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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Grace Potter interview :: Turn the radio up high, and grab the first guitar you see

Grace Potter can electrify a stage with her fearless and excoriating guitar solos, light up a room with her thousand-megawatt smile, and shoot an arcade-game basket from fifteen feet away. In heels.

In addition to possessing one of the most honest, immense, and soulful wails I've heard from a female vocalist since Janis Joplin, Grace is a stellar songwriter and rocks the B3 Hammond organ, among other instruments. At only 25 years old this Burlington, Vermont native leads her band The Nocturnals with some serious rockability, and can beat them at many backstage arcade games. At least that I've seen.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Grace Potter and The Nocturnals live for the second time this summer while I was in San Francisco for the Outside Lands Festival last weekend. Around this time last Sunday I was sitting in a tent with Grace for a few questions before we all loaded up and shipped out. Being that it was the end of a long and festive sunny day for both of us, we started the conversation with Grace confiding in me that I wasn't the only one that'd been drinkin' since half past noon. "I have a good liver," she said to me in a lowered voice as she leaned close and spoke into my hair. "It'll process it. But we'll be okay -- you and me, we're gonna throw it down."


HB: The question I am most interested in asking you stems from my own experiences being a female blogger in this crazy rock world – I'm wondering if you feel that there's any kind of double standard when it comes to being a woman in the music industry, as opposed to a guy doing the same things that you're doing?

GP: I personally think that there's positives to it, and obviously there are negatives. I actually hate girl musicians -- for the most part I tend to really dislike them. But I'm not saying that I'm like, the Savior Girl in rock and roll. I make mistakes, we all make mistakes. Still, I'm not gonna throw a fit, I'm not gonna be a diva... I'm never gonna make a big scene if somebody didn't bring me my fucking champagne. Today they were apologizing for not having a mirror where I was backstage but -- who cares?! What's most important to me is that we've got an environment where we can create great music, and I'm more interested in if my amps work or my gear, or if there's a string broken, or if the setlist isn't quite right. I would way rather talk about that than what outfit I'm gonna wear. Of course it is fun being a woman, and I'm glad to be a woman. But what I'm most fascinated by is a woman artist who can speak realistically, from her soul, and not be bullshitting.

The music industry is a hard place to live in, but I love my guys in my band, being in a band with guys. They seem to have more of a sense of team and camaraderie that's ingrained in them that I also feel I'm lucky enough to have. If I didn't have that, I feel like I would have been Gwen Stefani-d a long time ago. I've toured with other women in the band and in the crew and there's definitely a challenge I have of being "the boss," so to speak, but not wanting to be the Snow Queen, not wanting to be the bitch. I kinda cater to the Katharine Hepburn mentality, which is "be as wonderful as you possibly can be onscreen, and as edgy and cutthroat as you can be off-screen."

Do you ever feel like women who front bands are treated as a novelty?

I would SO much rather it go in this order when people walk by our stage -- listen: 'Wow, that music sounds amazing. Look at that bass player, he's awesome – this band fucking rocks! . . . Oh my god, there's a girl singing, and she's pretty good on the guitar, or she's pretty good on the B3.' And then maybe, 'Oh, she's kinda pretty' – instead of the reverse. I mean however you look at it, I feel very lucky to be where we are. I am a 25 year old girl who isn't afraid to wear a short skirt or to have fun and be myself. Someday I'm going to chill out and be more like Emmylou Harris or Bonnie Raitt or Lucinda Williams and get into a more humble state of mind and a more... subtle state of fashion, but for now this is who I am.

Are those musicians who you mentioned some of the women you admire?

YES. Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Bonnie Raitt, in that order – my idols. I've met all of them, but have never sang with any of them. I almost asked Lucinda on a song, and I almost asked Emmylou, but I just couldn't work it out at the shows. Bonnie is actually a really good friend of the band, she's been very supportive, given us quotes and mentioned us from stage . . . one time she was playing in front of 3000 people in my hometown of Burlington, Vermont and she actually talked about me onstage. She was talking about the local music scene and how hard it is for local artists to get off the ground, and bands who have really been able to do something and she said my name. I mean – I lost my shit.

I'd heard that you guys were heading back into the studio later this year. On your last record This Is Somewhere you'd tried to capture more of a live feeling in the studio. Will you continue with that aim this time around?

I think we're going to relinquish all desperate attempts to capture a live sound because it's two very different things. Being in the studio last time we realized that you have to let them be different – you can't force a live sound from a beautiful studio. I mean, we were in a gorgeous studio in LA and we kinda mistreated it, in that we were constantly trying to force something out of it.

I think this time around, depending on where we record and what kind of songs we're writing, it's gonna become whatever it needs to become, and we're gonna pick the studio accordingly. We are thinking of going back into the studio in February or March to make a new record and who knows when that will come out . . . but hopefully a little bit of a quicker turnaround than last time because it took us like eight months from the time we finished recording it for it to actually be out.

Are you happy with the ultimate result on the last record with that struggle between live and studio sound?

I am proud of it. I would listen to it, I would. But I don't listen to it. Jeff Tweedy from Wilco told me that one mistake you can make is to overlisten to your own [recorded] music. Just let it be what it is. Just leave it alone – record your record and let it be a moment in time because that's exactly what you sounded like. Be honest with yourself. I mean, be the best version of yourself --don't underedit, don't sell yourself short-- but pick the best parts of yourself, put them out there, and then forever from that moment on recognize the fact that that was back when you recorded it, in . . . November of 2006 or whatever, and that that's not who you are now, and that's okay.

Yeah . . . Jeff Tweedy gives good advice.




[top image credit Kim Hutchens]

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wilco and Fleet Foxes live in Spokane :: "I Shall Be Released" (Dylan cover)

Knowing how excited the Fleet Foxes were to be touring with Wilco, I smile to watch them stand all crowded around one microphone in this video, shuffling their weight back and forth in what seems like "still flabbergasted" anticipation. Taken 8/21/08 at the Opera House in Spokane, this Dylan cover is just lovely, especially when Tweedy breaks into hearty and unabashed falsetto around the 2 minute mark.

I Shall Be Released (live in Spokane) - Wilco & Fleet Foxes

And hey, remember what my absolute favorite favorite cover of this song is? Yeah.

[thanks once again, Cusa!]

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Townes Van Zandt wants you to be here to love him

And by "here" I mean in front of your computer, because now you can watch the entire 2004 film for free from those SnagFilms folks (like the Dandys/BJM one). Rad.

Perhaps one of the most underrated songwriters of the last century, Be Here To Love Me chronicles the fascinating and often turbulent life of Townes Van Zandt with a simple unpredictability that mimics the way the artist lived his short life. Directed by Margaret Brown, this haunting and lyrical film combines emotional interviews with Van Zandt’s immediate family and such luminaries as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle and Guy Clark with rare footage of Van Zandt at home and on the stage.

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Kings of Leon have some weird chicken thing going on

My friend Justin previewed this new video from Kings of Leon for me by saying it was "sort of homoerotic, meets religious, meets BBQ. i'll let you be the judge."

He was also so kind as to explain the theory that the video is a Jesus allegory of sorts, starting by telling me "so Caleb has an alter ego...The Rooster." By this point I was already laughing.

Sex On Fire - Kings of Leon

Use Somebody (partial) - Kings of Leon
great new song, ripped from this video. I like it better than this.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Unconventional '08 :: Whoever this Obama kid is, he sure incites some excellent music

Last night in Denver, the Unconventional '08 shindig took over a madhouse-packed Manifest Hope Gallery amidst the brick warehouses on Larimer Street.

Earlier in the evening a free concert featured Silversun Pickups, Nada Surf, DJ Z-Trip, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Cold War Kids. Starting around 10pm, a late-night supergroup performance brought together Ben Gibbard, Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, Zooey Deschanel, and Matthew Caws to perform for a slew of eclectic luminaries that included various congresspeople, Moby, the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle, Fergie's boyfriend Josh Duhamel, Jin from LOST -- oh, and me. How did this happen?

As I approached from blocks away, the crowd was spilling in the street as they waited to get in through the half-lowered garage door entrance. A converted police car flashed multimedia exhibits onto the faded warehouse wall, with music pulsing loud enough to be heard at the Convention Center. Pandemonium!

Inside the thousand-degree gallery, I did some general browsing of the political artwork covering the walls, and then the requisite gawking and people-watching (most eclectic crowd ever -- mixing political pinstripes with the indie kids and watching them try to dance side-by-side). This non-Dem was admittedly a little creeped out by a few of the near-deistic portrayals of Obama in various painted settings; a friend and I were talking about how we felt like we'd entered his shrine. But overall it was a cool expression of passion and commitment by the artists who contributed, with a few ace lighthearted inclusions (Stephen Colbert! Slaying evil!).

Comedienne Sarah Silverman started things off with her hilariously deadpan ruminations on the convention and the election, and she was dipped into an enthusiastic two-armed welcome (totally almost like this) by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom (SCU Broncos represent!). Newsom then introduced Seattle's mayor Greg Nickels, and after many words and rousing rhetoric, the five musicians finally climbed onto the small stage. Throughout the 70-minute show each artist took turns on lead, with various duets, group singalongs and covers. It was lighthearted and felt like a rare living-room collaboration.

See all the glory in pictures from last night.


This Is Not A Test (live 8/2/08, Newport Folk) - Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward
Zooey was completely charming, and performed this song with her guitar. Halfway through she stopped abruptly and laughed at a small mistake she made, saying it was the first time she'd ever played guitar in public since she usually rocks the piano.

Love Hurts - Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris
Johnathan Rice and Jenny Lewis sang this '70s staple, and in a move of complete awesomeness, they dedicated it to Obama and Hillary.

Little Boxes (Malvina Reynolds cover) - Jenny Lewis & Johnathan Rice
They didn't sing this song. But they did lots of duets together, all lovey and gazing into each other's indie-alt-country-couple eyes, and sounding good.

See These Bones (live on MOKB Sirius) - Nada Surf
I loved every note and word that spilled from Matthew Caws last night (recall my fondness). I was unabashed dork fangirl, coincidentally ending up right at Matthew's feet for the set, and I didn't even bother to check my singalong enthusiasm. He kept eying me in bemusement as I sang "the lights of this city are more or less blinking..." with possibly more enthusiasm than he did.

Weightless (live on Leno) - Nada Surf
You know those gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies at the end of this song? Picture the full gallery crowd and those other four voices on stage all swelling together behind Caws' lead vocals. Jenny Lewis admirably played band leader, cupping her hand around her ear and waving her arms in encouragement. Nada Surf drummer Ira Elliott stood off to the right (in front of that massive Obama/Lincoln meld) and kept time with fancy claps for the whole song. You can take the drummer off the stage ...

Silver Lining (Rilo Kiley cover, live at Hiro Ballroom 6/30/08) - Ben Gibbard
Ben didn't play this one either. But he could have. I think Jenny would have been down with that.

Cath (live at BBC6) - Ben Gibbard
This song appeared on last night's setlist but was substituted with "Sound of Settling," which was great by me because we all got to "Ba baaa! Ba baaa!" heartily instead.

Military Madness (live 10-22-06, Bridge School) - Death Cab for Cutie, Gillian Welch, Neil Young
The five musicians closed with this Graham Nash cover about military madness and solitary sadness. Ben Gibbard led on the piano, and despite one false ending (another chorus? should we stop? let's do both) it was a stirring closer. This live mp3 is one I saw at the Bridge School Benefit in CA a few years ago with a slightly different lineup.


Oh, and ...

Dude, I'm practically one of the Oceanic 6.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Felice Brothers video :: "Frankie's Gun" (plus tour dates)

I saw New York's Felice Brothers perform this weekend at Outside Lands, and what an explosion! I never fancied myself as a massive accordion fan, but yeehaw. It's all good. Also, any song that has the lyric "Spit make a fender shine, Frankie's a friend-a-mine / Got me off a bender after long-legged Brenda died" (and isn't a Dylan song) gets props in my book. See my original write-up about them here, and a slew of headlining tour dates were announced today:


04 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground
05 - Northampton, MA - Iron Horse
06 - Cambridge, MA - Club Passim
07 - Great Barrington, MA - Club Helsinki
11 - Albany, NY - Linda Norris Auditorium*
12 - Ithaca, NY - Castaways*
13 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell's*
14 - Alexandria, VA - The Birchmere Bandstand*
16 - Atlanta, GA - Smith's Olde Bar*
18 - Nashville, TN - Exit / In*
19 - Lexington, KY - Christ the King Oktoberfest*
20 - Chicago, IL - Abbey Pub*
21 - Iowa City, IA - The Mill*
23 - Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room*
24 - St. Louis, MO - Billiken Club at St. Louis University (Open to the Public)*
25 - Notre Dame, IN - Legends of Notre Dame (Student's Only)*
26 - Cincinnati, OH - Midpoint Music Festival at the Know Theater*
27 - Rutland, OH - Reclaim Festival*
29 - Knoxville, TN - Barley's Taproom*
30 - Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506*

02 - Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church*
09 - Princeton, NJ - Terrace F. Club (Princeton U - Student's Only)#
10 - Pittsburgh, PA - Club Café#
11 - Louisville, KY - Palace Theatre%
13 - Memphis, TN - Hi-Tone Café#
15 - Oxford, MS - Proud Larry's#
16 - Birmingham, AL - Workplay Theater#
17 - New Orleans, LA - Maple Leaf#
18 - Alexandria, LA - Alexandria Music Project#
22 - West Hollywood, CA - The Troubadour#
23 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall#
24 - Portland, OR - Mission Theatre#
25 - Seattle, WA - Chop Suey#
27 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Paladium#
28 - Boulder, CO - Fox Theatre & Café#

02 - New York, NY - Spiegeltent#

* = w/ A.A. Bondy
# = w/ Deer Tick
% = opening for Old Crow Medicine Show


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Last night: Joshua Novak at Shag for Discobama

Barely back on terra firma after Outside Lands, I tentatively made my way last night into Convention Craziness Central on my way home from the airport to check out our little Discobama fiesta and hear the set from Denver artist Joshua Novak.

I arrived after a lot of the madness had already gone down in the city during the day (friends meeting Joe Biden at the hot dog stand! Fall Out Boy doing interviews on the street corner! Police in full riot gear marching through the streets like 1941 Berlin!). But Shag Lounge was swinging --no, literally, we've got swinging Lucite chairs-- and the music matched.

Joshua Novak turned in a propulsive performance, assisted by his backing band and Nathan Meese from the band, um, Meese (go figure) on guitar. Novak's music was eminently danceable and his voice immense and dramatic last night, rattling the ornate baroque chandeliers, so I was suprised today to hear his MySpace songs are so lovely and ethereal. He did say he was playing new material at Shag, so maybe he got all feisty-like in his recent compositions (check out "The Love That I Want" on his MySpace).

Tidal Wave - Joshua Novak
Thieves - Joshua Novak
My Darling Criminal Lover - Joshua Novak

Joshua's new album Dead Letters is forthcoming, and will be produced by Ian Hlatky (Hello Kavita, Born In The Flood, The Swayback etc). Novak plays Sunday Monolith next.

Young Coyotes also played our party, and the buzz continues to grow behind their fantastically ebullient live show. When I said they were totally down to soundtrack my summer, I didn't know how prescient that was -- after seeing them so many times, I almost feel like I should adopt them.

(that "NIght Portrait" effect on the top shot makes me feel a little dizzy. It feels like live music sounds, a little. Plus it was really really dark in there)

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finally something i can afford

My favorite shot from the waning moments of my S.F. trip, taken as I sat on a shoeshine bench, drinking Peet's, waiting for my train:

Best news headline ever?

If I had a nickel for every time this had happened to me.

My Outside Lands coverage on Stereogum

Check it out: Outside Lands 2008 In Photos! I'll be posting some more thoughts, but am trying to reassimilate into civilized (aka work) life, running on minimal sleep. Hooray for a sensational weekend!


Monday, August 25, 2008

Denver hosts a few shindigs this week

As the Outside Lands Festival wraps up here in San Francisco (more on that soon!), things are just heating up in the city I return to, as Denver plays host this week to the Democratic National Convention. Our capital city is submerged in a deluge of politicians, parties, speeches, rallies, and of course, the random famous people.

Although I am not a Dem, I am proud to be partnering with some other local music lovers to bring a week-long music party during this notable week in a non-partisan, collective effort to recognize and celebrate our musical community while looking forward to a positive future. We're bringing sexy back with DISCOBAMA at the the Shag Lounge all week long (830 15th St at Champa, one block from the Convention Center). Here's what we're up to:

7pm Patchwork
8pm Joshua Novak Band
9pm Young Coyotes
DJs Soup / Hot to Death

Super Tuesday Dance Party.
9pm DJs Chain Gang of 1974 / Boyhollow / Hot To Death

7pm Magic Mice
8pm Rabbit is a Sphere
9pm Cat-A-Tac, Everything Absent or Distorted
DJs Tyler "Danger" / Boyhollow

7pm Life In Electric
8pm Kissing Party
9pm Laylights
DJs Soup / Hot to Death

DNC Wrap Party, Starts 10pm. DJs Boyhollow / Hot to Death

The DISCOBAMA festivities are sponsored by Three Olives vodka, and the events this week are a collective effort of the MONOLITH Festival, Lipgloss (Denver3.com), Shag Lounge, Needlepoint Records, HunnyPot Unlimited, Cause=Time, The Donnybrook Writing Academy, and Fuel/Friends.

Come play!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Matt Nathanson has a big ole man crush on Springsteen

Greetings from San Francisco! Here I am nestled under the fog, bravely going to cover the Outside Lands Festival for you all (take one for the team, I know). Things get underway in just a few hours and I will be heading over once I can figure out what to do with my car. I think I'm walking 26 blocks. Awesome.

One of the artists I am really looking forward to seeing this weekend (there are many) is the always-enjoyable Matt Nathanson, who plays a hometown show tomorrow at 7pm on the Avenues Stage. I've recently been listening a lot to this stellar cover he performed not long ago on Sirius radio:

Thunder Road (live on Sirius) - Matt Nathanson

In related news, this second Springsteen cover features Charlie Gillingham of the Counting Crows and David Immerglück of the Crows and Camper Van Beethoven. Both of those guys played on Matt's record Still Waiting For Spring back in the day.

Atlantic City - Matt Nathanson w/ Immerglück and Gillingham

Both covers are lovely. Maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Ah, I hope.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Avett Brothers? Yeah, SO worth the drive

I've never seen a show like the Avett Brothers before.

Last night eight of us made the three-hour drive up to the mountain town of Steamboat Springs to see these North Carolina siblings perform. I came at the behest of a friend who saw them once, said they changed his life, and proceeded to see them ten times on one tour. Last night was his eleventh show, and the fans there all seemed to possess similar levels of devotion. Although the music finds its roots in a backwoods-bluegrass kind of heritage, the show felt more like a punk rock performance in the spirit and the energy, the yell-out-loud immediacy. More than anything, I stood there happily perplexed for the first several songs as my neurons fired and tried to categorize a performance that defied it. This is their performance of Paranoia in Bb Major:

Scott and Seth Avett look like they stumbled in from the same cabin that Ray LaMontagne lived in out in southwestern Maine, and they seemed right at home in the small auditorium all open along the walls to the green hills covered in wildflowers. Their voices combine flawlessly, as only siblings can, whether they are shouting out one of their foot-stomping numbers or weaving a gorgeous dirge backed by a string duo. As they stand, Seth plays the hi-hat with one foot, and Scott has a kick drum – and the urgency pounds out while they strum as hard as they can.

I kept warning my friends that if they played “If It's The Beaches” I just might cry and wouldn't be able to help it (and who wants to cry on their birthday, really). That song slays me for so many reasons, both for they way it echoes some personal disappointments in my life, but also the immensely beautiful sadness and love that it captures in the pure lyrics. After a set that completely satisfied, they came out for the final song of the encore and launched into “If It's The Beaches.” Dammit, I found those big fat tears slipping out unallowed from my eyes, but don't tell anyone. But you know, even though I was crying (just a little!) on my birthday, it was a beautiful moment on an amazingly beautiful night and I didn't mind.

The Avetts are back in Colorado for Monolith in a few weeks, and then they have dozens of other shows coming up. Seriously. You must go. An incredible, visceral, unclassifiable performance.

Gimmeakiss - The Avett Brothers
St. Joseph's - The Avett Brothers
Paranoia in Bb Major - The Avett Brothers

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New from the Broken West: "Auctioneer"

I just made myself a brand spankin' new mix CD last night for a roadtrip and I keep finding myself throwing Broken West tracks on every mix I make lately. Now I have new fodder:

Aquarium Drunkard posted an exclusive new track this morning from L.A.'s Broken West, who released one of my favorite albums of 2007.

Auctioneer - The Broken West

In a few short weeks their sophomore effort Now or Heaven will be released on Merge Records. You can preorder it now, and then go catch them on tour like I plan to do:

9/09: Hi Dive, Denver
9/10: Slowdown JR, Omaha
9/11: The Picador, Iowa City
9/12: Orpheum Stage Door, Madison
9/13: 400 Bar, Minneapolis
9/15: Schubas, Chicago
9/16: Pike Room, Pontiac
9/17: Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
9/21: Mercury Lounge, New York
9/22: Middle East, Cambridge
9/23: Cafe Nine, New Haven
9/24: TBA, DC
9/25: Local 506, Chapel Hill
9/28: The Basement, Nashville
9/29: Hi Tone, Memphis
9/30: Dan's Silverleaf, Denton
10/1: Mohawk, Austin
10/4: Spaceland, Los Angeles


Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

Recently I found myself outside the Sputnik in Denver staring down a double-edged challenge: one of my friends and his sister (close sibs) rode a vintage Schwinn tandem bike to the Langhorne Slim/Young Coyotes show [nice review here]. I've never rode a tandem anything before, and thought I'd give it a whirl.

Let. Me. Tell. You
. That business is not as easy as it may look. Who invented that? Why did they think it would be a good idea to make two people balance in unison, and why did I think that it would be a good idea to try my maiden voyage at 2am? But I must say -- should the opportunity ever present itself to you, I can recommend trying it simply for the fact that I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe and I haven't done that in a while. And then I pretty much fell off.

Speaking of new experiences, here are a few that aren't quite as fun but probably sound better (less grunting):

Traipsing Through The Aisles
Samantha Crain
I've recently become enamored with Samantha Crain, the newest signee to the Ramseur Records label (also home of the Avett Brothers who I plan to see tomorrow night for my birthday!). This Shawnee, Oklahoma native is a startling 21 years of age, and I was immediately curious to hear her music when I read that she conjures up "Judy Garland singing Neutral Milk Hotel songs." And yes, amen exactly when you hear it. Her recent release The Confiscation: A Musical Novella is structured as a rich series of interconnected short stories. It's backporch firefly music, or campfires and pine smoke, or pick your metaphor evoking a good and spreading warmth. Listen now.

Love Vigilantes (New Order cover)
While Ramesh Srivastava of Voxtrot has been holed up in Germany for the last year, decompressing and working on the follow-up to their 2007 debut full-length (after their string of fantastic EPs), he's stayed in Das Loop of technology and is now podcasting. There are all kinds of great free audio and video gems in their shiny corner of iTunes -- a 30-minute summer mix, Vincent Moon videos from La Blogotheque, and this poppy New Order cover. All handclappy and cheery, this is almost reminiscent of "Love Me Do" with that opening harmonica. Even the spontaneous crowd chatter over the opening fits perfectly, as if you just walked into the room where the party is happening and everyone is there. You've got a fresh mint mojito or something summery in your hand, and this is your soundtrack.

We Should Fight
Ezra Furman & The Harpoons

From the Jonathan Richmanesque spoken opening of "I wrote this song in a paper bag," this song unleashes into punk and melody, retro and squak, Violent Femmes meet The Kinks with a dash of The Replacements' sloppy joy. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons were signed by Minty Fresh Records while they were still in college at Tufts University, and are still evolving as a band. I like where they are heading. The best lines in this song are "I'm not a monster, I'm a human being / I'm not a monster, I'm a human being / And I'm the greatest thing you've ever seen." All that college-guy confidence and tenderness and insecurity in one lyric that sounds great yelled loud. The Brian Deck-produced Inside The Human Body is due October 7th on Minty Fresh [thanks SVB!]. Also - side note, these kids have a charmingly humble song called "I Wanna Be Ignored." Take that, Stone Roses.

I Said Alright (live on KEXP)
The Jet Age
I've been meaning to give these guys a mention for months, ever since a friend with exceptionally good ears sent me a handful of laudatory texts late one night while seeing The Jet Age in San Francisco. He spoke of their charisma, their irrepressibly catchy and rocking sound (but maybe not in precisely those words, since it was 1am). Their debut album What Did You Do During The War, Daddy? (Sonic Boomerang Records) garnered an 8.0 on Pitchfork, who called it a "heart-pounding rocker … all of the riffs are stellar." This is lean, punky, melodic pop. The Jet Age is from Silver Spring, MD and they've got a handful of DC-area shows coming up. I hear you should go.

My Party
Chester French
This song mysteriously popped into my inbox with vague provenance. We're supposing that it is some new music from those golden Harvard boys, Chester French, following close in the same retro vein as the songs that have leaked so far from their hotly anticipated debut. Rhyming champagne with chow mein is something that's just been begging to be paired for a long time now, and no one has done it until this song -- but the lyrics about having a gift certificate to the mall totally reminds me of this, somewhat unfortunately. This Pharrell-endorsed buzz band has been all over the news lately - one of NME's 25 Bands Making America Cool Again, a Rolling Stone Artist To Watch, and now a spouse to Peaches Geldof. They play Monolith on Sunday, September 14th.

BONUS! The new David Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration album can be streamed here: www.everythingthathappens.com

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Smashing Pumpkins live in 97 :: dark with the occasional beam of iridescence

Tonight after several days of torrential rain, there was a shift at sunset. The clouds were still black and heavy, but all around the edges and breaking through the middle were rosy cantaloupe-colored streaks of light, as the sun set behind Pikes Peak.

As the sky showed off like that a few hours ago, I was listening to this 1997 bootleg from my Smashing Pumpkins at my beloved acoustic Bridge School Benefit in California. Somehow this set fit perfectly - a bit shimmery, dark with the occasional beam of iridescence. I was at this show during the autumn of my freshman year of college. It probably rained that night too. It often does at Bridge School, and we all shiver in the rain to enjoy the oft-sensational lineup of music.

This is an excellent set.

Behold! the Night Mare
Set the Ray to Jerry
Ava Adore
To Sheila
Heart of Gold/Cinnamon Girl (tease)
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans (with John Popper on harmonica)


[thanks to the original taper]


Saturday, August 16, 2008

New from The National :: "A Thousand Black Cities" (live in Copenhagen)

I'm pretty sure that this is the first new National song unveiled since Boxer, in its debut performance earlier this week at The Vega in Copenhagen, Denmark. This mp3 is just a rip from the video above (more pics from the taper here), but for us addicts I suppose it will do temporarily. The title could also be "Believe Me." Swirling atmosphere and sonorous horns . . . I can't wait to hear a clean copy of this.

A Thousand Black Cities (new, live 8/12/08) - The National

Also check out the amazing podcast of The National at Lollapalooza, or from the same site, Explosions in the Sky.

[thanks Erica!]

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New from Wilco :: "One Wing" and "Sunny Feeling" (live in Indianapolis)

It's good times for new music. Wilco has recently been playing a few new songs at their shows these last two weeks. Here are recordings of two of them from Indianapolis on August 4th. Thanks to Cusa for digging these up at my behest, since I've been too busy with work to be a proper scout of anything lately.

One Wing (live 8/4/08) - Wilco

Sunny Feeling (live 8/4/08) - Wilco

One Wing (called a "WIP" at Lollapalooza by Jeff - a work in progress) is bittersweet, and heartbreakingly lovely, but builds into those jaw-dropping crescendos that they do so well. The opening minutes have that moody and wistful Fleetwood Mac-ish guitar riff. Sunny Feeling is feisty and evokes what the title describes (even though that feeling is taken away, sadly, by the chorus).

My friends who've caught Wilco in action lately say they look "dang good in those Nudie-meets-Sgt Pepper outfits..." Well yes, they always do. High class! I have a Tweedy & Co date next weekend at the Outside Lands Festival in golden SF. I will hope for these tunes to make an appearance, and any other new ones they care to bestow. Sounds like Nels is still as busy melting faces as ever.

[brooklynvegan photo credit, from Lolla]


Rocking in a dirty Beijing basement bar at 3am

With the eyes of everyone in the world on Beijing right now (except me, much to my mother's horror), what with all the synchronized diving and underage gymnasts, this video from VBS.tv is very timely. I had no idea that China had a burgeoning punk scene -- very cool. They say:

"We hitched up with some cool kids who sounded like they knew what they were talking about and they dragged us all over the Beijing's underground music scene, into dirty alleys and dirtier bars so we could get a taste. Even though we were thousands of miles away from NYC in a foreign land, some things really are just universal. Like partying in a basement at 3am and flinging beer all over the place and rocking your face off. We liked these three bands the most."


Other band profiles in the series:

Brain Failure - Has China started the fabled 4th Wave of Ska?

Subs - Adding a Chinese entry to the international Subs mix


Thursday, August 14, 2008

this river's full of lost sharks

The first song on The National's 2005 album Alligator is also one of my favorites by them, ever. There is an ineffable quality to "Secret Meeting" that I never tire of listening to -- the fantastic percussion that firmly anchors the song to bedrock as the luminous guitar chords dance and skitter above it. But in the midst of the beauty it has a darker chaos thrumming just beneath the surface, as with so much of their music. Berninger sings agitatedly about spies, sharks, and paranoia, all the second-guessing and questioning that forces a retreat to this secret meeting in the basement of his brain.

And the song feels exactly like an internal monologue warring. The indistinct yelling in the background builds towards the end to echo all our anxieties. But you can't quite tell what they are so urgently telling him to do, like that dream where you can blindly feel around the edges of coherency but can't quite grasp where you're running or the mission you are supposed to be fulfilling. Are they yelling just drop the dice and roll it? Don't draw the ace and fold it? How are you supposed to place your bet, to play your game, when it sounds like this inside your head? But I know exactly what that feels like; I think we all do.

The song builds into gorgeous chaos as everything degenerates and clamors inside before that final chord, the crash of the cymbal, the curtain fall and the lights out.

If you've never listened to The National, or never heard this song, I find it really hard to not love.

Secret Meeting - The National

i think this place is full of spies
i think they're onto me
didn't anybody, didn't anybody tell you
didn't anybody tell you how to gracefully disappear in a room
i know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, i know

and so and now I'm sorry I missed you
i had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain
it went the dull and wicked ordinary way
it went the dull and wicked ordinary way
and now i'm sorry i missed you
i had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain

i think this place is full of spies
i think i'm ruined
didn't anybody, didn't anybody tell you
didn't anybody tell you, this river's full of lost sharks
i know you put in the hours to keep me in sunglasses, i know

and so and now i'm sorry i missed you
i had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain
it went the dull and wicked ordinary way

it went the dull and wicked ordinary way

What I would have given to be here for this moment, this electricity:


BUY: Alligator by The National. Or this cool shirt I just ordered.

[photo from the University of Chicago: Library Graffiti set]


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tonight at the Hi-Dive

Langhorne Slim and hot Denver band Young Coyotes!

Wed, Aug 13th Radio 1190 presents
Langhorne Slim
w/ the Legendary River Drifters, Young Coyotes

at Hi-Dive
Doors at 8:00 PM / Show at 9:00 PM
21+ $10.00

The Electric Love Letter - Langhorne Slim
Momentary Drowning - Young Coyotes

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Elvis Perkins in Dearland sings sacred songs

Elvis Perkins in Dearland melds old folk flourishes with a very relevant modern soul. Perkins' gutting debut album last year was Ash Wednesday (XL Recordings), a chronicle of themes of love and loss in the most visceral and honest way. Many songs on the album deal with grief and stuggle, as his mom died on one of the 9/11 planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, and parts of this album were written after that occured. "While You Were Sleeping" seems to draw direct parallels to those events, that morning -- watch his solo street performance of it on La Blogotheque then stay on that page for the spirited "All The Night Without Love" in a gorgeous French mall.

Weeping Pilgrim - Elvis Perkins in Dearland

From MySpace: We are excited to announce that our recording of "Weeping Pilgrim" by JP Reese will be featured on Teach Me To Sing, a compilation of contemporary artists performing songs from the shape note hymn book, The Sacred Harp, due out in September through Awake My Soul Productions.

"Weeping Pilgrim" became somewhat of a live standard for us over the last year or so. And after meeting Matt Hinton, director of "Awake my Soul", the wonderful documentary on The Sacred Harp and curator of this project, at the Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Convention we entered the clubhouse to put our rendition of the song down on tape. We hope you enjoy it...

This song is a traditional dirge of longing, of moving towards something down a dusty road of oppression. For a tune that totally could have been sung by Moses, it sounds pretty dang good.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brand new "fun" from Nate Ruess of The Format

When Arizona intelli-pop band The Format broke up a few months ago, a little part of my heart broke. I loved those guys; the homemade "Format Sunny Supermix" is still a superstar on my car radio, all summer every summer.

Well, hooray hooray for some good news before this summer ends: lead singer Nate Ruess has a new band, called simply "fun." Strike two on the not good for Googling, guys. They're trying to undermine my whole system of band data gathering. Subversive.

But hey, this new demo is just great; he doesn't care to be forgiven, he only wants to be forgotten. Read more about the formation of the new band in a blog post from Nate, and listen to this sweet tune. It's good to hear his voice again.

Benson & Hedges (demo) - fun

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

On Friday night I had the special experience of watching Prince thrust maniacally on the (very) large screen out under heavy-laden rainy skies at Red Rocks. As part of their wonderfully conceived summer Film On The Rocks series, myself and hundreds of other vocally enthusiastic moviegoers got to bask in the glow of the tiny one's sweaty brow, glistening chest hair, ruffled poet shirts, blindfolds, fancy studded purple jackets and wispy moustache in none other than (yes) Purple Rain. From the opening echoey benediction of "dearly beloved," to the completely nonsensical plot and downright giggle-inducing sex scenes, to the triumphant final performance of the title song . . . wow, that was awesome. I needed a cigarette or something after all that. And I don't even smoke.

Tunes for this week:

Paul Westerberg
Oh, delicious mystery. As previously mentioned on Fuel/Friends, our beloved favorite sloppy punk drunk Paul Westerberg recently released a new continuous single-mp3 album on Amazon called 49:00 for 49 cents. Problem is, when you downloaded it you found a somewhat baffling total length of 43:55. This led 'Mats nerds everywhere to freak out quietly, wondering where the other 5:05 ran off to. A few days ago, the rest of that audio surfaced for purchase on TuneCore without much explanation. After an extended 45-second intro that sounds for all the world like Cartman, that trademark Westerberg strum and yowl begins and I'm happy (even as the song closes with the yelling of profanities -- as it should be). If you haven't already downloaded 49:00, well . . . I can't help you with that either since it looks like the download link has been pulled, after solidly positive reviews on sites like Aquarium Drunkard and Pitchfork. Go figure.

Tu Es Ma Came
Carla Bruni
Why won't anyone take Carla Bruni seriously? Oh, that. It's hard having been a model in a former incarnation, dating rock stars and ultimately running off with the president of France. Yes, sultry songstress Carla Bruni is now married to Nicolas Sarkozy, and I'm gonna go out on a limb here and wager that her music is the most lovely, sexy, smoky music ever made by someone who was the first lady of anything. Following her surprisingly good 2002 album Quelqu'un M'a Dit, much of which she wrote herself, Bruni is back with a new album Comme Si de Rien N'Etait (out now on Downtown Recordings/US). This tune is a bluesy, intimate bedroom song that sounds like Bruni strumming her guitar on the corner of the comforter as she unwinds that bewitching alto.

Two Silver Trees
While I was watching Prince gyrate on Friday, the classy people were in Boulder at the night festivities of the AAA Records and Radio Summit that I left earlier, watching eclectic Tucson foursome Calexico at the Fox Theatre. After being beamed into space as a wake-up song (in what sounds like an oddly fitting move), and recording those great contributions for the 2007 I'm Not There soundtrack, Calexico is finally releasing an anticipated new album Carried To Dust on 9/9 (Touch and Go Records). There are touches of Latin American influences all over this new album, after the band was finally able to do some long-desired exploring of Chile and Argentina in the past year. "Our last record was more political," says vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns, "but this record reads more like a travel journal." Sam Beam from Iron & Wine is also featured, following their gorgeous recent collabs.

No Deliverance
So you totally remember that song "Possum Kingdom" from Fort Worth, Texas alt-rock band of 1994 Toadies, don't you? Listen. You do. That aggressive riff still gets under my skin a little bit in a good way, and makes me feel instantly fifteen. Toadies are preparing to release their first album in 7 years, and this song is dirty and growly, reminding me of someone like Nick Cave or Jon Spencer. They're out on tour, hitting Denver's Gothic Theatre on September 24th, and No Deliverance is out August 19th on Kirtland Records. And I'm still not gonna lie, I won't be a gentleman, behind the boathouse.

Song For The Magpie
Sea Wolf
Thanks to some dodgy anonymous tipster (it's the Feds!) this new song from Los Angeles indie artist Sea Wolf popped into my inbox recently, as featured in Augusten Burroughs' new audio book A Wolf At The Table. The work is a collaborative effort between Alex Church of Sea Wolf, Patti Smith, Ingrid Michaelson (who I just saw Friday), and Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sara). The musicians each read the book and came up with an original song for use in the audio version; a very cool intersection of reading and music (like this ole podcast). Sea Wolf's contribution is a nuanced orchestral dirge that spreads like warm alcohol through my chest, with hints of Rufus Wainwright in the elegant and elastic waver of the verses.

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