When I was in Nashville last month, I stumbled upon Brendan Benson and Cory Chisel playing an afternoon set to a packed crowd at Grimey’s record store (surely one of the coolest music meccas on the planet). There was free beer (Magic Hat?) being handed out for the price of free, and it was as if I had slipped over to heaven for an hour there amidst the music.
Brendan Benson is noted these days for his role in The Raconteurs, and I had only ever seen him in that lineup, never solo. But his solo music tends towards the irresistibly solid power pop, never silly, always completely delicious and substantial. I took some videos for y’all that I’m just getting around to uploading on this sunny Saturday:
And finally – covering Tom Petty’s “American Girl”! Brad Pemberton (of Ryan Adams’ Cardinals, Patty Griffin‘s band, and the Alternate Routes, among many others) rocking the drumkit, too.
I didn’t go to Benson’s show that night at the Exit/In, but ended up across the street. Standing on a rainy sidewalk outside the venue, I could see in past the packed crowd to watch him play “What I’m Looking For,” before we ran off into the night. It was a fine capper to a wonderful weekend.
There are certain songs that I wouldn’t necessarily call guilty pleasures, because they are well-written pop songs, but rather — it never stops feeling somehow indulgent to enjoy their toe-tapping majesty this much.
The amp-kicking Superdrag hit “Sucked Out” (from 1996′s Regretfully Yours) remains a song I still like to hear, and when Brendan Benson covered it last week for his Daytrotter session, I was delighted. Benson and Superdrag share similar songwriting chops in consistently solid pop genius, oft-overlooked.
Yesterday 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…
When The Devil’s Loose
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-Divethis very night. You should go. When The Devil’s Loose is out Sept 1 on Fat Possum.
Periodically Double or Triple
Yo 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.
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, Faris out tomorrow on Sire Records.
Poised and Ready (rough version)
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:
While not as insanely hilarious as ThingsMyBoyfriendSays.com, this site fills that same voyeuristic niche of eavesdropping into the (unintentionally funny) things people say with no regard for who is listening. OverheardinNewYork.com solicits contributions from New Yorkers with good ears, and the result is a site that I regularly lose track of time on:
Hobo: Go shorty, it’s your birthday… Drunk black woman, joining in: Yeah! Go, go! Hobo: Shorty, it’s your shorty… Drunk black woman: You singing it wrong. It’s, ‘We gonna party like it’s your birthday.’ Passerby gives hobo two dollars. Drunk black woman: You need to give me half of that, I helped you out with the words.
–Overheard on E train
14-year-old girl: I had like eight shots of vodka, and I didn’t get drunk or anything. I just couldn’t feel my face.
–Overheard in Forest Hills
Tight jeans #1: It’s like the only way to be a punk these days is to be a Republican. Tight jeans #2: I know.
–Overheard on 2nd Ave, between 7th & 8th St
Dude, I’m so punk rock. Finally. Here’s some handpicked freshness for the new week:
Feel Like Taking You Home Now Brendan Benson A new tune off Brendan’s MySpace, this one definitely has a darker, more driving edge than some of his past sunny alternative pop. Perhaps all that time with Jack White is taking its toll. I do like this song, especially once the drum builds and it turns into a gloomy rocker. It’s from his untitled forthcoming solo album, and in the meantime Brendan’s also on the new Stooges record singing back up on a song called “Free and Freaky.” For some other new song samples from Brendan, thanks to So Much Silence for pointing me here.
Weapon of Choice Black Rebel Motorcycle Club San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club‘s third album Howl was a catchy, loose, bluesy-Americana treat in 2005. This sonic sample from their new album Baby 81 (due May 1) is definitely fuzzier and anthemic, although it also still has the tambourine that I love. It’s a trend I’m noticing more lately, a gravitation away from the young and bluesy sloppiness and into the more produced, larger sound. It will be interesting to see what the album as a whole is like. There’s one more sample song, 666 Conducer, streaming on their site and BRMC recently announced a tour with The Killers.
The Now Mouthful of Bees Having a mouthful of bees is pretty much my worst nightmare. Maybe an earful of bees. Whereas I can handle spiders completely without cringing, and once fearlessly killed a scorpion in El Salvador (okay, I had, because he was in my hostel room and no way we were sleeping together), something about bees literally gives me the cold shivers and a primal panic in my gut.
All that to say that I like this song despite the band name — kind of a David Byrne fronting a surf-music-trio vibe. Extremely fresh. Mouthful of Bees is from Minneapolis, and this song is from their 2007 album The End, out now on Afternoon Records.
Maybe We Should Fall In Love Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers Here’s the first official mp3 released from the Roger Clyne camp for his new album No More Beautiful World, due out March 20. This one has an acoustic Mexican-seashore feel that’s a little more relaxed, similar to the reworkings of songs on the Four Unlike Before EP last year. It’s fun; it doesn’t grab me as unyieldingly as some of the cuts off Americano! but I still like it. Clyne is, of course, relentlessly touring as usual — starting in the homelands of AZ and CO, then up and down the West Coast in April, and from there . . . everywhere. An excellent show.
Brianstorm Arctic Monkeys And finally we have a (non-radio-rip) mp3 of the new tune from Arctic Monkeys off their forthcoming album Favourite Worst Nightmare. It appears to be about someone named Brian who gets top marks for not trying and is apparently both smooth and wet, but other than that I can’t translate much. It is, however, relentless from the opening notes and catchy as all get out. I’d expect nothing less from these fresh-faced NME wunderkinds. The much ballyhooed followup to their 2006 album Whatever People Say I Am . . . is due out April 24th on Domino Records, and they just announced a North American tour which, unfortunately, skips the Rocky Mountains completely. Boo to that, but yay to this song. If it doesn’t make you dance a bit this Monday morning, then you clearly need some more coffee.
Thanks to Connor and Nathaniel, I now know that a raconteur is “one who excels in telling stories and anecdotes,” and it is also the joint musical effort bringing together Mr. Jack White and Mr. Brendan Benson (along with Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler) for a little bit o’ musica. The Raconteurs’ 7″ single was released today (well, technically yesterday) in the UK/Europe, and hits stateside on March 7.
And I agree with iGIF that The Raconteurs’ website is one of the most glorious things I have seen lately, since my first computer was in like 1983, a TI-99 for Christmas with a screen just as lo-tech as their site.
And since we are vaguely, loosely, talking about the White Stripes, let me also throw this cover out there. It sucks (maybe because I just like the original so much) but I suppose it is all in good fun, and interesting, so it gets blogged.
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
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