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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who were The Monks? Because dudes *rocked* that tonsure haircut

I came across this video on the recommendation of a friend of a friend, and as quirky as it seems when you first click play, there's an urgency and an animal primacy to the music that belies the sweaters and the bobby socks of 1965.

I had never heard of The Monks before this video started rolling; a google search of the blogs and sites I read turned up one reference on Pitchfork, but P-fork writes about a lot of stuff that flies right over my head (in fact I am apparently a sort of anti-Pitchfork). So I had some learning to do.

The Monks were five G.I.s stationed in Germany in the '60s who started making music together, as many young men are wont to do when they are away from their women and stuck on base. At first their tunes were pretty standard covers of Chuck Berry, surf music, or original melodic pop a la The Beatles -- but then they started experimenting with feedback and the kinds of beats that sounded more like a prototype of punk than a clean cut quintet.

Originally called the Torquays, they soon wholeheartedly adopted the name of The Monks, and they even had "a look" that has not, to my knowledge, been back in fashion since, oh, 1457. The tonsure (as that stunning bit of shaved baldery is called), the cassock, the rosary. Hot.

But the music -- the music is intriguing to me, and has quite a cult following to this day, mostly through word of mouth and friends saying, "Man, you gotta hear these guys." And it's easy to see why - the tribal pulsating beats, the dadaist lyrics, the attitude -- they've may have more in common with Nirvana than other acts of their own era. Even where standard sounds of the time show through in their music, there's still an undercurrent of fresh inventiveness that delights me. Some of their music reminds me of what The Doors were just starting to do on the other side of the Atlantic.

The Monks recorded one album in November 1965 (Black Monk Time) and then essentially vanished (other than some reunion shows in '99 and one member who is now mayor of Turtle River, MN).

Their songs have been covered by everyone from the Dead Kennedys to Jon Spencer, the to Manchester Brit-band The Fall. There's currently a very interesting documentary project called Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback and if you like it even rawer, you can also buy their 1965 demo recordings, all through the Berlin-based label Play Loud! Definitely a fascinating and fun one to add to your collection.

Monk Chant - The Monks
We Do Wie Du - The Monks
Drunken Maria - The Monks

BUY: Black Monk Time


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gladly going down with the Damnwells ship

This song popped into my inbox recently from lead Damnwell Alex Dezen, and maybe it's just the cold grey skies that are causing me to post two melancholy tunes in one day, but I'm feeling this one.

Alex makes it sound easy the way he crafts these humble aching love songs with his acoustic guitar, and puts his soul behind it. The Damnwells will be back in the studio come February, with Alex saying "it's going to be the record we should have made long ago." I don't know what that sounds like, but I'm glad to hear that there's more music forthcoming from this earnest, shining talent - the two years since Air Stereo already seem interminable 'round these parts.

Down With The Ship - The Damnwells


The Avett Brothers :: "If It's The Beaches"

This stark, bittersweet song from North Carolina's The Avett Brothers was originally on their 2006 EP The Gleam. It's going to reach new sets of ears this Friday when it's featured on the TV show Friday Night Lights. I don't watch this show. But I am glad to hear these boys will be getting some primetime exposure; their most recent album Emotionalism (2007, Ramseur Records) has, as I wrote, "raw and joyful harmonies, if you can acclimate to the twang that smacks you in the face. But kinda in a good way."

This song mutes the twang in favor of an echoey piano and strings, creating something that feels dusty and resigned. The last stanza of this song is arrestingly beautiful.

If It's The Beaches - The Avett Brothers

Don't say it's over
Cause that's the worst news I could hear I swear that I will
Do my best to be here just the way you like it
Even though its hard to hide
Push my feelings all aside
I will rearrange my plans and change for you

If I could go back
That's the first thing I would do I swear that I would
Do my best to follow through
Come up with a master plan
A homerun hit, a winning stand
A guarantee and not a promise
That I'll never let your love slip from my hands

If it's the beaches
If it's the beaches' sands you want
Then you will have them
If it's the mountains' bending rivers
Then you will have them
If it's the wish to run away
Then I will grant it
Take whatever you think of
While I go gas up the truck
Pack the old love letters up
We will read them when we forget why we left here

The Avett Brothers are on tour in the coming months.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

Well for pete's sake. GO SEE U2 3D.

That was the absolute coolest thing since, well, since Captain E.O. (sorry MJ). I had a huge silly smile plastered across my face for at least the whole first song, barely able to breathe but not realizing I was holding my breath.

From superclose Bono yelling the opening count-off of Vertigo (in that creative Spanish), you feel like you're inches from the real live sweating tiny mofo. You can see the limber flex and vibration of Adam Clayton's bass strings as he plucks them, you can count the freckles on the Edge's arms while he nails a killer solo. You hover over the stage like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, looking over Larry Mullen Jr's shoulders while he beats out his robot-hybrid beats from an impossible vantage point. I almost felt like I would knock over the mike stand sometimes, or get hit in the face with Edge's guitar (I wouldn't mind). The gliding shots over the enthusiastic Latin-American crowds were also like something out of a flying dream. It was mindblowing in the childlike wonder it instilled in a whole audience at once.

You also get to wear extremely fashionable glasses that are worth at least five minutes of pre-show entertainment.

I know it must be expensive to everyone but U2 to make a movie like this, but with technology that lets Bono kneel on the side of the stage, draw in the air with his fingertip, and create a hovering light-trail image floating inches from your face, well heck . . . I wish every band I loved would do this so I could get closer than close for only $9.

Music this week!

Don't Ever Do That Again
Golden Shoulders

There's a snaking, crunchy opening riff that sucks you into this smart song from CA Gold-Rush-country band Golden Shoulders. Originally released in 2005, the Friendship Is Deep album is seeing the light of re-issue; when it first came out, British tastemaker Mojo magazine wrote that they were "grungy slackers catching up on 'Rubber Soul' pop." The drawl in the delivery hearkens that for me, but I also hear a good echo of Fuel-favorite Cake (whose former drummer Todd Roper is featured on this album), and also that riff from that Weezer-side-project tune "American Girls." It's a pleasing mishmash of influences that sounds addictively fresh and ready for adventures.

The Hands

There's something slightly off and unnerving in the melody and rhythm here from the Pacific Northwest band The Hands -- just a half-second syncopated, or too fast. Either way, it feels like about seven cups of coffee in the morning (thank god I'm back on the stuff after my successful vegan detox week) -- all jittery and yowling, but anchored by a more classic rockin' feel with those Jaggeresque vocals. An exciting combination, I want to keep replaying the opening notes to figure out what's going on there in those first thirty seconds. The self-titled album is out February 19th on Selector Sound, and wisely features, well, a hand on the front.

Dancing For No One
Hello Stranger

For a song released in 2006, this has a borderline guilty-pleasure tinge of sounding like something I would have liked in the '80s, but better. Hello Stranger is a band from Los Angeles [previous post] fronted by tall red-boot-wearing Juliette Commagere and featuring Ry Cooder's son Joachim. They sounds a little like Blondie, a little punk, and a lot like something that you want to sing along with. Indie film fans might recognize this song from the excellent and quirky Lars and The Real Girl. Hello Stranger has toured with Kings of Leon, Rooney, and looks like they're opening some Foo Fighters shows in the coming weeks. Their 2006 self-titled album is out on Aeronaut Records, and they are currently back in the studio working on new material.

Be Not So Fearful (Bill Fay)
Jeff Tweedy

I remember hearing this song memorably used in the Wilco I Am Trying To Break Your Heart documentary and then having to seek out a live version of it for my collection. This is a cover of a folk song by British musician Bill Fay, and feels so perfect in its simplicity. It's almost a benediction, this telling of "Be not so fearful, be not so pale / Someone watches you, you won't leave the rails." It's heartening and lovely, one of my favorite acoustic Tweedy covers, something I've been listening to a lot lately.

Love Ya
Paloma Faith

I read about Londoner Paloma Faith on this blog while I was looking up SF show information, they mentioned she had "a Billie Holliday voice and a Betty Page look." Retro is so hot right now -- I can always dig more of this Amy Winehouse vibe, with less of the self-destruction. While on Paloma's MySpace page I was also excited to see that she had a cameo in that other fantastic Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip video, "The Beat That My Heart Skipped." Since I always like watching this dude rhyme, enunciate, and gesticulate (like he will be doing at Coachella!) watch Paloma shake her thing here:

[UK download]

BONUS MONDAY TIMEWASTER: Try the addictive Traveler IQ Challenge. I am on a mission to beat my somewhat shameful Level 6 (and my friend, who clearly must have cheated and got Level 12).

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Only in Northern California

I should totally go for it. It's functional and durable with only a few scuffmarks.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Listen up everybody if you wanna take a chance

. . . Just get on the floor and do the New Kids dance. If you are a female born between 1977 and 1982-ish, you may have found yourself at one time picking your favorite New Kid to moon over (because they are sooooooo cute!), watching the Hangin' Tough live concert video at a slumber party, or asking for an NKOTB t-shirt for Christmas. Yes, I did all three of these things.

You will also probably agree with me that there is absolutely no need for a reunion, as is being rumored in the media today. Why? WHY?! The only result that can come from this is that someday soon I will find myself driving along and, without thinking, bust out singing "I get up in the mornin' and I see your face, girl." And then I will want to drive my car into a wall.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lucky to have Nada Surf on my stereo

Like the thoughts I'm prone to mull over when I sit underneath the deepening hood of twilight, watching the stars come out, there's an introspective thread in the new Nada Surf album that illuminates the conflicting desires most of us feel in adult life. On "Weightless," frontman Matthew Caws sings to all of us who have ever felt too inexperienced to be in control of these big decisions and important duties:

"grown-up life
is like eating speed or flying a plane
it’s too bright,
it’s too bright
. . . "

And then the same song breaks into a pause, a reverie, and over a muted piano melody Caws muses quietly:

"behind every desire
is another one
waiting to be liberated
when the first one’s sated

Such is life through the lens of Nada Surf's stunningly fantastic fifth album, Lucky, which comes out February 5th on Barsuk Records. Folks, this is poised to be my favorite record of the year at the rate that I've been listening to on my iPod, in the car, on repeat til the CD gets hot. Rare is the album that's this sonically pleasing with equal depth and nuance in the lyrics.

The sixteen years that Matthew Caws, Ira Elliot, and Daniel Lorca have been making music together show in the confident elegance of this multi-hued album. It's full of earnest flourishes that pay homage to sublime sounds of the past, from the cascade of harmonies at the end of "Weightless" that feel like super-relaxed Beach Boys in a hammock, to the 'oooo oooo oooo's in "Are You Lightning?" that remind me of waiting on a friend. I'm addicted to the way this album sounds, with the shimmering landslides of melody, the driving rhythms, the bright chime of the guitars.

Nada Surf, like the rest of us, are growing up. The opening song, "See These Bones," wrestles a bit with that mortality ("what you are now, we were once / but just like we are, you'll be dust"), and finds Caws singing this simple line that only really hit me after several listens:

"too tired to eat
too hungry to sleep

Simple, right? Throwaway? . . . No. The ache and the weariness in his voice when he sings these lines gets me. He's talking about being unable to fulfill needs and desires, each one competing with the other for primacy, and what a draining place that is to find yourself in.

But in addition to their observations about this thing called adult life, there's also a pervasive and uplifting theme throughout on the love of music and its ability to shine a light. My absolute favorite song on this album is "Beautiful Beat," whose chorus has these soaring lines:

"beautiful beat get me out of this mess
beautiful beat lift me up from distress
. . . I believe our love can save me
have to believe that it can

It's that faith in the redeeming power in music that I find so heartening, and why I am thrilled about this album. It's a must-buy for you in 2008 (pre-order it here). I'll be seeing Nada Surf in San Francisco next weekend and bringing you guys an interview. I've heard amazing things about the power of their live show, and next Saturday will be an acoustic set that should really let those harmonies show brilliantly.

Nada Surf is now streaming the entire album on their MySpace, so go listen. Start with "Beautiful Beat," then go back to the first and listen all the way through to the flawless, gorgeous final notes of "The Film Did Not Go 'Round." Walk away feeling sated that albums like this still exist.

See These Bones (with Ben Gibbard) - Nada Surf


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nick Hornby and Josh Rouse at Union Square Barnes & Noble in NYC

Other than an exceptionally peppy emcee here who seems almost like a Saturday Night Live character, this is a very cool video segment showing author Nick Hornby (Songbook, High Fidelity, Fever Pitch) discussing and reading from his new book Slam, along with musician Josh Rouse performing some tunes off his new album Country Mouse, City House.

This was for the laudable Barnes & Noble "Upstairs At The Square" series in Manhattan which pairs authors and filmmakers with musicians (other artists have included Craig Finn, Rosie Thomas, Badly Drawn Boy, Sondre Lerche, Duncan Sheik, and Jesse Malin).

The connection between these two guests, as Ms. Pep says in the intro, is that "Nick Hornby is a writer who wants you to read his words like music. Josh Rouse is a musician who wants you to view his songs like chapters out of the book of your life." An enjoyable glance at these two artists that I enjoy.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"On Your Sleeve" :: New covers album forthcoming from Jesse Malin

According to the Jesse Malin website: "New record out April 2008 on One Little Indian Records in the UK and Europe, 'On Your Sleeve.' Full-length studio album of covers from Elton John to the Hold Steady, 14 songs plus 3 bonus iTunes tracks. Stay tuned for details."

Iiinteresting. I don't know what he's putting on it, but I would guess that this is the Hold Steady cover, and two other tenuous possibilities below:

Jesse Malin at Vintage Vinyl 3/20/07

3 Martini Lunch (Graham Parker cover) - Jesse Malin
Questioningly (Ramones cover) - Jesse Malin

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Eels contest winners

I just got a package in the mail this very afternoon with the two new Eels CDs and I must say that these are the finest and most intriguing liner notes I've read in a long time. They readlly put a good deal of thought into this album. In addition to cool scans of all kinds of memorabilia, E comments on each of the 24 tracks on the best-of collection, and all 50 songs on the rarities comp. So necessary.

If you are a serious fan, you'll get all excited-like on your insides reading his stories behind how he wrote all these tunes ("Jon Brion came over to my house and decided we were going to conduct an experiment where I'd go downstairs for 30 minutes and write a song and he would do the same upstairs. This is what I wrote.") and the notes on the recording ("I should have been a bongo player. My girlfriend sometimes played the celeste on this one. Sometimes you gotta let Yoko have a little bit of the spotlight.")

The new fan will be enticed to take a listen by reading over what he says, because E wields his words sharply and incisively, and is an entertaining storyteller. As he says at the end of the notes for the best-of collection, "Casual users: if you've enjoyed this enough, perhaps I'll see you over in the USELESS TRINKETS aisle for more." I think you should go.

#1 - jay strange (thanks for the story jay)
#2 - Kari
#3 - Scott/sml1771

All the comment entries were so wonderful to read and only made me appreciate the lyrics of E's tunes even more. I kept saying, "Oh yeah! I forgot about that line!" Read em over. Or read E's All-Time Favorite Joyous Songs:

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

I was talking on the phone Saturday morning when my Dad came into the house, left a small box on the desk, kissed me on top the head, and left. Look! It's my new iPod in-ear headphones, a really-belated birthday gift.

It gives me three options for in-ear adapters, small, medium, and large. This is something that has never occurred to me, to wonder what size ear holes I have. It's a whole new level of self-awareness that I had not previously been familiar with. What if I had really tiny ear holes? (I don't, I'm medium). Or what if large weren't big enough for my gaping ear caverns and I needed to special-order an extra large pair, or adapt them with cotton balls or something? These are the things that flit through my mind while I explored the tidy streamlined white case. Anyways. I am so happy with the soft and snug fit, and the sound (better than the one-ear buzz in the standard-issue pair I've been living with for months now). I am a happy, medium-eared camper.

Tunes for the week:

Xavier Rudd

This in one talented Aussie. I saw Xavier Rudd Saturday night at the Gothic Theatre and he's a burning one-man-band (although he has added a drummer for this tour). Xavier has an earthy, rootsy, world music vibe to him, with a rock and wail comparable to Ben Harper. His stage set-up is hard to describe, involving lots of percussive instruments, three digeridoos, and a lap slide guitar all clustered within his reach. When he played Jimmy Kimmel a few weeks ago, he had fewer instruments, but definitely watch the video to see how he operates. Impressive. When the intro to this song ended and the mustachioed dude with the aviator sunglasses hit it with the driving beat, the entire crowd seemed to start jumping in unison. I got whapped in the face with some gal's gnarly dreadlock, it was that kind of crowd. Xavier is currently working on the score for the Summer 2008 film Surfer Dude, and his 4th album White Moth is out now on Anti-.

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

I have this tendency to think of Nick Cave as this very baroque, moody musician with sweetly sweeping songs like Ship Song (okay, fine, it comes to mind because PJ covered it). But then I recall last year's snarl and blues of side-project Grinderman ("No Pussy Blues"), and the danceable apocalypse of this video makes sense. This song knocked me off my feet; it's the first tune off his new album of the same name (mixed by Nick Launay - Arcade Fire, new Supergrass, Grinderman). You must also watch this video as well, if only to see the moustache and the completely unselfconscious dancing. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! will be out on April 8th in the U.S. on Anti-

Breathless (Nick Cave cover)
Cat Power

Speaking of the versatility of Nick Cave, I was pleased to find this cover amongst the bonus tracks for the new Cat Power covers album Jukebox, which is out now on Matador. Cat's version has less meandering on the fife, and more smoldering longing. As is her trademark, she takes a rather peppy little original number and dresses it up like midnight, all reverb and honeyed whispers. It becomes a different song, almost. I love what she does.

Lay Back Down
Eric Lindell

A little bit of lazy, late summertime soul feels nice right around now. Eric Lindell was born in San Mateo, CA and wound up in New Orleans, where he studied the music, garnered respect, and laid down this second studio album at the famed Piety Street Studios. Low On Cash, Rich In Love (out last week on Alligator Records) has the sweet ache of Van Morrison with that blue-eyed soul groove and the lithe vocals, and channels elements of R&B and Memphis brass bands.

Plus, he also looks a little like K-Fed on his album cover, which clearly is all the more reason to buy this one.

Sing Again
Chris Walla

The guitarist/producer for Death Cab For Cutie Chris Walla releases his first solo album Field Manual through Barsuk Records next week. I think everyone was kind of expecting that it wouldn't stray too far from the DCFC aesthetic but I find it to be a unique and varied album that stands up well on its own. This song is crisp and catchy, the beat gets my toes tapping. There's also some unexpected squaks of dissonance just to keep things fresh, and a what-just-happened drop off ending. Elegant and interesting.

And yep: It's on.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Guitar & piano instruction with Cactus Larry and the Wild Bunch

I had every intention of not mentioning the slew of ridiculous videos that Ryan Adams is putting up on his YouTube page because, well, even if his hair looks exceptionally nice in all of them, they leave me a little perplexed about the wisdom of leaving computer video-editing software within reach of those with too much time on their hands. I mean, those wicked crystal ball effects are cool and all, but . . . what?

But then tonight this new video he posted a few hours ago made me laugh. Out loud, starting with the opening lines: "This here is a gee-tar. And the first thing you need to know is . . . you have to fret it, up here is the frets. Now when you're frettin stuff . . ."

Ryan writes as description, "an instructional video based on the one Brad will NOT STOP PLAYING on the bus. i love brad. he could kick my dungeon all over the evergreen otherworld but he is my bro.
no content here reflects any ex girlfriends in any way

GUITAR and PIANO instruction

Anyone read lips? He looks pretty dang forlorn at the end (like a puppy), I think saying something about "baby." I am going to ask my deaf friend Rima to translate.


Nothing but pills and ashes under my skin

Okay so no pills actually under my skin, but I have been feeling a bit ashy and blah, so I saw this 7-day detox/cleanse diet where I eat like a vegan rabbit, drink lots of water and tea, and in seven days I feel cleansed and refreshed. I'm passing on the, uh, recommended colonic, but might get a massage on "Peak Day" 4.

Here's a scan.
Anyone crazy enough to go through this with me?
I'm starting in the morning.

And yes, you read that correctly. No coffee. Therefore I'd like to offer a preemptive apology to anyone who comes across my path for the next seven early mornings. I'll try to be cheery, I will. I guess I'll be so pumped with flavonoids and B-vitamins that I'll feel like superwoman . . . right?

Toxic Girl (David Whitaker String Arrangement) - Kings of Convenience
Vegetables - Beach Boys
Rehab - Amy Winehouse
Toxic - Britney Spears
I've Got To Be Clean - Guster

Saturday, January 19, 2008

M. Ward + Zooey Deschanel collaboration is near :: Four new songs from KCRW!

I'd heard last summer that my #1 artist from 2006 and the honey voiced starlet from Elf (among other projects) were collaborating on a full-length album, but it slipped from my radar for a bit there. Now look, we only have 2 more months to wait! M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel will be collaborating under the name She & Him with an album called Volume One (they are wildly creative in both namings) due out March 2008 on Merge Records.

Recently the duo stopped by the KCRW Open Road program to play several songs together. M. Ward has that humid, scratchy, atmospheric sound that balances out the velvety old-fashioned (sexy) croon of the delighful Ms. Deschanel. This is one highly anticipated album for me in 2008; I am hoping for a higher ratio of original compositions to covers, but I'll take whatever they deal. Listen:

Change Is Hard
You Really Got A Hold On Me
Magic Trick
Sentimental Heart


I'm heading out the door now to see this guy tonight. I am hoping there will be some digeridooing. I'll keep you posted.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Two sides of a delightful coin

So first I found this photo of the man who I always say could make me laugh reading the back of my cereal box to me:

. . .and THEN my cousin Heidi in Southern California goes ahead and sends me THIS bit of fantasticness (with commentary):

"Thoughtful Lance. Mirthful Lance. Two sides of a delightful coin."

"I wanted a shot like this for my wedding. The Mrs. said no."

"Olan Mills backdrop #4: Bucolic Meadow with Split Rail Fence.
Is that an animal carcass behind her?"

See the rest here.

OH! And also see this if you like laughing at the misfortunes of others. And really, who doesn't.

So don't pretend you don't have a whole collection of these Olan Mills bad boys to add to the bunch. I know I do. There's one with me in a bowl-cut hairdo and a plaid dress with a lace collar, and the unfortunate 7th grade school portrait in color-blocked rayon. Sigh.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sit for a spell with the Felice Brothers

Over recent months, a few trusted friends have recommended the Felice Brothers from New York as a group that I simply must listen to. I haven't done so until now, and I am wondering what the heck took me so long.

A band of (mostly) actual brothers from the Catskills, there's a raw and unfinished sound to their storytelling brand of folk-americana. I find that as you sit with them, the colors of their music start to come out in a warm rich burn, like a campfire at 2am. Very few artists write stories like this anymore, except for folks like Ray LaMontagne or the Hold Steady, in very different sounding ways.

Their vivid music is populated by characters with names like Long-Legged Brenda and take the listener along on all kinds of wild narratives that echo Dylan in their complexity and seeming unsingability. Both of these introductory tunes have a thoroughly warm, communal singalong feel to them, and the first tune in particular seems like it would be perfect behind the closing credits rolling on a really good movie.

Frankie's Gun - The Felice Brothers
[from The Adventures of the Felice Brothers, Vol 1]

Roll On Arte - The Felice Brothers
[from Tonight At The Arizona, 2007, Loose UK]

Fresh off shows with Bright Eyes, David Gray, and Levon Helm, they're playing tonight with Son Volt in Chicago, and then on tour in the coming months with artists like the Drive-By Truckers and North Mississippi Allstars.

Recently signed to Team Love Records (the label co-founded by Conor Oberst), the Felice Brothers will release a collection of new tunes combined with older hard-to-find tracks from the tour-only full length The Adventures of the Felice Brothers Vol 1. Their self-titled American debut will be out on March 4th 2008.

Given that "felice" means happy in italiano, they make me happy inside to have found them.


Loving the new Travis video: "New Amsterdam"

Scottish rockers Travis (yep, we interviewed 'em back in December) have just debuted a lovely video for their song "New Amsterdam." This springtime-fresh tune is one of my favorites off The Boy With No Name, and was featured prominently on my own little NYC mixtape, so it's laced with fond memories round these parts.

The humble and distinctly impressionistic video is directed by artist Gary Rough, who definitely brings that artistic/montage eye to this love song to New York City. Remember, New York was once New Amsterdam (why they changed it . . . I can't say):


[thanks Kevin]


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Your essential Eels, your useless trinkets (and a triple trouble new contest)

So I am back from Kauai, after the most brutal red eye flight home last night that just kicks all the vacation relaxation right outta you, back into the biting 11 degree weather. It's sunny today here, so that's nice, and I do have to smile at my tan peeking out from the fleece, as it reminds me of lying on Poipu Beach less than 24 hours ago, watching the humpback whales play just offshore. Seeing whales like that as they spout and breach is one of the few experiences left for grownups to spark that flicker of a childlike sense of wonderment. Those animals are incredible.

Anyways, yesterday was also notable for E (Mark Oliver Everett), the multi-instrumentalist artist behind the band Eels, because he released two new albums to the world.

Meet The EELS: Essential EELS Vol. 1, 1996-2006 is a great place to start if you know little about this stellar artist. It collects 24 tracks spanning a ten year period and 12 videos, to show first-timers who this E fella is.

The companion album goes deeper: EELS Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased 1996-2006 has 50 hard-to-find B-sides, film contributions and unreleased tracks, and a DVD of live performance footage from Lollapalooza 2006. All the music has been digitally remastered, with new liner notes from E.

(Please tell me which one/s you are entering for - 1, 2, or 3)

#1 - Someone wins a vinyl 7” -- limited edition (3000), signed by E, featuring two tracks – both previously unreleased:
A-side)“Climbing To The Moon” (Jon Brion remix)
B-side)“I Want To Protect You”

#2 - Someone else wins the Meet The Eels CD+DVD

#3 - A third someone wins the Useless Trinkets b-sides 2-CD+DVD

TO ENTER: E has written some gorgeously sad songs that leave me wide-eyed how someone could so precisely nail a sentiment in two or three lyrics, a few brutal scather songs, some fun and off-the-wall contributions, and several that make me want to dance. If you feel so compelled, please let's chat about your favorite Eels song or lyric. To keep it fair for those who are new to Eels and want to be introduced, the winner will be randomly picked for each of the three prize packs, so you can win even if you can't discuss favorites (yet). I'll run this through Sunday or so.

Fresh Feeling
I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man (Prince cover, live)
I Write the B-Sides

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New from Counting Crows, crossing our fingers

Berkeley band Counting Crows remain firmly ensconced in my top bands close to my heart, having soundtracked a good portion of my life. They are planning to release their fifth studio album Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings on March 25 through Geffen/Interscope. As previously mentioned, the two-part album is divided into the louder and fiercer "Saturday Nights" first half which was produced by Gil Norton (The Pixies/Foo Fighters), and the acoustic "Sunday Mornings" finish with Brian Deck overseeing the controls (Josh Ritter, Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse).

Adam Duritz (who has recently lost 50 lbs and is looking good) shared some thoughts about the album: "[It's] about dissolution and disintegration. It's about when Saturday night happens and you lose all sense of yourself. And it’s about when you wake up Sunday morning and look back at the wreck you’ve made of your life and you think, 'How can I possibly fix this? How can I ever climb out of this hole?' And then you start to try and climb."

He also notes, "Our album may not have much redemption in the end but we got all the sin I could live with and at least an attempt to try for something better."

. . . for your Saturday night:
1492 - Counting Crows

. . . and your Sunday morning:
When I Dream of Michelangelo - Counting Crows

That last tune is certainly an interesting one, whole-cloth revisiting and reincorporating a lyric and a sentiment from another one of my favorite tunes, "Angels of the Silences" from 1996's Recovering the Satellites.

From a personal standpoint, the sensual strength of his figures and his surprising use of color make Michelangelo my all-time favorite artist. My best semester ever included taking a breathtakingly in-depth course on all of his known works while I was studying abroad in Florence. Therefore, I've always smiled wider at that lyric, "I dream of Michelangelo when I'm lying in my bed," than any other one because that action and that thought is one of the best feelings ever -- because I've done it. I never thought I'd hear that line again in a new song. I am excited about this album, hoping for really amazing things that I know they are capable of.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

The return of Seven Mary Three

Surely you could've guessed that I loved the Seven Mary Three album American Standard when it came out in 1995. This band from Williamsburg, Virginia surged onto my radio with the heartfelt gravelled vocals, the 'everything-you-got' choruses, the big guitar riffs. It was all very of the moment, but they also had a rootsy-bluesy vibe to many of their songs and I still love that album thoroughly.

I listened to that CD until it skipped and jumped from scratches, and played the cassette that I made for my car all through at least 2 long hot summers. "My My" still pummels me relentlessly and it still makes me want to jump up and yell something when I hear it, and "Anything" has that great bassline and the doomed young love affair; it's all very serious. But earnest. If you've never heard anything but "Cumbersome":

My My - Seven Mary Three
Anything - Seven Mary Three

In the intervening years, rumor has it that they've released some very good other albums, namely Rock Crown (1997) and Orange Ave. (1998). My pal Kyle just sent those over to me with his comments on why I should love them, and I am looking forward to filling in the gaps. Someone also once told me to check the bargain bins for their 2001 release, Economy of Sound, but each time I've tried, I come up empty handed. I'll keep tryin'.

The fun news from my inbox is that Seven Mary Three is still at it, and back in 2008 with a new record called day&nightdriving (Bellum Records, February 19). Their sound still pleases my ears.

Last Kiss - Seven Mary Three

Hear one more new tune "Was A Ghost" streaming here.


Teal waves crashing

This is the view I've been enjoying recently, and this morning I went for an exhilarating run along this coast where the whales are spouting and the teal waves are crashing. There are a few really good runs I remember; one was on Victoria (British Columbia)'s coast in May of 2005 overlooking the ocean, my run from this morning will join that memory as one of the finest. It's humid here, so sweaty after my run, I dove into the ocean and did some swimming while flirting with the power of the waves. It's good to feel small and part of something so large and unpredictable sometimes. I am coming to the conclusion that learning to surf would be one of the most amazing things ever, and I am tempted. My balance that way isn't very good though -- my tailbone still aches just thinking about the time I tried to learn snowboarding.

I haven't been listening to much music other than the lush cacophony of birds teeming in all the trees here. I can hear it as I fall asleep and from the moment I start to push out through the haze of sleep in the morning. Just three days removed from my Colorado winter, where nothing breathes or even smiles, my head spins a bit from all the verdant life here.

There was a little bachelorette-type thing last night at the Sheraton, where we were lucky to see some really good middle-aged dancers bringing sexy back on the dancefloor, but the wedding festivities for my relative begin in earnest tonight, with the ceremony tomorrow night. I hope they put a pig in the ground to roast (vegetarians, have at it in the comments). And I think some of us are heading now to the little town of Koloa up the road, where we might just have Lappert's Ice Cream for lunch. Because I'm on vacation, and I can do that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aloha and mahalo

In the bleak midwinter, we all need some sunshine. By the time you read this (by the wonders of modern publish-by-proxy technology) I will be suspended somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, heading to Kauai. I will probably be listening to this mix (on my new noise-cancelling headphones) to wash away the ice and stress of modern life and prepare for some island revelry. I am staying here. Aw yeah.

These tunes capture a slice of the island/surf/sun lifestyle for me, and will be my soundtrack until Tuesday. The mix starts with a lovely little Ed Vedder tune on ukulele, because every single thing about this song is exactly what I would want for my Hawaiian vacation when I close my eyes. Plus it's my island soundtrack, and there's a lot of Vedder on my island.

You're True - Ed Vedder
Hawaii Five-O - The Ventures
Islands - Cat Power
A Flash of Green - Pollo Del Mar
Sweet Leilani - Chris Isaak
Island In The Sun - Weezer
Torpedo - Hawaii Mud Bombers
Island Life - Ethan Elkind
Surf Beat - Dick Dale & The Del-Tones
Hawaiian Sunset - Elvis Presley
Pipeline - The Chantays
Honolulu - Any Trouble
Gold Finger - Blue Stingrays
Constellations (live at Kokua) - Jack Johnson & Ed Vedder
Liver Splash - The Meters
Surf Rider - The Lively Ones
Oceans (live in Honolulu) - Pearl Jam
Theme From "Endless Summer" - The Sandals
Stay Young - The Farmhouse Band/Shelter surf DVD
Hawaii 78 - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole


Be good, kids.

For more Hawaiian music, check this excellent podcast: http://hawaiianeye.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Into The Wild demos from Eddie Vedder

How in the world did I not consider Ed Vedder's Into The Wild soundtrack album when I made up my best-of 2007 list? I think it's a richly nuanced, evocative collection that's perfectly suited to the weight of the film - you can read my thoughts on it here. Since the finished product is so grand, I was very excited to discover that some of his work-in-progress demos for the soundtrack have made their way onto the internet. Enjoy.

Guaranteed (Humming version demo) - Eddie Vedder
Guaranteed (demo 2) - Eddie Vedder [full lyrics jpg here]
Hard Sun (instrumental) - Eddie Vedder
No Ceiling (demo) - Eddie Vedder
Rise (demo) - Eddie Vedder
The Wolf (demo) - Eddie Vedder


These are from the excellent new Pearl Jam b-sides site http://www.gremmie.net/bsides/

Also -- a music video from Eddie? If you haven't seen it yet:

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rogue Wave's all over my radar lately

Rogue Wave has been popping up in simply the most delightful places for me in recent days.

First, over Christmas my brother got Season One of the Heroes tv show on DVD so we fed our addiction like crack, watching as many in a row as we could stay awake for (and then having really freaky dreams -- at least I did). In the very first episode, they used the Rogue Wave song "Eyes" to great effect, and I was struck afresh by what a lovely little 2:28 wisp of a song it is. It was looping in my head all day.

"Birds pass by to tell me that I'm not alone . . ."

Eyes - Rogue Wave

Then yesterday I saw that the fabulous Daytrotter (which seriously may be one of the best and most innovative DIY music sites out there today) has a new live session with Rogue Wave, including a performance of their unreleased song "Desperate." It's a tune that makes me feel like I am floating underwater and looking up at the sun filtering in.

Desperate (previously unreleased) - Rogue Wave

Listen to/download the rest of the Daytrotter set here. Rogue Wave also just announced that they will be supporting Nada Surf on the upcoming European Tour from February 20-March 5th.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

Today is slushy and grey and cold, and twenty degrees or so. In four days I will be on Kauai and I just keep telling myself that when the wind smacks me in the face and takes my breath away (and not in a Top Gun soundtrack kind of way). I am so very tired of having cold hands all the time.

Here are two links worth a click today:
--I heart Nick Hornby and the way he writes about music, this is a documented fact. Check his list of favorite songs from 2007. I hope he writes another Songbook someday.

--Stereogum posted this Celine Dion video last week, and good heavens I think she's IN-sane, but I laughed relentlessly. Amazing indeed.

Music for the frosty week:

Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution
The Black Crowes

Here's our first listen to the sounds of the brand new Black Crowes album Warpaint (March 4, Silver Arrow Records). You got your down-home noodling on the steel guitar, the emotive wails of Chris Robinson and some stylistically-appropriate Civil War lyrics about daughters of an unnamed revolution. It just feels good, what with them singing about how we can join the jubilee, running for the gates of the city. And when he sings about coming 'round midnight to her back door, some part of me just really doesn't think he's singing about her porch. The Black Crowes will be playing their full new album in seven lucky cities this March, tour dates just announced for those.

Honey Come Home
Murder Mystery

This quartet isn't sinister as they sound; Murder Mystery is a scruffy group of indie kids out of NYC whose debut album Are You Ready For The Heartache Cause Here It Comes was produced by JP Bowersock (Ryan Adams, The Strokes). With the pleasing jangle and reverb of surf guitar and Buddy Holly, with more than a Stroke of Casablancas' croon and edge, this song tells the story of an unsure young man who puts his hands on the small of her back, because "you told me you like that" (but he sure doesn't sound like he ever would have thought to do it himself). Simultaneously evoking school dances and Lower East Side bars, this album charmed me -- plus they have a girl drummer so come on, I'm in.

Jake Troth
First the fabulous Mr. Troth made me kinda wish my name was "Caroline," and now I am thinking maybe Aubrey would be a nice name so that I could claim this song as my own. No such luck. This is a new demo from Jake Troth, I love the way the bluesy opening notes take their time blossoming, hanging sweet in anticipation. And is it just me or do you want to sing the opening lines to Augie March's "One Crowded Hour" when this cues up? Different songs, but both superb. Oh, and you hipster fashionista, here's one musician who can also deck you out in finery since he's studying that business - check out jacob-rogers.com, a collaborative clothing line project that he contributes the artwork to, and each item ordered comes with a free EP of original music.


Their MySpace profile lists Foals as "snotty art school dropouts hungry for the dollar," and okay, sure I can cop that. I mean, they're barely 20 and signed to Sub Pop, and we love art school dropouts from Oxford here. The music coming from this dance-punk 5-piece is aloof and cool, but with with a underlying flashes of multilayered musical originality. There are touches of Talking Heads and Devo, as well as more modern nods like Franz Ferdinand. This song is all herky-jerky with an apocalyptic breakdown halfway through, and splashes of a bright pigment accent the rhythmic chaos. I also like how relentless the tune "Hummer" is, listen over on their MySpace. Their full length album Antidotes is due in Spring 2008.

You Cross My Path
The Charlatans

Does anyone really confuse these guys with The Charlatans from the '60s? Calling them The Charlatans UK seems superfluous to me, the same way my wonderful beloved nubbin of an NYC friend Jenn always says "Airfrenchband" as if it was one breathless word, instead of just Air. ANYWAYS. These Charlatans are winding up their second decade of making music as kings of their own Britpop/alternative fifedom. Managed by Oasis guru/Creation Records head Alan McGee, they've decided to digitally give away their first single from their upcoming 2008 album. Thom says everyone is doing it, and when he speaks, people follow. Good.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Stay, and the night would be enough :: U2 in San Jose 4/20/2001

April 19th 2001 was a Thursday night, grey and raining as I recall. I had been working at my first job out of college for about four months and was still getting used to not being a student anymore. Living in a tiny tiny apartment right in the heart of the ghetto next to an Asian karaoke bar, it was downwind from a fish market, with the occasional crazy person attacking the lobby door with a crowbar. Home sweet home.

Upon getting home from work that ordinary Thursday night, I retrieved a phone message from KFOG radio, letting me know that instead of Friends & ER that night, I was going to be seeing U2 in San Jose -- winning a contest I forgot I'd entered. Not a bad exchange. On such short notice, everything feels more exciting and more wonderful because you've had absolutely no time in your mind to build it up or form any sort of anticipations, you're just grabbing your coat and heading to Will Call for a night that stuns you in its intimacy despite being shared with 20,000 other people.

The Thursday night show was incredible, U2 are probably the best stadium showmen alive, and I say that having not yet seen Bruce Springsteen. Everything from the into-the-crowd peninsula of the heart-stage setup on that tour, to the surprising range of material they pulled out -- all seemed crafted to transcend the artificiality of the arena show and feel, surprisingly, much more like a smaller venue. I was struck by how personal it felt. I left the show much more engaged and blown-away than I had during the fantastic orgy of the Oakland PopMart tour in 1997 with Oasis opening. That was glitz and sparkle, swagger and neon; this was something altogether different.

Thursday night's set didn't have a single song that I wish they'd left out; even the radio hits that I've heard so many bajillions of times that I (admit it) will often flip the station when they come on, those tunes were invigorated as if they hadn't been sung over and over for the last twenty+ years. 2001 U2 was a band at the very top of their ever-heightening game. Just listen (for example) to the rev and tug of the guitar breakdown that the Edge inserts into Friday night's "Where The Streets Have No Name" shortly after the 4 minute mark. It's like an engine turning over, still ready to tear out of there.

However, the night I was there didn't include the unique gem that came Friday, one of the reasons that I love this 4/20/01 boot instead: U2 played a wistful acoustic version of "Stay (Faraway So Close)" for the first time ever in the U.S. that night. In fact, they tell me that it was the first time a song from Zooropa had been performed on U.S. soil.

"Stay" is such a different song without the clattery drum beat and the Zooropa-era sheen to it, but I honestly savor the perfect simplicity of this rendition and the way Bono wraps up all the late-night longing with just an acoustic guitar. Similar to the first time Pearl Jam played "Leash" in over 12 years (in Boston, May '06), I especially get a thrill listening as the crowd catches on to the moment.

Favorite moments on this boot also include a sweetly heartfelt acoustic version of "In A Little While," performed on the edge of the heart and dedicated to Joey Ramone (who had died 5 days before) saying, "This is a song Joey Ramone loved, and we loved him, so..." Starting from there and going through that 4-song lineup of In A Little While/Angel of Harlem/Stay (Faraway So Close)/All I Want Is You, finishing with the crowd singing along with all that was in them -- whew. That's a pretty unstoppable 15 minutes. And then since I am a complete Achtung Baby pushover, the one-two punch of "Mysterious Ways" and "The Fly" did me in as well. The buoyant "Kite" also saw its live debut this night.

The quality of this boot is excellent; this is the audience recording rather than the soundboard one that is also floating around out there, because I like hearing the crowd noise. Thursday's setlist had many similarities to this boot below (but I got to see "Even Better Than The Real Thing" and thought I might die of happiness). Since contest winners can't be choosers, and since it would have set me back $85 to actually *pay* for my ticket to Friday's show, I'll have to satiate myself with this fantastic boot. Easy to do.

Elevation / Creep (snippet)
Beautiful Day
Until The End Of The World
New Year's Day
(live debut)
New York
I Will Follow
Sunday Bloody Sunday / Get Up Stand Up (snippet)
Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of
Band Introductions
In A Little While (for Joey Ramone)
Angel Of Harlem
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
(U.S. debut)
All I Want Is You
Psalm 116 (snippet) / Where The Streets Have No Name
Mysterious Ways / Sexual Healing (snippet)
The Fly
Bullet The Blue Sky / Whole Lotta Love (snippet)
With Or Without You
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Walk On
(halle, hallelujah...indeed)


[Thanks to U2Start for a lot of this, and to Otto Kitsinger and The Chronicle for some great photos]

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The unfamiliar faces of Matt Costa

As soon as I was about ten seconds into this new video from Matt Costa, I already knew that yeah, I was gonna have to post it. When he steps in front of the panorama of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where I have spent many a 25¢ Ride Night during the long hot summers of my teenage youth, I fell. This brand new video is for the playful lead-off track from Matt's upcoming second full-length album, Unfamiliar Faces (January 22, Brushfire Records).

"Mr. Pitiful" is the earcatching opener to a bright and largely effervescent album, but a collection that also finds Matt journeying into territory that is a bit deeper and richer. I heard more variation between the songs than in albums past, but he still maintains that enjoyable California vibe.

This video is directed by the Malloy Brothers, and casts Matt as a marionette-like one man band, travelling the well-known beaches, bridges, and thoroughfares of Santa Cruz and San Francisco. I can testify that walking across that train bridge at about the 1:30 mark is a bit unnerving (if it's the one I am thinking of) because it's just an open trestle. It made me smile to see it again.

And it's also a testimony to both of those wacky cities that I love that no one hardly bats an eye at the dude jivin' down the street wearing a big drum and a bowtie.

MR. PITIFUL - new video from Matt Costa
(click the yellow play circle)

And here's a bonus Friday goodie for you: a new slowburn song from Costa that feels like an orange sunset to me. It's one of my favorites off Unfamiliar Faces so far.

Never Looking Back - Matt Costa

Matt is on tour all over the place in the coming months with Johnathan Rice and Delta Spirit supporting.


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