January 11, 2009

the bed is unmade, like everything is


I listened to (and sang along with) the music of Stars this weekend after too many months of not getting around to enjoying their fabulousness. I listened a lot to Stars in 2006 and 2007, but feel like I neglected them last year and have spent all day today apologizing to them, as we caught up.

Their new EP is called Sad Robots, but today at sunset I took a long walk through the neighborhood and rested on their ’07 album of covers and remixes. Do You Trust Your Friends? finds Stars turning their songs from their seminal Set Yourself On Fire album (2004) over to the creative powers of their Canadian friends on the Arts & Crafts label. These versions distill new angles and meanings from already amazing songs.

Apostle of Hustle takes on a song that traces an unnervingly creepy tale of possessive love. The original soars with strings and a terse drumbeat, but Apostle of Hustle infuses it with a clattery energy and their cinematic, Latin-tinged gyspy folk. Now it feels appropriately off-kilter. Towards the end of their cover, they weave in loops of old movie dialogue that you can almost feel flashing in black and white like a dated reel. The song explodes under their touch.

One More Night (Stars cover) – Apostle of Hustle

Jason Collett brings his marvelous alt-country, slightly squawky croon to the electric sheen of the original, like Dwight Yoakam & Tom Petty strolling the streets of Montreal. That same funky bassline weaves through both the original and this cover, but I love how his voice cracks here when he pleads, “All I want is one more chance to be young and wild and free . . . All I want is one more chance to show you you were right for me.”

Reunion (Stars cover) – Jason Collett


Do You Trust Your Friends? (2007)

Set Yourself On Fire (2004)

March 11, 2008

Tuesday Music Roundup

So last Sunday in San Francisco I picked up this random $1 pin at the Noise Pop Expo (in addition to a cool business card holder for my forthcoming cool business cards, and I waited too long to buy this gorgeous necklace and it was gone when I came with cash. Sad).

Anyways. The pin on my bag strap now, which you can sort of make out over there in a bad cell phone snap, is a sensitive graphite rendering of Patrick Swayze circa Roadhouse. He beams at me, which made me feel good for about three days, and then I read that he’s got pancreatic cancer and now I want to mutter things like “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” and giggle when he touches the back of my arm. I will admit a huge weakness for Dirty Dancing, I cannot explain it. Who can. I hope Patrick gets well soon.

Tunes I am listening to this week:

Ike Reilly

New from Ike Reilly — an artist that we are big fans of ’round these parts (top ten!)– comes an album called Poison The Hit Parade (April 8). The label says it is a collection of outtakes, demos, and alternate versions from his last three albums, and Ike adds that “it isn’t so much of where I’m going but more like the places I’ve been that people don’t know about.” One of the things that Ike verily exceeds at are songs that feel rebellious and triumphant at the same time, with intelligent lyrics that penetrate deeper than your standard radio fare. This previously unreleased tune shimmers and pushes over an urgently pounding piano cadence, while Ike sings to someone ravaged by cancer but whose skin still shines.

Into The Ground
The Brakes

Philadelphia band The Brakes just signed to Hyena Records and their full length debut Tale of Two Cities is out on May 6. None of these guys are over 23, but they’ve opened for acts like The Hold Steady and Robert Randolph, and have some shows coming up with Jackie Greene. They seem to have a vocal fanbase in Philly and beyond. This catchy tune is a simple ode to being “in her bed, and in her arms” with a toe-tapping lush spaciousness to it, and subtle hints of a modern jazz vocals that echo a bit of Jamie Cullum. And a trumpet solo, even!

Chances Are (Jim Eno of Spoon remix)
Apostle of Hustle

“Drunk, drunk in the Taco Bell,” is where we first meet our protagonist of this song, and down to the clattery unsteady rhythm and the shiny brass backing notes, that’s exactly what it feels like. Jim Eno is the drummer of fair Spoon, whose percussive sense can get me moving any day of the week. Combine that with the always well-constructed rhythmic backbone in songs from latin-indie-gypsy folk Canadian prophets Apostle of Hustle, and you have this very winning combination. The original version of this song was on last year’s National Anthem of Nowhere (Arts & Crafts).

Paisley Pattern Ground
The Black Hollies

You’d probably think this was released in the ’60s, from the name of the band, to the ode to the paisley, and the rockin sounds of psychedelica, guitars, and bells here echoing through the misty morning. But actually, The Black Hollies are from Jersey and bring “a mash up of British Invasion blues, guitar heroics and psychedelia that would bring a smile to Brian Jones’ face” according to Rolling Stone. Plus they’re apparently in a new Dell commercial which I should pimp because my new (pink) Dell laptop is scheduled to arrive Thursday and right now that makes me happy. The Black Hollies sophomore full-length album Casting Shadows is out today.

Bang On
The Breeders

Hold onto your Docs, The Breeders are back. With tones of surf guitar and rubber-ball bouncing beats that could fit easily in at a club, Kim and Kelley Deal come back with new sounds here that really surprised me; a hundred miles from the snarly-harmonic girl rock that I so loved in the early Nineties. The Steve-Albini-produced Mountain Battles is out on 4AD April 8, and they’ve got a ton of tour dates coming up, including one at Coachella (yay!).

October 22, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

Oooh, I learned some rugby basics this weekend, moving me exponentially along the spectrum of familiarity from “why are they all locking arms and butting heads?” to “He was robbed of a try! Don’t miss the conversion!” What a crazy, visceral, fantastic sport. Like soccer, gone mad.

British friend Jamie invited me to his viewing party on Saturday to watch the Rugby World Cup which pitted England against South Africa (I know the history of Dutch colonization, but shouldn’t there be more than like two non-white people on that team?). Jamie’s house was festooned with with St. George’s cross flags, his whole family was in matching jersies. He took the time to explain the game to me — in between comically trying to squelch already-half-uttered profanities that wanted to be directed at the ref, under the watchful eye of his wife and two little boys. They even served curry and dark beer. So fun, even though England lost. I gained a miniature rugby education.

Up and Down
Chesterfield Kings
I wrote about these guys last year and they’re back with a fantastic new album that manages to summon the spirit of the Stones and the Ramones simultaneously. New York’s The Chesterfield Kings are enjoying a renaissance of sorts after being together for over a dozen years (I was reminded of their new album by a glowing mention in the newest Rolling Stone). This cut has gypsies screaming and acid rain in the lyrics, harmonicas wailing, and a huge street-strut swagger. Their new album Psychedelic Sunrise is championed by E Street guitarist/radio host/Soprano/”Patriot” songwriter Little Steven Van Zandt, so much so that he’s signed them to his own Wicked Cool label. Lead singer dude is still channeling the unfortunate “I slept on my mohawk/mullet” hairstyle, but I guess that’s just all the more rock ‘n’ roll.

Ramblin Man (Hank Williams)
Cat Power
A wistful version of this 1951 Hank Sr. song will be the third track on Cat Power‘s forthcoming 2nd album of covers, Jukebox (due Jan 22 on Matador). Absolutely every song that this woman touches is transformed into a smoky, sultry resurrection, often bearing little resemblance to the original. She rocks effortlessly and completely and I can’t wait to hear this collection. Plus I dig the Fleetwood-Mactastic cover, in triple-threat Technicolor. This particular recording comes from her grand little eMusic EP.

Selfish Jean

Scottish lads Travis have unleashed a new idea in collaborative viral marketing to promote this tune, about a selfish gal named Jean. The website www.selfishjean.com models itself a bit on Post-Secret, allowing random fans to contribute confessions of bad selfish behavior, pay penance, and view others in the Hall of Shame. Frontman Fran Healy smartly notes that “all confessions will be vetted by a panel of smug, righteous ex-priests.” And because I seriously dig the bright and brassy vibe of this song from their new album The Boy With No Name, and because the website is interesting, I am furthering their viral aspirations. Oh, plus I’m a tad voyeuristic. So it works out well for everyone.

I Want A New Drug (Huey Lewis)
Apostle of Hustle
Suddenly, Huey Lewis is hip again. Stereogum recently featured this inventive, swankily rich cover by Toronto indie musicians Apostle of Hustle to draw some props to the still-labelless compilation effort CD Are You Still With Me?!. I’d love to see Apostle of Hustle live again; check how fascinating they make this song, what with all the dialogue en español, slow-burn guitars, and the layers of fab percussion. The album also includes tunes from unlikely suspects such as Long Winters and Will Johnson of Centro-matic, and since you know that you can still sing the chorus of either “Stuck With You” or “Hip To Be Square,” you should probably get it.

The State of Massachusetts
Dropkick Murphys

You might remember hearing these guys very effectively used in The Departed to convey a textured and nuanced feeling of “I’m Irish and I’m going to kick your ass.” That’s pretty much what I get from this feisty Celtic punk tune by Boston’s Dropkick Murphys. Their new album The Meanest of Times is out now, and I am pretty sure that I heard this song used last night after the Red Sox clinched their spot in the World Series facing the Rockies. I remarked to my husband that it felt funny to be cheering the Red Sox last night, knowing full well that by Wednesday I’d be doing the exact opposite with great vigor. I just think it’s gonna make for an awesome Series.

April 26, 2007

Andrew Bird & Apostle of Hustle in Boulder

Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam, as the song goes, and Colorado don’t want me for a juror. After lots of waiting and secretive shuffling to various rooms within the judicial complex yesterday, I was told that they wouldn’t be needing me. The hardest thing I had to accomplish all day was filling out my juror questionnaire: #8 – “What kind of music do you like to listen to on the radio?” followed by a line about this long __________. Don’t they realize that I would need more space than that? I think they wanted a one-word answer. I had to think long and hard on how to answer that one without letting anyone on my iPod down.

Also, I thought the juror video they made us all watch at the beginning of the day was humorously paternal: “Please do not be embarrassed or otherwise upset if you are dismissed from juror selection. This case may not be right for you, but perhaps in the future there will be a jury that is perfectly suited for you.” Thanks for not hurting my feelings, jury people! I was about to cry, but now can I just have a lollipop?

Six of us packed in last night for the drive to and from Boulder to see Andrew Bird and Apostle of Hustle (I truly think the road gets longer every time, especially the dark trip home) with a tin of cookies I made during our recent snowstorm. When we arrived in Boulder, we hit up Illegal Pete’s, which by itself is practically reason enough to make the drive. Mmmmmm. Then onto the sold-out show at the Fox.

Apostle of Hustle was fantastic — really impressive, alternating parts Cuban/flamenco, Cake, and Notwist. I’d heard their name bantied about in association with Feist (contributing one of the remixes on her Open Season album) and Stars (loosely related vibe, they’ve also done some remixes of Stars’ work) but to my distinct loss I had not previously listened to any of their own stuff. Apostle of Hustle is from Canada (frontman Andrew Whiteman, also of Broken Social Scene, was telling a story about Stephen Harper and whispered an aside to all of us in a deliberate sotto voce, as if letting us all in on a secret, “He’s our prime minister…”) and they’re also on Arts & Crafts, which has a stellar track record of bringing me artists I like.

Their music fascinated me – rich melody and chimy harmonics, layers of creative sounds piled one atop the other, imaginative lyrics and arrangements. Their sound has been described as cinematic, Latin-tinged and “smoldering gypsy folk,” but it transcended all of that into something truly original & fresh. I liked that they had two guys holding down the rhythm section – Dean Stone on traditional 4-piece drumkit and Daniel Patanemo working everything from the shakers to the congas to the cymbals and cardboard boxes. Double the rhythm, double my fun.

Lead singer/guitarist Whiteman physically evoked every note he played with a variety of squints, one-legged jumpkicks, and primal writhes, as if someone was invoking The Great Music Voodoo on him and each note brought an invisible pinprick. Visceral to watch, and highly recommended for fans of Stars (like me).

I regret that I wasn’t taping the first few songs because they were heavy on the thumping beats, and I loved that, but these videos will also give you some sense of their fine abilities.
Apostle of Hustle: A Rent Boy Goes Down

Other videos I took last night:
Apostle of Hustle – Haul Away
Apostle of Hustle – Folkloric Feel

Catch Apostle of Hustle on tour if you can (lots of dates and in-stores coming up) and be converted.

National Anthem of Nowhere – Apostle of Hustle
(from the 2007 album of the same title)

Watching Andrew Bird perform, I finally understood the title of his song A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left, as he does that a lot. He is disarming. Diminutive, stick legs, a scarf around his neck, a swath of disheveled hair. In physical appearance I find him reminiscent of the folk-poet fragility of Bob Dylan, with a voice that flat out eerily echoes Jeff Buckley. I had not realized that before in listening to his recorded work, but the way that instrument in his throat soars during concerts, it gave me goosebumps.

Discussion on the way home centered around how his music is so rich & dramatic, and quite esoteric, that one really needs to be focused to fully “get” it. It’s not light pop nor hook-filled, but rather soaring and often-dissonant arias, with screaming violins competing with each other on looped audio while drums crash like waves during a storm.

Truthfully I can appreciate this astounding performance more this morning, with a few hours of sleep under my belt:
Andrew Bird, “Armchairs
And it took about seven false starts to get the loops to Skin Is, My up to Andrew’s exacting specifications (and this video cuts off abruptly after I was chastised by a Fox employee for filming). Pretty phenomenal, with that double-necked phonograph that would set off spinning to loan the stage an Alice-In-Wonderland feel:
A very talented man, for sure, with music that challenges in a good way. My brain felt full by the end.

Skin Is, My (live at Schuba’s) – Andrew Bird

(song from 2005′s The Mysterious Production of Eggs; the new Armchair Apocrypha is also out now)

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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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