January 28, 2010

The haunting melancholy of AA Bondy


Today dawned steely grey and covered in snow. While it was nice to get a slow start, I feel a touch of the seasonal blues, unexpectedly.

It’s the right kind of day for the sad, slow beauty of AA Bondy.

I fell in love with Bondy’s music last year and almost named his When The Devil’s Loose (2009, Fat Possum) one of my top albums of the year. Bondy wrote of it, evocatively, “To me [the album] sounds like a radio washed ashore after a shipwreck.” The songs are subtle on the album, but it is really something to hear what they become live.

HearYa Sessions recently had Bondy and his backing band into the studio, and I was amazed by the way “Slow Parade” becomes an electric beast at the end. It starts like morphine and ends like ten-foot waves crashing.

Slow Parade – AA Bondy

Drag your shadow down the street
is it you I was to meet?
with your saints there on a chain
Waiting on another rain

And I’m going down
where the waves will surround
to the roll and the pound of the wild, wild sea
singin sweet to me…

Also, be sure to listen to the HearYa version of “Mightiest of Guns.” That minute-long slowburn introduction here puts a lump in my throat.

Come see AA Bondy tonight at the Hi-Dive! I have four tickets to give away, so please email me ASAP if you’d like to attend! Willy Mason and A(aron) Tom Collins open.

28 Jan – Hi-Dive, Denver, CO
29 Jan – Jackpot, Lawrence, KS
30 Jan – Maintenance Shop, Ames, IA
1 Feb – High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI
2 Feb – Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, MI
3 Feb – Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY
4 Feb – Valentine’s Downstairs, Albany, NY
5 Feb – T.T. The Bear’s, Boston, MA
6 Feb – Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY

June 22, 2009

Monday Music Roundup

5098_556565316554_7303238_33483639_5737487_nYesterday afternoon found me sitting in an upper level of Coors Field with my dad and sister, celebrating Father’s Day with him in the sunshine as we watched the Rockies beat the Pirates. That’s what it looked like:

I was reflecting on how impossible it is to feel like anything is seriously amiss in the world when I get to have an afternoon like that — yelling at the players with my pops, tossing about my feeble knowledge of stats this season (I know just enough to be dangerous), and remembering all the Giants games at Candlestick Park when we were growing up.

It was a good day.

Here are a handful of tunes that have been keeping me company lately…

aa-bondy-coverWhen The Devil’s Loose
AA Bondy

Formerly of the band Verbena (whose 1999 major-label debut was produced by Dave Grohl), AA Bondy‘s solo songwriting knocked me for an immense loop when I was seduced by his Daytrotter session. Several songs from that session are now due to show up on his forthcoming sophomore release, and this is the title track. You’ll hear a bit of old-time parlor smoke in his voice, reminiscent of the creeping goodness I find in M. Ward, with a fuller sound to the new material. Bondy just announced some dates next month with Conor Oberst, and he hits Denver’s Hi-Dive this very night. You should go. When The Devil’s Loose is out Sept 1 on Fat Possum.

Periodically Double or Triple
ole-856250x250Yo La Tengo

This feisty, organ-laced number from Yo La Tengo‘s millionth (ok, I think 12th) album spans all kinds of eras from late Sixties-brilliance to the sexy tease of funkadelica. It’s reminiscent in ways of my favorite song off the last album, the falsetto glory of “Mr. Tough” (which, incidentally makes the best iTunes Genius playlist fodder, if’n you want to dance). Yo La Tengo never seems to stop experimenting; Popular Songs is due Sept 8th on Matador.

rsfarcoverLaughing With
Regina Spektor

Never afraid to experiment with an intriguing blend of playfulness and truth, first listens of Regina Spektor‘s new album Far are promising. The first song I heard from it was “Folding Chair” which charmed me with a vignette involving a beach chair, feet buried in the sand, and sea just being a wetter version of the sky. But this song is acutely incisive and couldn’t be further away from playfulness. Armed with her piano and her honesty, she muses, “No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake, no one’s laughing at God when they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else, and they hope that they’re mistaken.” It’s a heady, sharp one. And true, as far as I can tell. You can stream the full album now on her MySpace, Far is out tomorrow on Sire Records.

Waterfall (Judee Sill cover)
dan-rossen-covers-judee-sillDan Rossen

Back in the sister-goldenhair days of yore, Judee Sill was an important talent in the Laurel Canyon scene. Before her untimely death, Judee originally wrote “Jesus Was A Crossmaker,” covered radiantly by The Hollies and introduced to a bunch of the younguns on the Elizabethtown soundtrack. Here Grizzly Bear‘s Daniel Rossen covers an obscure song of hers with shimmering technicolor beauty and a ukulele. I absolutely love it. He joins folks like Ron Sexsmith, Princeton, and Beth Orton on the upcoming Crayon Angel: A Tribute to the Music of Judee Sill, due Sept 22 on American Dust; Rossen’s mom must be proud.

bensonPoised and Ready (rough version)
Brendan Benson

When Brendan Benson announced a new album last week, the tracklisting included several songs that were first unveiled as “Ruffs” back in March of 2007. Before he began recounting with the Raconteurs, his solo career gave us some of the most intelligent, sharply-crafted power-pop tunes of the last few years. Even on this rough demo version – come on, you can hear how fabulous the new album is likely to be. I was converted to Benson’s songcrafting genius through a prized series of mix CDs from a friend, all heavy on Benson’s best songs — of which there are many to choose.  My Old, Familiar Friend is out August 18th on ATO Records, and I am really looking forward to it. Now go listen to this masterpiece as well, the snappier 2005 version I vastly prefer:

The Alternative To Love – Brendan Benson

March 28, 2009

buried in the ground long before me


A.A. Bondy is fast becoming my new favorite artist, and unreleased songs like these from his Daytrotter session last summer scrape at my insides. As I listen to them today in a quiet house, snow sparkling clean in the bright sunlight, something inside of me immediately identifies with the high lonesome harmonica and the roughed-up weariness in the vocals.

Bondy writes, “This song feels like it was buried in the ground long before me and my shovel just happened to strike it one day.” Yeah, and it’s oddly a story of a vampire and an alienation from the world — the sleeping during the day and the going out at night looking for a quenching to the thirst. Never thought I would identify but somehow I do… and there is the mark of a great, great song.

Oh The Vampyre (unreleased, live on Daytrotter) – A.A. Bondy

And one more, about black haired girls and layin’ among the pines as the night comes rolling in.

Among The Pines (unreleased, live on Daytrotter) – A.A. Bondy

Go and get the rest of the set for free on Daytrotter.

A.A. Bondy is playing Sasquatch Festival on Memorial Day weekend. Anyone up for another roadtrip?

[image credit Jonathan Purvis]

January 12, 2009

Monday Music Roundup


The cunning, evil piglets run to the tiger, smothering her with their small hooves and short snouts. Made weak by the cuteness of the piglets (and undoubtedly aware of the fact that she is only making the situation worse by being in the picture herself), she reaches out her paw, licking her lips, grasping for an errant piglet she can stuff in her mouth. That would really ruin the moment, she thinks to herself, desperate for some way – any way – out of this moment of terrifying cross-species affection.

I find the Fuck You, Penguin blog entirely hilarious,  even if I’ll admit to feeling a little shy about admitting it. Really, you think you’re too good to let animals “say” funny things and make you laugh, but you’re dead wrong.

When I’m not looking at tiny cute monkeys and stuff this week, I’ve been listening to some electrifyingly good music:

Fall In Step

Last week, a mash-up artist called Minty Fresh Beats unleashed an entire (undoubtedly illegal) album of Jay-Z/Radiohead blends that kiiind of has been rocking my world all week. Before he gets arrested and the files expunged from the internet, you need to go listen to that kickass opening to “15 Step” with Jay-Z’s “ah, ah, yeah, whoo!” and then the shattering fragmentation of the beat that makes my head spin around. I haven’t yet been able to listen to this without smiling. The whole album is inspired and near-flawless.

You Can Be Timeless
Henry Clay People

The formula may be one we know: the slow start, the ragged heartfelt vocals, the muted power chords and then — the explosion and the crush of hot summer nights and a rebel vibrancy. Henry Clay People remind me of The Hold Steady and Springsteen and there, I’ve said it. I cannot stop listening to their fresh take on themes we all know so well and a language I speak fluently. Signed to the Autumn Tone label (Aquarium Drunkard) and opening for Airborne Toxic Event in these next few months (including Feb 23 at Denver’s Bluebird), this is a band I am totally gonna investigate more. Hot dang. For Cheap Or For Free is out now.

Nothing To Worry About
Peter Bjorn & John

How charming; the whistling Swedes have tapped the same children’s choir as Justice’s D.A.N.C.E. (a fact I may have arguably made up just now, but certainly sounds true).  In another “wow, the internet is weird” moment, the first song off the new album from superstar-whistlers Peter Bjorn & John was leaked via Kanye West’s blog last week, and as Kanye says, “SHIT IS DOPE!! DRUMS ARE CRAZY AND I LIKE THE KIDS ON THE HOOK…LOL!!!… The new PB&J album Living Things will be out at the end of March, and this hugely stomping song sounds nothing like the young folks ditty. Peter Bjorn & John were also just announced on the initial SXSW lineup — and it looks like I will be making the trek to Austin this year for the first time! Suggestions on BBQ are now being accepted.

Five Years Time
Noah And The Whale

In a pleasant mixing of your memories of Sunday School stories, Noah And The Whale scramble tales of divine intervention with that whistling you’re not getting this time around from Peter Bjorn & John. Over a sparkly effervescent ukulele, this band from Twickenham, England just charmed my pants off and made me clap my hands. Wow, that sounds like an odd predicament to be in. This song is all fun fun fun, love love love, and sunshine — and despite the message of “in five years time, I may not know you,” they want to drink and laugh in the park with you today. Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down is out now and they’re hitting the UK in March.

World Without End (live on HearYa)
A.A. Bondy

A friend who makes cooler mix CDs than me just included an A.A. Bondy track on his year-end retrospective and it perked my ears up with the thick melancholy authenticity. Bondy is the former frontman of Verbena, and this track comes to us free and clear from the excellent Hear Ya Sessions compilation (those in-studio DIYers who taped Samantha Crain at the end of the summer). I’m reminded here of the simplicity of the Avett Brothers — a rawness, and the ability to eviscerate with very few words: “and now you are broken, and I am less,” followed by a bittersweet harmonica of a thousand walking-aways. Just off a fall tour with the Felice Brothers, Bondy’s American Hearts is out now on Fat Possum (and there’s a free Daytrotter session here).

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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.

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