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)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

It's already a new week? One thing that flew past me in the craziness of last week was a mention of the new Contrast Podcast that I contributed to, where a bunch of us bloggers get together to virtually DJ a radio show. The theme last week was Who? and I finally contributed a most excellent Pearl Jam track ("Who You Are"). I held out on the PJ for a while but hey, what do you expect?

This upcoming week Tim will be putting together Contrast Podcast #18 wherein all of us were supposed to submit an instrumental track and then SING OUR INTRO. I confess, I recorded one and then buckled. I listened to it, buckled, and didn't send it. I can sing, but geez that felt too vulnerable. I'll be interested to see who had the cajones to submit for this week's podcast. In the meantime, listen to last week's for some mind-expanding variety & good tunes.


Chains
Danielia Cotton
Swanky, bluesy, delicious. Danielia Cotton hit the music scene with a bang last year with her Small White Town debut album (HipShake Music). This is a raw, soulful, dust-on-the-front-porch album from Danielia, who alternately shares some of the growl of Joss Stone, the blues-rock of the Black Crowes, and the vocal chops of Janis Joplin. She combines her skills on the guitar with an appreciation of all the musical greats that came before her, and the result is fresh and highly recommended.


So Good To Me
Sam Champion
Now despite the name, Sam Champion is a quartet from New York, not just one guy named Sam (they apparently named their band after a weatherman from a 1974 TV show). Thanks to my pal Chad for enthusiastically recommending this Ryan Adams-fronting-Pavement sound. He said I would be humming the main riff (from this track off their 2005 album Slow Rewind, Razor & Tie) and I have been all morning. A spirited alt-country shout-out chorus with handclaps & some fierce electric guitars; I like it.


Reconstruction Site
The Weakerthans
I am just rediscovering The Weakerthans; an old friend slipped me their Left and Leaving disc back in 2000, and I promptly lost it in a box of stuff when I was moving. I just found it this weekend and have been listening ever since, and catching up on what they've done since then. This track is off their 2003 follow-up to Left and Leaving, the weathered sounds of the Reconstruction Site album. If you've never heard these guys, give all their work a spin. They have a quirky blend of several influences, from country to punk to indie folksy -- all wrapped with bitingly intelligent lyrics. It's those lyrics that make me want to listen again and again. On this track, there's a simple line that nonetheless conveys perfectly a sense of unease: "I'm your dress near the back of your knees and your slip is showing."


Bucket Full Of Nails

Centro-Matic
I swore I wrote something about Centro-Matic a few months ago when I discovered the loose & beautiful sound of these Texas indie-alt-rock-country guys. But I guess not, so now I get to recommend that you take a listen to their newest disc Fort Recovery (Misra Records) which has a melancholy sweet air permeating the whole thing. One reviewer wrote that it captures "that time just before the sun goes down when everything looks burnished and beautiful, but also a little sad" and I completely agree. This piano track also has a lazy touch of Jagger or Wayne Coyne on the vocals.


Into The Groove
Sonic Youth. Covering Madonna. Seriously.
You all know that I love covers, and I will argue that the very best of the covers are the ones that take the original and turn it into something completely new -- Exhibit A: Cat Power, "Satisfaction." Exhibit B: This damn song. The torchbearers of mid-90s-fuzzy-rock, Sonic Youth, slog their way through Madonna's slumber party favorite and, well, there's something special about Thurston Moore's voice cracking on the high notes. Whose idea was this? (thx Matt)


BONUS RECOMMENDED READING: I found that I could relate to about 20 things in this article by the Heather from Dooce, detailing her college years of loving '90s music and BritPop, studying abroad in London and going on an Oasis history hunt, and reflections on how (to her Mormon ears), "the heartbreak in Kurt Cobain's voice was to me what it would sound like to violate all the ten commandments at the same time."

Ha.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hello Stranger!

Thanks to a hot tip from a fellow music blog addict, I recently got turned on to the swanky, fun, clever music of L.A.'s Hello Stranger. Fronted by that hot gal above in the red boots (Juliette Commagere), Hello Stranger has put together a polished, diverse, and radio-ready collection of songs on their self-titled debut album.

Hello Stranger formed in 2003 when Los Angeleña Juliette Commagere and drummer Joachim Cooder (son of bluesman Ry Cooder) met up with the freshly-arrived-in-CA Jared Smith (guitar). With the addition of their bass player Ben Messelbeck, Hello Stranger was born. Their first incarnation as a band was called Vagenius, but I must say Hello Stranger is a vastly better name, mostly because it doesn't sound like an STD.

Fresh and retro-cool, Hello Stranger alternates between the warm loll of a voice like Chrissie Hynde and the teasing pop sound of the Cardigans, with just enough of the coy '80s electronica pop sheen a la Blondie. With playful synthesizers and singalong harmonies, you will want to listen this until the last warmth of summer fades from the streets.

Hello Stranger has toured the country three times (once with Kings of Leon), and were recently holding the Wednesday night rotation spot at Spaceland in Silverlake, a gig previously filled by Giant Drag and Rilo Kiley. So keep an ear out for these folks coming to your town. They're doing a bunch of shows at cool venues in the coming months; Aug 11 at Beauty Bar (San Diego), Aug 24 at Hotel Utah (San Francisco), Sept 5 at the Hi-Dive (Denver) and lots more across the country.

Fluxblog posted up this surprisingly plaintive and pretty two-minute song from them, lamenting the growing distance in a relationship. It is addictively simple, but wrenching as well:

We Used To Talk - Hello Stranger


And then I also highly recommend streaming these other two songs on the Hello Stranger MySpace page:

Her in These Lights (throw this on for your next '80s house party)

Take It To The Max (Catchy hooks. Stream on MySpace or download a minute+ sample here)

Es Tu Vida (a sexy little Spanish dance hit, a nod to Juliette's Mexican heritage).


Their new self-titled album comes out August 8th on Aeronaut Records. It's produced by Ry Cooder and engineered by Don Smith (The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan). I am not sure what's going on with the album cover -- it involves some sort of lunar expedition, accompanied by wolves and crows, with completely appropriate red knee-high boots. Right on, right on. Regardless, this is a disc you should pick up. I am convinced that everyone's music collection can use more good female-fronted sounds, especially one with a hot chick who plays the keytar at the fore.


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Thursday, July 27, 2006

All the Pete Yorn you can handle

Ah, where to begin? I have just spent a fantabulous two days saturated with all the Pete Yorn I can handle (although yes, I'd go for more). Two in-store appearances packed with acoustic rarities, two fantastic concerts with the full repertoire of songs, and a one fine interview for y'all - an insight into the mind of the man behind the music.

Pete Yorn is an authentic, quality singer-songwriter (slash drummer, slash guitarist, slash multi-instrumentalist) with heartfelt passion for his music. This 32-year-old from Jersey combines raw urgency with melodic beauty, and I think that he is currently making and performing some of the best music of his career. If you can catch some of the remaining tour dates or in-stores, I urge you to do so. Many of the shows are sold out, but beg borrow and steal, baby.

If you have not yet read my massive post on Pete Yorn from a few months ago (or are unfamiliar with him), you must do so immediately. Full stop. The coolest thing to happen to me in recent memory is discovering on Monday night that Pete Yorn himself has previously read that very post on my very own little blog (and apparently the version of "Knew Enough To Know Nothing At All" that I have on there is a remix with Velvet Underground loops, not the original). Huh. Sweet beard of Zeus.

After some shuffling of schedules Monday night out on the open-air patio of the Walnut Room in Denver with Pete, we finally found some time to sit down together on Tuesday afternoon up in Boulder on a couch backstage at the Fox Theatre and chat a bit about what he has been up to. What I saw revealed was a rather pensive (but funny) musician with a lot of interesting things to say while he rubbed his guitar-string calloused fingertips.
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Pete Yorn Interview, July 25, 2006
Fox Theatre, Boulder, Colorado


So, tell me about your new album Nightcrawler. What is the musical progression or evolution from your two previous records, Musicforthemorningafter and Day I Forgot, to the new Nightcrawler?

It’s a completely different record than either of the other two records. The natural progression for me is just being older, living more, experiencing more. Right from the first song on Nightcrawler (“Vampyre”), it’s definitely a darker tone than what I’ve set with other records, but there’s a lot of bright spots on there too. But I mean, with any record if you just listen to the first song and think that’s what the whole record is going to sound like, you’d be missing a lot, it’s a pretty diverse. And I work on the order of the songs to make a flow that I like, so yeah, that’s something that’s important to me.

The vibe during the recording was everything from free-and-easy to real pain in the ass. We recorded something like fifty songs for Nightcrawler, so it was hard for me to pick. I have that problem with every record, its always hard for me to pick what’s gonna make it and what’s not gonna make it. I try to put together a group of songs that’s gonna fit well together, ones that kind of enhance each other. I started recording songs for Nightcrawler at the end of 2003, beginning of 2004, so it’s been a few years in the making, lots of songs recorded.


Were the Westerns EP songs recorded during the Nightcrawler sessions? Or do you look at that as a separate project?

A bunch of those songs were done & recorded in Jersey. Some of that stuff was like the first stuff I did when I got inspired to record again, and it always just stayed with me. Then I kinda went and started doin’ the other stuff, but then when it was time to put the record together I was like, “Man, I really want that [Westerns] stuff to get out there.” It just has an innocence to it, to my ear anyway, that I like. Westerns just feels a little more rootsy to me than Nightcrawler.

And the Dixie Chicks got involved because I was writing songs with them for their record, and we were friends through that. Then, they came out to L.A. to do their record with Rick Rubin, and that’s where I was recording at the time, so I asked them to come . . . I thought they would just be perfect for those songs.


Do you think there is more freedom in doing an EP than a full-length album because perhaps there aren’t the same commerical pressures with an EP?

Hmmmm. No. That’s never why I do it anyway, so I mean – maybe other people are pressured to market it. But I just want to put forward music that I am into, music that I want to play, that captures a good vibe. So whether its Westerns or Nightcrawler, it’s the same approach.


You opened for Bon Jovi in 2003 . . .

Yeah (laughs)…

And you’ve played hundreds of shows, both large and small. Is there one that stands out in your mind as being particularly memorable?

Yeah, uh . . . last night in Denver? I always remember my last show the most vividly. But they’re all different in their own way. It’s weird with me, like sometimes I’ll be havin’ a bad time during the show, and then I get offstage and everyone thinks it’s like the greatest show we’ve ever played. Then there’ll be times when we’ll be having the best time on stage and everyone’s like, “Eh, it was just alright …” So my perception of a good time might be different than what’s going on in front, but I try to make every show stand out in its own way.


What excites you about music today?

I listen to mostly older stuff. I haven’t really been listening to much new stuff at all. It’s like I do so much music that it’s all I do, so I haven’t been listening to music that much. I kind of like to take a break from it on my downtime. So like, driving around I listen to talk radio.

Can you list any of your top desert island discs?

Oh man, it changes a lot.
London Calling I love, always have, still do. Sounds great.
The Stones -- Sticky Fingers, Let it Bleed, Exile On Main Street. I like the Stones a lot.
Uh, Beach Boys, Pet Sounds


What was the first song you remember learning? Either on drums or guitar, since I know you do both.

On drums I remember learning “Dance The Night Away” by Van Halen when I was like nine. On guitar, like at 12 or 13, I learned maybe like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or something. Those first chords. And I remember learning bass lines, like I could play “Smoke On The Water” or Violent Femmes' “Blister in the Sun” (sings tune). But then I learned chords and I remember that Poison song was two chords, it was like G and C, so it was easy. And I told my mom that I wrote it (laughs).


You've performed a variety of interesting covers, from Mark James’ “Suspicious Minds” to Beach Boys to The Smiths. How do you pick covers? Are there just songs that you can see through to the core of it and know it conveys something for you?

Hmmm, well sometimes lyrically something will really hit home, like “Oh, I wish I said that” and then you’ll want to sing it. Like with [The Smiths’] “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” I’ve always loved that song so much. It’s kind of dark imagery in it, but the other night somewhere I did [Warren Zevon’s] “Splendid Isolation” into “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and lyrically they are such strong statements, they’re like polar opposites. Like one’s this too-super-cynical guy who just wants to be alone and be a hermit, and then on the other side of someone who is so lonesome they just want to go out and don’t even care if they crash and die next to the person -- they are so desperate for contact. And I never realized that until I sang them both back to back, I was like “holy shit.” Then I see the parallels in a lot of my own songs, when I’ll go into a song and then the next song for some reason will pop into my head as a polar opposites.


Are there any songs that you think would be cool to cover that you haven’t done yet?

“Unsatisfied” by Paul Westerberg – The Replacements. Definitely.


I always appreciate the interesting layers of percussion that you use in all of your songs, and I know that your roots are as a drummer. When it comes to songwriting, what comes first in your mind? Do you ever think of the drum portion first and then go into the melody or the lyric?

Yeah, “Strange Condition” was a drumbeat, it was just like (“slap, pat, tap tap, pat” on his knees) and I was like, “I like that beat, I’m gonna write a song to that.” Um, “Committed” was a drumbeat. Committed was actually the drumbeat to “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, exactly. I mean, literally, it was The Drums from Surrender -- we got the tracks of Bun E. Carlos playing it, just the drum track, and Surrender is a great song, great rhythm, great tempo, and I just threw it down and wrote Committed - just played into it. Someone emailed me saying that they heard Bun E. Carlos on XM Radio or something the other day -- or maybe it was Sirius or something – and he was saying, “Oh yeah, I played drums on 'Committed' with Pete Yorn,” even though it was just his drum disc. Well, it IS him, but it wasn’t like he was there. I was surprised he even knew about it. In the credits I did put Bun E. Carlos on it. But it is as it is.


So you do work from those different perspectives when you’re writing songs . . .

Yeah, like, “Black” I wrote on the bass, it’s just a bass line -- you know, like (imitates bass line) -- and immediately that drumbeat just came right in (slaps his knees in time). But yeah, a lot of stuff starts from that bass and rhythm.


You played a gorgeous version of Bandstand In The Sky last night, and I know that you’ve said that was written the day Jeff Buckley died.

Yeah, I wrote that when I heard the news. I didn’t know him, but it just popped out. I’m a fan of Grace. I remember the first time I heard it, I was in school still, college. I ‘member this friend of mine was a film major and asked me to be in his student film and I was like, “Alright, sure.” And I remember we were filming at a gas station and I had to just sit in the car and throw a tennis ball at the dashboard and catch it, for like, hours. It took them forever to set up the shot, they were just learning how to use all the stuff and nothing would work. So I’m just sitting in the car for hours and I remember just playing “Last Goodbye” on repeat. Just over and over and over and over again, loving that song, and loving the whole record.

[Pauses] . . . But just having a night with that. It would end and I’d start it again.

The last song on Nightcrawler is a studio version of "Bandstand." It’s kind of slow, mid-tempo. It’s a cool version.


You’ve had a lot of songs on movie soundtracks in the past few years. Do you have anything new coming up?

Yeah, I just did a, uh, Paul Westerberg song. He scored this new animated movie that’s coming out called Open Season, and they called me and asked me to sing one of the songs, so I recorded it and sang it. In the movie there’s an orchestrated version, then I recorded one for the soundtrack, like my own version. The song is called “I Belong,” and I think it comes out September 29th.


One last thing – speaking of movies; How in the world did you end up playing bongo drums on the Anchorman video for “Afternoon Delight”?

(Laughs) Yeah, how did that come about?
Um, my friend recorded the song for them, for “Afternoon Delight,” my buddy Doc. And he called me one day and he was like, “Dude, they need people to be in this video they’re shooting!” and I was like, “What is it?’ and he’s like “It’s fuckin’ Will Ferrell in Anchorman!” and I was like “No shit, really? Hell yeah, let’s do it!” I had nothing to do, so I headed down and they slapped some big old moustache on me and a turtleneck. Actually if you notice, I’m not playing with my hands, I’m playing with mallets! I’m playing mallets on the bongo, it’s really . . . silly.

[Commence laughing, general thanking, and farewells as we realize the time and Pete heads off to his in-store; you know, poor form to be late to those]

Additional photos from Dave Ventimiglia, taken at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis, 7/1/06.
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Now I've amassed such a collection of songs & video from the last two days that it is hard to filter (hence the exercise in complete excess which follows shortly). The live shows were absolutely amazing; Pete is backed by an excellent band that knows their shiz -- they are cohesive and tight, but they also are having a good time (the proof is right here).

I have picked out some of my favorites from the two shows here (caveat -- I taped it again myself so don't expect excellent audio, just a document of the occasion that is listenable, except maybe for the warbling girls next to me):

FOUR HIGHLIGHTS FROM DENVER
Crystal Village
This song is absolutely anthemic in concert, an elevating experience. Listen to the crowd sing along. "Take my hand, come with me, I see the lights so brightly. And we fall as if we never really mattered."

Good Advice
A rocker off the Westerns EP, full of lyrics about showin' the world you can dance. Even if you can't. Bassist Sid Jordan manages to thrum out the hip-shakin' bass line, sing harmonies throughout the show, and all without taking the cigarette out of his mouth. It's a gift, really.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (Smiths cover)
I had never really listened to these lyrics before Pete played it because I was not a goth kid in high school (you know the two camps, goth or rock?) but now I am glad to have it in my musical knowledge because it is so evocative & urgent.

Bandstand In The Sky
I can't express how breathless I was when he announced this song, since it was written about Jeff Buckley and I had just been thinking as I drove up to the concert how much I would love to hear this live. Stunning.


THREE HIGHLIGHTS FROM BOULDER
A Girl Like You

One of the things I had said to Pete the night before was that I had missed the inclusion of "Girl Like You" (after which he asked if I had green eyes, but I didn't get the lyrical reference until about an hour later when I was driving home and I had a smack-the-forehead moment). This is such a perfect little song.

For Nancy ('Cos It Already Is)
This song rocks hard live, and watching drummer Mal Cross furiously cut loose at the end just exhausted me in one of the best ways possible.

Lose You
The opening piano notes of this song just hang in the air with such a sense of anticipation, it almost knocked the wind out of me. Another absolute gem. Joe Kennedy rocks on the piano.


IN-STORE PERFORMANCES
Then I will post the complete sets for both in-store performances, since the audio quality is better on these and the songs are generally pretty rare.

Denver, Twist 'N' Shout
July 24, 2006
1. Knew Enough To Know Nothing At All
2. James in Liverpool
(very rare, not played in years)
3. Hunter Green
4. Golden Road
(off the new Westerns EP, great video coming)
5. Search Your Heart (another new one, possible b-side)

Boulder, Bart's Records
July 25, 2006
1. Splendid Isolation
(Warren Zevon cover)
2. Baby I'm Gone (yeah!)
3. I Feel Good Again (Junior Kimbrough cover)
4. June (Pete refers to this as one of his favorite songs)
5. Alive (from the new album Nightcrawler)


COMPLETE SETS
Finally, I also uploaded and zipped the full shows:

7/25/06 at the Walnut Room, Denver (setlist here)
7/26/06 at the Fox Theatre, Boulder (setlist here)


And if by some absolute anomaly you are still not sated, videos will come once I can beat YouTube into some sort of submission.



And happy birthday today, Pete. Keep on rockin' that goood music.

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It's All About the Music

So if you were busy last weekend when the WXPN All About The Music Festival was streaming all that great live music (or like me, trying to simultaneously mind the BBQ and listen - not easy) Sweet Oblivion has ripped some audio, including Brandi Carlile's set and Jim James from My Morning Jacket.

Brandi also cranked out one additional tune which was not broadcast on the streaming audio show, but thanks to little music elves I have a copy for you. It is a quality version of her wrenching cover of Radiohead's Creep, in all of its angsty glory. I think it is a really lovely cover:

"Creep" - Brandi Carlile

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Odds & ends

Nope, I am not dead, just bit zonked today as I recover from my last two days & nights of rock 'n' roll excess. There are a few things I wanted to share with you:

Ray LaMontagne = out of the Guster tour
Nada Surf = in with the Guster tour
I had tickets to the Denver show, and I am hoping that now Ray LaMontagne will reschedule with solo shows. I hear that the dear Guster fans were not very supportive of Mr. LaMontagne and his music, which is unfortunate. I'm just sayin', is all.


Oasis has hand-assembled their favorite tracks for a best-of CD coming out in November, called Stop The Clocks. Grandiosely they've announced that these are "the songs they believe encapsulate their remarkable career to date."


Stop the presses. One of the members of N*SYNC (did I get the star in the right place?) Lance Bass is gay.

Shut up. Didn't see that one coming, right?




Since we're chatting about boy bands already, Justin Timberlake has his new sexxy video on the web (and yes, it is "sexxy" with 2 x's). You know you never listen to Justin Timberlake, right? As my friend Chad says, those songs you have in your iTunes library are just free software packages that came with the computer or something. Hey, how did those get on there? ("I feel like somethin's heatin' up - Can I leave wich u?...")


James Hunter, whose disc People Gonna Talk is a new summertime favorite, is doing a free in-store in San Francisco on Friday (Virgin Megastore on Stockton) at 6pm. Check out this fantastic blend of Van Morrison, Sam Cooke, and sheer goodness. Some Velvet Blog has two live songs from him for exclusive download.


You can watch the newly reformed New York Dolls perform "Looking For A Kiss" on the Henry Rollins show. Don't you think that Henry Rollins could totally take on all four of the Dolls in a barroom brawl? Maybe with just one massive, massive arm?


Fuel favorite LUCE has some new tour dates announced for August & September (including one here on my Dad's birthday. I think I should take him). Read about this great San Francisco band here.


Oh, and paparrazzi stalkers record 18 minutes of new U2 off Bono's patio. Creepy, yet oddly irresistable. And yes, yes I know that Pearl Jam is opening for U2 in Hawaii. Cara and I are trying to think of ways to jumpstart our pro-surfing careers to get some all-expense paid trips to Hawaii. We're working on it, and will let you know how it goes.



An absolute orgy of Pete Yorn goodies coming later, for those so inclined. Audio, video, interview - it will be a thing of glory. Just wait.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

I have been finding a lot of interesting reading on the always-packed-with-goodness Largehearted Boy blog/music news conglomerate. I recommend you browse it yourself, but the link that I thought was the most amusing recently was this description of a new game, iPod War. It's like the old card game you played when you were seven because it was the only game you could understand ("War! My eight beats your two!"), but with iPods set to shuffle. Sounds lame a little, yes, but the way she explains it made me laugh.

You and a friend each set your iPod on shuffle, then listen to and compare what pops up. Whoever has 'The Better Song' gets one point. The author illustrates several vagaries to consider in judging:

-Older doesn't always mean better. ("Yes, music was exceptionally rad from 1964-1982. Doesn't mean a song from 1995 can't be better.")
-Don't demand a win on principle. (You say: "But the Rolling Stones kick Prince's ass!") Each song should be evaluated on its own merit. (I say: "While The Stones are an important part of music history, there are lots of Stones songs that are mediocre/sucky and some Prince songs that fucking rule.").
-Counting Crows never wins.
-If neither person will concede the win, "Vietnam" is declared (both sides claim a win, but nobody really won).


Even though, clearly, sometimes the Counting Crows DO win, I applaud her creativity. A simple little game for the music nerds out there, to entertain yourself for a trip on the tube or a really boring homeroom class.

Onto my random musical selection for this week, for your enjoyment.

Happiness
Michael Stipe & Rain Phoenix
I've been on a bit of an R.E.M. kick lately after making a mix up for a friend who was severely lacking in the Athens, Georgia college band department. Amidst my sifting, I rediscovered this poppy little song from the soundtrack of the 1998 film of the same name by Welcome to the Dollhouse director Todd Solondz. The song is written by Eytan Mirsky, and it plays over the ending credits. Who knew Rain Phoenix could sing? Those multi-talented Phoenixes.


Bounce That
Girl Talk
This looks horrifying, but I cannot defy the inexorable and unexpected party power of this fantastic song. If you are able to listen to this guilty pleasure without moving some piece of yourself (be it a tapped toe, a bouncing chin, a shakin' rear end) then I will personally salute you in disbelief. The inexplicably awful-named Girl Talk (aka Greg Gillis) has made "the ADD-afflicted's album of the year" with Night Ripper, which throws together literally hundreds of recognizable hooks from popular songs of the past 40 years in an extremely pleasurable blend. It has been burning up the blogs (especially after Pitchfork gave it an 8.4). I hear everything from the Breeders to Elastica to Van Halen, Smashing Pumpkins, Temptations -- come on. It looks like a really bad idea, but I swear it's not. Download it immediately.


Mine Ain't Yours
Lions In The Street
Magnet Magazine said of these guys, "What the Stones were, what the Dandy Warhols should've been" -- and they are spot-on. Lions In The Street (who borrow their name from a Doors lyric) have released a sloppy & bluesy free EP on their website, I recommend snagging these five songs and adding them to your collection. They' re embarking on their first US tour this summer/fall - in the past they've opened for Kings of Leon, JET, Ambulance LTD, and The Zutons. Swaggering & rollicking stuff.


Tell Me
Rooney
This new one from L.A.-based retro-rock outfit Rooney was posted on their website last week as a little sample of their sophomore album, due out Fall 2006. We've got some serious '70s arena rock goin' on here - sounds like the kid from The Redwalls fronting Queen. Anthemic and fun, and I do like it, but I'm still trying to assimilate the fact that they're touring with Kelly Clarkson this summer. What?


Atlantic City/Murray
Pete Yorn
This one is a nod to the fact that mere hours from now I will be heading to see Mr. Yorn himself -- first to the in-store at the Twist 'N' Shout, then off to the sold-out show at the Walnut Room.I am uber looking forward to it, it will be the first time I've seen him live. This track is a standout from his excellent double-disc Live From New Jersey (2004), blending together some Springsteen with a Yorn original. The subject matter fits, the transition is seamless. If you don't have any other Yorn stuff and want a good introduction, I recommend the live CD, and remember his new disc Nightcrawler comes out August 29.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Stream good live music online today

WXPN in Philly is hosting their All About The Music Festival this weekend, and after torrential monsoon rains and lightning yesterday, some of the acts have been rescheduled for today -- joining a line-up that was pretty top-notch to begin with. You can stream all the sets online today (terrestrial listeners in Philly and Delaware Valley and South Jersey can tune in at 88.5), and read more about the acts on the music page. If you are around the house and looking for some good listenin' today, these acts are hard to beat:

1:50pm (all times EDT) Lotus
2:50pm Jim James of My Morning Jacket
4:00pm IV Thieves <---Formerly Nic Armstrong & The Thieves
5:10pm Alejandro Escovedo
6:25pm Amos Lee
7:40pm Brandi Carlile
9:10pm Allen Toussaint

STREAM IT HERE

And I don't know if this will be broadcast online because it is the smaller stage but:

12noon Ben Franklin Middle School Drummers with Attitude


That ROCKS. Where was that group when I was in middle school? Instead I was in the 'Anne of Green Gables' musical. Sigh.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

O! New & unreleased songs from Damien Rice

I absolutely love Ireland's unofficial Ambassador of Melancholy Damien Rice and his 2003 release O. There is so much beauty, longing, and sadness wrapped up into those songs. Rice has a way of constructing these haunting & languid melodies, incorporating evocative strings to have as potent of a voice as his own. And, for the record, "The Blower's Daughter" is the best 3am song ever ever written. (Oh, Wayne Rooney likes it too)

So, recently when a friend shared five new/unreleased songs from Damien Rice, I was excited to hear some new material which might be on his sophomore album (very tentatively rumored to be called "Childish" and out in December, according to Rice at a recent concert). Details on the new album are super sketch at this point, but Q Magazine did report that the song "Cross-eyed Bear" (which Rice contributed to the Help: A Day In The Life compilation) is a taste of new material and the direction he is going for the second album. These other five tracks will also give you a sense of what's he's been up to.

Accidental Babies - Damien Rice
A popular and notable addition to many of his recent live shows (this version is from a June 2005 Paris show @ Le Trianon); a gut-wrenching piece about love & loss that I can't stop listening to. This is the age-old breakup song wherein the singer wonders about everything his lover is doing with her new guy ("Do you brush your teeth before you kiss? Do you miss my smell? Do you really feel alive without me? If so, be free. If not, leave him for me - before one of us has accidental babies.")

Toffee Pop (live) - Damien Rice
A mid-tempo number, beginning with furious acoustic guitar and a tapping foot as the sole percussion. A more playful song which I take to be about falling in love (or lust or something in between): "Lollipop licking with Lola sticking like toffee to my teeth / Wait, watch, gravitate." This was first heard with Juniper, Damien's earlier band with guys who are now in Bell X1.

Then Go (live) - Lisa Hannigan & Damien Rice
This is another Juniper song, this version featuring Lisa Hannigan handling the lead vocals with Rice coming in with harmonies. Haunting and somber, as her voice always is. The lyric "Did your mother have you easily?" reminds me of the Ryan Adams lyric (which I find sweet, though others would argue it is creepy): "I would have held your mother's hand on the day that you were born."

Sand (radio broadcast version) - Damien Rice
A simple song of happy love, of a growing conviction that you are with the right person. "My love, my life, my work, my time / I give them all to you / Your hand in mine we walk, we talk in rhyme / We go the whole night through."

Baby Sister (radio broadcast version) - Damien Rice
Another older unreleased song, Rice addresses grittier subject matter with this ode to escaping domestic violence. "Baby sister, keep drinking / Or he'll hit you / He'll bleach your eyes / So be a good girl / Just for the night / And run, run..."

As a bonus, I've long found this hidden track from "O" to be quietly devastating, but it doesn't fit on a Christmas mix because, well, it only shares the melody of the Christmas carol and none of the calmness, brightness or peace. The a cappella vocals are all by the lovely 24-year-old Lisa Hannigan, who accompanies Rice on many of his songs.

Silent Night - Lisa Hannigan & Damien Rice


If the above links quit working, as they have been wont to do lately, here is a temporary YouSendIt link of all the songs in a zip file here.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Another reason I should have sacrificed my left kidney in order to be in San Francisco these last few days

In addition to Pearl Jam playing one of the best setlists I've ever seen on Sunday night in my beloved San Francisco (as in, if I could have handpicked my favorite songs for a set, this would be a solid frontrunner), they unleashed this on Tuesday night. And I wasn't there for either.

I KNEW I should have stowed away in that airplane wheelwell (since I couldn't afford a plane ticket) after a KICKASS reader offered me a free ticket to one of the SF shows.

All Along The Watchtower - Pearl Jam
(written by Dylan, but how can you not associate Hendrix when you hear this version?)

Ed introduces this song by saying:
". . . And I'm not sure why, but this feels like a San Francisco song. And, uh . . . I think we're gonna play the shit out of it."

(cue McCready, who finished the song with this) . . .

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Ben Kweller: New song & some old goodness

Ben Kweller has a new album coming out, called . . . Ben Kweller (due Sept 12). This is apparently because the album is all him, singing, doing all the instruments. Pretty impressive stuff, especially from a new dad who likely doesn't even get to sleep at night. If Kweller really wanted to work it rock 'n' roll style, he could let said new baby cry on the background tracks for a song on the album, a la Coco Gordon Moore (Sonic Youth offspring) on the Mike Watt Ballhog or Tugboat album. But I digress (as usual - it's just how my brain works).

Ben Kweller doesn't look a day over twelve (okay, he's 25), but here he is both reproducing AND recording mature, well-thought-out, melodic pop. More power to him (although I don't advocate the concept of actual twelve-year-olds reproducing, for the record). Here's a little snippet off the new disc, which is a surprisingly lovely piece of storytelling.

Oh, and try and argue that this is not the perfect first song for your next roadtrip mixtape.

Penny On The Train Track - Ben Kweller


As a bonus, just because the deadpan nature of this cover (everyone's favorite song from the Cocktail soundtrack) is priceless:

Kokomo - Adam Green & Ben Kweller


Thanks to the (currently-hacked) Stereogum for both.

Next up for Ben is an appearance at Lollapalooza, then off to Europe for a few shows. And hopefully some sleep.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

500 Beatles Tapes Discovered

I thought this was such a cool story. I get all fluttery inside when I think of all the amazing music laying around in boxes, lost, forgotten. You may not know this, but my secret #1 job of all time for most of my life has been Archaeologist. So this is like music archaeology, and it doesn't get any better than that.

(Songs at the end)

"500 Beatles tapes are found
By Will Pavia and Devika Bhat, The Times (UK)

Thought you'd heard every note? Fans of the biggest group of all time are now waiting for new sounds.

It is a priceless insight into the creative processes of the most celebrated pop group of all time — more than 500 tapes of the Beatles arguing, singing snatches of old tunes and jamming to unreleased tracks.

But for 35 years only tantalising fragments of the missing tapes had emerged, until they turned up as evidence in an English court after a long investigation into their whereabouts. Now Beatles fans are hoping for the release of a treasure trove of material they’ve never heard before.

The story starts in 1969, in a damp room at Twickenham Studios. The Get Back sessions were an attempt to reunite the men who had dominated popular music for the past few years — to try to find a way past the tensions that were beginning to divide them, to find the sound they hoped would hark back to their first years together.

Their efforts were recorded on camera and audio reels. “We were sitting in the studio and we made it up out of thin air,” Sir Paul McCartney wrote.

The tapes recorded them performing more than 200 cover versions of work by the artists who had influenced them: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. They played their own version of Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind, and Rod Stewart’s Maggie May. They belted out Great Balls of Fire, Hippy Hippy Shake and Lucille in spontaneous bursts of play.

The album that emerged was later shelved, then put together again a year later by Phil Spector as Let It Be.

The tapes were placed in storage. Then they disappeared. Since then, bootlegged fragments have emerged — the dialogue, arguments, jokes and songs selling for hundreds of pounds. Fans attempted to piece them together, but it was only when the tapes were advertised in a local newspaper that the investigation made any real progress.

Documents found at the home of Nigel Oliver, 55, from Slough, led investigators to raid a warehouse in the Netherlands in 2003, where the tapes were found. Police also found a key to a suitcase containing the 1960 passport of George Harrison. Three men were then called to a police station in Amsterdam. They had been the original sound engineers during the Get Back sessions. They recognised their own voices, mixed with those of the Beatles, on the tapes.

Yesterday, Oliver, who was found unfit to stand trial, was sentenced to a two-year supervision order for handling stolen goods. Neil Aspinall, the band’s first road manager and now head of the Apple estate, told the court: “These tapes have huge commercial value. There’s lots of very unknown stuff and music on there that they wouldn’t have recorded in a normal session.”

One Beatles follower has an especially personal interest. Hunter Davies, the band’s authorised biographer, said: “In 1968 Paul McCartney came to my house and he used to play the guitar on the lavatory. He found out my real first name was Eddie and wrote a song about that. Later someone sent me a bootlegged version from the sessions. It’s two verses, sort of mocking me. Now I’m hoping to hear the original.”
________________________________________________

Here are a few rad Beatles demos that I have, and I have no idea of the history. They could be from these tapes, or somewhere in that era. Anyone heard them before?

"Something" (demo) - The Beatles

"Golden Slumbers" (demo) - The Beatles

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" (Dylan cover) - The Beatles

"Get Back" (demo) - The Beatles

and, my personal favorite:

"Heather" - The Beatles (damn time I got my own song)


And Eric over at Marathonpacks (whom I love for his mad Beatles-talkin'-skills) has a delightful post about two Fake Beatles Songs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

World Music Wednesday: Nil Lara

Nil Lara is a Cuban-American songwriter with Venezuelan roots who has just blown me away. I read about him recently on Matt Nathanson's celebrity playlist (of all places), sought him out, and immediately loved what I heard. Lara is soulful and passionate and sings like his heart is burning. Add in heavy doses of warm & layered Latin percussion, traditional Cuban and Venezuelan string instruments, and his soaring chants and vocals (in a combination of Spanish and English) - and I was hooked.

It's been named by some "Number 2 on my list of Best Albums By People That 99.5% of the World Has Never Heard Of."

His 1996 self-titled album was critically acclaimed, but never received the popular attention it deserves. As such it is kind of hard to find: It is on iTunes (but not eMusic), and you can find used copies on Amazon. I would completely go see him live, and surely dance myself sore, but he seems to be on indefinite hiatus. Download these, and buy the album, though - sheer fabulousness.

I Will Be Free - Nil Lara
(I love the Spanish ululating -- which almost sounds African at times -- and furious guitar strumming on this one)

Mama's Chant - Nil Lara
(standout traditional drum & chant piece, builds slowly and you feel it from your toes on up)

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Snap!


Yesterday Colorado Springs was named the Best Place to Live in America in the big city category (300K+) by Money Magazine.

Told ya.


"Colorado Springs" - Sack
From the NME Songs To Save Your Life CD
(compiled by Morrissey, 2004)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

He moves his words like a prizefighter

Let me start by saying that although I am a force to be reckoned with with certain kinds of puzzles and games (Jeopardy, um, checkers), I HATE the New York Times crossword puzzle (and no, I am not using that word too strongly). Clues like "slant differently" and "Banquo, e.g." just make me feel stupid. So I avoid it and we are all happier people. That being said, Wordplay made me want to give it a second chance and sharpen my pencil.

Wordplay is a new documentary about championship crossword puzzlers that I saw this weekend. No, really. AND here's the rub: It is actually vastly enjoyable and entertaining with quite the deluxe soundtrack (you knew I was going there).

From the opening notes of the perfectly placed Cake song ("Adjectives on the typewriter/He moves his words like a prizefighter/The frenzied pace of the mind inside the cell") to the Eels & They Might Be Giants in the middle, Talking Heads covers by Shawn Colvin (has Sunny come home yet?) and the original compositions by Gary Louris (The Jayhawks & Golden Smog), it's fantastic.

This movie explains what the little nerds of Spellbound aspire to when they grow up. It's crazy to hear these people speak in such reverent terms of their annual gathering in the Stamford, CT Marriott; it is the Holy Grail, American Idol, and the prom all rolled up into one. But it's played with a light touch by director Patrick Creadon, and is overall a lot of fun to watch. You end up rooting for your favorite competitor, and as my friend is rumored to have said, "I never expected to cry in a movie about crossword puzzles."

If I cried at all, by JOVE, it was due to laughing at Jon Stewart, who stars in the movie as well as other crossword-puzzlers like the Indigo Girls, Bill Clinton and (Yankees' pitcher) Mike Mussina. Jon Stewart's comments about what he perceived famed Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz to be like before he met him were worth the price of admission alone: "You picture this guy who's like . . . 13, 14 inches tall, doesn't care to go more than 5 feet without his inhaler. But then you meet him and, wow! He's tall. He's like the Errol Flynn of the crossword puzzle world." I wonder if I could somehow get Jon Stewart to come live at my house.

Shadow Stabbing - Cake
Originally from Comfort Eagle (2001), possibly my favorite song on that album.

Saturday Morning - Eels
Originally from Shootenanny! (2003)

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) - Shawn Colvin
Talking Heads cover, originally from Cover Girl (1994)

Plus, you can listen to songwriter Gary Louris perform three other songs from the movie ("Read Every Word" from the ending credits, "Listen Joe," and "Tarpit") on Minnesota Public Radio.


13 Across: Good fun.

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More Jeff Buckley rarities

I have this amazing secret reference person, known only to me by email, a San Franciscan named Lisa who is a veritable treasure trove of Jeff Buckley information. She found me after my first Jeff Buckley post, and she has been a superstar ever since.

My friend Matthew, who runs the Don't Need Anything blog, recently posted some intriguing-sounding Jeff Buckley songs without any information about what they were or where they came from. Since you know that I just finished reading that Jeff Buckley bio, I wanted to plug the songs into the timetable in my head and get more information.

So, this becomes a story of when Lisa met Matthew (sort of).

I forwarded Lisa the link to see what she knew. Of course, she replied in full glory. She writes:

To the absolute joy and amazement of many, some of these songs surfaced late this past winter. No one really knows their origin. The file that contained the tracks was entitled "Rarities From NYC."

With the exception of "Forget Her" (which was most likely recorded during the Grace sessions), it's believed that most of the tracks were recorded in New York City in early to mid ‘96. I remember reading that Jeff had a bunch of cassettes that contained some of the music from his time with the boys in Sag Harbor, in late 95. But these were pretty much just shit they were purging from themselves after Grace.

Then there are the rehearsals and preliminary versions of songs for My Sweetheart the Drunk, recorded at Sorcerer in NYC in the summer of 96 with Tom Verlaine, pre-Parker Kindred (last drummer). Then there are some studio recordings with Verlaine after Parker joined on as well. It's hard to pin them down because they aren't mentioned in anything that's been written about. One can only speculate.

We don't know who is jamming with Jeff on “When The Levee Breaks” (which is a total joy to hear, considering Jeff's love of Zeppelin), or on “We Could Be So Happy Baby” (which is fantastic to be able to hear an arrangement with a full band). I'm guessing this was recorded before his 4-track version from his solo sessions in Memphis that actually ends up on My Sweetheart the Drunk. It's just lovely to hear him pulling the guys through some of these songs like when he sings out the chords: "Gimmie A,A,A,A,A...” in “When My Love Comes Down.”

I'm sure there's a lot of music that Sony and the Estate are unaware of. Anyone who worked with Jeff during his recording lifetime is bound to have unreleased material. And you know how it is . . . music has a way of drifting around through fellow musicians, lovers, friends and acquaintances. It's well known that Jeff made tapes for his bandmates and lovers. I met a guy here in SF that was friends with drummer Eric Eidel, who played and recorded with Jeff (between Matt's exit and Parker's entrance). He claimed to have those sessions on tape, which I believe are some of the Verlaine sessions.

There are a bunch of songs that are known of but haven't surfaced yet. Some of them have twisted titles, such as “Dendrils of Death,” “Men on Drugs,” “Open Up and Bleed,” and “I Love Liquor.” Then there's the infamous “Sky Blue Skin,” which (guitarist) Michael Tighe refers to as an important piece of music. And the hits keep coming -- ha!

Anyway, hope that sheds a shred of light . . . Keep those Buckley posts coming. It's wonderful that people are still excited to hear his work. You have to love the way the music inevitably finds its way into the hands of those who really desire to hear it. The best part is, no one can capitalize on it. It's just all about the love of his music.

And yes, she writes that eloquently all the time. Flippin' sweet.


When The Levee Breaks - Jeff Buckley
(Kansas Joe McCoy & Memphis Minnie cover, made popular by Led Zeppelin)

I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby - Jeff Buckley

Forget Her (alternate version) - Jeff Buckley
(I think this could have completely been a single, but Jeff disagreed with me and Sony on that one)

Opened Once (Instrumental) - Jeff Buckley

River of Dope - Jeff Buckley
(hypnotic)

When My Love Comes Down - Jeff Buckley


Untitled - Jeff Buckley

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One You May Have Missed: The Shore

I had three of my friends in the car the other week and I slipped some music by The Shore into the mix and asked them what they thought of it. One was convinced it was The Verve, and the other thought she recognized some of the melodic grit of the Stereophonics. They were both wrong, but we all liked it.

I felt kind of like the guy from the Taster's Choice Instant Coffee commercials in the '80s: "While you weren't looking, I secretly substituted your Richard Ashcroft with THE SHORE." (cued surprised looks amongst my friends, perhaps one mouth formed into an "O" with a hand placed on the cheek, astonished. Then they take another sip, and nod appreciatively.)

A certain musical know-it-all recently recommended that I take a listen to The Shore, an L.A.-based trio who somehow slipped past the mainstream musical scene but are definitely worth some of your time. Their dusty, beautiful music does indeed incorporate many elements of the above-mentioned folks (including all the oooh, ooooohs you can shake a stick at), but after you give it several listens it gets richer each time, until it truly stands out on its own and you forget the comparisons.

The year was 2004, the label was Maverick. These two tracks I've picked for you are my favorites off their self-titled debut album. The first song ("Waiting For The Sun") has a spacey, swirling opening that reminds me of another song I have on my iPod called "Dark Water and Stars" from Natural Calamity. Regardless of whether you've heard that song, the title perfectly evokes the feel of this album. Practically every song lends itself well to imagery of water & ocean; I can completely see myself listening to this whole album on a rocky San Francisco beach.

"Take What's Mine" is a piano ballad, and oh, how I love piano. This song is also a showcase for singer Ben Ashley's pleasing and flexible vocal range, with a rich layer of elegant and sweeping strings that somehow, nonetheless, rock.

"Waiting For the Sun" - The Shore

"Take What's Mine" - The Shore

If you like this, their album from their days at Maverick is available on iTunes (they've parted ways with Maverick now, gone all free-agent). You can also stream 4 songs, three of which are unreleased, on their MySpace page. Or buy the actual CD on Amazon. Either way, I think you'll thank me for it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

50 Albums That Changed Music

The Observer (UK) has thoughtfully compiled their version of the 50 Albums That Changed Music. Although we all learned with Paste Magazine's attempt to pin down the 100 Greatest Living Songwriters that, well, conclusive lists are impossible to compile (check out all your feisty comments on that post), I appreciate The Observer's efforts because they draw lines connecting WHY these are important albums.

For example, they draw some obvious parallels, such as how without Robert Johnson there'd be no Rolling Stones, Cream, or Led Zeppelin. But then they also have some (without Prince, there'd be no Beck, without Brian Eno there'd be no Juana Molina?) that made me stop and think, "Huh. Never looked at it like that before."

Glaring omissions aside (and there are plenty, because we would all write a slightly different list, wouldn't we?) I recommend that you click on over to the article itself to read the discussion & logic behind all these 50 selections. Here they are:

50 ALBUMS THAT CHANGED MUSIC
1. The Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
2. The Beatles, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
3. Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express (1977)
4. NWA, Straight Outta Compton (1989)
5. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers (1961)
6. Marvin Gaye, What's Going On (1971)
7. Patti Smith, Horses (1975)
8. Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home (1965)
9. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley (1956)
10. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966)
11. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)
12. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (1959)
13. Frank Sinatra, Songs for Swingin' Lovers (1956)
14. Joni Mitchell, Blue (1971)
15. Brian Eno, Discreet Music (1975)
16. Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved a Man the Way I love You (1967)
17. The Stooges, Raw Power (1973)
18. The Clash, London Calling (1979)
19. Mary J Blige, What's the 411? (1992)
20. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)
21. The Spice Girls, Spice (1996)
22. Kate Bush, The Hounds of Love (1985)
23. Augustus Pablo, King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1976)
24. Youssou N'Dour, Immigres (1984)
25. James Brown, Live at the Apollo (1963)
26. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
27. Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced (1967)
28. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain (1984)
29. Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
30. The Wailers, Catch a Fire (1973)
31. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (1989)
32. Otis Redding, Otis Blue (1965)
33. Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters (1973)
34. Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath (1970)
35. The Ramones, The Ramones (1976)
36. The Who, My Generation (1965)
37. Massive Attack, Blue Lines (1991)
38. Radiohead, The Bends (1995)
39. Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)
40. Run DMC, Run DMC (1984)
41. Chic, Chic (1977)
42. The Smiths, The Smiths (1984)
43. Primal Scream, Screamadelica (1991)
44. Talking Heads, Fear of Music (1979)
45. Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief (1969)
46. The Human League, Dare (1981)
47. Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)
48. The Strokes, Is This It? (2001)
49. De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
50. LFO, Frequencies (1991)

The article ends with this bit:
"Have your say! Restricting our anniversary list to a mere 50 was a tortuous process. We know you have opinions on these highly emotive matters, so join the debate and make a case for your choice of record at http://observer.co.uk/blog"

Go! Debate!

Monday Music Roundup

Hey there tiger, happy Monday. Yeah, I'm talkin' to you.

So you think you know your rock history? Or do you just want to see how little you actually know? Newsweek has a wicked hard Rock 'n' Roll Quiz. It's probably the worst that this nerd has ever done on a test (52% score), but it is extremely entertaining if you like the minutiae of musical history. Fun sound clips throughout, too, so turn down those speakers at work before you start the quiz -- I mean, before you start working on that, uh, important spreadsheet, boss.

And as usual, here are 5 songs that have kept me company this past week:

"Your Touch"
The Black Keys
The boys of The Black Keys have parted with the Fat Possum label (but not before leaving them with a nice 'lil EP of Junior Kimbrough covers) and joined Nonesuch Records, thrashing through their unique Hendrixesque garage-blues sound for a new disc, Magic Potion, due out in September. It's heavy and wonderful, with a casual, loose, calling-out-key-changes-across-the-garage feel to it. They just finished a short tour opening for Radiohead -- I guess their job was to exhaust the Radiohead fans before Thom Yorke and crew come and sing them into relaxed & hazy happy-land. The Black Keys also have more tour dates coming up, those are some I would check out.


"Cemetery Row"
The Minus 5
There is a jangly, shimmery, indie-bluegrass-rock sound to this track, with more than a passing resemblance to the wavering honesty of The Shins or Band of Horses. The Minus 5 is helmed by songwriter Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows), who is joined here by friends such as Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), and Ken Stringfellow (The Posies), among others. From the self-titled 2006 disc (so-called "The Gun Album") on Yep Roc Records.


"05-22-02"
Golden Smog
A friend and I spent some time re-dissecting the Clerks soundtrack last year, and one of the best efforts on that disc is by Golden Smog (a cover of Bad Company's "Shooting Star"). I don't recall us knowing then who, exactly, was in Golden Smog but now I know that it is a mixed blend of Gary Louris & Marc Perlman (The Jayhawks), Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco, again!). This offering is a warm mid-tempo song from their upcoming album Another Fine Day (out on Lost Highway Records, July 18th).


"Supermassive Black Hole"
Muse
I just had not had the time to listen to Muse (even though they were running an ad over there, stage right). Then my cousin Alan posted an uber-enthusiastic status update on Facebook (I know, why doth the Facebook have such power over me?) wherein he raved about Muse. He recommended I check out several of their tracks while he tries in vain to contain his excitement before their concert in San Francisco tomorrow night. I completely love this song - a heavy arse-shakin' blend of interesting sonic electronica and superfun stadium rock (a la the falsetto swagger of Eagles of Death Metal). From Black Holes and Revelations, released last week.


"A Lifetime in Heat"
Guggenheim Grotto
A very persistent reader kept sending me little blurbs about this band. I finally got a chance to listen to them - and I am glad she was so tireless! (Takes a while sometimes with me). Guggenheim Grotto is an Irish trio reminiscent of a blend of the intelligent composition of Badly Drawn Boy with the loveliness of Damien Rice or the backyard-hammock drifting of Iron & Wine. Their 2005 album Waltzing Alone is available on eMusic, and their Lifetime In Heat EP is downloadable in full from their website. Nic Harcourt from KCRW called this "one of the most beautiful records of the year," and my peeps over at NPR's World Cafe/WXPN have been spinning them as one of their "Artists of the Week."

Enjoy.

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