Home again, home again, jiggety jig. I had a fantastic loooong stretch in California this past week-plus. In addition to seeing two unbeatable concerts and witnessing a cousin get married off in a burst of winery festivities, I also got to see lots of old friends, swim in a bonafide swimmin’ hole up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, chat up an old neighbor we call Larry Woodstove and find out the haps in the ‘hood I grew up in, eat my favorite gelato twice and In ‘N’ Out three times, discover a little Italian pottery and antique shop,
sit burn on the beach in Santa Cruz, and spot this bar sign (I love taking the scenic route):
I found time to duck into Amoeba Records in Berkeley and Streetlight Records in San Jose. I drove many miles of California highway, waited approximately 832 hours for flights, and I’m pretty sure that some of my underthings were swiped from my luggage by a Transportation Security Administration minion. Never pack em in the outside pocket.
It’s good to be home. I’ve got a backlog of blog posts built up in my head, and a bunch of great music to share with you all.
Put It On Me
Hot dang, the new Ben Harper is an absolute scorcher. I literally kept saying “holy crap!” out loud when I listened to tracks like this one, a funky soulful feisty downright boogie. Dig the Isley Brother guitar riffs, the dirty piano, and the full gospel backing vocals. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Lifeline is out August 28.
Diamond Hoo-Ha Man
Astute NME readers will note that “Britpop veterans” Supergrass opened for Arctic Monkeys this weekend and played a few new songs, which, of course, sent me out on the hunt to hear them for myself. Supergrass just helped me out in my quest by posting a live mp3 on their site of this new dense White-Stripey-rocker tune. I’m not sure how the protagonist here got access to a diamond hoo-ha, but I’m sure he’s not complaining. If you dig this sound like I do, sign up for updates on their site. Supergrass have completed their latest album and are mixing it this summer in L.A.
Let The Music Play
(live with Marc Broussard)
G. Love and Special Sauce
There’s a certain kind of special, laid-back fun that goes along with a G. Love concert. Philadelphia roots-rap-soul-funkster Garrett Dutton (but you can call him G. Love) can wail on the harmonica, lay down the smooth beats, twist a clever lyric, and always, always make me dance. He’s got a new live tour documentary A Year and A Night out tomorrow on Brushfire Records (watch the trailer here) and there’s a bonus live CD that comes packaged with it. This sizzling live version of “Let The Music Play” (originally on last year’s Lemonade album) features tourmate Marc Broussard, whose new album also I keep hearing good things about.
The Honey Month
Last time I was out in California my brother and I were heading downtown to the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego and he popped in a mix CD he was currently digging. In addition to lots of Mason Jennings (you’re welcome, little bro) most of it was tunes from Australian megagroup Augie March, who are just starting to make a dent in the American market. My brother will be jealous to hear that I plan to check these guys out at a rare U.S. show this week at the Boulder Records & Radio summit, and will report back my findings. Their “new” (to these shores) album Moo, You Bloody Choir (and no, I don’t know what the title means) is out August 7. It’s a rich and literate album, with this track fairly oozing the figurative honey cited in the title. Pitchfork calls a very apt comparison by likening the work to mid-Nineties Grant Lee Buffalo and yes, amen. A solid and multi-layered album that I look forward to exploring.
The new album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter is miles away from 2006′s Animal Years, except for the common thread of some of the finest songwriting and lyricism in today’s folk/rock world. Similar to how I was surprised by the downright danceable boogie on the forthcoming Iron & Wine (previously offering mostly hushed, go-to-bed-alone music), Josh Ritter gets all Hall & Oates on us with horns, ragtime piano, and beats. I’ll be flogged in public for even suggesting this, but call me crazy if the melody on the verses here is a slowed-down echo of Britney Spears’ 2004 Mile High Club jam “Toxic.” There, I said it.
2007 is shaping up to be an interesting year for releases from artists we thought we knew. Everyone’s gettin’ all spirited-like, and I love it. Some of the songs on this album are more standard fare from Ritter, such as the shiver-inducing loveliness of “The Temptation of Adam” (which I saw him perform back in February) but overall — whew. I am impressed with this direction. Ritter just announced a huge string of tour dates and is absolutely worth seeing live, an energetic and masterful performer.