April 12, 2010

like drinkin’ gin with nothing else in, and that doesn’t hold me together

augie march technicolor

My little brother first told me about the marvelous and literate music of Augie March several years ago, and now he’s up and moved to the band’s native land of Australia. While he’s off doing things like abseiling near waterfalls and boating on the Sydney Harbor (someone give this kid a job), Augie March released their fourth album Watch Me Disappear over a year ago, and it slipped right past me.

You can hear one of their new songs below (the new album was recorded at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios in New Zealand, and is certainly recommended for fans of the Finn Brothers) — but reading this news made me decide to re-up an old set of Augie March playing with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. It’s one of my most-requested old posts, and for good reason. “One Crowded Hour” is still one of my favorite, gorgeous sad songs; alongside “Sometime Around Midnight” by Airborne Toxic Event, they both evoke a very young and desperate kind of love to me. With strings it becomes even more brilliantly devastating.

One Crowded Hour (with orchestra) – Augie March


New(er) song: Pennywhistle
I keep getting cascades of shivers at the lyric: “I dreamed you, like you dreamed me, oh the bomb dreamed the fuse and the drowner dreamed the sea…”

November 23, 2007

Augie March with a lush orchestra

Holy sweet fantastic, this is gorgeous. I already liked Augie March a lot before hearing this set; they managed to wow a midday tent-full of jaded music executives at the Boulder Records & Radio conference last August, coming all the way from Australia to play their hearts out with passion and earnestness. My brother, who is generally much cooler than I, tells me that in the land down under they are megastars, and I think their album Moo, You Bloody Choir is excellent. They are starting to get some well-deserved notice here.

Already literate and lavish, their songs become absolutely something else in this setting. “One Crowded Hour” makes me want to climb inside of it even more than before. What an elegant, evocative, soaring song.

[thanks jay!]

Lady Time (orchestra intro)
This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers
Mother Greer
The Honey Month
One Crowded Hour
Men Who Follow Spring The Planet ‘Round
Bottle Baby
O Song
Song In The Key of Chance
Stranger Strange


[photo from a set by Joff Crabtree]

August 4, 2007

It’s just madness. Boulder madness.

Freshly back from the annual summit of record label and radio folks up in Boulder (I didn’t fit into either category; I just happily observed and chit-chatted, gratefully partaking in a bunch of good showcase shows).

First up was the side-achingly-hilarious Matt Nathanson, rocking through a solid set of mostly new material which sounded fantastic. Even though he had to face an oddly pugilistic audience, he handily slayed them all with his sharp wit, leaving one golf-shirted middle-aged heckler kind of speechless (the guy made some random crack about Matt “giving it up” in prison, to which I believe Matt called him a big hairy beast and told him to wear something frilly so he had something to grab on to).

Despite all the distractions (or maybe because of them), I thought it was a great show. The full band sounds tight and energetic, and the new material has a razor-sharp emotional edge to it that smacks with a welcome realism about long-term relationships. I hope to have a little interview-dealie with him sometime this week, for those of you playing along at home. Matt’s new album Some Mad Hope comes out August 14th — here’s one song off it that alternately sounds like his own special Prince nu-wave ditty, mixed seamlessly with the Ryan Adams song “Gimme A Sign.” I like it.

MATT NATHANSON: To The Beat of Our Noisy Hearts
(new, live 8/1/07)

And this one always, always gets me. A perfect little song, which the audience appreciated and sang along with:

MATT NATHANSON: Angel (live 8/1/07)

After Matt Nathanson the place kinda cleared out to go across the street to the sweet little digs of Lulu’s Kitchen, a teensy venue with a warm vibe from the owner of Albums On The Hill. Fionn Regan had just completed his set (all I can say is he looked the rockstar part with floppy satin vest and skinny jeans) and Willy Mason was performing an affecting little tune that I understand is new, called “I’ve Been Waiting For You” (maybe). I’d seen him back at Noise Pop (come to think of it, on a night where I also saw Josh Ritter and ran into Matt Nathanson. WHOA glitch in the matrix).

So yes, then Josh Ritter had a late-night set back at the spa/hotel thing where the conference was based, in the Xanadu conference room no joke. I was extremely excited to see this show as the new album is rocking my socks. I sat there all barely-contained with friend Bodie, who was just as excited as me. Bodie lavishes credit upon me for helping to introduce him to Josh’s music with Thin Blue Flame back in 05. He owes me.

So Josh was circulating through the crowd (dapper, as usual, in his white suit — he said he likes to “dress for the occasion”) and I got a chance to talk to him. What a wonderful, happy human being. He glows with excitement about what he is doing.

He also TOTALLY copped to the similarities between new song “Rumors” posted in last week’s Monday Music Roundup) and Britney Spears’ Toxic. I wouldn’t have believed it –I thought it was just me hearing things and being a little too fond of the video– but I asked and he concurred. His new album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter is out August 21 and Amazon just wrote that it “may be the best album of 2007, hands down, by the most under-accorded American musical genius.” He blew the crowd away with a set of mostly new material (aka rocking) but also the fantastic “Wolves” and desired “Kathleen” — oh, and “Girl In The War,” which I never tire of.

JOSH RITTER: Rumors (new, live 8/1/07)

In addition to Some Velvet Blog‘s Bruce Warren enjoying all the conference festivities alongside me (from the astoundingly good WXPN radio station out in Philly), Wednesday ended with me staying the night, coincidentally enough, at a hotel in Denver with lovely blogger C from Scatter O Light. She was taking a break from her Bono-spotting in NYC to come to Denver for work. It was a blogger bacchanalia.

Thursday brought more good live performances, first a luncheon with Robbers on High Street (more from them on Monday) and melodic and wistful Australian rockers Augie March. I mentioned Augie March this past Monday, and they were excellent live – nuanced and passionate and inventive. Their song “One Crowded Hour” fairly takes flight in live performance, and I absolutely adored it and the feelings it evoked in me. I think that song could be huge this summer (it was incidentally re-recorded for the U.S. release at the same studios in San Francisco that Creedence used to work at).

After the show Glenn Richards from Augie March used my cell phone to call my little brother at work in San Diego, as he’s a huge fan. “Hello Brian? This is Glenn, from Augie March.” Officially consider me the world’s best big sister now.

More pics from that luncheon and the conference here.

And finally, why not a third Ryan Adams show in two weeks? Why not. This one was shortened, acoustic, and OPENING FOR PAULA COLE. How did that happen? Maybe the artist with the most underarm hair got the top billing. Or something.

Ryan and The Cardinals delivered a very musically solid, professional, enjoyable set which is exactly what I think he needed to show these folks. Although the concert was open to the public, probably at least half the audience were records and radio folks, many of whom saw Ryan last in Louisville at another convention where he was apparently Silent Ryan again, not speaking, wearing a hoodie and allegedly a shower cap for the whole performance in the almost-complete darkness. So I was really glad that he demonstrated (again) for the doubters how good he can be. The setlist (thanks Mandy!) was:

Let It Ride kicked in the gorgeous slow way and I didn’t start recording fast enough, but look how well the band gels together for the rest of it:

RYAN ADAMS: Let It Ride (live 8/2/07)

The setlist was many of the same songs he’s been playing lately, none of The Big Hits. There was no face melting, no extended jams, but we did get some wonderfully self-effacing banter — this clip picks up with Ryan talking about some of the traits that have been associated with him over the years: “Professionalism, happiness….”:

RYAN ADAMS: Blue Hotel (live 8/2/07)

[direct link]

I ripped an mp3 of that video, it looked and sounded gorgeous:
Blue Hotel (live in Boulder) – Ryan Adams

UPDATE: The whole Thursday night show is now streaming at archive.org.

I was bone-crunchingly exhausted after the event was over, partly from the many shows and partly from just the constant talking to interesting people, but I am recovered now. Let’s do it next year.

July 30, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. I had a fantastic loooong stretch in California this past week-plus. In addition to seeing two unbeatable concerts and witnessing a cousin get married off in a burst of winery festivities, I also got to see lots of old friends, swim in a bonafide swimmin’ hole up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, chat up an old neighbor we call Larry Woodstove and find out the haps in the ‘hood I grew up in, eat my favorite gelato twice and In ‘N’ Out three times, discover a little Italian pottery and antique shop, sit burn on the beach in Santa Cruz, and spot this bar sign (I love taking the scenic route):

I found time to duck into Amoeba Records in Berkeley and Streetlight Records in San Jose. I drove many miles of California highway, waited approximately 832 hours for flights, and I’m pretty sure that some of my underthings were swiped from my luggage by a Transportation Security Administration minion. Never pack em in the outside pocket.

It’s good to be home. I’ve got a backlog of blog posts built up in my head, and a bunch of great music to share with you all.

Put It On Me
Ben Harper

Hot dang, the new Ben Harper is an absolute scorcher. I literally kept saying “holy crap!” out loud when I listened to tracks like this one, a funky soulful feisty downright boogie. Dig the Isley Brother guitar riffs, the dirty piano, and the full gospel backing vocals. Fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Lifeline is out August 28.

Diamond Hoo-Ha Man

Astute NME readers will note that “Britpop veterans” Supergrass opened for Arctic Monkeys this weekend and played a few new songs, which, of course, sent me out on the hunt to hear them for myself. Supergrass just helped me out in my quest by posting a live mp3 on their site of this new dense White-Stripey-rocker tune. I’m not sure how the protagonist here got access to a diamond hoo-ha, but I’m sure he’s not complaining. If you dig this sound like I do, sign up for updates on their site. Supergrass have completed their latest album and are mixing it this summer in L.A.

Let The Music Play
(live with Marc Broussard)
G. Love
and Special Sauce
There’s a certain kind of special, laid-back fun that goes along with a G. Love concert. Philadelphia roots-rap-soul-funkster Garrett Dutton (but you can call him G. Love) can wail on the harmonica, lay down the smooth beats, twist a clever lyric, and always, always make me dance. He’s got a new live tour documentary A Year and A Night out tomorrow on Brushfire Records (watch the trailer here) and there’s a bonus live CD that comes packaged with it. This sizzling live version of “Let The Music Play” (originally on last year’s Lemonade album) features tourmate Marc Broussard, whose new album also I keep hearing good things about.

The Honey Month
Augie March

Last time I was out in California my brother and I were heading downtown to the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego and he popped in a mix CD he was currently digging. In addition to lots of Mason Jennings (you’re welcome, little bro) most of it was tunes from Australian megagroup Augie March, who are just starting to make a dent in the American market. My brother will be jealous to hear that I plan to check these guys out at a rare U.S. show this week at the Boulder Records & Radio summit, and will report back my findings. Their “new” (to these shores) album Moo, You Bloody Choir (and no, I don’t know what the title means) is out August 7. It’s a rich and literate album, with this track fairly oozing the figurative honey cited in the title. Pitchfork calls a very apt comparison by likening the work to mid-Nineties Grant Lee Buffalo and yes, amen. A solid and multi-layered album that I look forward to exploring.

Josh Ritter

The new album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter is miles away from 2006′s Animal Years, except for the common thread of some of the finest songwriting and lyricism in today’s folk/rock world. Similar to how I was surprised by the downright danceable boogie on the forthcoming Iron & Wine (previously offering mostly hushed, go-to-bed-alone music), Josh Ritter gets all Hall & Oates on us with horns, ragtime piano, and beats. I’ll be flogged in public for even suggesting this, but call me crazy if the melody on the verses here is a slowed-down echo of Britney Spears’ 2004 Mile High Club jam “Toxic.” There, I said it.

2007 is shaping up to be an interesting year for releases from artists we thought we knew. Everyone’s gettin’ all spirited-like, and I love it. Some of the songs on this album are more standard fare from Ritter, such as the shiver-inducing loveliness of “The Temptation of Adam” (which I saw him perform back in February) but overall — whew. I am impressed with this direction. Ritter just announced a huge string of tour dates and is absolutely worth seeing live, an energetic and masterful performer.

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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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