February 11, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

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 Botticellis

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
Kula Shaker

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
Glen Phillips

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.

Okay and this is getting long today but — can we file this final PS under things that make me say “hmmmm”?

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.


  • Heather, as always you have brightened an otherwise lackluster Monday at the office. Your words always make me chuckle. I also “watched” the travesty known as the Grammys last night and you hit the nail right on the head. Its all so contrived and not about the music at all. Not even worth my time.

    Corporate music = crap

    JoJo — February 11, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  • Sadly, I watched part of the Grammys too, about a half hour of it. I caught the Foo Fighters’ performance (an OK song, but still not a favorite) and the Feist disaster. That ruined “1234″ for me, and I loved it. After that performance, I decided I’d had enough Grammy-watching for the night.

    I’ve tried to get into watching the Grammys, I really have. The last entire telecast I watched was the one from 2005. I’m a fan of music, this shouldn’t be so hard, and yet it is. :(

    Karina — February 11, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

  • dude, i could NOT BELIEVE kanye made me cry. but he did. it was that little rap he did in the middle.

    and, word, btw, pathologically enthusiastic would not be an accurate descriptor for your post today …

    c — February 11, 2008 @ 6:42 pm

  • Your blog is most groovingly insightful.

    Stay on groovin’ safari,

    Tor Hershman — February 11, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  • You know, I thought Amy actually seemed pretty damn good, all things considered. You’ve apparently not seen her at her worst. (I’ve also seen her before she became messed up… Seriously, she’s one of the most tragic people in the current entertainment industry. Ugh. So sad.)

    I also enjoyed Kanye’s performance, but mostly due to Daft Punk. I can’t get enough of those guys.

    Why was Feist’s performance a disaster, by the way? I refused to watch it because I’m sick to death of hearing her perform that song on every damn TV program. (It’s a good song, just overkilled.)

    Matthew — February 11, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  • Awards,schmarwds!How many days of our lives do we spend watching them? I think when your younger they have an aspirational quality but as you get older they almost say why am I still sitting here? Am I really part of this audience?

    Really enjoyed ‘Return to Me’ which has a Richard Hawley/Roddy Frame/Nick Lowe feel.Have you heard any Nick Lowe? His most recent album is wonderfully honest about the lonely hunter blues of the male.Check out ‘I trained her to love me’.

    Somebody played me the whole of Shelby Lynne’s ‘A little lovin’ last night and the phrasing therein is of a Sinartraesque quality which would shift any grumpville Monaday sorrrows into wonder at the sheer scale of being here and its atttendant glories and sorrows…..

    As for the signs and stuff – all the brash advertising playing with our minds and hopes – well that’s just that old mess of choices and information munching like a monster on the bone of time…

    Russell — February 12, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  • Amy deserves all her awards, the record is magnificent and she’s a real talent. And if she scares the f*** out of middle class suburban audiences, that’s even better. :-)

    I’m really looking forward to the new Elbow record. This song continued their brilliant style but also developed it a little. They’re a really mesmerizing band.

    Pete P. — February 12, 2008 @ 7:14 am

  • I watched as much as I could of the grammys. I knew it was going to be pretty bad from the nom list, but was still hoping for a few bright moments. They’re are a lot worse than Amy Winehouse & most on the show were. Brad Paisley singing ‘I want to check you for ticks’ was just hideously embarrassing for him, the show, his label, the industry, etc…

    I saw big contrasts throughout the show. There were a few good examples of music and most were extremely bad. The industry needs to get its head out of the dirt, stop pushing people like Fergie & John Legend, and sign real talent. Agreed – corporate music is crap!

    sirensong — February 12, 2008 @ 8:18 am

  • matthew, feist wasn’t *bad* at all I don’t think, but her performance of the song was shortened, just her with her guitar and a few backing folks, and just not as exciting as i know she can be from seeing her live and all her great videos. she’s so charming and i was sad that that didn’t come thorough. it was nice, but not incredible.

    pete p, i didn’t mean that winehouse’s album isn’t awesome. just that the performance was off and if no one had ever heard of her before, they’d be baffled as to why she has cleaned up on all those awards….

    heather — February 12, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  • I don’t think I’ve watched the Grammy’s since PJ was nominated for Vitalogy way back when. I guess I’m happy to know that i didn’t miss much.

    Thanks for the heads up on the Glen Phillips. He’s became one of my favorites over the years, hopefully he comes to SLC again sometime soon – the live shows are always brilliant and there’s not much of a crowd!

    craiye — February 12, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  • Amy Winehouse is vastly superior to Feist. Should be obvious to anyone with ears.

    Anonymous — February 12, 2008 @ 9:50 am

  • I’m excited to see the price of breathalysers going down, what could make for a better party game?

    JJ — February 12, 2008 @ 9:53 am

  • I never get tired of Matt Nathanson shows. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it Saturday night as well.

    Callie — February 12, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  • I kinda liked the Grammies; I liked that they had the balls to show some non-commercial stuff (opera and jazz) since this is in fact a show honoring music of all kinds, not just R&B and rap as it has appeared in recent years. I thought this show was more about the music than ever!

    The Beatles thing was odd; the Cirque Du Soleil show in Vegas is an amazing masterpiece when viewed live, its power doesn’t translate so well to the small screen. However, no one can argue that the Beatles’ “A Day In the Life” was the best piece of music featured on the entire show, and it’s over 40 years old. Any show that features Beatles music can’t be all bad (except maybe that stinkburger movie “Across the Universe”)

    I also don’t think THAT may people were asking their spouses who Amy Winehouse is, she is definitely a household name at this point. I thought it was great to see her live since she has had so much exposure this year, but I have never seen a live performance. It was weird, yes, but so is she. I guess I won’t have to buy her DVD, the CD should suffice.

    I kind of liked Feist’s performance, even if it was a bit subdued- it kind of reminded me of her “Black Sessions” you posted a while back. I was hoping she’d do “Leisure Suite” with the brass section; I loved the way that sounded on there.

    Foo FIghters, as always, rocked. I never knew Dave sang the low harmonies live, though. That shook me. And my fiancee and I hardly recognized Pat Smear!

    petepizza — February 12, 2008 @ 11:22 am

  • Cool to see Kula Shaker is still alive. I saw them way back in ’97 on the HORDE fest (remember that touring festival). It was a great line-up…Kula Shaker, Medeski Martin and Wood, Morphine, Ben Folds Five, Primus, Beck and Neil Young w/ Crazy Horse.

    Back to my initial point, the song posted is taken from 2 tracks on Prodigy’s Fat of the Land Album. “Climbatize” is the basis for the main riff of the song, and “Narayan” (title look familiar) for the chanting part. Crispian Mills of Kula Shaker actually sings on that song on the Prodigy Album.

    Shap — February 12, 2008 @ 12:38 pm

  • Even those who subscribe to Public Enemy’s views regarding the Grammys — “who gives a f*** about a g*****n grammy…” — you have to acknowledge Herbie Hancock as arguably the most deserving recipient at this years show. His contribution to music over the last five decades is undeniable.

    Ken Smith — February 12, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  • dear fuelfriend heather:

    i want to check you for ticks.

    good day to you.

    ray price — February 12, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

  • “Lackluster performances reigned; even Feist was not represented as gloriously as she should have been…”

    I totally agree with you Heather.

    fab — February 12, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  • I love Ms. Leslie Feist, but I have to agree– the performance was disappointing. I’m tired of that song, and I was hoping she’d blow the world away with something they hadn’t heard 2908234 million times, and didn’t recognize because they saw it on TV 87878977899787789 times. The version of “My Moon, My Man” from The Culture Show, perhaps? (http://youtube.com/watch?v=Avj-dwvpxtQ)

    Kanye’s performance was lame, and i enjoyed the album and can deal with him to an extent. The saving grace were the appearance of those daft punks and, of course, their bright flashy attire.

    Thankfully, I have no television at the moment so I didn’t subject myself to the entire performance. I amused myself with Stereogum’s liveblogging of the event and watched the videos as they were posted. Much more palatable that way.

    As for the breathalyser, I can attest to the fun it can provide at a party. Good times…

    All my best,


    Steve — February 12, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

  • Great list! Yeah, the Grammys were pretty bleak this year. Also, I was wondering how do you get the del.icio.us tagger to work like you have? Mine’s a bust right now!

    KT — February 13, 2008 @ 8:45 am

  • I think they mean that it will work for hundreds of utilizations.

    Dan — February 13, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

Comments RSS

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →