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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mason Jennings: Use Your Van

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Mason Jennings tour DVD Use Your Van recently, when it finally popped to the top of my Netflix queue. It's a very interesting look at an independent travelling musician, the life on the road, with Mason in the studio and on the stage. I appreciated the tension he illuminated between major label and independent, time spent on the road vs writing music, financial means to record in the studio vs. freedom to do what you want creatively. Plus, the man is dang funny -- the film made me laugh out loud on more than one occassion. Pay close attention to the fake setlist he is shown devising backstage towards the end, with song names like "Diamond-Studded Bracelet, The Ribbed Or The Right, and Twice Is Fun, Three Times Is An Illegitimate Child."

The songs throughout the film pull from all his albums -- plus there are some unreleased gems, like this one.

In Your City (unreleased) - Mason Jennings

Recorded 2/13/2004 at the Use Your Voice CD release concert in MN, it's an old-timey feeling piano waltz that makes me think of music boxes and cabaret, but tethered with Mason's grounded, poetic lyrics. It made me smile widely. This particular mp3 is ripped from DVD, but check out a fan recording of the full show here; esp the Elliott Smith and Johnny Cash covers.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

5 Questions with Noise Pop Festival guru Jordan Kurland

Time is short 'til my departure to San Francisco (okay, via Oakland) tomorrow afternoon for the six-day fiesta of Noise Pop, the Bay Area's best independent music festival. Its proximity on the calendar to the pricey and crowded SXSW means that many of my music blogger friends are opting for Austin and not S.F.

I say: their loss.

Not that I wouldn't love to go to SXSW (and should probably start saving my kopecks now for 2008), but Noise Pop is just the right size, high quality, varied, and not to be missed. I'll be covering all the shows I attend for your musical enjoyment, and my distinct pleasure. Noise Pop kicks off tonight with a (filled to capacity) free show with Tapes 'N Tapes, and features a boatload of other fantastic shows highlighting a thriving independent Bay Area music scene.

Jordan Kurland and Kevin Arnold are the two Bay Area music lovers behind the fest, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. In February 1993 Arnold booked five bands into a small club and called the event Noise Pop. Since then, it's grown exponentially, and this year features over 100 bands, parties, independent films, panels, art exhibits and more. How did we get here?


1) When you started/got involved with Noise Pop, what hopes did you have for it -- did you ever think it would look the way it does now? How have those hopes crystallized or changed, looking back over 15 years?

I started working with Kevin on the festival in the fall of 1997 and we didn't really have a game plan other than to keep things moving forward and try to rope in some bands that we loved and admired. We slowly became more ambitious: introducing the film festival and Educational Series in 2000, doing a second festival in Chicago in 2000 and 2001, etc.

Over the last seven years these 'extra-curricular' things have ebbed and flowed but we have had a goal of making the fest more of a celebration of independent art and culture. Now that we have some great folks working on the fest year round we are actually able to try to achieve this with things like art openings and the Noise Pop Expo.

2) Also looking back over the past 15 years, name one favorite/most memorable/fantastic show that just sticks out in your mind.

Can I cheat and name 3? The below are in no particular order:

-Bob Mould at Bimbo's in 2000. Husker Du/Bob are undoubtedly, in our minds at least, the founding fathers of Noise Pop. Bob played a solo acoustic show (he was supposed to play some electric but the airlines lost his guitar in transit) and Kevin and I watched the show from the side of the stage . We were both extremely nervous when we approached him to sign a poster after the show.

-Creeper Lagoon/Grandaddy/Death Cab for Cutie at Great American Music Hall in 1999. This was back when Creeper Lagoon was considered the great hope of indie rock, Grandaddy's first album was just getting noticed in the states (it already had some traction in the UK) and it was Death Cab's second ever show in the Bay Area. It was exactly the type of balance we wish we could achieve with all the shows that we curate.

-Flaming Lips at Bimbos in 2006. The Lips had to cancel a show at Bimbo's on us in 1999 and their manager, Scott Booker, always said they'd make it up to us. Well, the stars lined up last year and their new record was coming out the Tuesday after the festival and the timing made sense for everyone. It was just magical seeing the show which had been tailored to much bigger rooms at an 800 capacity club.

3) The Noise Pop website is so complete this year, with links and mp3s for all the bands. How do you think that technology has changed the independent music scene since the inception of Noise Pop?

It used to be that the only way to hear about the bands that played the festival was college radio, press, clerks at record stores, and word of mouth. The internet has completely transformed how people learn about and digest music and has given independent bands and labels an inexpensive or free way to reach millions of people. Love 'em or hate 'em, sites like Pitchfork have the ability to expose a band to more people in one day than a label like, let's say, Absolutely Kosher, would be able to reach throughout a whole album cycle seven years ago.

I remember when it seemed unfathomable to think that Modest Mouse could sell 50,000 albums on Up Records in 1998 and now Joanna Newsom - a woman who plays harp and has no commercial radio airplay - has already sold that on her new album in less than six months.

Because I am an indie rock nerd or maybe just have too much time on my hands I often think about things like what if Neutral Milk Hotel was releasing "In An Aeroplane Over the Sea" today? It would probably rival the success of the Arcade Fire.

4) What is one thing that you'd like to add to the Noise Pop Festival in future years?

A Pavement reunion.

5) What are you personally most looking forward to at this year's festival?

Hmmmm, that's always such a hard a question and the answer varies from day to day. Right now, as I drink my morning coffee on the first day of the fest I would say I am most looking forward to getting some sleep next week :-)

Amen, Jordan. Anyone who has spent time with me out at night knows that my motto usually is "We can sleep when we're older." For my Bay Area peeps, come on out to Noise Pop this week, have some fun, and support local independent culture. Your ears & brain will thank you.

Here is the schedule of what I am planning on seeing -- and (!!) I just got added as a panelist to the Noise Pop Expo Sunday afternoon at the Swedish American Hall. Come listen to me pontificate about how to get your music reviewed in typical brilliant and enlightened form. Ha! I'm actually freaked out. So come cheer me on.

**Where I'll (probably) be**

Happy Hour @ Diesel Store with Rogue Wave DJ set
6pm to 9pm

Ryan Auffenberg @ Cafe Du Nord
(previous post)
Under All The Bright Lights

Josh Ritter (acoustic) @ Swedish American
(previous post)
Girl In The War


Happy Hour @ Thee Parkside with photographer Peter Ellenby
5pm to 8pm

Happy Hour @ Diesel Store with Scissors for Lefty DJ set
6pm to 9pm

The Coup @ Fillmore (supposed to be "a standout")
My Favorite Mutiny

Lyrics Born @ Fillmore
I Changed My Mind (Stereo MC's Rattlesnake Remix)

New Amsterdams @ Slim's
Heaven Sent

Street To Nowhere @ Slim's

Screamin (think Weezer)

The Actual @ Slim's
If You See Her

State Radio @ Slim's
Black Cab Motorcade

State Radio features Chetro of Dispatch - remember:
The General

Dios Malos @ Rickshaw Stop

Feels Good Being Somebody (love this!)

The Changes @ Rickshaw Stop

Water Of The Gods

The Old-Fashioned Way @ Rickshaw Stop

Robot High

The Spinto Band @ Rickshaw Stop
(previous mention)
Crack The Whip

Money Mark in-store @ Amoeba Records
(previous post)
Nice To Me (hey, this one's got harmonica by G. Love)

Participant in the Noise Pop Panel 3:30-5:30pm
"Indie Night School: Getting Your Music Reviewed Online & Off"

Money Mark @ Bimbo's

The Botticellis @ Bimbo's
Up Against The Glass (demo)

Scrabbel @ Bimbo's

Chicago New York

CAKE @ Bimbo's
Hem Of Your Garment


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Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

I've been sort of jamming with some gal friends in an acoustic mini-band for fun (and no, we didn't name ourselves something dainty and/or involving unicorns or sparkly things). I wail on the djembe and we have a grand time -- sounds very hippie but it's not.

In any case, yesterday afternoon we were talking about how one gal just had her guitar swiped out of her car. The best I could come up with was a consolation which suggested that perhaps said thief thought that Takamine actually read, "Take-mine."

Aaand . . . I crack myself up. I do apologize for that groaner.

On to the tunes for this week (better than the humor?):

F Train Girl
The Attachments
We'll start things off today with an unassuming sonnet to a girl on a train (ah, the elusive ones are the best kinds) that sounds like something that could take me along the tracks, looking out the window at the passing countryside. The Attachments are four young guys from Berkeley (CA) who really just want to pay a bit of homage to the Beach Boys, spoon in bed, and write you haikus (see their MySpace). What could be wrong with that?

City Skies
Dylan In The Movies
I adore getting 7-inches in the mail (sounds dirty. it's not.). Every once in a while amidst the pile of promo CDs, I get an actual vinyl 7" to digest slowly and viscerally, and it truly makes my day to crouch near the record player and watch it spin, hear it crackle. American Laundromat Records is a little label with a 7" series (they also released that fab High School Reunion CD of '80s movie song covers by folks like Matthew Sweet and Frank Black). I've enjoyed the A & B sides of both their releases in this series thus far. Pressed in limited, hand-numbered quantities, this truly wonderful song from Boston's Dylan In The Movies is the b-side from the newest one. The a-side is from John P. Strohm (Blake Babies, Antenna, Lemonheads) and the vinyl is available directly from ALR. It's also on iTunes, which takes some of the fun out of it, but for those who don't have a record player (yet). . .

Young Folks
Peter Bjorn and John
I vigilantly resisted this kitschy song from Swedish sensations Peter Bjorn and John until I heard it out in its natural habitat recently in a loud bar and I found myself irresistibly drawn to it, from the whistles that start things off to the harmonies and the skittery beat that made me shake my hips. I heartily enjoy whistling along to things, and songs like this are in short supply (other than, maybe, Zipadee-doodah and the theme to Andy Griffith). Don't try to resist, just acquiesce to the blogosphere on this one. From their 2006 album Writer's Block (Wichita/V2).

HFXNSHC ("Halifax, Nova Scotia Hardcore")
This song is apropos of nothing else off Sloan's recent album Never Hear The End Of It (on Yep Roc), which is a fine double disc that I think you may be hearing more about in the weeks to come from this blog. Its unrelenting thrumming-bass punk rock (squeezed into just over a minute) has been rocking my world these last few days. I'll leave it at that for now, but hot dang. Who saw that one coming from Canadian power poppers?

Storia Di Un Corazon
I feel like ending with some world music today, an irresistable Latin-tinged duet with Italian Jovanotti and Spaniard Pau Dones (of Jarabe de Palo) with a flirty samba/salsa beat and engaging call-and-response verse swapping. It's from Jovanotti's excellent 2002 album Il Quinto Mondo, and my absolute favorite snippet of it starts around 3:20. I think this may be the next piece I practice to on djembe, but it's also suitable for dancing 'round the house, pretending like you know how to do Latin dances (and no, the Macarena doesn't count).

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Come sail your ships around me

I've been pulling some songs together for a possible Glastonbury retrospective and smiled when I found a live version of Nick Cave's "Ship Song." I used to have a cover of this by Pearl Jam on a mix tape that I made in 1995 of all the scorching shows from that tour.

To my unbounded joy, I was able to find it also on mp3, from their summer show at Red Rocks -- I love impromptu covers that have that innocence to them, and this . . . well, this is just an enchanting few minutes.

The song is pretty off-the-cuff (Eddie acknowledges at the end, "Well, we need to work that one out one out a little bit"), but it was the only time they ever played it live, and I bask in the wavering simplicity of this moment. Combine it with the wistful, almost mythical lyrics and it is a song I've gotta listen to on repeat.

By Nick Cave
Come sail your ships around me
and burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around

Come loose your dogs around me
And let your hair hang down
You're a mystery to me
Every time you come around

We talked about it all night long
Define our moral ground
But when I crawl into your arms
Everything comes tumbling down . . .

Ship Song (Nick Cave cover) - Pearl Jam
Live @ Red Rocks, Colorado, 6/20/95

The Ship Song (live) - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Glastonbury 6/28/1998

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Pete Yorn endorses your blog choice

Saw Pete Yorn on Friday night for what I thought was fantastic show with a full band backing (and if you squint and cross your eyes, you can see me in the audience, just three blurry heads to the left of Joe Kennedy's shoulder). Instead of the "acoustic" setting of the You and Me Tour last year, this was a loud and spirited affair with all the members of Minibar on stage (and at the end, the guy from Aqualung rattling his tambourine). This freed Pete up to do some heartwarmingly not-smooth dance moves while singing. We love you Pete.

Everyone was in fine spirits (and enjoying fine spirits), and Pete was animated and friendly. From the opening beats of 'Black,' the guys played a superb setlist, although it was shorter than I liked (having to sit through three opening bands. Yes, three). Highlights for me were a gospel-ly rockin' version of 'Golden Road' that was very different from the Westerns EP, as well as a fun singalong cover of the Stones' 'Dead Flowers.' I debated bringing my camera in and recording that for you since I knew he's been adding it to the shows lately, but I decided to go bulkfree and not lug it. So here's another few guys I like covering it instead...

Dead Flowers - Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, Hank Williams III, and Keith Richards

The encore ended with a soaring (as usual) version of Crystal Village that made everyone want to kind of drape their arms around their neighbor. Okay, well maybe only me. But those lyrics: "Take my hand, come with me, I see the lights so brightly, and we'll fall as if we never really mattered. . ." It's a fantastic song, rips off Wilco. That's okay.

Crystal Village (live in Jersey) - Pete Yorn

After the show, I talked for a few minutes with Pete, and the first thing he said (if I may lapse into a bit of restrained girlish squealing) is that he liked my blog, that I did a good job with it. So hoo-WAH! Straight from the horse's mouth. Do catch this tour if you can -- they've still lots of shows to go, and are sounding great.


Friday, February 23, 2007

That Noel Gallagher track behind Ian Brown's "Keep What Ya Got"

Thanks to my astute listeners out there, now we know that not only does Noel Gallagher play lead guitar on the Ian Brown song "Keep What Ya Got" (which I love), but also that it is a re-working of a song that Noel wrote for the X-Files movie called "Teotihuacan."

Here's the atmospheric original:

Teotihuacan - Noel Gallagher

I just could not just leave Britney's bald dome staring out at all you Friday night visitors, hence the hasty post on my way out the door. Arrivederci!

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What Britney should have gotten tattooed

I know it's rotten to jest at one who is so clearly falling apart. I know. But admit, it makes you laugh:

Thanks, Stereogum. I am migrating to the new Blogger so barring technical difficulties, I might have more good stuff up later today. Pete Yorn in Denver tonight!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ian Brown (Stones Roses) goes the orchestral route for his next album, plus a new song!

According to the NME, former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown has recorded material with a 30-piece orchestra for his forthcoming 5th album The World Is Yours, a follow-up to 2004's Solarized, which I quite enjoyed.

"I started thinking about which songs I'd used in February to April last year, then I started on writing the music and working with my producers Black Ox, working on it all July, August," said Brown. "By October/November, I had a clear idea of what songs I wanted to do and then we went into the studio in December, so I've done a month now. I recorded with a 30-piece orchestra last week. It's going to sound amazing!"

Brown has been working with bassists Andy Rourke (Smiths) and Paul Ryder (Happy Mondays) for the album, and has been "chasing" Paul McCartney to help out as well. It's due out later this year.

Check out these two songs from Solarized which I love -- a dense, stylish and fascinating album. Brown has long been interested in classical sounds incorporated into modern songs, as evidenced by the looped strings & clanging piano notes mixed with taut beats on tunes such as this one (from Solarized):

Keep What Ya Got - Ian Brown

Man I love that song. I've always smiled at the tongue-in-cheek lyric about fame, "When your halo slips for good you'll have to wear your hood." Then this tune, "Sweet Fantastic" (which is indeed both), starts with a brass band bit that lapses into sleek downtempo goodness. It's lovely and sexy.

Sweet Fantastic - Ian Brown

Finally, check out the brand new instrumental from Ian Brown called "On Track" just added to his MySpace page, written for the Russian movie Paragraf 78. I have no idea how that collaboration came about, and clicking unknown links on the apocalyptic Russian page freaked me out (you like downld virus? okay!), so I have nothing more to report on the movie itself.

[stream] On Track - Ian Brown

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Jesse Malin: Live in Dublin, 1/21/07

I really, really like Jesse Malin's new album Glitter In The Gutter, coming out in the U.S. on March 20th on Adeline Records -- it may be his strongest and most cohesive album yet. It's exceptionally listenable, catchy and full of soaring hooks, but also with solid rock sensibilities, crushing lyrical turns, and some ace guest spots (Springsteen and Ryan Adams to name two). Not sure about the pink lettering on the cover, though. But I guess it's true what they say, real men wear pink.

This exuberant recent show from Ireland is a must-listen, nicely previewing some of his new material and ripping through the back catalog, with two great covers. I'd love to see him live again - he's so joyful in the middle of the music.

January 21, 2007 [FULL SHOW ZIPPED]
* equals new song

Riding On The Subway
Hotel Columbia
Prisoners of Paradise *
Black Haired Girl *
Queen Of The Underworld
Little Star *
Don't Let Them Take You Down *
Cigarettes & Violets
Broken Radio *
Almost Grown
Bastards of Young (Replacements cover) *
Lucinda *
In The Modern World *
Death or Glory (Clash cover)
Aftermath *

The Glitter In The Gutter record release party is March 19th at the Bowery, for those of you lucky ducks in NYC. Definitely pick this album up when you can.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

When you're a Jet, you're a Jet

I realized just now that I have not yet made a decision for that Romeo & Juliet soundtrack contest (because I hate picking just one winner and not everyone else, so I put it off to see if one picks itself. Yes, I am a procrastinator, and it worked for me all through college). So I finally sat down and re-read through all of your fantastic entries (topic: favorite Shakespearean adaptations) and now have to add several of these movies mentioned into my list of ones to see.

As for a winner, I have to pick Paco. Get this, Paco teaches at my high school back in San Jose (Lynbrook Vikings, hats off to thee!) and uses both the Zeffirelli and Luhrmann versions of Romeo and Juliet to instruct the young minds of tomorrow. Maybe by awarding him this soundtrack stuffed with forefathers of good music, he can also use it in class and steer the kids away from the dangers of 50 Cent and/or Fall Out Boy. Prevention is the best medicine. Plus, let me repeat -- a teacher at my high school reads my blog. That's just too weird for me to wrap my mind around right now.

Several interesting movies that I need to see (or revisit) were mentioned:
Looking For Richard (with Al Pacino), thanks Amy
Scotland, PA (with Christopher Walken), thanks Maggie
West Side Story, as an adaption of Romeo & Juliet (maybe I was so troubled by my parents, who love musicals, singing along with this one that I forgot to notice the story it was based on), thanks Sybil
Othello (with Laurence Fishburn & Kenneth Branagh)

Steve mentioned the film adaptation of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead; I have the book on my shelf, must re-read it. Steve also very nearly won by citing Strange Brew (eh?) as a loose Hamlet adaptation that he enjoys. Yes indeed.

And this, because I will use any excuse to listen to this great cover:

Romeo & Juliet (Dire Straits cover) - Matt Nathanson


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hype! ("Everybody loves us, everybody loves our town")

Somehow, someway, I made it all the way to my 27th year of life without ever seeing the fantastic documentary of the meteoric rise of all things Seattle, Hype! -- and this from an admittedly huge fan of what was called "the Seattle sound." I remember wanting to attend a screening when Hype! first came out in 1996, but the club must have been 18+ or something, because I ended up not going -- and in the days before Netflix, never noticed it at a local video store. I finally watched it recently and very heartily enjoyed the experience.

Hype! is a wonderful music documentary by Doug Pray (Scratch), and highly recommended for anyone of my variety of musical come-uppance. I started high school in the fall of 1993, so I guess I missed the very beginnings of the explosion of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, but I caught up just as fast as I could (I had to go through my junior high Bel Biv Devoe phase, unfortunately).

Since I was young and somewhat naive, I never realized a lot of the background of music in the '80s in Seattle. A point is made to lay the foundation for the film that Seattle was definitively not a cultural hotspot in the early 1980s:

"Bands never used to come here . . . they'd go as far as San Francisco and then not come all the way up to Seattle 'cuz it wasn't worth it to play just one show." -- Nils Bernstein, Sub Pop

"Well, Seattle was really lame, specifically in the early '80s; it was like a million second cities. It had a fake Talking Heads, Pere Ubu, Killing Joke, all the fake Ramones you could shake a stick at, and, you know, people from Bellevue singing with English accents." -- Steve Fisk, record producer

That's what made the explosion in the early '90s all the more surprising to Seattleites, fueled largely by the Sub Pop record label. Bruce Pavitt started Sub Pop in 1979 as a cassette fanzine network where he'd make and distribute a zine along with compilation tapes of local bands. Pavitt teamed with Jonathan Poneman in 1986 to co-found the Sub Pop label with the goal of taking the sounds of their city beyond the confines of the region, with the hopes of allowing their musicians the freedom to quit their day jobs and take to the road, making it viable for them to get their music out there.

I loved a quote in the film from British record producer Martin Rushent, which captures the essence of the music scene at the time that Seattle started letting the raw rock fly: "When you've been through periods where you've had keyboard players with 50,000 lbs of kit on stage and 82 keyboards and 95 samplers, you know, after a while you just go, 'Hang on. This is like eating too much food at one sitting; there's too much sound, there's too many colors, it's all got poncey and posey. Let's go see some bands where they just bash it out." That 'bashing it out' is precisely what started to emerge from Sub Pop and other independent releases from Seattle.

In 1988, an article in the UK publication Melody Maker focused on the new sounds coming out of Seattle, and essentially wove together a story that created the myth of the city as an "explosion of subculture." Journalists everywhere began writing about "the new Liverpool," and what was happening in the Pacific Northwest. The NY Times article "Seattle Rock: Out Of The Woods and Into The Wild" (by David Browne) posited, "This fall, the record industry went in search of the Seattle sound and returned with four rock bands whose only common trait seems to be inordinately long hair."

And so began the fever for all things Seattle. The town became a mecca for bands looking to get heard and signed. Newly-formed bands were getting record contracts with only a week of live shows under their belt, just by virtue of being there.

One of the best cultural snapshots in the entire film is a shot of a sedate ride down an escalator in a department store. Piped in over the speakers is a tinny Muzak-synth version of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' and the mannequins are all shown in their $180 "grunge wear." It made me remember just how stupid and out-of-hand it all got once it was leeched onto by the fashionistas. Jeff Ament is quoted as saying, "More than anything else, I just think it's funny. We wear long johns cuz it's f*ckin' cold!" (I'll cop to wearing flannels pretty much my entire freshman year of high school. And Docs. And thermal shirts . . . okay, okay!)

The Supersuckers talk a bit about the excitement of the do-it yourself ethic in Seattle at the time, which I found inspiring: "That was the whole lesson we learned when we moved up here - just do it. We saw other bands no different than us just putting out records, zines --you know-- a radio show, their own label, plus live shows." That sounds to me a bit like the music scene at this very moment, with music blogs replacing the word-of-mouth of zines, MySpace streaming everyone and their gramma's band on-demand, eMusic sales skyrocketing, and live shows like Daytrotter disseminating independent music faster than ever before.

The film's got a very interesting (and humorously lo-tech) segment with Seattle musician Leighton Beezer, who constructed a computer program charting the inbred Seattle "family tree" for bands - linking musicians throughout a spiderweb network. It's almost like 'Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon' through shared band members: Screaming Trees --> Nirvana --> The Melvins --> Mudhoney --> Green River --> Mother Love Bone --> Pearl Jam. Hours of endless entertainment in exploring those connections.

In addition to roiling, raw, cathartic live performances by everyone from Pearl Jam and Soundgarden to The Gits and The Posies, the film also includes the first ever live performance of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' with Nirvana in a tiny club. It gave me the chills, with the grainy home video, the alternate lyrics, but that undefinable quality that always made it a great song.

When I was watching Hype, it struck me as sort of a companion piece to one of my favorite movies Singles, which was conceived by Cameron Crowe as a love letter to the city, but also served to glamourize the whole "scene" to a whole generation of wide-eyed teenagers (like me). Hype! is firmly based in reality of the era, while Singles is admittedly fictionalized, scripted, and styled, but they both document an era. I remember wanting to live there soooo bad (I almost went to college in Seattle), imagining in my subconscious that, you know, I'd be sitting outside my apartment building and Chris Cornell would walk by and nod at my new stereo system, or Jeff Ament would pop his head in the basement of my building and ask me to move my car. Ha.

Surprisingly, Pearl Jam's role in the film was muted. Ed Vedder gives a reflective interview (sitting next to his ex-wife Beth Liebling, in an uncredited appearance) on fame and hype during a time when he was still very much struggling with it publicly, and is shown jamming on the drums with Hovercraft (a side band that he's toured with). I loved the very ending of the film, which shows Pearl Jam conducting their rad Self-Pollution Radio program in their Seattle studios. A few of their friends are shown stopping by (Mark Arm, Kim Warnick from The Fastbacks, Kim Thayil and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Barrett Martin from Screaming Trees, Layne Staley from Alice in Chains, and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana), and the lyrics from the song shown here are a most fitting way to end the film:

"Small my table, sits just two
Got so crowded, I can't make room
Ohh, where did they come from? Stormed my room!
And you dare say it belongs to you . . . to you . . .
This is not for you!
. . . Never was for you!"

Not For You (live on Self-Pollution Radio) - Pearl Jam

Here's some more music documenting the sounds of that era, from tunes featured in the film. The full soundtrack to Hype! is also available on Sub Pop Records.

K Street (live) - The Fastbacks
Definite Door - The Posies
Touch Me I'm Sick (live) - Mudhoney
Negative Creep - Nirvana
The River Rise - Mark Lanegan
Low Beat - Young Fresh Fellows
Throwaway (live) - The Posies

Hype! also features a clip of Soundgarden performing this killer song off Badmotorfinger, in a bendy, sweaty, screaming performance with those notes being nailed by Chris Cornell. I saw Soundgarden in 1996 at the Henry J. Kaiser in Oakland, and it remains one of the best shows I've seen.

With My Good Eye Closed (live in 1996) - Soundgarden

And this is purely a bonus track from me; Green River is the now-defunct Seattle band of Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, with Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney.

Queen Bitch (David Bowie cover) - Green River

Ultimately, it's interesting to see how disparate and unique all the bands were that were lumped together under the headline "Seattle sound" when no one sound really ever existed. Hype! does a fine and entertaining job dissecting these years in American musical history. Director Doug Pray has made a convert of me to his productions; his next project is a film called Surfwise (about the life of Malibu surfer Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz) and I have a feeling it will include some choice tunes. Bring it on, Doug!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

Sometimes all my slick dance moves seem insufficient for really marvelous occasions. At times like those, now I have a special friend on the Internet to show me new grooves to woo the crowd. Watch out, here he comes.

I was so enamored with his gyrations that I missed reading the descriptions of each dance the first time around; make sure you look in the text box as you click through for gems like: "Perfect for when you are chosen for the raised cage area in a popular club or on a TV show such as Soul Train. The dancer is above the crowd, surveying his fief, before pausing to reach a hand of support to the commoner beneath him" (under the dance Make Love To The Crowd)...


"Contrary to popular belief, the WHO'S YOUR DADDY is not actually about trying to duplicate the experience of fatherhood. Rather, one should think along the lines of 'sugar daddy' or 'daddy-o' where the paternal character of the word gives way to pseudo-sexual Electra-complex overtones. The dancer, then, both asks and answers the same question: Who is your daddy? . . . I am your daddy." [thx]

Although, given the appropriate context, I think it would be hard to ever beat busting out a lustily choreographed version of this.

[Most] dancing aside, here's some music for the week:

My Violent Heart (stream)
Nine Inch Nails
I first heard this song on Valentine's Day, which is fitting because nothing says love better than angry, angry Trent, right? This stream is from the forthcoming Nine Inch Nails album Year Zero and I was going to post the mp3 but the RIAA is ferocious this week. I think this song starts out better than it ends up. At the front end it's got that crackly, sleazy beat with Trent's breathy snarly spoken intro (molto sexy), but then the chorus kicks in and it's got those weird seagull-synth emphases and no real grip on me.

Related: If you've ever wanted to know more about how Trent produces those amazing soundscapes, I found this piece about 3 days spent in the studio with Reznor (during the recording of With Teeth) to be a very interesting read.

So High So Low So Wide So Long
These United States
Whew. That title took me about 5 tries to get all the descriptors in the title in the right order, but it was worth it. This song from Washington DC band These United States is understated -- a grower that took me by surprise. It makes me feel like I am underwater, a rich and textured tune that reminded me of a hybrid of M. Ward with some of Beck's slower stuff. I included it today because it made me feel something unarticulatable (is that a word? it is now) when I listened to it, that's all I can really say. I love it. See what it does for you. [thanks Bruce]

Kevin from So Much Silence has long wowed me with his awesome vinyl rips for every occasion. So it comes as completely welcome news that he has started a new music blog, Circa 45, where he posts nothing but vinyl rips from his storied and extensive collection (one that he's adding to all the time). Take the all the snap, crackle, and pop that a good 45 bestows on the listener and give your digital music collection a warm boost. Here's the first track he posted (a b-side from Manchester band Doves); he's off to a great start.

Hangover Days (live, featuring Feist)
Jason Collett with Paso Mino
The other song I really wanted to post today was Feist's new leaked song "My Moon, My Man," but it looks like cease & desist orders are being served to other folks, so I am going to hold off on that great, great song (but you do need to hear it, stat). Instead, this song has simultaneously been whetting my appetite for Feist this weekend so I thought I'd share it. It's a live duet version of a song off co-Broken Social Scene-member Jason Collett's 2005 album Idols of Exile, and makes me want to hear more from both of them.

Babysitters Club
Desmond Reed

Ending on a light note that will likely be appreciated more by my readers of the XX-chromosomal persuasion -- this tune came from a MySpace friend request that made me smile, because I read all the Babysitters' Club books as a kid and wanted to meet with them in Claudia Kishi's room from 5-5:30 on Mondays/Wed/Fridays (because Claudia had her own phone line). I am a little baffled as to what caused this young man to write about this topic, but it's all good fun. The Bag of Songs blog recently tagged Desmond Reed as their artist of the day - see why.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Truer words were never spoken

A cell-phone shot of a magnet on the fridge at a party I was at tonight.


Friday, February 16, 2007

New Elliott Smith double album: New Moon

Good news this past week for Elliott Smith fans: the Kill Rock Stars label has announced the release of a posthumous double disc of unreleased Elliott material from 1995-1997 (self-titled and Either/Or album eras). It's called New Moon and due out on May 8th.

Here is the full tracklist and where I had (or could find) live or demo versions of the songs, I added an mp3. It will be great to hear some of this gorgeous material cleaned up and finally out in the light of day.


Angel In The Snow (demo version)
Talking To Mary (live 3/31/95)
High Times (demo version)
New Monkey
Looking Over My Shoulder
Going Nowhere
Riot Coming (live in SF 3/6/95)
All Cleaned Out
First Timer
Go By (live in NY 6/7/95)
Miss Misery - early version
Thirteen (demo version)

Georgia Georgia
Whatever/Folk Song in C (live in Portland, 9/7/94)
Big Decision (live in NJ, 4/12/97)
New Disaster
Seen How Things Are Hard (live)
Fear City
Either/Or (demo version)
Pretty Mary K - other version
Almost Over
See You Later (live NYC 3/30/96)
Half Right (live in Portland 2/26/99)

According to the press release, the final mixing for the album was done by Larry Crane, who is the archivist for the estate of Elliott Smith, and a significant portion of proceeds from the album sales will go directly to Outside In, a Portland-based social service organization dedicated to providing diverse services for homeless youth and low-income adults. [thx]


Josh Ritter backstage recordings

Josh Ritter has posted two new impromptu mp3 recordings from backstage on the road. Kind of like what Metallica is doing for their new album, with only 6% of the anger.

I am greatly looking forward to seeing Josh Ritter Wednesday after next (Feb 28) in San Francisco. I've heard that his live show is mesmerizing, but I've never had a chance to experience that. Josh is currently on tour solo acoustic through Canada and the West Coast.

Lil' Ole Wine Drinker Me - Josh Ritter & Stephen Kellogg

Thin Blue Flame - Josh Ritter
(just because this is one of the best songs I heard during the entire year of 2005, and deserves to be revisited at every opportunity possible. To say I adore this song is an understatement.)

"Welcome to my life, tattoo / We've a long time together, me and you"

No, I didn't get a tattoo myself, but the What Would Jesus Blog looks at folks crazier than me who have emblazoned themselves with band-related tats to profess their love for all to see, for the rest of their lives. No Pearl Jam stickman for me (as Jesus conjectures in his fabulous post), but I have fleetingly considered something music-oriented, very loosely related to Pearl Jam. But it'll probably never happen because I don't want to be an 82 year-old gramma with a bitchin tat on my back to show the other old ladies at the retirement center under our floral mu-muus. That just depresses me.

Read: I Bear The Scars, What Would Jesus Blog
Favorites are the U2 chords tattooed around the arm (cool idea) and the Elliott Smith XO. My roomie in college had a huuuuge Smashing Pumpkins tattoo on her hip from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and I wonder what she thinks about that now (hi Tricia!). The Smiths lyrics across the pelvis tattoo is kind of depressing, and how about those Bjork lyrics in Braille inked on that girl's back? Madness.

Tattoo - The Who

PS - Judging by the opening picture to his post, I'd say Jesus has a little crush on me. That's okay. It's mutual.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New Damnwells documentary: Golden Days

"They've toured the country, opened for rock legends, and you can't find their album anywhere."

And thus begins the journey in the new movie about Brooklyn band The Damnwells, their rise to Epic fame and fall from major label grace, and current creative successes as independent artists. Golden Days just got its first screening lined up -- it's one of 10 films picked for the Feature Film Competition at the 2007 Phoenix Film Festival (April 12-19 at the Harkins Theatre in Scottsdale).

Now I just recently found out about The Damnwells and have been listening to their Air Stereo record from 2006 (Zoe/Rounder Records) on heavy rotation. It is a damn fine record, one that you definitely should pick up if you liked the warm pop-alternative harmony and chiming guitars of Gin Blossoms or (my beloved) Toad The Wet Sprocket. There's also a distinct alt-country vibe, perhaping emanating from the sticks of drummer Steven Terry, who was in Whiskeytown.

Here's the trailer for the film:

Here are a few more Damnwells songs for your enjoyment and sampling. Get all their stuff -- seriously. Plus, doesn't lead singer Alex Dezen look (and sound nothing) like Jeff Buckley?

Golden Days
You'll hear this in the trailer (for obvious reasons) -- a warm tune off Air Stereo, full of "oooooh" backing vocals and wonderful lyrics of musical allusions: "I can't hear much but the melody coming from you / Baby please don't rush, keep the tempo slow and blue, let me hear the words you say / Let's go and get tangled in chains of golden days." This is a great song.

You Don't Have To Like Me (To Love Me Tonight)
This one rolls right out of your speakers like that cocky guy walking into a bar and kicking the jukebox. And this comes out. "Nobody at school can tease me like you. Should we never be ours, leave it all to skies and the scars. Please don't love me alone tonight." [Air Stereo]

Untitled Demo (from Dec 2005)
Thanks to the Damnwells' MySpace page over a year ago, and the Songs:Illinois blog way back then for snagging it.

I Will Keep The Bad Things From You
A sentimental song rife with little inside communications between guy and girl, promises like "You can keep your last name if you want to," and "You keep the band names coming, I'll make the jokes real funny." From their 2004 album Bastards of the Beat.

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The worst (and yet best) Valentine's Day card ever

The inside reads (no joke): "Just like you."

This fantastically horrible card was in the section of the card store for her/from him, but I bought it to use the other way around. Because it makes it even more awesome.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Every Mix You Make (Scranton-icity?)

So, in case you had your head under a rock, The Police reunited for a tame version of 'Roxanne' at the Grammys on Sunday night, telling all the good denizens of musicland that they don't have to walk the streets for money. In case you weren't within shouting distance of a TV (yeah, me neither) we can all reminisce:

I echo the first sentence of Bob Lefsetz's column about the blessed confluence: "They'd better not play a f*cking medley." For that, we are grateful. But I must admit, I was not blown away (except, um perhaps, by Sting's fitted vest). Roxanne may be my least favorite Police song (they have way better ones, as we sometimes forget, but will soon remember as we scroll down). I was a little sobered by the aging Sting taking the lower-octave route for the chorus, but drummer Stewart Copeland definitely seemed to be having a great time, and that is always refreshing and heartening to see.

There was some discussion about the Police performance among friends of mine, one of whom was at the awards show. He mentioned in passing that he was sitting next to, and talking to, the chap who helped write Fergie's "London Bridge." My vision immediately became clouded and I was unable to continue further in the musical discussion because I had to fire off this missive:

"If I was freaking in the same room, much less NEXT TO, the lyrical criminal responsible for writing London Bridge (what is it?!?! what is her london london london bridge?!?! WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?!) I would have straddled him with my hands around his neck and not let up on the pressure until he explained himself....


But I don't have strong feelings on that song. You know. I could go either way.

In any case, the Police reunion gives reason to post some killer cuts from a Police mixtape that my friend Brian H. compiled. I left off most of the radio hits that you all know, and instead focused on the ones you might not know. Dang, there's some good ones here that I'd forgotten.

Next To You (live)
Walking In Your Footsteps (Derangement remix - by Stewart Copeland)
Born In The '50s (live)
Driven To Tears
Demolition Man
Synchronicity I (live)
Don't Put On The Red Light/Roxanne (Derangement remix)
So Lonely (live)
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
The Bed's Too Big Without You (live)
Peanuts (live)
King of Pain
Can't Stand Losing You (Derangement remix)
When The World is Running Down
Truth Hits Everybody (live)
I Burn For You
Bring On The Night
Roxanne '97 (Puff Daddy remix)
Synchronicity II (live)
Canary In A Coalmine


Here's what I know on those Derangement mixes:

"The Derangements by Stewart Copeland. Stewart has made a some very heavy remixes of the old Police tracks.There are 7 tracks, they have Sting's original studio voice, the music has been mixed with live stuff and also different tracks mixed together. Track listing: Can't Stand Losing You 4:25 - Don't Stand So Close To Me 3:47 - Tea In The Sahara 3:34 - Walking In Your Footsteps 3:54 - One World (Not Tree) 4:01 - Demolition Man 3:44 - Roxanne 3:09."

That's from this Danish site: http://www.stingme.dk/remix/remix.htm. The author of that site also wrote me with a little more background info: "Stew made the Derangements 2-3 years ago - I think, he made them for fun. However he was so happy with the results that he sent them to Sting and Andy, asking them to be released as Police tracks. Andy was positive but Sting would not accept them. So they ended up on the new Stewart-directed Police DVD Everybody Stares." Thanks Kenneth! I dig 'em.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I don't want to sit across the table from you wishing I could run: Valentine's Day Music

As Wednesday creeps into the edges of your consciousness, it's my pleasure to again pair with two of Philly's finest -- Bruce from Some Velvet Blog & Duke from The Late Greats -- for a tag team Valentine's Day bacchanalia. There are millions and trillions of love songs out there, ranging from the sublime to the silly, from the nostalgic to the nasty. We each arbitrarily picked out ten that we liked for this holiday of cupids and red roses, and we're putting it up 2 days early to give you Romeos (and Juliets) a chance to maybe use some of these for that mix CD to win the heart of your true love, or for some background music, or whatever Wednesday brings for you (even if that something is a date with Ben, Jerry, and The Notebook).

Pucker up.

Cupid - Otis Redding
Hands down my favorite rendition of one of the most perfect love songs, even topping the smoothness of Sam Cooke. Otis somehow rounds up a whole boatload of soul and anguished longing into his version (with his trademark groans) and thumps up the backbeat to make this a love song you can also shake your hips to.

Catch The Wind - Donovan
A fantastically sweet little forgotten ballad from '60s troubadour Donovan --who here sounds like a less-gravelly Dylan-- with lyrics like, "In the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty I want to be in the warm hold of your loving mind. To feel you all around me, and to take your hand along the sand . . . " Okay, so it's a little cheesy (what love song isn't) but it comes off as unassuming and perfectly sentimental -- plus it has a wistful harmonica bit at the end.

Grow Old With Me (John Lennon cover) - Postal Service
Ahh, it's the sentiment that's been embroidered across a thousand pillows, framed under glass, and written in loopy script on countless greeting cards: "Grow old with me, the best is yet to be." Lennon's words here take on the shimmery electronic sheen of The Postal Service in a incandescent cover that kind of makes me feel like I am at a junior high dance. In a good way.

Love You Madly - Cake
Here's a bit more deadpan (and, frankly, quite funny) examination of longterm love and elevated expectations, from whence comes the title of this post: "I don't want to doubt you, know everything about you, I don't want to sit across the table from you wishing I could run." Who doesn't want love and excitement every single day? Ahh, Cake.

Sick Of Myself - Matthew Sweet
An absolutely flawless, crunchy, irresistible power pop love song that is in my top 5 most days. I could listen to this ad infinitum: "'Cuz I'm sick of myself when I look at you, something is beautiful and true in a world that's ugly and a lie . . ." Just hearing it brings a huge smile to my face.

Easier - Glen Phillips
Glen from Toad The Wet Sprocket has been playing with his fellow Sprockets since high school, and he's been with his wife Laurel almost as long. This song was a pleasant surprise to me for its honesty, maturity, and warmth. It is a sentimental love song that's a celebration of getting those gray hairs alongside someone you've known for that long -- as he says, "I want to get almost too familiar, but still notice the way that you walk."

When U Love Somebody - Fruit Bats
To me, this simple and lighthearted song sounds the way that flustered/pounding heart/new love feels. In this song, singer Eric Johnson is so overwhelmed with his hand resting on the knee of his love interest on the bus that he can't do much else other than forget to breathe and repeat the same lines over again. But we love it. Fruit Bats have a quirky and handclappy good-feeling sound that is perfect for a new relationship.

Fresh Feeling - Eels
In addition to a beat that I adore and a fascinating cello loop, this song is a celebration of someone who makes you see things with new eyes. E shows with lyrics like "Birds singing a song, old paint is peeling, this is that fresh, that fresh feeling" why he is one of the best songwriters out there today, even in his stark simplicity. It doesn't take a lot of flowery words to get right to the essence of what you mean.

Tidal Wave - David Gray
Sweet son of a beesting, this is one of the grandest, purest, achingly beautiful love songs of the last decade (or more). It's deceptively simple in its impressionistic couplets, but flawless. "Ever since your fingertips, ever since your eyes. Talking with the light on, bluer skies," or "Coming over Waterloo, dreaming of your hands. Want to run away now, foreign lands." Somehow Gray captures all the addictive longing of love, as well as the fear that you'll somehow mess it up, and that the bird will fly. Two minutes and twenty seconds of perfection.

Let My Love Open The Door (Pete Townshend cover) - M. Ward
M. Ward turns this '80s synth rocker-ballad into a good-natured amble through a sunny field, maybe with a banjo on your back and one of those drums you can walk and tap along to. It's got a balmy and expansive air to it -- sweet and wonderful.

(Meaning I absolutely could not narrow it down to just ten):
Valentine - The Replacements


Check here for Bruce's (Some Velvet Blog)

Check here for Duke's (The Late Greats)
(Duke designed the graphic above. Man, I look foxy. Did my hair up special.)

And that's one festive ménage à blog, as we call it.

Monday Music Roundup

My pal Jeff Weiss (who runs the finely-wrought and utterly hilarious Passion Of The Weiss blog) also moonlights with the good folks at Stylus Magazine, and you should read his latest opus for them:
Back To The Future vs. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
. It's just as awesome as it sounds.

Weiss pits two of the most excellent '80s films against each other on several battles: Better Protagonist, Better Villain, Better Historical Time-Travel Interaction, Better Time-Traveling Helper, Better Time-Traveling Vehicle, Better Token Females, Better Musicians, and Better Sequel(s). Finally a serious discussion of these important qualifiers. The overall winner is my pick as well -- although it is indeed a tough choice. Thanks to Weiss for navigating these rocky waters for us and helping us make an informed choice.

Here's what else I am enjoying this week:

Hardcore Days and Softcore Nights
I completely missed this one when it came around on the 2005 album I Sold Gold (maybe because I don't watch The O.C.) but when I heard it last week it hooked me instantaneously with its insane, thumping beats and I've listened to it since then on repeat. A lot. You will love it -- and although the title sounds like it should be the definitive soundtrack to a porn flick, the lyrics are actually tame and a bit cryptic. Aqueduct is the nom-de-mike of David Terry, and he has a new album Or Give Me Death out on Barsuk February 20th. Stream some new tunes here.

Spencer Dickinson
This is a side project featuring Jon Spencer (o, he of the Blues Explosion) and some of the North Mississippi Allstars (Luther & Cody Dickinson). Recorded in 2000, released in Japan only in 2001, this finally made it to the rest of us last summer as the album The Man Who Lived For Love, on the Yep Roc label. One reviewer said this track sounds like "James Brown on a psychedelic bender," and there's enough dirty bluesy funk, electric guitars, Memphis horns, and rowling harmonica on this disc to make anyone do a little backporch jig.

Into The Mystic (live)
Van Morrison
This live cut is from the upcoming compilation Van Morrison At the Movies (out tomorrow), which features Van songs used on film soundtracks -- and there are a lot. This one is cited as being in Patch Adams, not that anyone would remember the inclusion of most of these songs into the movies referenced (with the exception of the flawless use of "Comfortably Numb" in The Departed). This is a great collection with unreleased versions of Van songs, and a fine place to start if you haven't previously added anything from the Irish Soulmaster into your collection. There's something fine in the world when Van Morrison is playing on the radio.

Untitled Demo
Rosewood Thieves
Here's a sweet little raw bit of material from burgeoning buzz-band The Rosewood Thieves. It's not at all like the rollicking blues that I've previously loved from them, but instead this understated tune is bittersweet and melodic -- all acoustic plucking and harmonica. The guys are working on demos right now for their first full-length LP. Unfortunately because of V2 going belly up, they no longer have a label. Once they finish the demos and find a label they'll be recording at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock. Can't wait to hear the finished product - I think these guys are bursting with talent. [thx for the pic and mp3]

Gimme Shelter (Streetlab remix)
Rolling Stones
Stereogum pointed me in the direction of these Streetlab fellas from Brooklyn, who eloquently remix class songs like this without turning it into something too clubby or dancey. It's as if your radio that you are listening to 'Gimme Shelter' on gets caught up in a tornado, and the music ebbs towards you and then flows back -- in and out. Through all of this Mick's voice comes weaving in. Fantastic. Several other free downloads of their wares are available on the Streetlab MySpace, including a remix of the Smashing Pumpkins song 'Starla' that must be experienced.

P.S. - The sun finally came out here this weekend! I went running outside and was going to die (either of sun-soaked happiness or muscular exhaustion, I couldn't decide which).

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