years as I have been in the Ten Club (the Pearl Jam fanclub), I don't think I've ever gotten the annual record before February. This song was featured on the 2003 Christmas single, and this Temple of the Dog "reunion" took place October 28th of that year at a star-studded evening of music.

Thanks to Franz pointing this out: You can download this entire show at http://www.glidemagazine.com/downloads25.html. This amazing evening featured an acoustic set, and electric set, and three encores - filled with gems. Collaborating musicians include Jack Irons, Chris Cornell (also did 2 solo songs, one of his own and one Audioslave), John Frusciante (RHCP), Jack Johnson, and Lyle Workman. Grab the show for download before it is gone!

My favorite Seattle-ites are the topic of a new photo book coming out this Spring, "5x1: Pearl Jam Through the Eye of Lance Mercer."

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Happy birthday Sam Cooke

Today is the 75th birthday of Sam Cooke, one of the sweetest, purest soul voices I know. Born Samuel Cook in 1931, he added the "e" to the end of his last name later in life - he thought it added class. As a Browne-with-an-"e" myself, I have to agree. Classy.

Starting as a gospel singer, he gave the world 33 years of his music before he died in 1964 - the victim of a motel shooting whose details are still disputed. What a loss; think of all the beautiful music he still had inside.

There's a sweeping new biography about Cooke out now, "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke" by pop music writer and Elvis chronicler Peter Guralnick. I have heard excellent things about it, and intend (!) to read it this year.

I know I said this before, but Sam Cooke always sounds like slow-dancing barefoot in the kitchen, especially this song. It is absolutely my favorite by him:

"Bring It On Home To Me" - Sam Cooke

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

A few rhetorical questions for my pal Elton

1. Why, exactly, does the band need a seamstress?
2. Do the sheets have to be linen? Or will any other fabric do? We're out of linen, dude.
3. How the *flip* does she dance IN YOUR HAND? Is she teensy Polly Pocket seamstress?

Thank you.

Friday, January 20, 2006

White Label Tees

So you wish you were at the epic Stone Roses show at Spike Island in Cheshire May 27th, 1990, but alas you weren't. But now you can have the t-shirt with the ticket stub on it. Pretty cool.
White Label Tees is a neat concept, they've got some great shirts printed with ticket stubs from a variety of amazing acts from all the shows you only wish you were at (or maybe you actually were at them, in which case I heartily salute you).

Find everyone from Nirvana to Dylan, The Clash, Elvis, Iggy Pop, The Jam, Led Zep, The Pixies, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Bruce, Woodstock, etc. I went to a concert last weekend and it was like Scene/high-school student mania and I saw THREE guys with the same Iron Maiden shirt. Differentiate yourself.

With so many choices, you can go hog wild, in a classy, understated sort of way.

New-ish Ray LaMontagne

This is a previously unreleased track from Ray LaMontagne. He started playing it live at several shows last summer, including this version from Bonnaroo 2005. "Empty" has become one of my favorite of his songs (although picking a favorite Ray LaMontagne song is like picking favorite children). I love the rolling folk sound and the beautiful lyrics, with that bittersweet harmonica that just cuts through the middle. Someone compared it to Ryan Adams' "Winding Wheel" and I do see the grounds for comparison. One thing is for sure, this man knows how to write a song. Take a look at the lyrics, preferably while listening to this gorgeous song.

"Empty" - Ray LaMontagne

Empty
She lifts her skirt up to her knees
walks through the garden rows
with her bare feet laughing.
I never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters

I walk on down the hill
through grass grown tall and brown
and still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain

On past the busted backs
of old and rusted Cadillacs
that sink into this field collecting rain.
Will I always feel this way?
so empty, and estranged

And of these cutthroat busted sunsets
these cold and damp white mornings I have grown weary.
If through my cracked and dusty country lips
I spoke these words out loud
would no one hear me?

Lay your blouse across the chair
let fall the flowers from your hair
and kiss me with that country mouth so plain

Outside the rain is tapping on the leaves
to me it sounds like they’re applauding us
the quiet love we make
Will it always feel this way?
so empty and estranged ...

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Just last night I was reminded of just how bad it had gotten

Violent Femmes are on tour! I saw them once in Santa Cruz (CA) and it was a mixed experience but definitely glad that I went. I remember that singer Gordon Gano was belligerent that night and kept bullying the crowd. So, uh, stay away from the front I guess.

But the boys that helped us all blister in the sun and learn how to count our pills whilst we are overdosing are icons of . . . slacker rock? Off-key folk-punk? Whatever you call it, icons for sure and I think you need to go see them.

Jan 28 Tucson, Rialto Theatre
Jan 29 Tempe, Marquee Theatre
Jan 31 San Diego, House of Blues
Feb 1 Los Angeles, House of Blues
Feb 2 Santa Cruz, Catalyst Club
Feb 3 San Francisco, The Fillmore
Feb 4 Stockton, CA, Bob Hope Theater
Feb 5 Arcata, CA, Humboldt University
Feb 17 Thessaloniki, Greece, Principal Club
Feb 18 Athens, Greece, Club 22
Feb 19 Athens, Greece, Club 22
Feb 21 Cork, IRL, Savoy
Feb 23 Limerick, IRL, Trinity Rooms
Feb 24 Galway, IRL, Roisin Dubh
Feb 25 Dublin, IRL, Vicar St.
Feb 26 London, Shepherds Bush Empire
Feb 28 Oslo, Norway, Rockefeller
March 9 Cleveland, House of Blues
March 10 Columbus, LC Pavilion (formerly the Promo West Pavilion)
July 28 Del Mar, CA Del Mar Race Track

And if you don't already have it: "Prove My Love" - Violent Femmes


I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record.

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Seriously. Listen to The M's.

My Old Kentucky Blog & Fluxblog have both posted recently on The M's from Chicago. These guys are fabulous, I hadn't heard them before but they just made my day:

DOWNLOADS:

- "Plan of the Man" and "Trucker Speed" (from upcoming album Future Women, out 2/21/06)

- "Holding Up" and "2x2" (from The M's LP, 2004)

- "Banishment of Love" (from The M's EP, 2002)


Here's what some reviewers have had to say about them:

"The M's capture that glorious moment when the British Invasion bands of the '60s were still grappling with their love of R&B while flirting with the more sophisticated harmonies and hooks of classic pop songwriting. Melodies unfold with craftsmanlike attention to arrangement and harmonic development, but never at the expense of swagger. Sex lurks behind every androgynous turn, from falsetto harmonies that evoke T Rex's Marc Bolan in his glam glory to rhythms that shamble like back-alley lovers loaded on cheap wine."
- #8 on Greg Kot's Best of 2004, Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2004

"The four M's call Chicago home, but with their fuzzy riffs and psychedelic melodies, they could be mistaken for a bunch of British tunesmiths by the names of Ray Davies, Damon Albarn, Marc Bolan, and John Lennon."
- Spin Magazine, August 2004

"Three-part harmonies and a Kinks-inspired bounce...Garage-rock fans shouldn't miss..."
- Jim Derogatis, Pop Music Critic for the Chicago Sun Times

Check out their website for a spate of upcoming shows. I would love to see these guys live. I am not too sure about what is going on with the pervasive alien/monster/Transformer theme on their site and in their promo pictures (see above). Kind of reminds me of the movie Empire Records where Mark eats the special brownies and then sees the Gwar monsters talking to him on the TV, and subsequently wanting to eat him. Hmmm.

Anyways, from their site: "Future Women on CD or 180 gram vinyl at Polyvinyl Records. Buy now and you'll get the album shipped on February 10, eleven days before the February 21st release date! All this for the low-low non-Wal-Mart price of $10 (plus S&H)."

Not a bad deal, I just preordered it. I really dig their sound. I think I should have lived in the early '60s. Born too late!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

World Music Wednesday

Angélique Kidjo represents a beautiful fusion of world cultures, and her music is not easily pigeonholed. While her native African culture flows beautifully through all of her releases, each phase in her life and in her music represents different influences.

Kidjo lived her childhood in the West African country of Benin, where she sang with her family and, in addition to her native culture, her brothers taught her to love soul music and R&B. By the time she reached her teens she was a local star, and knew all the lyrics to James Brown's greatest hits catalog.

When she was 23, Kidjo moved to Paris, and was immediately embraced by the city's thriving Afro-Caribbean music scene. During these years, she focused on her songwriting, and supported both American jazz legend Nina Simone, as well as South African star Miriam Makeba. Since then she has worked with artists as varied as Carlos Santana (wait, who hasn't worked with Santana?), Prince's personal producer David Z (during her Afro-funk dance phase), and sax-player Branford Marsalis.

My favorite disc, I think, from Angélique Kidjo is her 2002 release Black Ivory Soul, which fuses Beninoise music with a Brazilian sound from the Salvador de Bahia region. You may have heard the track she does with Dave Matthews, Iwoya, which I think is excellent, but there are a number of very good tracks on this disc.

- "Afirika"
A playful and harmonic song. Don't you wish you knew what they were saying? It just sounds jubilant.

- "Okan Bale"
This reminds me of water. Kidjo wrote it in Brazil, "facing the sea."

- "Iwoya"
Angélique and Dave (who was born in South Africa) go head to head, complementing each other's voices. When Kidjo asked Matthews to sing with her, he first said, "I'm not singing with you. You scare me to death."

- "Ces Petits Riens"
Another Serge Gainsbourg cover! This one shows how beautifully her time in France has influenced her music.

As Nigel Williamson from UK's The Times said, "File under Africa? File under Caribbean? Just file it under superb."

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"And everything's cooool, and everything's smooooth (hey, that's smooth)"

Must be the repressed club-kid in me, but lately I am lovin' me my mash-ups (when an artist lays two different tracks over one another to mix them seamlessly together). Soulwax (aka 2 Many DJs), the Belgian pioneers of the mash-up sound, have combined some diabolically opposed songs and artists, but somehow it sounds great. Following the success with y'all of the Beatles/Beasties mash-up that I posted last month, some of you are into this action as well. Admiiiiit it.

Most of these are off of their albums As Heard On Radio Soulwax, which, as one reviewer put it, "From start to finish, this album contains those moments where you have to check the tracklisting to find out if what you are listening to is ACTUALLY what you think you are listening to." Check out Soulwax/2 Many DJs albums on Amazon.

I find it superb for dancing around the house, if nothing else.

- Beatles (Eleanor Rigby) vs. Kraftwerk (Number/Tour De France) - one of the earliest Soulwax mash-up efforts. It's the strings, and then here comes that industrial beat...

- Loveshack vs. Uptown Girl (B52s and Billy Joel)

- God Only Knows vs. Billie Jean, Part One and Part Two (this one comes in two parts, Beach Boys meet the gloved one. Hilarious!)

- No Fun/Push It (Salt 'n' Pepa - did I spell that right? - and The Stooges. Really.)

Bah

Luce update for those of you who read my post a few days back: The Colorado Springs show is just for cadets at the AFA. I called today and asked the lady if I could come *with* a cadet, or volunteer to lift boxes or set up the stage or anything, and she laughed at me (in that friendly Colorado way). So, northerners, stay put. Short of pulling a Sydney Bristow, I don't think I'll be at the show. Although I can offer my backyard if they would like to do an alternate venue the next night.

Luce did just announce two California shows in April in Redwood City, as luck would have it. Good for all you Nor-Cals! Boo for us.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

Happy Monday, kids, from snowy Colorado. Yesterday was 60 degrees and I went for a nice run in the sunshine. Then the snow came last night and it is a balmy 20 degrees. Makes everything pretty (but a little harder to run!). Anyway, since it is a new week, that means that I've got some new songs for your consideration. Comments, concerns, reactions welcome.

Wicked Game (Isaak cover)
Giant Drag
Tanner from Rodeo Town was so very kind as to post this Giant Drag cover that I mentioned I was looking for. The intro is hilarious (a little Fatal Attraction, but still hilarious).

Damn that Chris Isaak! He's no good, I tell ya.

I Can't Look At Your Skin
Graham Coxon
Lots of buzz lately about the new Graham Coxon album Love Travels at Illegal Speeds, coming out March 14 in the States. The former Blur guitarist has released several solo albums since leaving Blur in 2002. This cut is a feisty, jump around rocker with the defeatist lyric "I can't look at your skin, cos it's doing me in."

Drinking Again (link fixed now)
Haley Bonar
Thank you so much to Chad for posting about this songstress. I completely love this song, nice laid back alt-country/folk vibe. Her voice resonates with a sweet sadness, a powerful set of pipes. She kind of reminds me a touch of Lucinda Williams. I have decided I need to listen to more good female artists; you know, represent the gender. If you have any suggestions let me know. Haley is touring this February with Andrew Bird. This song is from her 2003 album The Size of Planets.

Somebody Loves You (Demo)
Eels
Lately Eels have been updating the download section of their site with a lot of goodies, demo versions of songs, interviews, etc. All in preparation for the obvious spike in internet traffic once their new live album, Eels With Strings: Live At Town Hall, is released on CD and DVD February 21. Here is one of the downloads from there, a demo version of "Somebody Loves You." A little rough, but that's the point, I suppose. It's nice.

Gone
Pearl Jam
So I was all set to post something else in the #5 spot, but then I found this new Pearl Jam song and that, of course, blows everything else out of the water. According to MusicCherry, this is one which was announced as likely not making it onto the new album (2006?), unfortunately, but we will see. It has the proper amount of smoldering political angst, and a soaring & melodic chorus. Premiered live in Atlantic City at the Borgata Casino (below).


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Let's get Luce

I nearly just fell out of my chair when I stopped by the Luce website. Their sole tour date currently scheduled is a free show next month at the Air Force Academy, here in beautiful (but quiet) Colorado Springs. How'd I get so lucky? I am by now well-versed in the drive up to Denver or Boulder for shows. Now all you northerners can come down here!

Luce is the band of indepedent singer/songwriter Tom Luce, homegrown in the soil of local San Francisco radio station KFOG. Luce once said that he would feel successful if someday he could hear one of his songs on the radio while he was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. He's there. Luce songs "Buy A Dog" and "Good Day" have been getting quite a bit of airplay on radio stations across the country, and for good reason. They've also been featured on The O.C., which I guess, you know, means that they've like totally *arrived* (or something like that).

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. Luce has two albums out, their self-titled 2003 debut album, and their 2005 sophomore effort Neverending.

- "Amsterdam"
- "
The Sweetest Smile"
- "
Good Day" (acoustic)
- "
In The Middle There" live at Slim's in SF, 6/5/02

Check them out. And come to Colorado Springs next month, we'll all dance with the Air Force cadets to the sweet grooves.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Misheard lyrics

I was ruminating the other day on the topic of misheard lyrics, spurred along by hearing a little AC/DC on the radio. A good friend of mine, who shall remain nameless to preserve her dignity, thought that You Shook Me All Night Long was actually:

"You....showed me ALL I KNOW..."

She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, and she showed me all I know. Isn't that nice?

Then I laughed recently over listening to a Pearl Jam live show where Vedder reveals that Mike McCready (aka guitar wizard for Pearl Jam) thought that the actual Kiss lyrics were, "I wanna rock and roll all night, and part of every day." That sounds about right. Just part of every day.

Finally, what is UP with Blinded by the Light? Wrapped up like a doucher in the roamer of the night? I am too lazy to even look that one up online and see what Manfred Mann is really singing in their rendition. Plus, I like my version better anyways.

You can also check out Am I Right: Making Fun of Music One Song At A Time. A ton of funny misheard lyrics. Ha! And I just laughed out loud because if you check by song, the number one song with misheard lyrics is.....Blinded By The Light. Looks like I am not alone in my bewilderment.

Another well-designed misheard lyrics site is available at Kiss This Guy, after everyone's favorite Jimi Hendrix celebration of purported man love.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Guest blogger: Chris from England

Being a music blogger is especially nifty when someone from your readership takes the time, after reading your post on mix tapes, to send you three mix CDs, full of aural delights.

Chris is from Tottington, England, which is in the Northwest and near Manchester (as Chris says, world famous for his beloved Manchester United soccer team, The Smiths, and Oasis).

Today (unbeknownst to him) I am letting him guest blog, with just a few of the many tracks he sent me, plus comments from the letter which accompanied the discs. I think he has a future as a music blogger!

* * * * *
SOME SONGS AND COMMENTS FROM CHRIS

Six O'Clock On A Tube Stop - A
This sounds a little like Sting (when he was in The Police) fronting Green Day. I kid you not.

Back For Good - McAlmont & Butler
They are a guy who sounds like a girl and the former guitarist from Suede doing a version of a hit by an embarassing British boy band (Take That). On paper this does not sound promising. How come it's fantastic?

Wires - Athlete
This was written about the singer's experience of his son being born prematurely. If you know the background (as with 'Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part') I think it adds to the song - "first night of your life, curled up on your own."

Oh No The Radio - Owsley
A friend said, "You like Weezer? Try this." I did and I liked it a lot. The line about 'singing in a hairbrush and giving Donny and Marie the bum's rush' cracks me up.

Mermaid Blues - Tom McRae
Critically acclaimed, zero sales, great song.

* * * * *
There's lots of other great stuff from Chris that will surely find its way into the Fuel blog in future posts. Thank you sincerely Chris.

Chris also included a song from 'Manchester's finest' (Oasis) on the mix ("The Importance of Being Idle"), and ends with a comment that he went to school with the original Oasis guitarist Paul Arthurs, known as 'Bonehead.'

Now, I am no Oasis expert, or even a very huge fan, but of the handful of their songs that I like, one of my favorites is an extra vinyl track that a friend gave me called 'Bonehead's Bank Holiday.' I love the drunken riff and sloppy singalong style. It's just fun.

In your honor, Chris, here is that track about your former schoolmate chum.

Bonehead's Bank Holiday (extra vinyl track) - Oasis

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wednesdays are for World Music

So, let's try something new here. One of my secret passions is international music because of the way it opens up our ears, and (if you want to be poetic about it) binds us all together in the universal language of really good music.

Kind of makes you feel like the "Happy Hands" performance to The Rose from Napoleon Dynamite, with all the uplifting hand gestures. But, today, all our uplifting will come from the great country of Italy.

Musica italiana is my first world music love, on account of the fact that I studied in Firenze (Florence) for a semester in college. I loved being immersed in the beautiful language and culture. I lived with a wonderful host family and made some fabulous Italian friends. Through our relentless pursuit of higher culture through clubbing, I was introduced to a variety of Italian musical artists. My Italian teacher Vittoria also used popular Italian music to teach us verbs and expressions and such.

So, without further ado (senza aspettando di più):
(And look! All files are now direct links to mp3s via EZArchive. So right click and save target as. No more Savefile!)

"Per La Vita Che Verra," Jovanotti
Jovanotti is a little bit of a mixed bag in Italian hipster circles because he has a sordid history as an Italian rapper, but he has lately expanded his reach into all different kinds of musical styles, and he holds a special place in my heart. I attended a Jovanotti concert in Bologna and met him after the show in 1999 when I was studying there. His pop songs "Per Te," "Raggio di Sole," and "Stella Cometa" were used in my Italian class to teach me the language. This song, from the 1997 album L'Albero, shows Jovanotti's fusion with African sounds, with swelling vocals and chants all throughout this song. It is about "For the life that will come," talking about his future with his woman. Musically, very rich & soaring, with lyrics that are (as my friend Massi once said) molto bello.

"(Storia di un) Corazon," Jovanotti and Jarabe de Palo
This one is a two-for-one, you get your Spanish and you get your Italian in one smooth dose. "History of a heart," this has lines in Spanish by Jarabe de Palo, singer/songwriter from Barcelona, alternating with the same lines in Italian by Jovanotti. This sounds like something you would dance around to in a Cuban plaza on a Friday night, drums pounding. From the 2000 album Il Quinto Mondo.

"Sempre di Domenica," Daniele Silvestri
From the Putumayo Euro LoungeCD, this fast-paced track by Rome native Daniele Silvestri should be the soundtrack to walking down a busy street in a bustling Italian city, dark sunglasses on, looking molto italiano. You will be più ganzo (cooler) *just* for listening to it.

"Sotto Le Stelle Del Jazz" and "Elisir," Paolo Conte
Aahh, Paolo Conte. The gruff, smoky, imitable Italian legend who sings with a smile on his face. You can hear it in almost every song. Paolo Conte always makes me think of my Italian host sister Elena putting on the record in the apartment where we lived (near Santa Croce church and Michelangelo's house) and dancing around while she dusted and cleaned. She'd sing too. It was a beautiful thing. You'll want to do a little two-step too when you listen to Paolo Conte, with his jazzy piano, playful raspy vocals, and Italian scatting. Buy The Best of Paolo Contehere.

"La Noyée" and "Quelqu'Un M'a Dit," Carla Bruni
Here's another two-for-one: Carla Bruni is Italian but sings mostly in French. She's on my Italian list by a generous extension of today's theme. The first song ("Drowned woman") makes me feel like I am floating away on a soft river, eyes half closed (but sleepy, not drowned). Originally written by Serge Gainsbourg, this is a beautiful simple melody that will stick in your head. Quelqu'Un M'a Dit ("Someone told me") is the lovely title track from the album of the same name, which I very highly recommend. It has been getting a lot of attention in the music world, and rightly so - I think it is a great album. Who knew a supermodel could sing so well? She also writes many of her songs. Not too shabby.

Join me next Wednesday for music from another part of the world, and if I have enticed you into my world of Italian music and you would like further translations of any of these lyrics, please let me know. I am a word-o-phile, so for me, knowing the what the lyrics mean help me to enjoy the song more. It is just too long to post here.

Tante buone cose to you all.

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