Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tuesday night blog

I should be playing hockey tonight, but I went instead to the Boys & Girls Clubs' "Kids Night Out" fundraiser featuring the star of Snow Dogs and Los Angeles Kings fan, Cuba Gooding Jr. I had to applaud when he started talking hockey. At least the NHL is back in action and I can watch the end of the late-night games while I add this.
A couple of cool shows in Kansas City tomorrow night. 90.9 The Bridge, which is pretty much the only station I listen to these days when I listen to the radio, is sponsoring Ben Taylor and Tristan Prettyman at recordBar. Muzzle of Bees recently featured a short "review" of Tristan's recent show in Madison and is holding a contest to award a copy to her new album, twenty three. I'd say your chances to win are pretty good if you enter.
Also Wednesday, Matisyahu is playing at the Beaumont Club. More on this tomorrow morning.
Earlier today, I added Out the Other to my Blog Roll on your right. I find myself going back to it pretty regularly and enjoy Janet's take on new bands. Half the time opening up to new music is all about its presentation; she's got it down. Besides, she hooked me up with my first link back to this site at the end of her post on Gomez.
Well, I don't have any music on this computer, but I did grab this and haven't even had a chance to listen to it yet.... from the engineer demos of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, you can hear early traces of the lyrics to "Radio Cure."

Wilco || Corduroy Cutoff Girl

Monday, February 27, 2006

More on The National

Filmmaker Vincent Moon added the three videos he shot live for The National aboard La Guinguette in Paris last December to YouTube. Visually, they are stunning, water-color-and-shadow portraits that find a fitting companionship with the music.

The black-and-white take on "Baby We'll Be Fine" is my favorite, I think... One of my favorites from Alligator, the song's lyrics are wonderfully evocative and emotionally bare. It's a powerful song about feelings of failure, need and regret. You know, happy stuff... 'cause baby, we'll be fine.

All night I lay on my pillow and pray / For my boss to stop me in the hallway / Lay my head on his shoulder and say / 'Son, I've been hearing good things...' /

Part 1: Abel
Part 3: About Today


Friday, February 24, 2006

Of St. Louis, Jack Johnson and Antibalas...

A couple of quick updates today. I'm heading to St. Louis this weekend for the city's Mardi Gras celebration in Soulard. I'm not sure what to expect, except that it should be a good time and my cold will be worse the wear when I get back to KC...

Some quick reviews:

Jack Johnson - Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies From the Film Curious George

If you've listened to Jack Johnson before you know what to expect from his albums by now. For some people that's a detractor, but I think its fine. I like the vibe of Jack's music and really just enjoy listening to it, even if some of the songs tend to use the same chords or have a lazy strum-slap acoustic reggae vibe. That said, creating songs for the Curious George soundtrack did force him to approach his music from a slightly different angle, as one of the target audiences and main fans of the film is children. Jack (sometimes I feel like I should refer to people's last names and use 'Mr./Ms.' to lend some Wall Street Journal culture to the blog) does a great a pretty admirable job bridging the gap and his "kids" songs are among the album's best and most enjoyable tunes ("Sharing Song", "The 3 R's" - that's Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by the way).

The prevailing reason to give the album a listen is for Jack's choice of cover songs, the White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends" and Ben Harper's "With My Own Two Hands." The retooled acoustic version of "Two Hands" is awesome, and is exactly the type of song kids, of all ages, should grow up with. The lead single "Upside Down" (a reworked version of the unreleased "Who's to Say [G.A.T.E.]") is among Jack's best; but if you tired of Jack's recent albums than you might want to grab a couple tracks and leave it at that.

Jack Johnson || Upside Down
Jack Johnson (with Ben Harper) || With My Own Two Hands

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra - Who Is This America?...

One of my best pulls from emusic last month was Antibalas' Who Is This America?... Antibalas plays African-influenced rhythmic funk music, that is equal parts James Brown and Fela Kuti. I first heard the band at the opening of Danny Clinch's doc of Bonnaroo 2003, "270 Miles to Graceland." After attending a set by Senor Oz at recordBar, where he did some pretty stellar things with reggae, afrobeat and Jay-Z songs, I decided I needed to have some more of this kind of music on the ready.

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra || Big Man

NOTE: You can hear more samples of Antibalas' music on their site, including the new EP "Government Music".

Have a great weeeknd everyone!

(Songs are hosted by rapidshare.de and will be live until they have been inactive for 30 days. Songs are for sampling purposes only, please support the artists whenever and however possible.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jens Lekman

For some reason I've been working on the "J" section of my iTunes list for the last day or two, which has meant a lot of Jack Johnson and his new Sing-A-Longs & Lullibies From the Film Curious George and, luckily, Jens Lekman's Oh You're So Silent, Jens.

Feeling kind of sick last night gave me the chance to really take some time and give it a good listen.

I read about this album when it came out and picked up the song "Black Cab" shortly afterwards. After spending some time with that song, I decided it was time to hear some more. Lekman's music has a very vintage sound that sets him apart from his peers. He's part Bacharach, part Drake, part Elliott Smith.

The whole of Oh, You're So Silent, Jens is various incarnations of good -- ranging from spectacular to interesting to respectable -- though one might anticipate some unevenness from an album that was culled from various EPs, singles and outtakes released over a period of several years. Regardless, it's a good album for lazy Sundays and sick days.

I think Jens' strongest quality is his lyrics; he somehow makes lines work that you won't expect (and even finds ways to earn partial credit for those that fall short).
"She said, 'We were just make believe' / But I thought she said 'maple leaves'"
-- Maple Leaves

Even a song like "A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill" has a great line that lends the song some weight to justify its spiral into a '60s doo-wop toss off sung by a chorus of available friends or just passers-by, turning a throw away track into a quirky, respectable gem:
"Oh I still remember 'Regulate' with Warren G / Could I be back in the sweet summer of 1993? / It was a sweet summer's night on Hammer Hill"
-- A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill

Lekman's songs remind me of tiny Wes Anderson movies, filled with characters flawed and failing, endearing, unique and immesurably interesting.
"Now there's nothing left / but love, enough to feed a family / Well, I just wanna feed Emily / with lukewarm English beer and vegan pancakes"
-- I Saw Her at the Anti-War Demonstration

"What will you do when you graduate? / If you stay here you will suffocate / And all your friends are moving to London / While the cherry trees are still in blossom / Oh Julie, I'm a firecracker"
-- Julie (remix)

If you like these, you can find more on both emusic and iTunes.

Jens Lekman || Maple Leaves (EP version)
Jens Lekman || Pocketful of Money
Jens Lekman || Black Cab

Jens has a few other songs for download at his website, here.
You can read a recent interview with him at Pitchfork.

(Songs are hosted by rapidshare.de and will be live until they have been inactive for 30 days. Songs are for sampling purposes only, please support the artists whenever and however possible.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Big Ideas (Don't Get Any)

Great news today out of Camp Radiohead: the band is working on the song "Nude" (a.k.a "Big Ideas [Don't Get Any]") for their upcoming album. I've always thought this song was killer back when I tried to listen to any and every note Radiohead had ever played and was glad to have an excuse to go back and listen to it today.

From the band's recording journal, Dead Air Space:
monday morning.

jonny is hastily writing out scores for a string quartet who are comign tommoro.

right now we are working on nude, it sounds beautiful, as far as i can tell.

i hope we dont get i'll. there is a lot of sickness about. especially for the children.

The song is a hold-over from the OK Computer days; it can be heard in the essential Rh doc Meeting People Is Easy. More on its history and lyrics here.

Radiohead || Nude (live 4-17-1998)

You can find a solo version of the song from Thom's set for the Trade Justice Movement here, if you want to do some work to unpack them... a couple unreleased gems are also included for your patience.

(Songs are hosted by rapidshare.de and will be live until they have been inactive for 30 days. Songs are for sampling purposes only, please support the artists whenever and however possible.)

Elbow on So Much Silence

Over the weekend, So Much Silence posted some great Elbow .mp3's from an Xfm radio session. I don't see them in the same light as Coldplay at all - "Mexican Standoff" sounds tons like Radiohead's "The National Anthem" though - but I do think Leaders of the Free World is step up for the band [website]. There was something about Cast of Thousands that I never really got into (maybe it was the old "11 songs, same tempo" debate), but Leaders is a much easier listen and has a little more kick in its step.

Interestingly, Leaders is released in North America tomorrow, Feb. 21, in three formats (CD only, CD + bonus DVD disc, DVD only) despite the fact that it has been out in Europe for quite awhile now.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

What's the symbology of that?

It's hard to believe that I am watching The Boondock Saints on the WB at 2:00 a.m. If you haven't seen the movie, you should do yourself a favor and check it out. I'd say its a classic, but I have no idea how many people have even seen it. I know all my friends and everyone I know has seen it and loves it, but I get the feeling that it's not a 100% home run already with the indie scene... I think... it should be. Very good film, especially when you can talk about it with friends.

SMECKER: So now we got a 'huge guy' theory and a serial crusher theory, good job.

So if you haven't seen it put it on your Netflix queue, if you have know you're in good company...

GREENLEIGH: These guys are long gone by now. The only way you're gonna find them is to drag a potato through South Boston. Good luck. Thanks for comin' out!
MURPHY: You'd probably have better luck with a beer.
SMECKER: Hey Greenleigh, onion bagel. No cream cheese.

Have a good night, all. I'm going to see how they deal with the 1,000,000 1/2 swear words in this movie.

Go WB...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ben Harper from RTL2 Radio

For the record, Ben Harper is my musical hero. He was my first live show (back in '96) and he's become such a standard in my daily listening habits that it is odd for a day to go by without hearing at least one Ben song... especially with iTunes and my iPod where I have everything right at the tip of my fingers.

Ben's new album Both Sides of the Gun comes out on March 21. It's a 2x CD and from what I've heard so far, Ben's leaning heavily towards that 70's soul vibe and some rootsy acoustic stuff. And for the first time since FFYM he's got some politics behind his lyrics. From Ben's new bio:
Beyond a newfound confidence, he claims that working with the Blind Boys - and a subsequent session with the incomparable Funk Brothers for the Standing in the Shadows of Motown film - gave him the sense of immediacy and urgency that underscores Both Sides of the Gun.

So, March 21... I'm so there.

On Feb. 2, Ben played two new songs for RTL2 Radio in France. Here's the audio from that performance (he didn't break between songs, so they're both on the same track):

Ben Harper || Morning Yearning/Gather 'Round the Stone (live on RTL2)

The incomparable crew at BenHarper.net is offering a pre-order of Both Sides, complete with a limited-edition bonus disc, so if you're interested you shouldn't miss out on that.

Bonus disc tracklist:
- Gold to Me (Live Acoustic)
- Get It Like You Like It (Live Acoustic)
- Gather 'Round the Stone (Live Acoustic)
- Beloved One (Live)
- Waiting For You (Alternate mix)
- Morning Yearning (Alternate mix)
- Reason to Mourn (Alternate mix)
- Gather 'Round the Stone (Charlie Musselwhite version)
- Dressed In Black (Live with Charlie Musselwhite)

(Songs are hosted by rapidshare.de and will be live until they have been inactive for 30 days. Songs are for sampling purposes only, please support the artists whenever and however possible.)

How We Operate

I was extremely excited to read the news that Gomez has a new album coming out in May on ATO Records. "How We Operate" shoots right up the list of releases I'm looking forward to in 2006.

From what I've read thus far it looks like it should be among Gomez'z (possessive!?) best material. It will be interesting to see what effect working with a producer [Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters)] for the first time has on their tunes (Tchad Blake came in at the end of recording Split the Difference as more of a consultant to sate the label's desires, but wasn't necessarily a true "producer" per say.)

I think this will be a positive development:
'What was interesting to me about making this album,' said Norton, 'is that Gomez had never done pre-production on any of their previous albums so we got together in a room to really work out each song before we recorded them in the studio.'

I feel that Gomez is one of those bands that suffers a little from having three incredible songwriters and you could see it in their more recent albums. They guys seemed to be writing their own songs away from the band and then bringing them back when it was time to record, making the final product feel more like the work of three different bands than of a cohesive unit. Their first two strikes, Bring It On and Liquid Skin, worked so well because the whole band really worked together on crafting the songs, no matter the original songwriter.

Hopefully this brings them back to that process. I'm definately encouraged by the above quote.

I was going to post some b-sides in celebration of the new album (and lack of new songs to share) but a couple of tracks have found the airwaves already. Pioneering individuals ripped the streams and they are availble for everyone to preview.

Gomez || See the World
Gomez || Notice

And because I love 'Mez'z b-sides:

Gomez || Pick Up the Pieces (Whippin' Piccadilly single)
Gomez || Bed Hairdo (Internet and Sweet Virginia single)

A three-man acoustic promotional tour (Ian Ball, Ben Ottewell and Tom Grey) will take place in advance of the album's release, while the band proper has been booked at SXSW, Bonnaroo and Wakarusa later this year.

(Photo from here.)
(These songs are hosted by rapidshare.de and will be live until they have been inactive for 30 days. Songs are for sampling purposes only, please support the artists whenever and however possible.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The National on Pitchfork

One of my most prized discoveries of 2005 was The National's Alligator. "All the Wine" is battling for the top spot on my iTunes Top 25 Most Played, but Alligator might be one of the only albums where I can legitimately say that every song has been my favorite at some point. Matt Berninger's lyrics are somehow full of confidence, bravado, despair and self-doubt all at the same time, often in the same song. I find myself continually impressed, even after repeated listens.

This interview was posted on Pitchfork on Monday (2/6). I'm not sure how I missed it that day, but I'm glad to have found it now.

Berninger seems like a very thoughtful interview:
I think that one thing that I was trying do with Alligator is cut out any lyrics that sounded like obvious statements or big lyrical ideas. ... They might make sense and sound right for one day, then you'd realize that it's just not quite true, not quite right, that the truth is a little mushier than that.

This one seems like an apropos first real post. I might add a few quick hits later tonight from some interesting discusssions going on elsewhere. Stay tuned this weekend for some other stuff I've got planned, including two bonus tracks from Kicking Television.