...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, April 30, 2008

Coachella Day 2: It was hot but remember how stunning?

The waves of radiating heat by midday arrival at Coachella on Saturday felt the most heady of the three days, but perhaps it was just the swell in the crowd numbers in anticipation of The wee sexy Artist. More people = more body heat. Although I was excited about so many acts that day, the gild was off the lily-fresh novelty of Friday and I kept finding myself jammed into overpacked tents with too many hip dudes in neon sweating on me. This was the day I wanted to spend the most time in the Do Lab so that guy above could spray me with his cooling mists of the gods, in time to the pulsating electronic music. In that crowd, you cease feeling hot, and just feel blissful.

I started my rounds over in tent village wandering from French synthpop band The Teenagers over to the Gobi Tent for the music of Mick Jones' (the Clash) side project with Tony James of Generation X, Carbon/Silicon. Their sound is true to those (slightly idling) punk guitar jags and the cockney drawl, but my friend kept shaking his head in dismay at Mick's pink button down dress shirt. "Joe Strummer would've beaten him up for that shit," he muttered under his breath. Ah, but we all age. Not all still sound as good as these guys did; it was an enjoyable afternoon set.

Denver's "indie rock with a circus-polka-cabaret-Eastern-European spin" Devotchka was next, and not only were they all dressed up like a symphony in their (surely godawful hot) dress blacks, they brought acrobats and tubas.

I love how you can see the whole stage and the crowd reflected in Jeanie Schroder's tuba, and who doesn't want flailing spandex-clad women swinging from large scarves in time to their live music?

After a few songs from Cold War Kids, I got right in the middle of the main stage crowd for an exhilarating Spanish language bonanza with Mexico City's Café Tacuba. Hot damn, that was one of the most fun sets of the entire festival for me. I had no idea what was going on. There were Mexican wrestler masks, flags being waved, everybody and their nephew singing along en español at the very top of their lungs -- and I loved every minute of it. Once when I was studying abroad I went to an Italian pop/rap concert by Jovanotti and this was not a dissimilar experience. It's great to feel out of place at a concert and yet completely, totally in place because you can share that kind of passion. Please go see Café Tacuba if you get a chance. The force of the energy exploding from the tiny man on stage felt like it looked:

After Dwight Yoakam (Dwight Yoakam!) and his hillbilly muuuusic --which seemed to go over quite well, as a testament to the variety of this festival-- I headed over to get trampled at Hot Chip. The photo pit was as packed as the tent, spilling out into the open air, all of us sweating, weeping for a good shot of the band, and trying to deny that the rhythm of Hot Chip was indeed, in the end, going to get us. Those beats were just as delicious and tightly-woven as I had expected and the crowds were out in full force to be a part of that.

P.S. - You need proper athletic wear to survive Hot Chip (below). I also saw 5 grown men dressed only in matching Speedos and hip packs and it made me die a little inside.

If I thought I was trampled at Hot Chip though, my goodness it was just preparation for M.I.A. I found it interesting that the two most buzzed and frenetically attended sets of the whole festival that I saw were out in the Sahara Tent (bet it woulda been three if I made it to Justice). Traditionally, I understand that's been the dance/DJ tent but it seems to me that maybe genres are bending and next year the organizers shouldn't assume that the dance kids will all fit inside it. Under the stars at the outdoor stage would have been so much better. But nonetheless, M.I.A. was stomping and bright, a dizzying set causing complete crowd chaos from this Sri Lankan wundergirl.

In between Hot Chip and M.I.A. I swooned a little over Jenny Lewis, who charmingly dug out the same outfit she must have worn for her tap dance recital in 1988, and whose fellow Rilo Kileyans sounded warm and perfect in the setting sun:

Golden confetti during The Moneymaker as the sky darkened....

was alternately mournful and sexy and numbing and thrilling all at once. Under the starry desert sky Beth Gibbons' voice floated like a ghost weaving in and out of the trance.

Also worth noting that Portishead's set possessed the magical ability to completely jam the cell phone text messaging network, leaving thousands of us stranded, wandering with a dazed look in our eyes as we sought our friends. It was a near tragedy of Herculean proportions. You just don't DO that to techno-addicted younguns. How did I survive festivals before texting? It was brutal.

Finally - Prince! You do not take pictures of The Artist. You take pictures of the screen showing the artist. Only Prince's "personal photographers" were allowed in to the photo pit, much to mine and everyone else's chagrin. I wanted to see how tiny he was from 15 feet away. But it was okay because his essence radiated all the way back to where I ended up on the field and I felt the heat, baby. One only needs to watch him play guitar like he's in The Throes of It All to see why women flock to him (not this one, but some women. So I hear).

He was moody and sensual, I never could figure out what he was going to do next, he changed clothes in the middle of his set and played an hour after noise curfew with little concern for silly rules. And really, who was going to tell him to stop? And he pretty much blew the standard for future headliners sky high. I am not a huge Prince fan with the exception of a few undeniable favorites (Never Take The Place Of Your Man? P Control?) but this man was in charge. His cover of Radiohead's Creep was one of those wtf moments where I looked around and said, "Wait, is he actually doing this?" - the ways he changed the lyrics eviscerated the song of a lot of its insecure meanings, and I didn't care for that, but he made it his own. One thing Prince does not do is wish he were special.

As the final notes of Prince's set vibrated off into the sexy oblivion where all of his performances are stored ad infinitum, one of my friends commented that people were going to be talking about that set for years. And indeed, everywhere I went I overheard conversations, starting with one at the table behind me when getting bagels the next morning.

"He kept changing what he called us!" Young Man With Visor #1 remarked. "Like, first it was [slight falsetto] 'Hello Co-ah-chella!" then he switched and was all, "Y'all are the coolest, Cuh-chella. Unh!" When he achingly closed the sentence with that perfect Prince "unh," I almost spit out my coffee trying not to laugh because then they would've known I was eavesdropping. Their conversation then veered into hypothetical situations that amused me so much I had to get up and leave: "So, if you had a nipple on your forehead, would you just wear a beanie all the time? Or a sweatband?"

On that thought-provoking note, we headed out into the ghostland observatory of Coachella on a sparsely populated Sunday . . .

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Coachella, let's go again (Day One)

Ah, Coachella, you winsome siren.

That festival is going to beckon to me annually after the amazing experience I've had over this past weekend. Even with a lineup that some declared "not as strong" compared to past years, I had such a full schedule and was extremely pleased with almost every show I went to. In fact, as I scroll through the schedule now that it's over, I feel actual pain at the shows I meant to go to and completely missed. It all felt like a well-organized little technicolor city with oases of coolness and mist and fun around every corner, worlds apart from the everyday world. The variety of music represented was truly terrific and non-stop. And I am now in love with the Coachella tacos, two for $4! It just doesn't get much better.

The first really awesome set of the festival for me on Friday was the Black Kids. They were fun and having fun, they sounded terrific -- like the Cure filtered through a little bit of a danceathon soundtrack - plus they can really play. I felt an immense sense of kinship to see all these other kids counting off "1! 2! 3! 4!!" in unison for a band that's gained 90% of their buzz through blogs:

THE BLACK KIDS: "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" (live at Coachella 2008)

Yeah, like that.

After the Black Kids I heard the jarring strains of Slightly Stoopid covering old Nirvana wafting across the open field to me (no!!) and then headed to the press tent for this pleasant surprise:

Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip then turned in an electrifying, stimulating, clever, fresh set over in the Gobi Tent to another packed audience. I can't get enough of the way Pip rolls around his words into these sentences that you think aren't gonna flow back together, and then he pulls it off with panache and wit. The beats shook that tent to its stakes. Can't wait to see them again at Monolith:

A clamorous and multi-instrumental set from Architecture in Helsinki (not from Helsinki mind you but Australia) also popped up that afternoon. AIH were the first folks of the fest to be sporting the very popular yet really awful '80s fluorescent fashion alongside the kind of brightly colored sunglasses you know I had in the eighth grade.

Vampire Weekend! Hugely anticipated set that delivered what I had come to see. Crest of hipness or over it, these guys know how to write an infectiously catchy yet distinctively African-infused pop song. More seriously questionable '80s fashion, this of the preppy variety (those shorts?!), and one of my personal favorite pics I managed to snap:

And then as the golden sun began to slide behind the palm trees, and that perfect light hovered over the lawn and wrapped itself around the stage, The National took their places for a set that I was almost intimidated to see. I'd been looking forward to seeing them live for so many months here, and with so much ferocity that I almost couldn't abide. No screaming or fainting on my part, but I'd be lying if I said my heart wasn't a bit fluttery. Their music is so richly, deeply gorgeous with lyrics that drip poetry and a flawless way of phrasing things I've always thought but never said. The National carved something out of me and put something back in is the best way I can put it. Their set ended too soon for me, but it seemed like magic in the desert when that sun hit the mirrorball above their heads and splayed the crowd with dancing light.

Unfortunately the steep price extracted to see the National was missing about half of the Raconteurs and all my pictures were crap. What I saw was scorching as expected and led to a conversation about Jack White's exceptionally impressive guitar skills and how Brendan Benson is always better than we remember to give him credit for.

Then another pinnacle on a day filled with greatness - The Verve! Seeing the re-formed Verve was treat enough but did anyone really expect them to sound this tight? After Richard Ashcroft famously declared, "There's more chance of getting all four Beatles on stage together than a Verve reunion," there they were.

From the opening notes of "This Is Music" followed by "Space and Time" and then my much-beloved "Sonnet" -- it really did all sound like a sonnet, my love. Their set was one treat after another, with the newish song "Sit and Wonder" which had been played on the UK shows, and a brand new song that veered off into rave-worthy dance territory called "Love is Noise." It was the epic seven-minute closer:

Love Is Noise (new song, live in San Francisco 4-23-08) - The Verve

But before Love is Noise was unleashed on us, the true culmination of their set came for me with that Stones-string-sampling wonder that is "Bittersweet Symphony." This was a moment that will live on in shiver-inducing concert history for me -- check that break, that crashing like a wave, all the fists pumping together across the crest:

THE VERVE: Bittersweet Symphony (live at Coachella)

Now, Jack Johnson is so affable and warm and relaxing that I'll admit to falling out of the game for his set. After the Verve I just felt drained and exuberant and didn't give ole Jack my undivided. But Mason Jennings joined him for a new song "I Love You and Buddha Too," as did Matt Costa for "Let It Be Sung," a tune off the eclectic Brokedown Melody soundtrack.

The effects of running on Heineken and funnel cake for a weekend are catching up with me in force tonight and I am going to tuck it in for the evening with the sun setting on Day One. We got two more days to cover, kids. What a fantastic, halcyon Friday.

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Monolith Festival at Red Rocks :: 2008 Lineup announced

The lineup for the 2008 Monolith Festival at Red Rocks was announced this morning, and it is sizzling hot. Since I am just home from Coachella (more coming today on that!), I'm excited to see a few of the hottest names from that fest doing a reprisal at Monolith this September, plus all kinds of other goodness.

Fuel/Friends is excited to be working with the Hot Freaks! bloggers group for this festival to curate part of the lineup. We've got a lot of blog-buzz heavy bands coming to Red Rocks this year, and I am especially stoked about a few Fuel favorites like the Rosewood Thieves, Chester French, The Avett Brothers, Superdrag, Band of Horses and Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip.

Last year's debut Monolith was a picture-perfect weekend of fresh indie sounds on multiple stages, and this year's sophomore effort looks like it will cement the fest as a can't-miss annual occurrence in Colorado. Red Rocks is a relatively intimate venue with superb sight lines and a warmly unique feel to it.

Since this is the premier Colorado indie music festival, it's refreshing that they are bringing Denver favorites Devotchka to headline the first night. I saw their exciting live show a few days ago in the desert and they definitely can pull it off. I regrettably missed French dance duo Justice at Coachella (again, more on that later but it involved crushing levels of exhaustion by Sunday night and a weak will for fighting against immense hot sweaty crowds again), so their headlining spot in the open air with the huge crimson rocks all around will be hotly anticipated. Bring it on, Monolith!

FULL LINEUP:If you can't read the tiny print, see all the goodness here.

Til The End of Time - Devotchka
DVNO - Justice

Kissing Families - Silversun Pickups

The Funeral (live on KEXP) - Band of Horses

Will You Return? - Avett Brothers

Baby Goes To 11 - Superdrag

Diamond Ring - Rosewood Thieves

Flathead - The Fratellis

Thou Shalt Always Kill - Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip


Monday, April 28, 2008

Easily the best picture ever taken in the history of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not melted yet

Updates from "the field" (meaning, an air-conditioned AT&T tent with free laptop use at Coachella): Yesterday's highlights were a terrific set from The Black Kids, an overwhelmingly intense experience with The National, and The Verve sounding just brilliant -- better than I could have hoped after ten years apart. Hearing those epic-feeling opening notes of Bittersweet Symphony build and crest under the stars and the light tent, with a few thousand fists pumping in time, was a concert moment I will remember for a very long time.

The set from Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip yesterday evening was thrilling, with their intelligent wordplay and beats that get under my skin. It was difficult to tear myself away from the tail end of their set, but hard choices must be made all the time. Such are the difficulties of trying to line up all the acts on the grid and not miss anyone; there are so many many good choices. I've just arrived for day two, and already Saturday is hotter than Friday was, but I am holding my own. It's not bad at all. Yesterday as a whole was perfect, a rousing success; this is a great great festival.

My camera is charging unattended in the press area while I trust in the basic goodness of other journalists not to steal it; I am hoping to try and pull the pictures off it later. If my little viewfinder is any indication, I am going to have some really amazing pictures to share with you all soon. Today holds Carbon/Silicon, Man Man, DeVotchKa, Cold War Kids, Stephen Malkmus, Cafe Tacvba, Hot Chip, Dwight Yoakam, Rilo Kiley, M.I.A., Islands, Animal Collective, Akron/Family, and, of course, a closing set from the one and only Prince -- depending on how motivated I am to run from tent to tent. That's the game plan for now, though.

Coachella = fantastic!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Ghosts of Coachella Past :: Live driving mix

I hear sometimes there's traffic.

If you are heading down to Coachella this weekend in the center of the Indio desert, you may encounter a few other (80,000) folks doin the same. What shall you do whilst idling?

After Netflixing the movie about Coachella last weekend filled with so many great live performances from the past seven fests, I felt compelled to look for some of them to put on my iPod. Turns out that it makes quite the fine little mix to keep you company on the drive.

This and In'n'Out, and I'm all set:

Autobahn (short) (2004) - Kraftwerk
Y Control (2006) - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Some Candy Talking (2007) - The Jesus and Mary Chain
Inertia Creeps (2006) - Massive Attack
7/4 (2004) - Broken Social Scene
Don't Let Him Waste Your Time (2007) - Jarvis Cocker
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (1999) - Morrissey
Kelly Watch The Stars (2007) - AIR
Girls and Boys (2003) - Blur
No Fun (2003) - Iggy Pop & The Stooges
Bizarre Love Triangle (2005) - New Order
Keep The Car Running (2007) - Arcade Fire
New York City Cops (2002) - The Strokes
Pressure Zone (2004) - Beck
You Know I'm No Good (2007) - Amy Winehouse
Planet Telex (2004) - Radiohead
March of the Pigs (2005) - Nine Inch Nails
Dead Ken Beats (2005) - Prodigy
Do You Wanna Touch Me (2003) - Queens of the Stone Age
Kool Thing (2003) - Sonic Youth
Bulls on Parade (2007) - Rage Against The Machine
Close To Me (2004) - The Cure
In Heaven --> Where Is My Mind? (2004) - The Pixies
She's Electric (2002) - Oasis
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart (2005) - Wilco
Like Eating Glass (2006) - Bloc Party
Army of Me (2007) - Bj
God Put A Smile On Your Face (2005) - Coldplay
Lua (2005) - Bright Eyes
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2004) - The Flaming Lips



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trent Reznor seeks discipline

Check the rad new Nine Inch Nails track available for free download via the official website starting shortly after midnight last night. When it starts out, it reminds me some of the big beats of "Only" off With Teeth, but as usual that dirty angry undercurrent and bottled frustration starts to seep out when Trent's imperfect voice cracks just a little.

He muses in this song if his viciousness is losing ground; I certainly hope not. Not only is this song fantastic, but it's one more way Reznor is seeking to transform his little corner of the music industry (free the music!).

Download: Discipline - Nine Inch Nails


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

As the mercury climbs :: Coachella 2008 Mix

After taking care of some business in the San Fran climes, I am packing up and heading south to (hot) Southern California to cover the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Oddly enough for a California native, this will be my first time at the fest. I am excited for the many great bands I plan to hear, while simultaneously terrified of the waves of heat that I've been told will descend on me without mercy. After 3 years in Colorado I've gotten spoiled; it rarely gets above say 70, 75 here. So pray for my sweaty, sunburned soul.

In the meantime I've pulled a 30-song mix together of acts that will be appearing at Coachella this year. The set times were announced today, and with so many conflicts, organizing seems futile; I just plan to close my eyes and walk towards a stage at random.

Total Fucking Madness - Carbon/Silicon
Steady As She Goes (acoustic) - The Raconteurs
Bang On - The Breeders
Lake Michigan - Rogue Wave
A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
Slow Show - The National
Say It Now - The Swell Season
Avril 14th - Aphex Twin
Thou Shalt Always Kill - Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
A&E - Goldfrapp
100 Days - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Amazon - M.I.A.
Red Wine, Success! - Cold War Kids
Better Than The Rest - Murs
Transliterator - DeVotchKa
The Way That He Sings - My Morning Jacket
Ain't No Reason - Brett Dennen
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You (The Twelves remix) - The Black Kids
Sunday - Sia
D.A.N.C.E. (original EP mix) - Justice
Mercy - Duffy
Lovely Allen - Holy Fuck
I'd Rather Go Blind (Etta James cover) - Man Man
Creeper - Islands
Volver a Comenzar - Cafe Tacvba
Love In Our Hearts - Electric Touch
My Radio (AM Mix) - Stars
(Shake It) Over and Over - Hot Chip/Diplo
Lady In The Front Row - Red Kross
The Sweat Descends - Les Savy Fav


And, if you want to listen in on the madness and feel like you're there, go buy some pricey beer/frozen lemonade, crank the heater up to 102, and stream Coachella 2008 live on AT&T Blueroom starting Friday afternoon.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

This was a weekend of long-overdue fresh starts and spring cleaning:

Time to retire old Jack, I'd say. And (!!) yesterday afternoon I sat in a coffee shop with a local illustrator/designer and discussed my concepts to redesign this site. He's making me a nifty new custom header image, and I think I am going to move Fuel/Friends over from Blogger to Wordpress. I would welcome any suggestions you may have for redesign, or help with the conversion process if you're a web-type because I am in the slow class when it comes to this stuff.

Here are some tunes I am enjoying this week after culling the promo CD stack that I am woefully behind in enjoying:

Looks Like We Haven't Learned A Thing
The Walkup

After meeting in a Lower East Side NYC bar in 2005, The Walkup have been honing their energetic, punchy live show into a full-length studio album of material called Down on Pacific (June 3, Reynolds Recording Co). Their music is angular and hooky with Brit-pop influences and ace drumbeats, perfect for warmer days and summer nights. The album is produced by Gregory Lattimer (Albert Hammond Jr.) and Caleb Shreve (Ra Ra Riot).

Do The Panic
Phantom Planet
Southern California band Phantom Planet's retro overtones take bold predominance in several tracks on their newest release Raise The Dead (released last week on the Fueled by Ramen label). This cut is an absolutely infectious reworking of a song originally off their 2004 fanclub-only CD Negatives, all laced with ba-ba-ba (shooby doo)s and exhorations to "come on, come on" over jangly jaunty guitar. You'll be totally wanting to bust out singing this all day; wait until you're in the elevator.

How Did We Forget?
El Perro Del Mar

As we recall from high school Spanish class, El Perro Del Mar translates to "the dog of the sea" and sounds like it should be a quartet of jolly Mexican mariachis, but is actually comprised solely of the the lovely platinum blonde Swede Sarah Assbring. This tune sounds like it's coming to you on a very old radio, wafting in from another room where it's been playing all along. There is a timeless quality to the music - the coy bittersweetness of the blues, modern Swedish ambience, and moments where it feels like a gentle lullaby. From The Valley To The Stars is due tomorrow on fellow Swedes The Concretes' label Licking Fingers. After touring with folks like Jens Lekman and Jose Gonzalez, she has several upcoming dates in May with it-girl Lykke Li.

Evil Urges
My Morning Jacket
This brand new mp3 from My Morning Jacket was unleashed upon the music-web community last Friday via email blast. It's the title track from the upcoming Evil Urges album (June 10/ATO Records), and the fact that it's cross-posted on just about every other blog in the world (except maybe this one) shows how hotly anticipated this release will be. Also, judging by the vibe emanating in virutal heatwaves off this track, their evil urges are actually compelling them to wanna gyrate around like Prince and croon in a soulful Motown falsetto. If this sneak peek only whets your appetite, you can also check out the astoundingly cool SXSW set that Jim James did with M. Ward to hear some more new MMJ material, mixed with the old. Sublime.

If You Stay
Richard Julian

Brooklynite Richard Julian hangs out with musical pals like the talented Jesse Harris and plays in Norah Jones' side project band the Little Willies (who opened for Ryan Adams in NYC that one time). In addition, if you appreciate a recommended drink menu to complement each track on an album, check the liner notes of this one. Developed by an NYC mixologist, the concoctions range from warm beer & weight gain, to absinthe and rye whiskey, to this one -- a sugar cube with champagne, laced with Angostura Bitters. The sweet with the bitter, as Julian musically weighs in on whether she should stay or go: "but if you stay there's a film I'd like to go see / and if you go, i'll watch one on tv." It sounds like a nonchalant proposal, but by the end of the song Julian is confessing that he would "weep like a goat" while she packed her things, letting his true colors bleed through. Sunday Morning in Saturday's Shoes is out now on Manhattan/EMI.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Jackie Greene gives up the ghost for Record Store Day in Denver

Any reason is a good reason to comb the stacks and while away the hours in any independent record store. I've always managed to find a way to duck into the corner music store, from Florence to Vancouver, New York to San Diego -- nothing beats the thrill of finding some small musical gem, or even the promise of that possibility.

Saturday is Record Store Day across the country, where your local independent retailers have joined forces to encourage you to stop by and say hello. They miss your smiling face. Really. Even if you've been seduced by the sleek and sexy mistress of iTunes (or its outlaw cousins at Pirate Bay), they'll take you back and love you. Promise.

Locally here in Denver our excellent Twist & Shout is celebrating its 20th anniversary this very weekend, in addition to the Record Store Day festivities.

They're bringing in California troubadour Jackie Greene for an intimate performance, in support of his new album Giving Up The Ghost. Greene plays Saturday night at the Bluebird; an excellent twentysomething blues-americana showman with some serious harmonica chops, his live performances have always impressed me.

Shaken - Jackie Greene (from Giving Up The Ghost)

So Denverites, stop by Twist & Shout this weekend --they have cake! and champagne! and have posted a list of just a few of the cool indie vinyls they'll have in stock for the weekend:

Josh Ritter Live at the 9:30 club
Jason Isbell Live at Twist & Shout
Breeders We're Gonna Rise 7"
Vampire Weekend A-Punk 7"
Stephen Malkmus Cold Son 10"
R.E.M. Supernatural Superserious 7"
Black Keys Strange Times 7"
Built to Spill Don't Cry 7"
Death Cab for Cutie I WIll Possess Your Heart 7"

Plus many labels are giving away special comps and samplers just for Record Store Day: a Brushfire vinyl sampler, Merge 7" vinyl, Sub Pop sampler CD, Matador comp, etc. Check with your local store for what they have lined up. It seems like everyone's got something cool going on.

Let's head out and support local independent music retailers. Each one that shutters and falls by the wayside is a blow to the unique, passionate, knowledgeable music-buying experience.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Small, curvy, speeding cars and the Napoli sunshine

Sometimes a song sneaks up on you and surprises you with the way it insinuates entire cinescapes in your mind. That picture above belongs with another film, but it is a vague representation of the colors, the era, the intrigue that this song conjures up for me.

Circus of Horror - Quiet Village

I cannot figure why this song is called Circus of Horror, as there is no sense of carnival and nothing scary about it. Clowns and elephants could be the farthest thing from my mind when this tune cues up. Instead, this seems a perfect soundtrack to a forgotten '60s Italian spy movie -- a little campy but sleek, ready for some fast driving down narrow cobbled streets. Or perhaps you can hear a change of locales with a dash of cool saunter down the Miami waterline, scoping out the sinister antagonist.

British duo Quiet Village claim influences that range from "Italian film soundtracks, BBC library music, disco edits, acid rock, vintage soul and easy listening." On this song I find them extremely reminiscent of Irishman David Holmes' fantastic soundtracks (the Oceans 11 series, or my favorite Out of Sight), with their sense of ineffable charm and air of coolness, but also the Latin and calypso undertones that emit an undercurrent of heat.

This bolt-from-the-blue find that just made my evening; their full-length album Silent Movie is out May 13th on K7,

[much obliged to MFR for pointing this out]


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chester French accomplishes more in the dorm basement than you ever did sophomore year, lazy slacker

So the story goes that a pair of Harvard boys get bored and decide to record an album in their dorm basement. A lot of things happened in my various dorm basements but nothing that sounded this good; I think it was too dark with those half-lit humming fluorescent lights, the broken foosball tables, and slightly dodgy-looking couches that you knew had some sketch tales to tell.

So what did Chester French conjure up there instead? Think robust strings over crisp and sexy beats, some chiming mid '60s guitar . . . and they get all Zombies here at the beginning of this track. What's your name / who's your daddy?

She Loves Everybody - Chester French

and - you know hear it:
Time of the Season (alternate mix) - The Zombies

Go traipse on over to their MySpace now and listen to "People" . . . then try and tell me that doesn't make your day significantly better. So pleasing that I've already used it on a mix. Chester French's debut album Love the Future is forthcoming in 2008 on Pharrell Williams' Star Trak label.

Chester French is performing at Red Rocks on Sunday, September 14th at the Monolith Festival.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

you gots to pay the piper

It's a beautifully sunny 75 degree day here; perfect for fun and frolicking, a cruel masking of the fact that it is actually Tax Day for Americans. As I lick the envelope to the $255 check that I owe to the State of Colorado (which I nearly forgot about), I wince.

This tune makes it sting a little bit less. Not much.

Mr. Taxman (demo) - Weezer


Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

I'm back from my aforementioned 20-hour dash through Wyoming, Nebraska, and back into Colorado. It was a spur of the moment thing, leaving me at the ranch/hostel place on the remote Wyoming border with nary a toothbrush at 10pm on a Sunday night. It was exhilarating to get out and see a part of the country I've never seen, simply because I wanted to see where the freeway took me on a full tank of gas. While on the jaunt, I listened mostly to my two Fuel For The Open Road mixes, and the twangy overtones fit perfectly on the county highways and prairies.

Here's what else I might have listened to if I hadn't left my iPod on the charger at home.

Future Rock
The Muslims

I'd seen a flurry of short posts about The Muslims in the blog world a few weeks ago, but they truly won me over when I read this great quote from the band that Bruce cited over on Some Velvet Blog: "We don't know what the fuck we're doing. And that's why it sounds like The Velvet Underground. Because it has chords and my guitar is trebly. We like the E chord. It's simple. None of us listen to math-rock. We tried it, but it didn't work out that well. We're not bad, we're just not really good." And AMEN, ain't that humbling. This song is young and dirty and fast -- what more could you want? The Muslims play Denver's Larimer Lounge on May 2, with lots of other shows coming up as well.

Silver Lining
Rilo Kiley

This song is in no way new music, but it has risen to the tip-top of my playlists in recent weeks. I somehow glossed unfairly over Rilo Kiley's 2007 release Under The Blacklight after reading a few lukewarm reviews, and never realized the genius of this track until recently. Lame! I know. Well, it finally hit me, all handclaps and disco beats, and I was instantly won over by the stark confessionals from Jenny Lewis and sentiments I can appreciate. If perchance you also missed it like I did, for the love of Pete, take a listen and try not to love it, all the way down to those mellifluous closing gospel chorus notes. My song of the month (a perfect video too).

Sun Giant
Fleet Foxes

As I crested hill after hill of winter-bleached prairie grassland early this morning as the rising sun splintered across it, I listened to a bit of My Morning Jacket. One of the things I enjoy the most about their music is the way it feels golden and expansive, all sundrenched reverb and eerie harmonies. It's easy to see why that same vibe would draw me effortlessly into this opening album track from Seattle's Fleet Foxes. As you delve into the rest of their songs you do hear a bit more of the classic rock influences, but gorgeous vocal tracks like this sound like a perfectly-crafted hymn ("Our Prayer" by the Beach Boys, anyone?). Their Sun Giant EP is out now on Sub Pop/Bella.

Tick of Time
The Kooks

I'm liking where the Kooks are going on their second album Konk, out tomorrow on Astralwerks. They've tuned down a bit of the herky-jerky swagger of their first album an lapsed a bit more into the acoustic harmony vibe, and they sound terrific. Konk was recorded at Ray Davies' studio of the same name, and was produced by Tony Hoffer who has worked with The Thrills, Beck and Supergrass. This is the last track on the album and they sound like they're having fun.

Glad It's Over

I'm confused about this "musical companion album" to the excellent TV series Heroes, which is a show that messed with my brain. When watched in large doses, Heroes gave me the kind of vivid dreams I haven't had since Alias when I dreamt that Rambaldi was trying to send me encrypted messages through run-of-the-mill neighborhood night noises. In any case, I don't remember hearing Wilco on Heroes. Nor Bob Dylan, MMJ, or even Nada Surf. But look! Here's a brand new Wilco track from that collection, catchy as all get out. The selections on this soundtrack are "inspired by the characters" in the show, and are pretty bulletproof in terms of the quality tunes & artists here.

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