This week I find myself in a part of the world that’s just ri-goddamn-diculous, as my friend Sailor Jay would say. I whiled away this afternoon swimming and paddling in a kayak on Alice Lake, a little sapphire in the valley’s hand out in British Columbia. As I paddled, and listened to my paddle dripping water onto my legs and the waves lapping against the boat, I watched hundreds of little cerulean blue dragonflies flit and hover and sun themselves. I glided silently under where the mossy trees dip down to touch the water and make a natural cave of leaves.
The song that I started singing out loud for myself was “When You Are Still” by David Wax Museum (and not just because they are playing at my house on Thursday, nor to set up this post)…
This is a band that is wonderfully different from anyone I have hosted before, as their music blends this cool Appalachian-folk style with Mexican Son music. David Wax plays a traditional Mexican guitar called a jarana, while his musical partner Suz Slezak plays fiddle and a donkey jawbone called a quijada. This will be the first time that a band has experimented with animal bones in my house, sooooo….. come for that.
You’ve heard their music, at minimum, on several of my seasonal mixes — “Born With A Broken Heart” to start the springtime, “The Least I Can Do” in late lazy summer, and “When You Are Still” for the autumn. You should also definitely get my favorite full-length from them, Everything Is Saved. They shipped some ahead to my house, so get one Thursday.
Opening the night will be Denver’s own amazing Chimney Choir! In their own words, “Chimney Choir conjures colorful avant-pop by mixing old time acoustic instruments with droning synths, junk percussion and 3 part harmonies in a theatrical show.” I love junk percussion; Imma start saving cans now.
One last rad recording of them, so you know what we’re in for: I still love this line, “Some of us come with new hearts, most of us come with used hearts — baby, why do you look so sad?”
So in case you were not around cool humans a few weeks ago, you might not have heard that The Replacements are reforming to play three shows this summer at the Riot Fest (!!!). I am not a rioty person, but I do love me some Paul Westerberg in all of his many forms, and this news came out of a wonderful left field to surprise most of us. Even though we don’t know who else is in the band this go around (other than Tommy Stinson, and, maybe, Prince) — IT’S THE REPLACEMENTS.
I was trying to explain The Replacements to my intern (again, with the intern. This kid is getting double his unpaid-work-hours money) and I used words like “sloppy but melodic” and “like, this visceral rawness with classic rock n’ roll underpinnings.” I used the word “punk” a few times; something about the Beatles; we talked about the dangers of alcohol overuse. I think we both went home from work that day better human beings, and now he has a new band to discover.
Back in 2006 I posted a pirate’s treasure trove of Replacements and Westerberg rarities and b-sides that a reader sent me. In honor of the Riot Fest news, and to announce the ticket giveaway I get to do for it, here they are again below, all re-upped.
TICKET GIVEAWAY!I have two pairs of 2-day passes to the Denver stop of Riot Fest to give away to Fuel/Friends readers. It’s happening September 21 and 22 on a farm-looking place outside of town; I’ll also be going and probably camping, which should be delightful.
TO ENTER TO WIN: leave a comment telling me why you should win a pair of tickets, and I will pick two winners in a week or so.
I have a grad student working in my office with me this summer and at this point I am 99% sure he wants me to start playing something other thanPhox, a seven-piece band from Madison, WI. He likes them plenty, but my unrelenting affinity for them is lately non-stop. But I’m the boss and I make the soundtrack choices — and this is a good choice. I’m teaching my intern about good choices in the workplace.
Phox creates malleable music: effervescent and smoky at the same time, with shimmery layers of creative instrumentation anchored by the stunning voice of Monica Martin. I CAN’T STOP LISTENING.
I’d gotten some reader buzz in my emails about this band, and then learned that they are one of only three bands managed by ONTO Entertainment (the other two being chapel session alums The Lumineers and Hey Marseilles, so they’re in good company). I think Phox has the potential to blow up this year, and I would be happy to get this into everyone’s ears.
As a band, they are perfectly difficult to classify, and they’re dang smart. Look at how they answer this interview question:
What trend in music business should we be paying attention to?
“Synthesis. Don’t worry too much about EDM, or the Americana revival. Just look what’s in between the two. Not just an average of the two popular aesthetics, but the intuitive common ground which is developing the native tongue of our generation. Look for artists.”
I’m also thrilled to announce that we’re bringing them to Colorado Springs on July 17, playing the Ivywild School venue that I am now booking! Last night at Ivywild, at the first show we put together there (with Field Report), Chris Porterfield informed me of the existence of THIS song that is just so many shades of wonderfulness colliding that I can’t even….
Back in October, those Wisconsin-grown purveyors of carefully-crafted songs Field Report came through Colorado to record a chapel session and play a Fuel/Friends house show. I’ve been listening to an audience recording of that house show often because it gives such a marvelous, vibrant reflection of the intimacy that makes house concerts special — how raw and affectingly all their voices ring out together in the room, the banter with the folks who are there, the improvisation in the instrumentation.
Field Report returns to Colorado Springs tomorrow (Tuesday night) to play a FREE SHOW at the new rad Ivywild School project, where I will be booking music. Come on down to the Principal’s Office bar, have a Colorado-crafted spirit, and enjoy music like this.
If we’re going to collectively be on a vintage summery-music kick this month, then Radiation City fits in so very well to my chosen soundtrack. They totally killed it in the house show I did with them a few months ago – they’re smart and catchy and dreamy-charming all at once.
And then of course we’ve established that Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds are making some of my favorite soul music these days. Mike’s Daytrotter session came out yesterday, and Sean nailed it when he wrote: “Colorado songwriter Mike Clark writes songs that sound sweeter than sour. They give off the feeling that his love is healthy, but it’s still so damned hungry. It’s blazing and demanding. He gives off that pacing the floor, screaming at the skies neediness vibe that the greatest of the old school soul and blues singers gave off, as if there was nothing else than some soft touch to be had. It was all there was. It was everything that was and is needed. They’ll be wayward until they fill that yearning. They’ll be wayward for a while.”
TICKET GIVEAWAY!Fuel/Friends has three pairs of tickets to give away for this terrific show. Please leave a comment if you would like to be entered to win a pair and I will pick randomly on Saturday! I’m presenting the show along with Odell Brewery and Radio 1190. Radiation City plays at 6pm, and Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds at 8pm, but come spend the whole day (doors at noon). Here’s the Facebook event. I hope to see you there!
I guarantee that this will be the best way you can spend your Sunday, getting pleasantly day-drunk, eating smoked meats, and listening to these sweet sounds.
Full schedule: Sunday BBQ!
THE BLACK FEATHERS @ 2pm
CODENAME : CARTER @ 3pm
ScaTTer GaTHer @ 4pm
CONFLUENCE @ 5pm
RADIATION CITY 6pm
WE WERE COSMONAUTS @ 7pm
MIKE CLARK & THE SUGAR SOUNDS @ 8pm
WILD HIGH @ 9pm
Summer is a rarefied season that (more than any other time of year) summons up all sorts of vintage ghosts from other generations’ musical realms — namely, the ’50s and ’60s in American & British music, for me. There’s something in those old AM radio songs and staticky car stereo anthems that instantly dig up all my best summer memories and leave me ready to go make some more.
As the June heat reaches full capacity these days, for this year’s summer mix I mostly swore off the stuff that feels all shimmery-new, in favor of the new that feels old and well-steeped. These twenty songs all could have maybe come out on a vinyl single, and soundtracked a sock hop or a sweaty, soulful city nightclub in 1964. But almost all of them (with a couple exceptions) were made in the last few years by people not old enough to remember any of that first-hand.
Here’s to music that perennially sounds good on a hot summer night.
SUNBURNS TURNING INTO TANLINES:
THE FUEL/FRIENDS SUMMER 2013 MIX
Ganges A GoGo – Bombay The Hard Way
A kitschy funk-Bollywood explosion from Dan The Automator features drums from DJ Shadow — and you can practically see the technicolor masses dancing to this one. Count me as one of them.
Summer Girls – Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds
This playful, slurry jam has been a no-brainer for inclusion since I first heard it in the middle of winter, on Mike’s delectable Round & Round album (one that should be on your stereos, in its entirety, all summer). Mike opened (and oh hey, named) last year’s summer mix as well, with “Smooth Sailin’.” Perhaps something in his joyful musical laments just suit the season. ALSO: Mike’s Daytrotter session that we stopped in Iowa to record a few months ago just went live this morning as well, with some really beautiful writing from Sean to match the songs. Bonanza!
Lady, You Shot Me – Har Mar Superstar
I had somehow stupidly pegged this band as some sort of J-pop collective. Why? Why did I miss out on this for so long? This new record, Bye Bye 17, is now #2 (after Mike’s) on my list of albums that you need for this summer. Pretty fly for a white guy (from Minnesota who looks like Ron Jeremy), as they say.
Can I Change My Mind – Tyrone Davis
One of the few authentic older songs on this mix, I just cannot ever ever get enough of how delicately sexy and perfect that febrile, bendy guitar lick is. Bad. Ass. All summer long.
Trying So Hard Not To Know – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
This song is one side of the hard-to-find Night Sweats 7″ that is floating around all the best Colorado record players. I have listened to this song roughly 86 times in the last month or so, after seeing them live and having my socks completely knocked off. Sweltering.
Better Days – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes “I’ve seen better days drippin’ down your face / we don’t have to talk, just dance.” Yes. This new song from Edward Sharpe is from their forthcoming S/T July record, which is already promising to be a much-anticipated soundtrack to my late summer months.
Plan Of The Man – The Ms
I swooned and fell for this band when they released Future Women way back in the 2006 early-days of this blog, crowned by this tightly wound power-pop gem of a song. As one reviewer wrote, “The M’s have found a canny chemistry out of seemingly simple parts (three-part harmonies plus a powerhouse drummer), and now, they’ve got swagger to spare.”
High School Lover – Cayucas
The bassline here makes my shoulders go up and down like this. Another wonnnnnnderful summery album, newly out on Secretly Canadian Records.
You Put The Flame On It – Charles Bradley
This one’s a new song by an older dude who could have been part of the first wave of originals but instead worked as a cook and a James Brown impersonator called (you can’t make up a better backstory than this) “Black Velvet,” before being signed to Daptone Records. Everything about his newly-released sophomore record with Daptone –which my friend Andrew has on vinyl and it sounds just superb, spinning lazily– is fantastic.
Brand New Key (Melanie cover) – Thao Nguyen & The Get Down Stay Down
In her perfectly strong singsong delivery, the rocking Thao aces this 1971 rollerskating jam, all loaded with vintage innuendo about his key fitting into her brand new roller skates, and how they should “get together and try it out to see.” God bless the Seventies.
Country Girl – Primal Scream
A prime Rolling Stones song that isn’t a Rolling Stones song, this one is all swagger from a 2006 record by Scottish rockers Primal Scream, with lines like “crazy women, mess your hair / wake up drunk and bleeding in some strange bed but yeah – what can a poor boy do?” A common complaint. Put this one on when you need to get pumped up to go out and be superawesome some night.
I Like To Move In The Night – Eagles of Death Metal
Gahhh another one that so very clearly rips off the Stones, and yet does it with such unabashed glee that you can’t help but enjoy it. Plus, you can’t take a band called Eagles Of Death Metal too seriously, now can you? This reminds me of the watertower/pool hall/gas station scenes from Dazed & Confused. Like that.
Say So – Allen Stone
This 26 year-old bespectacled white kid from Seattle keeps wowing me with his smooth Stevie-Wonder-like range and delight in the music he’s making. A superb piece about him on Grantland described him as sort of looking like a Fraggle Rock character, “but (he) has a better voice than pretty much anyone I’ve ever heard in my life.” So there’s that. Listen up for this fella.
Please Forgive My Heart (Bobby Womack) – Bahamas
Afie Jurvanen can do no wrong, in my opinion, and this Bobby Womack cover with his wonderful backup-singer ladies is no exception. I love/hate the ability of sweet soul songs like this to woo me, wherein our protagonist begs some woman to forgive his heart, because the problem doesn’t lie “anywhere in there,” but the fact is, “I’m a liar.” So we’re clear. Ooooh ooooh ooooh.
Saturday – Josh Rouse
Such sweet, sweet bluesy topnotes here, floating across the air on a slow Saturday — this is one of the more romantic songs I know, and I’ve been wanting to put it on a summer mix for years. From Rouse’s 2005 masterpiece album Nashville, this song also has one of my favorite opening lyrics: “I would swim across the ocean, I would lay down on a bed of nails / but I’ll spare you all the bullshit, I will spare you all the desperate details.” Whew.
Dry Land – Planes (Inaiah & Desi)
Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia are core members of The Haunted Windchimes here in Southern Colorado, but their side project Planes finds them charmingly exploring tunes that would have sounded right at home on tour with Buddy Holly. This melody is a serious earworm, and they agreed to record it last week in their living room, just for me and you and this mix, after I absolutely could not stop whistling it for an entire week.
Post-War – M. Ward
This song has always sounded radiantly humid to me, like drowsily-buzzing bees and backporch cicadas and air that clings to your skin, with a slow dance shuffle across a worn-smooth wooden floor somewhere.
Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan
One of the greatest summer night songs ever recorded. You can see the ceiling fan spinning lazily, ineffectually, overhead. It’s too hot to sleep; the heat is still rising off the sidewalk and the soft, tarry asphalt. Behind every beautiful thing, Dylan croaks, there’s been some kind of pain.
We are looking ahead to a long summer filled with all sorts of good folks coming through to play us some Fuel/Friends House Concerts! Our next one is Thursday, June 6th with Vandaveer, and has been a long time coming.
These are songs that resonate with echoes of old, rich music: spirituals, dirges, and songs of rejoicing. It often feels primal and organic in the percussion (lots of handclaps), elegant in the wending warmth of the cello. The lyrics are also dang smart; one just needs to listen to a rich allegory on songs like “Spite” to know that.
But the real currents that pull me through these songs come from the vocal pairings of Rose Guerin’s icy deep low harmonies and Mark Charles Heidinger’s wending ripples and currents that tug us around the rocks. Heidinger’s voice has this vinegar of sadness around it that actually reminds me of Nina Simone (something I would never expect); they both have that slight metallic tang and bitter aftertaste that sounds regretful all the way through.
Vandaveer has a new record out of traditional folk murder ballads and other dark things, called Oh, Willie, Please. I am looking forward to being drawn into those complicated stories on a warm summer night.
And off their last record (one of 2011′s favorites of that year), the title track, which I still love so damn much. I thought of this song over and over in that Barcelona cathedral, and all those dazzling dizzying colors still come to mind every time I hear it.
As our opener for the evening, we are in for a real treat. Fresh off one of THE most insanely long and awesome shows I have seen in a very long time (at Meadowgrass this past weekend), opening the night will be Colorado Springs’ own Joe Johnson. He may also know a folk murder ballad or two, and man — can he also wail when he sets his mind to it. Check out this video he made last weekend amidst the pines, with friend Kevin Ihle:
EARLY SHOW: Please note that we have a multitude of musical riches in town on this same night, and we are doing this house concert as an early show (from 7pm to 9pm), so as to allow time for all of us to hop on bikes (those who have bikes) and ride the few blocks over to the Triple Nickel for the second act of the night with more good friends: The Changing Colors, with Ark Life and Roo & The Howl, which will get started shortly after 9pm!!
A generous donation is encouraged at my house show next Thursday, to support homegrown quality music and musicians. BYOB. You can RSVP via Facebook here — hope to see you here!
Sixteen years ago today, Jeff Buckley went swimming in a tributary of the Mississippi River, and was pulled under. Back then I was a few weeks away from graduating high school, and can still remember reading the snippet of printed news in the paper that morning. I can still hear the blood rushing in my ears at that moment.
I’ve probably written more about Jeff than any other artist on this blog, and the purity and power in his music still flies straight and true into the best parts of me. Hyperbole aside, the more music I listen to and the more years that calcify around me, the more I realize what a startling light he was. When I recognized the anniversary today it felt like a punch to the gut.
I’d never seen this documentary, but you can (and should) watch the whole hour-long thing online today:
I’ve also gone through all my archives here and pulled out a few noteworthy posts (with working mp3s) of all sorts of Jeff goodness that you may have missed. Recommended listening today:
All of my waking hours in the last week (and some of my sleeping ones as well) have been spent listening to the new National record, Trouble Will Find Me (out May 20 on 4AD). I am thoroughly taken by this narcotic, melodic speedball of record, all dark hues and complicated beauty. The National is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve waited three years for this. From the understated opening notes and breakingly delicate vocals, this record is magnificence that was absolutely worth the wait.
I think the magic combination that I so appreciate about the National is the way their music is both sentimental (“I am secretly in love with / everyone that I grew up with”) and gorgeously fatalistic (“I have only two emotions / careful fear and dead devotion / I can’t get the balance right”) at the same time. It’s such an interesting and noteworthy combination in music; that constant engagement with things we often think of as being very much at-odds. The Guardian wrote a piece about this record, and I re-read this sentence a few times: “What they have perfected, over the course of six albums, is a kind of glistening melancholy, a strangely beautiful dourness.”
I got stuck on the part that said that it was strange to find beauty in dourness, because lately I have been challenging myself to see a natural interweaving, and not something strange at all. I was reminded of something I wrote for that brilliant Cold Specks video, which wove together the decomposing and the budding, the avalanche with the slicing forward. Even though I have trouble articulating the way this concept looks in my head, I think it is the same reason I love The National – their songs are all both, at once.
“When they ask what do I see, I say: a bright white beautiful heaven hanging over me,” Matt sings on this (very dark) record. It’s there, all at once: in that blinding brilliance, the desire for redemption, that sad shitty feeling in your gut when you realize that things are so very broken everywhere. When I think of that, I shield my eyes because we can all agree that sometimes it’s too much, and sometimes we default to lingering in the swamp. But one thing that Berninger’s words –and this band’s elegant instrumentation– will always do for me is sharpen that sinuous zone between the celestial and the torturous.
Matt Berninger is my all-time favorite lyricist: he writes intellectual, spidery lyrics that can be so achingly spot-on in what they evoke, and also don’t shy away from the ugliest things we can think. I had to start keeping a note on my phone to write down all the mindblowing lines on this record that keep jumping out at me (or at least what I think they say). Lines as simple and profound as: “When I walk into a room, I do not light it up. Fuck.” Or these lines from “Slipped”:
“I’m having trouble inside my skin
I try to keep my skeletons in
I’ll be a friend, and a fuck, and everything
but I’ll never be anything you ever want me to be…
I keep coming back here where everything slipped
…I will not spill my guts out.”
Drummer Bryan Devendorf is probably also my favorite drummer; his percussion will often feel blissfully narcotic to me, in its tight persistence and crisp unpredictability. To me, his drums speak another language and contribute to the meaning of the song just as much as the words themselves do. Throughout this record, and every National record, one of their strengths is in changing time signatures, sudden shifts and (especially) hesitations. In a recent interview with The Gothamist, Bryan talked about the song “Hard to Find” being a “beautiful piece of music, around this odd fixed-meter thing — it’s very natural and, for lack of a better term, human.”
Similarly guitarist Aaron Dessner talks about the “funny extra beat” in opening song “I Should Live In Salt.” All throughout this record my brain kept lighting up at unexpected percussive joys. “Apartment Story” (on 2007′s Boxer) has long been a song that I will put it on the headphones if I want to sleep, using that rhythmic ferocity to mute and soften the corners of all my non-stop thoughts. On this new record, “Graceless” is an immediate standout to me that does the same: over an unrelenting hammering of classy drums, it’s addictive, with brilliant lines like “All of my thoughts of you / bullets through rotten fruit.” Wow.
The multi-instrumental capacities and coherence of The National have only become more pronounced throughout their six records. “I Need My Girl” starts with these weird little needling guitar tones that feel like all the persistent thoughts that start pricking at you in the darkness as soon as you turn off the lights to go to sleep; all the insecurities, all the things we’ve said that may have, in fact, been a little too aggressive — even as they helped keep ourselves intact, hold our shit together, help us gather our shit in. “Heavenfaced,” feels like a bruise forming, or slipping into some sort of storm-swollen dark river. It has one of the most beautiful breaks on the record, and gives us this lyric, which is perfect:
“Let’s go wait out in the fields with the ones we love.”
Lots of people are calling this record the best one yet from The National. To me, that’s like picking a favorite child, or chocolate/beer/ice cream/any beloved thing, for that matter. This is an astoundingly good record that you should get lost in next week, and for many weeks and months to follow. How do they keep doing it? It must be magic. Or chemistry. Or something else I’m just busy deeply, deeply appreciating over here.
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. If you represent an artist or a label and would prefer that I remove a link to an mp3, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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