The Grammys were on last night, and even though I watched them, I felt just as disconnected from the alleged art contained within them as ever. I went to the Grammys in 2003 in NYC and at the time was struck by what a spectacle, what a circus it was. It was barely about the music, more about the fashion, the pyrotechnics, the manufactured emotion of the mini-crowd they select to run down to the front, wild in their staged arm-waving enthusiasm — trying to inject an emotion into the show that doesn’t exist in the natural state.
The queen of the evening Amy Winehouse looked addled, twiggy, and uncertain with what to do with her limbs while she skittered through her material (scaring the bejesus out of half the folks watching her, asking their spouse over the beats, “Who is this Amy Winehouse gal? And why did she win all those awards?”). Lackluster performances reigned; even Feist was not represented as gloriously as she should have been (where was the rainbow colored dancing? that would have been better than that painful Beatles medley with the walking umbrella and the flying culotte lady that I thought was Heather Mills). I was surprised to find Kanye West’s performance the most potent of the night; his inspired collab with Daft Punk lead into a wrenching, broken tribute to his mama that added Kanye onto the short list of people that have made me cry this month (how did that happen?!).
Anyways, score one for the corporate death of music that makes me feel anything inside. Yep, pretty cheerful around here today.
Here are five tunes for you to spin this week:
Up Against The Glass
The musical byproduct of communal living in the Outer Richmond district of San Francisco, indie pop-surf band The Botticellis impressed me when I saw them at NoisePop last year opening for Cake. They’ve got a tight, sunny, ’60s sound saturated with multihued orchestral melodies. I’d posted an earlier version of this addictive little song last year; it’s now revisioned for their debut album on the Oakland, CA label Antenna Farm. Check out the vintage, analog sound of the album Old Home Movies when it comes out May 13. They’re playing some Bay Area shows in the coming months and also will be at SXSW.
Grounds For Divorce
Among the bands with weird noun names (Spoon, Aqueduct, Sponge, what have you) Manchester band Elbow is the only one who would be taken on a desert island with John Cale. Not a bad endorsement. This radio rip of the first single from Elbow’s upcoming 4th album The Seldom Seen Kid (due on the UK’s Fiction Records, home of Stephen Fretwell and Ian Brown’s latests) is a haunting, gospelly blues track with a guttural punch and stomp. It sounds downright epic to these ears. [thx]
The soundtrack to last year’s excellent Little Miss Sunshine brought some well-deserved acclaim to Denver quartet DeVotchKa. Since spinning those quirky, inventive, whistle and theremin-laden tunes for the film, DeVotchKa has signed to -Anti Records, and their album A Mad And Faithful Telling is due March 18th. This first single doesn’t sound like much else I’ve heard lately, spinning dizzily by the end as we discuss someone who won’t mean what they say or say what they mean. I feel confused, but I like the effect. You can stream more new stuff on their website.
Song of Love/Narayana
Hazy and trippy as ever, London’s Kula Shaker always get lumped into the Britpop header, but really, why? Reformed in 2005 after six years apart, their recognizable Indian chanting and psychedelic overtones remain intact on this “new” song from the album Strangefolk. Released last year in the UK, this one slipped past me originally, but is finally gearing up for a US release on Cooking Vinyl next week. The band is still steadfast in their belief that love can save the world, and this cut bends eras and genres. It builds slowly but is solidly good; have a listen.
Return To Me
As a pretty hearty fan of Toad The Wet Sprocket throughout the Nineties, I’m always trying to keep up with the quality, heart-warming output of the various band members since their 1998 official disbanding. Of the projects, frontman Glen Phillips has consistently grabbed my ears with his literate and earnest solo output. On tour now, Glen played last night at the Fox Theatre in Boulder (and I was sad to miss it but had just been there Saturday night for the scathingly funny rock of Mr. Matt Nathanson). One of my kind readers notified me that there’s a new EP Secrets Of The New Explorers up for download on his website, the follow-up to Mr. Lemons, his strong 2006 full-length. This winsome track is a free download and there are more like it for mere dollars.
I was at the auto parts store yesterday (brake light out, as two nice construction workers let me know at a stoplight the other day) and I saw this keychain breathalyzer dealie for 39 bucks by the register. I found it highly amusing that it claims to have “Hundreds of Uses.”
Um, actually? I am pretty sure it has just one.
That’s all. Rock on.