January 18, 2011

a panoply of song

Some people are happiest when music can inspire them with new songwriting technique or melodies, but me — I often find myself most thoroughly contented when a song drives me to the dictionary. I love to roll around new words; choice vocabulary thrills me like some people love a really good meal.

Therefore it’s pretty clear that Colin Meloy and I were MFEO.

panoply (ˈpænəplɪ) — n , a complete or magnificent array

“June Hymn” is one of the most achingly wistful songs on the fantastic new Decemberists album, The King Is Dead, out today. It blossoms and blooms just like the scene it invokes. Oh

Here’s a hymn to welcome in the day
heralding a summer’s early sway
and all the bulbs all coming in
to begin

The thrushes bleating battle with the wrens
disrupts my reverie again
pegging clothing on the line
training jasmine how to vine
up the arbor to your door, and more

Standing on the landing with the war
you shouldered all the night before

Once upon it, the yellow bonnets
garland all the lawn
you were waking, day was breaking
a panoply of song.

The summer comes to Springville Hill…

This song (and its companion piece, the elegiac “January Hymn”) is a poem, of the best kind. Stream the album version here (only through today, I think), “June Hymn” is third from last and starts around 26:20.

It is so, so much sweeter with Gillian Welch‘s voice in the mix – her vocals (throughout this album) balance perfectly with Colin’s precise and incisive delivery. Theirs is one of those pairings that I never would have pictured, but then I hear it and wonder why it’s not always like this.

I sat up late into last night at my kitchen table playing Colorku with a friend (the most addicting game ever), listening to the new Decemberists album multiple times, singing along to the building ah-oooohs in “Calamity Song” and reveling that strong gust of “Down By The Water.” From the first song, the first time I heard this album a few weeks ago, I knew it would be my first favorite album of 2011. Repeated listens have only confirmed that this is a completely terrific album.

king is deadThe King Is Dead is a big, bursting album that drives along propelled by Peter Buck (R.E.M.) on jangly guitar and the flawless combination of Colin Meloy and Gillian Welch’s voices twining together throughout. But there are also moments like this (and the closing track, “Oh Avery” – man alive) of quiet, introspective beauty. It blends a rootsy sensibility with the Decemberists’ smart and lovely songwriting, so you have the wheezing of harmonica, a little banjo and the pierce of the fiddle but also the acoustic fingerpicking on guitar and thoughtful melodies.

The deluxe version of the album comes with a book of photographs taken by the wonderful Autumn de Wilde, a photographer I admire so much that she’s one of just three that has their own tag on my blog. Look at her lovely Polaroids here; get one original tucked in the deluxe version, if you go that route.

Colin explains:

One night on Pendarvis Farm, whilst merrily roasting tofu dogs over an open campfire, we Decemberists, along with our esteemed Management Representatives and a certain Missus Autumn de Wilde, photographer superieur, hatched a plan wherein Mizz de Wilde would document the making of The King is Dead on Polaroid film, a full 2500 photos to be exact, and we would then include one of those unique photographs individually in each of the DELUXE BOX EDITION of the record.

Naturally, this is the sort of cockamamy scheme that lodges itself in the minds of perfectly sane adults while under the influence of a bucolic, Arcadian Oregon summer; the expense was deemed too great. This is where The Impossible Project came in; they are a group devoted to the survival of Polaroid films of all sorts and collect or manufacture this ever-rarified breed of film in order to sell or donate it to photographers worldwide. They liked our idea; they donated us the film. And so here we are, this dream fulfilled. Ms. de Wilde followed us Decemberists around all summer, snapping Polaroids; we posed obligingly. And one of those photos could be yours.


And if you are lucky enough to live in Portland from whence The Decemberists hail, you should go see them tonight at 7pm at Music Millenium, where they’ll be signing copies of their new album. Get one for me and I’ll totally pay you back.

I think you’ll love this album as much as I do, and I am head over heels. Go get it.

* with Wye Oak
# with Mountain Man

January 24, Beacon Theatre, New York, NY*
January 25, Beacon Theatre, New York, NY*
January 26, Beacon Theatre, New York, NY* SOLD OUT
January 28, House of Blues, Boston, MA*
January 29, House of Blues, Boston, MA*
January 31, Olympia De Montreal, Montreal, Canada*
February 1, Sound Academy, Toronto, Canada*
February 2, Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI*
Feburary 4, Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL*
February 5, Riverside Theatre, Milwaukee, WI#
February 6, State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN#
February 7, Uptown Theatre, Kansas City, MO#
February 9, Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO#
February 10, Ogden Theatre, Denver, CO#
February 12, The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA#
February 13, House of Blues-San Diego, San Diego, CA#
February 14, Fox Theater, Oakland, CA#
February 18, Paramount Ballroom, Seattle, WA#
February 19, Arlene Schnitzer Hall, Portland, OR#
March 4, Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland
March 5, Barrowlands, Glasgow, UK
March 7, Birmingham Institute, Birmingham, UK
March 8, Bristol Academy, Bristol, UK
March 10, Manchester Academy, Manchester, UK
March 11, Leeds Academy, Leeds, UK
March 12, De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, UK
March 13, Trix, Antwerp, Belgium
March 14, Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 16, Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK

I also thought immediately when I heard this album, “Man, this would sound great at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.” Here’s to hoping.

March 11, 2009

Zee Avi enchants from Malaysia, covers Interpol


Born in Borneo and now based in Kuala Lumpur, 23-year old Zee Avi is the first female artist signed to Brushfire Records/Monotone. She was discovered by Raconteurs drummer Patrick Keeler, who liked a video she posted of herself on YouTube enough to send it to his manager Ian Montone (White Stripes, Raconteurs, The Shins, Vampire Weekend). As Zee puts it, next thing she knew, she was on a plane to LA to record her engaging debut record, due out in May.

She’s small in stature, but her voice is a surprisingly powerful retro throwback to some of the female artists she cites as influences: Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. But backed with her acoustic guitar or ukulele, it’s Ella in a hammock, or Billie sipping mai tais — there’s a tropical breeze here that makes me want summer to hurry up already.

I’ll be interviewing Zee at SXSW, where she plays several parties (including Filter and Readymade). In the meantime, check out this drastically different cover she recorded of Interpol’s “Slow Hands.”

Slow Hands (acoustic Interpol cover) – Zee Avi

You should also click over and take a listen to her first single (“Bitter Heart”) on the KCRW SXSW page.


Sunday March 15
Spaceland, Los Angeles

Thursday March 19 – 12:15pm, Filter SXSW Party
Also appearing: Annuals
*****Free Beer and BBQ from Noon to 1pm
Cedar Street Courtyard, 208 W 4th St, Austin, TX

Friday March 20 – 6:30 am, KGSR Performance
Four Seasons Hotel Lobby
98 San Jacinto Boulevard, Austin, TX

Saturday March 21 – 12:00pm, Readymade Party
Also appearing: M. Ward and Great Northern
Halcyon Coffeehouse, 218 W 4th St, Austin, TX

Saturday March 21 – 10pm, SXSW Showcase
Aces Lounge, 22 E 6th St, Austin, TX

Tuesday March 24 – 8pm
Mercury Lounge, NYC

Friday March 27 – 7pm
Hotel Cafe, LA

[image by the rad Autumn de Wilde]

December 3, 2008

Autumn de Wilde turns her lens on Elliott Smith (new contest)

Insound is teaming up again with Fuel/Friends to give away another music prize — the book Elliott Smith by Autumn de Wilde. This is “a portrait of the beloved and troubled singer/songwriter by those who knew him well. Complementing de Wilde’s riveting, personal images are ephemera, handwritten lyrics, and revealing talks with Smith’s inner circle, many speaking here for the first time. Also included are a foreword by Beck Hansen and Chris Walla, and a live CD of unreleased solo acoustic performances.”

Autumn de Wilde also did the video for Elliott’s “Son of Sam”: [thx]

Enter to win the book here through December 10th (and even though there is no confirmation page after you submit your name, I am assured it is working). Looks pretty sweet; I’ve been listening to a lot of mopey Elliott Smith lately. The book is part of Insound’s Holiday Gift Guide.

Angeles (live on KCRW) – Elliott Smith
Trouble (Cat Stevens cover) – Elliott Smith

November 30, 2008

I’ll be satisfied this week with just a Little Joy

I’ve completely fallen for the short and sweet debut album from L.A. trio Little Joy, who hit Denver’s Larimer Lounge on Tuesday night. After a chance meeting at a Portuguese music festival, Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes and Brazilian musician Rodrigo Amarante (Los Hermanos) sat beside a river and talked about their musical leanings. Upon returning to Los Angeles, they formed this trio along with local musician Binki Shapiro. The three moved into an Echo Park house, starting recording demos, and named their project for the cocktail lounge down the street.

Like a Shirley Temple, there’s an innocence from another era captured here, but also a hearty dose of more modern sounds cultivated in both garages and bossa nova clubs. The sum effect feels like someone took a band like the Strokes (no denying — Amarante often sounds delightfully like Casablancas, at the peak of his lazy lounge-singing), plunked them down in some post-war era American nightclub in Rio de Janiero, and gave them a regular gig on Tuesday nights. That’s how this fantastic album feels – without pretense, eclectic, wistful . . . but music you can dance to.

How To Hang A Warhol – Little Joy

The singing occasionally lapses into Portuguese, the vocalists croon while the backup singers shoo-wop in Motown moments. The music clatters and sways with Latin influences and island ukuleles. Some of the slower songs –especially the ones fronted by Binki and her charmingly honest voice (listen: “Don’t Watch Me Dancing”)– sound like the perfect soundtrack to a Technicolor 8mm film projecting in slow motion. Or maybe something I want to listen to on a sticky-humid night, unable to sleep in hotel sheets, while watching the ceiling fan lazily spin and waiting for an ocean breeze through the open window.

Of all the side projects of Strokes members, this one checks in tops with me because there is an almost-kitschy but genuine joie de vivre captured in these thirty minutes. As Moretti said when asked about how this project came to be, he replied that “We weren’t doing it for the sake of doing it; we were doing it for the love of doing it.” And you can tell.

Little Joy is out now on Rough Trade Records, and you should really go see them in the coming weeks if you live in any of these West Coast cities. Me, I’ll be there with bells on Tuesday night in Denver.

[top photo credit the awesome Autumn de Wilde]

March 25, 2008

New Raconteurs video: “Salute Your Solution”

Just taunting the Web Sheriff (or should I say WEB SHERIFF) to try and leave me comment #3 about The Raconteurs (I deleted the other two — no, seriously, happy Easter), it’s one more post about The Raconteurs.

This rad new video was composed of 2500 still shots taken and assembled by rock photographer extraordinaire, Autumn de Wilde:

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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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