June 12, 2011

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #4 :: Strand of Oaks

I try real hard not to peg musicians based on appearance, but when you meet Strand Of Oaks for the first time (aka Tim Showalter) you can’t help feel that he should maybe have a CB radio handle and/or make music that sounds like The Allman Brothers. But then he wraps you in a big bear hug and you learn that he used to be a second-grade teacher, and you realize he is a study in contrasts.

His music made my jaw drop the first time he heard it live, there in the church. It was completely unexpected. I am not savvy in the use of pedals and effects in music; as far as I am concerned, it may as well be magic. From the first song “Kill Dragon” that Tim played in the big gorgeous church, there was this polyphonic, shimmering wall of sound that he created with just him and his guitar. It sounded like a thousand pipe organs, or angels, or something extraordinary.

As I interpret it, this first song is about wrestling with talking to a God that seems to have vanished: “Lately he hasn’t been listening to me / I guess he’s a man and he’s meant to leave.” In the void he’s left, Tim traces the litany of things that have gone awry in his life (deaths, sickness) and says he is coming up with an interesting new prayer – to run away with Mary. A little surprised the walls of the church didn’t like, you know, crumble all around us.

Tim writes thoughtful, piercing songs about sleeplessness, faith, and that which we’ve lost. This music is mesmerizing.

Kill Dragon
End in Flames
The Golden Age (Beck)


If you like this music, check out Strand of Oaks’ haunting, gorgeously wrought album Pope Killdragon, and his cover of Joe Pug’s “Hymn #101.” Tim also sang on that cover of “Hard Life” with Joe Pug in this same chapel session.

ALSO: That Beck cover he did reminds me of the version that Beck himself did, also in a chapel – Union Chapel in London.

October 2, 2008

Beck acoustic at London’s Union Chapel

Lately when I’m feeling overwhelmed and maybe a little melancholy, nothing salves the wound better than this acoustic Beck recording from April 28, 2003, beneath the soaring Gothic arches of London’s Union Chapel.

His bluesy, folky, Sea-Change-heavy set is sublime, featuring warmly crystalline audio and a dang fine setlist. Amidst the sad songs of a relationship dying, Beck peppers the evening with rarities like the Sea Change Japanese bonus track “Ship In A Bottle” and his oldie song “One Foot In The Grave,” which first appeared on his debut full-length album, Feb 1994′s eclectic and experimental Stereopathic Soulmanure (alongside tracks like the minute-long “Jagermeister Pie”).

The grizzled “Fourteen Rivers, Fourteen Floods” is from One Foot In The Grave later that same year, and while “It’s All In Your Mind” eventually made it onto Sea Change in 2002, it was originally a Japanese bonus track from the same ’94 independent release.

The evening has a very cohesive theme holding together the songs, and this is one of my favorite live recordings of late.

APRIL 28, 2003

The Golden Age
It’s All In Your Mind
Guess I’m Doing Fine
-talking 1- (Justin Timberlake’s “haunted house music”)
Lonesome Tears
Nicotine & Gravy
Lost Cause
Ship In A Bottle
-talking 2-
14 Rivers, 14 Floods
Nobody’s Fault But My Own (video)
Lord Only Knows
Hott In Here (Nelly cover)
One Foot In The Grave


February 19, 2008

Tuesday Music Roundup

I took something of a long weekend; one of my good friends from high school was in Colorado and it was wonderful to see someone who is familiar with a good chunk of me from age thirteen forward, in all my dorkiness and unwieldiness during those years. He was my old neighbor two blocks over; if I stood in my front yard and yelled really loudly, he could hear me and vice versa. We tested this theory several times over the years.

After I picked him and his friend up from the airport we wound up on the slightly janky, late-night special stretch of Colfax that I love, eating amidst dive bars at Pete’s (Greek) Diner [pictured right]. I got the best gyro I’ve ever eaten; I’ve been told that I am too enthusiastic in talking about it. They say it’s just a sandwich. They are so wrong. Just thinking about it now makes my week more bearable.

Music I am listening to this week:

San Bernadino
The Mountain Goats
I am excited about the range of songs I’ve heard off the new Mountain Goats album, Heretic Pride, out this week on 4ad. My heart stopped beating the moment that I heard the opening notes on this gorgeous song from the pen of John Darnielle [1, 2]. If you haven’t heard them before, the incisively stinging vocals remind me a bit of The Decemberists, with some of the most hyperliterate lyrics you’ve ever heard. This song begins with the vista of “we got in your car and we hit the highway, eastern sun was rising over the mountains. Yellow and blood-red bits, like a kaleidoscope.” Somewhere along the journey he utters the reassurance that “it was hard, but you are brave, you are splendid, and we will never be alone in this world.” Sigh. What more could someone really ask for? This is a hotly anticipated album for me as I just start to grow more familiar with John Darnielle’s work. The Mountain Goats are playing three shows at the upcoming NoisePop fest in San Francisco.

Paper Tiger (live in Sydney 2005)

Oddly enough, Spoon seemed to be following me everywhere I went on Saturday. This was disconcerting and cool — first on the speakers of my new thrift store addiction, then a few hours later at the brewery where we found ourselves on Saturday night. On Friday I had just downloaded this live track for free from the bonus section of Spoon’s pop-artsy website. Originally on the 2002 album Kill The Moonlight, the spare arrangement of the original grows slowly bigger and a bit more eerie sounding here. BONUS: Connor and Nathaniel are offering you Britt Daniel’s remix of songstress Feist. [pic from my Monolith 2007 post]

It’s My Fault For Being Famous
White Stripes + Beck
New these days in Best Buy stores, you can get the matadoriffic White Stripes Conquest EP bundled with 2007′s Icky Thump album. Cool because they added tiny Beck as a producer and a performer for these living-room session songs, on this tune you can clearly pick up Beck’s voice (and piano) in a twangy back-porch stormer all about the perils of fame.

Digital Love (Daft Punk cover)
Mobius Band

Brooklyn electro-indie dudes Mobius Band gave away a nice six-song EP of covers to show their heart for you on Valentine’s Day. This Daft Punk cover is my favorite of the bunch — their version is quirky and perfect for my next mixtape, as it reveals the memorable melody with less robot voice. But the EP also has songs originally by Neil Young, The National, Daniel Johnston (who is on tour?! did I read that right?), Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and Bob Dylan. Quite the selection for you to choose from, and what better way to say I love you than free music? Exactly.

Second Chance
Liam Finn

And yes trusty readers, after some heart-stoppage yesterday morning I scored fanclub tickets to see Vedder in Berkeley in April (!!!) which means I will be seeing this chap — son of Crowded House/Split Enz New-Zealander Neil Finn, and impressively catchy solo artist in his own right. Liam Finn released an album on Yep Roc a few weeks ago called I’ll Be Lightning. Rolling Stone wants to make it simple for you and break it down into easily-illustrated formulas, so here’s what they’ve got on Liam:

September 10, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

I was so happy to finally seize summer by the . . . horns (I started a metaphor I can’t finish) this weekend and go camping out in the Colorado wild. Well, as wild as you can get being twenty minutes from downtown Denver, but still — camping is something I’ve been meaning to do the last few summers and it just never seemed to happen until now. There were actual tents and campfires involved, and I couldn’t be happier. And really who knew that s’mores and beer went so well together?

So much awesomeness in less than 24 hours (ah yes, the short, wimpy kind of camping): I inadvertently melted the soles of my black flipflops by resting my feet on the firepit all night, got to see a gorgeously unobstructed sunset, and I’m not even kidding our tent got loosely surrounded by a yipping pack of passing coyotes around 3am — a bit eerie, but rad.

We didn’t try to bring any tunes camping, but if we had we would have first and foremost listened to Creedence (my favorite camping music) and secondly perhaps to some of these fine selections for the week:

Earl Greyhound

This was another must-see recommendation to me from several different folks who caught blistering Brooklyn trio Earl Greyhound at the XPoNential Music Fest in Philly this past summer. Their influences range from the immediate swagger of Led Zeppelin (you can certainly hear the “Black Dog” echoes here) to The Beatles (on gentler songs like “Good”) and all kinds of Seventies jams in between. Guitarist Matt Whyte yowls and howls, sharing vocal duties with foxy lady bassist Kamara Thomas, while Ricc Sheridan kills it on the drums. They are coming to Monolith this weekend at Red Rocks — sign me up for a good seat Saturday night. Their album Soft Targets is available now.

The Girl (Beck remix)
Dr. Dog

Speaking of Philly, Dr. Dog is currently one of the absolute finest exports of the city of brotherly love. Their MySpace says they are “interested in three-part harmonies, the out-of-doors, soya rotis, baking bread and diminished chords.” Sounds good to me, as does their 2007 album We All Belong. This is a remix from the upcoming single of “The Girl” — Some Velvet Blog loves Dr. Dog and has the original tune here, if you are interested in hearing what it sounded like before Tiny Beck got his wildly creative hands on it. The Girl 7″ will be released in limited quantities in October and will be free at independent record stores when you buy Easy Beat or We All Belong. The flip side will feature their ace remix of “Heart it Races” by Architecture in Helsinki (go listen on their MySpace). Dr. Dog are currently on tour with and without Wilco.

Riot Radio
Dead 60s

I first posted this machine-gun dancehall punk delight waaaay back when I had 12 readers, after seeing The Dead 60s open for Social Distortion at the Gothic Theatre in November 2005. They put on a great, energetic show and I can definitely hear that someone has been listening to a lot of The Clash and The Specials, which aren’t bad influences to have. This bright-eyed foursome from Liverpool is back with some new stuff this week (check it out on their MySpace), and they just announced that they’ll be supporting Ash (is this the end of the world?) on their upcoming Fall tour.

You Don’t Wanna Leave
Mike Mangione

This warm and rootsy song from Chicago+Milwaukee singer/songwriter Mike Mangione could be the perfect tune for the impending autumn weather. Its honey richness sticks in your head, and made me smile from the moment I first heard the opening melody. The acoustic playfulness reminds me a bit of Van Morrison, and is recommended for fans of the literate alt-county of Rocky Votolato, or even the catchy pop hooks of Rob Thomas, believe it or not. Tenebrae is the Latin word for darkness, and it’s also the title of his newest release, which can be streamed in full over on his website.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped
Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
This is the song I am most giddy about today, because it’s so much fun. I’ve written about this Essex, England duo with the odd name before – remember that fantastic video for “Thou Shalt Always Kill”? Yeah, I watched that about a dozen times in one day; I find the contrast of the literate words, the hip-propelling beats, surreal video art direction, and the appearance that the guy could possibly be a traditional old-school Hasidic Jewish man (he’s not, he’s just rockin the beard as far as I know) to be irresistibly interesting. This new song starts out like something Ben Harper would conjure up, and sounds even better while watching the video:

[UK download]

October 2, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

Okay, this could be the most entertaining site I’ve come across in a while. Gizoogle.com will translate any website into “jive” (and yes, the silver rims spin on the real page header). So for example, my recent post on Tom Luce becomes the following:

“…A fizzy gutted tha apartment of lead wannabe gangsta Tom Luce (izzy is truly one of tha funky assst & sincerest guys you’ll meet) cuz I put gangsta rap on tha map. They is appear’n at a benefit concert tomorrow nizzay, W-H-to-tha-izzich I am pleazed ta report is sold out. Tom Luce appeared on tha KFOG Spendin’ Show on Monday n tha response ta they upcom’n shizzow has been phenomizzles.”

See, I never knew I had all that in me. Think of all the fun we can have with this site. Aweshizzle.


Cartoon Music For Super Heroes
Albert Hammond Jr.

Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. cuts into solo mode with a thoroughly enjoyable upcoming album Yours To Keep. While there is still a Stroke-ing feel to this collection, it is definitely NOT a Strokes record. Someone has been listening to a lot of Beach Boys, and the retro melodic inflections throughout this album are a very nice touch. Guest artists include fellow Stroke Julian Casablancas, Ben Kweller, Sean Lennon, and Jody Porter (of Fountains of Wayne), so the flashback goodness is not totally unexpected. The album comes out October 9th in the UK on Rough Trade Records, and in Europe & Japan later this year. We Americans must wait until further, unspecified notice for our release. You can stream three more tracks from the album on his MySpace to sate you.

Crazy (Patsy Cline, live cover)
Fiona Apple
On 6/28/02 Fiona Apple played one of her covers-filled sets at the Largo in Los Angeles. I can only find a middling-quality version of a few songs, but man, does she work them. Two Patsy Cline covers – this bang-up sultry version of “Crazy” (originally by Willie Nelson), and “Walkin’ After Midnight”, as well as “Cry Me A River” (Julie London) and “Half As Much” (George Jones). If anyone knows where I can get a clean copy of this or other Largo sets, please let me know! In the meantime, here are three other songs from a 2003 Largo show, including a Buddy Holly cover with Jon Brion.

She Does
This unsigned Brooklyn band (originally from Wisconsin) rips through song after song of spot-on 1960s rock, but with a gritty punk edge that recalls the Libertines or even some of the aggressive recent riffs of the Arctic Monkeys. It’s sloppy guitars, handclaps, and harmonies throughout, and they’ve even got a McCartney lookalike (pic, right). Their MySpace has several other tracks for download. They’ve opened for everyone from John Vanderslice to OK Go to The Dandy Warhols, and they score points with me for their spirited reinvention of the best of the British Invasion. A fun romp, from their upcoming Don’t Make Me Wait album (out Nov 21, preorder coming next week on their website. In the meantime, get their 2005 EP here).

So Weird
Veruca Salt
Stereogum posted this mp3 a few weeks ago, reminding us all that Veruca Salt (well, part of Veruca Salt — Nina Gordon left to pursue her softer side in music) is still here and ready to rock and squeal and yowl your socks off with their particular brand of kickass girl rock. Released a few weeks ago (on the Sympathy For The Record Industry label), IV picks up satisfactorily where Resolver left us 6 years ago. It’s a solid, sexy effort overall, and I’m glad to see them back.

No Complaints
I am so glad that we have Beck to do what he does and fill the uniquely funky & diverse musical niche that he occupies. I am not aware of any other albums that sound like Beck’s ambitious productions. On this thrumming acoustic guitar jam with the standard trippy lyrics about spaceships and factory radiation, Beck is back in fine style. When the mothership comes, he will be ready to kick it with the Mr. Roboto sounds and garbled electronic affects that he is so fond of. The Information comes tomorrow on Interscope.

I have a rager of a head cold today and I’m thinkin’ that staying up til 2:30am last night certainly didn’t make me feel any better this morning. I am considering inserting a home IV drip of orange juice, or maybe buying Emergen-C in bulk.

Wish me luck and be patient with updates. I have a lot to say, but little clarity of mind with which to say it.

June 5, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

So, I think Kenny Rogers goes to my gym. I was watching this man (either him or like HIS TWIN) do extremely fast ninja squats yesterday while I mulled over the choices for the Monday Music Roundup with my iPod on the freaking Stairmaster. He had cat-like speed and reflexes. Who knew?

David Mead
This is pretty much the most ridiculously infectious and happy pop song I have heard in a while, from Nashville songwriter David Mead. I defy you to not be happy listening to this. I bought the whole Tangerine album on eMusic (click the banner on the right if you wanna sheck it out) and have been quite pleased. Interesting, intelligent instrumentation, catchy as all get out. I also love the completely different feel in the stripped vocal goodness of the track “Reminded #1.”

Golden Age” (Beck cover)
KT Tunstall
A lovely Beck cover from the KT Tunstall website-only release Acoustic Extravaganza, recorded over the holidays on the Scottish isle of Skye. One forgets that tiny Beck also has an introspective side to some of his songs, and here Tunstall takes it and suffuses the tune with the warm & rosy glow of sunrise.

The Chesterfield Kings
Well, folks, The Chesterfield Kings (oldies that I have never heretofore heard of, from Rochester NY) enter the running and there is now a three-way tie for “Best Rolling Stones Song In Recent Years NOT By The Rolling Stones” (tie with the Deadstring Brothers and the new Primal Scream). This is not a bad thing – I think there is ALWAYS room for a little sloppy bluesy harmonica rock ‘n’ roll, yes? Also on the album (The Mindbending Sounds of the Chesterfield Kings) notably enjoyable tracks are the delightfully Beatles-inspired “Somewhere Nowhere” and “Transparent Life.” Please IGNORE the horrific hairstyles – this is not Whitesnake, even if they look like it. Someone get a pair of clippers, I’ll cut their damn hair myself.

Landed (with strings)
Ben Folds
I like Ben Folds because of his quirky and honest voice (it’s not traditionally beautiful, but stirring and transparent in its ordinariness) and his absolutely lush & gorgeous piano orchestration. This version of Landed (a bonus track on some editions of Songs for Silverman) goes on and adds insult to beautiful injury by heaping on some delicately rich strings. Will make you ache.

Song No. 6
(featuring Ron Sexsmith)

Ane Brun
This American debut from Scandinavian songbird Ane Brun (A Temporary Dive, V2 Records) caught my eye initially because of this track, a collaboration with my newfound hero Ron Sexsmith. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the entire disc (Pitchfork gave it a 7.7, if that means anything), even though it is driving me to the Cliffs of Insanity to not be able to peg who her voice is a dead ringer for in the opening lines of this song. HELP? Oh no, is it Norah Jones? I think it’s Norah Jones that she reminds me of. Oh dear. Well, her album is NOT a Norah Jones facsimile, she is in a totally different vein. Good smattering of stuff on eMusic for her too.

After my live Eels post last week, Jethro commented that the cover they do of Sophie B. Hawkins’ lusty slow jam “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” was hilarious. And indeed it is. For your listening pleasure (and worth it just to hear E sing “give you something sweet each time you come inside my jungle book”) -

Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” – Eels

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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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