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]

June 25, 2008

Neil Halstead and a new vinyl giveway from Brushfire Records

British musician Neil Halstead has produced some lovely, starry-night music in his years of tunes; with Slowdive, with Mojave 3, and solo. The first time I probably heard him was on a surf movie soundtrack, or something that conjures up a sparkling ocean in my mind. It’s gorgeous, melancholy, sleepwalking music with a strong support of melody holding it up from slogging around in the dreamland.

This song is the first listen from his forthcoming Oh! Mighty Engine album (out July 29th on Brushfire). He sings, “I just want to live somewhere where the air is sweet and clear,” and this sounds like it will be the perfect accompaniment when he does get there.

Paint A Face – Neil Halstead

This song is also the lead-off track on the newest contest item I have for your winning: Brushfire has supplied me with two 12″ vinyl samplers left from the festivities of Record Store Day. It features eight songs from their artist roster –

Neil Halstead – Paint A Face
Mason Jennings – Something About Your Love
Jack Johnson – What You Thought You Need
Matt Costa – Never Looking Back
Money Mark – Summer Blue
G. Love and Special Sauce – Crumble
(from the new album Superhero Brother, out yesterday)
Zach Gill (of ALO) – Beautiful Reason (from unreleased new album Stuff, out July 29)
Christians In Black – Rogue Wave

Not a bad selection, there. I’ve got two to give away, leave me a comment if you would like to be entered for one of ‘em. You can also buy the vinyl here if you don’t win it. Neil Halstead will be the opening act for labelmate Jack Johnson in August from Toronto to Salt Lake, and then will be announcing a West Coast headlining tour soon.

April 8, 2008

Exclusive first listen! New from Mason Jennings :: “Fighter Girl”

Hot on the heels of a great solo Ed Vedder show last night (more later), I am so pleased to find a song from the new Mason Jennings album sitting in my inbox this morning — fresh for the sharing with you all!

Mason’s brand of songwriting has affected me with his vivid lyrical pictures and the simple honesty in his music (I interviewed him last year, if you missed it). “Fighter Girl” is a concert favorite that has finally made it onto a proper album for his upcoming effort In The Ever, due in May on Brushfire Records. This tune was previously on the If You Need A Reason bonus EP in a different version.

In The Ever is the follow-up to his major label 2006 record Boneclouds, on Isaac Brock’s Epic-distributed Glacial Pace label. The new album was recorded during stripped-down sessions in Mason’s home studio in the Minnesota woods. “It’s been a slow growth, but extremely fun for me,” he says. “For me, it’s about expanding and working from a place of joy. If I can enjoy what I do, and make new art that inspires me, everything will work out for the best.”

This is one of my favorite songs on the (excellent) new album:

Fighter Girl – Mason Jennings

Spinning your umbrella over your head
You should be in bed but you’re here instead
Walking with me towards a midnight swim
I can give you baby what you can’t get from him

Songbirds singing in an old dead tree
The way you drive honey scares the hell out of me
A hundred miles an hour on a brand new road
Look at me again, you make my heart explode

Hey hey little fighter girl
It’s you and me now against this whole wide world
Sleeping together in the lion’s den
Got your earrings in my pocket till I see you again

Clouds roll by, laying up on the hill
Everything is still, do you think we will?
If we do there’ll be no turning back
If we don’t — well there’s no chance of that

Come on kiss me
Keep on kissing me

Cars in the distance, a bicycle bell
Dogs are barking as the kingdom fell
And in its place stood a golden town
Where people walked without touching the ground

April/May – Co-headlining tour with Brett Dennen & Missy Higgins
– Jack Johnson US tour & Bonnaroo
July – Jack Johnson European tour
August – Lollapalooza
– Austin City Limits

All dates at

November 28, 2007

One last gasp at warmer days

So, did I tell you I am going to Hawaii in January? Yaay. A relative is getting married on Kauai so I’ll be boarding a plane for eleven million hours and then living the island lifestyle for a good six days or so. Meanwhile in Colorado . . . little flurries of snow tentatively started falling last night (winter seems to be delayed this year which is okay with me) so I am bracing myself for colder days from now until then. Before we launch into December and Christmas music and all that, here’s one last track for sunnier days.

Island Style (with Jack Johnson) – John Cruz

John Cruz is a legendary Hawaiian slack-key guitarist/musician, and this duet is the closing track on the new Brushfire Records compilation album of laid back live cuts from their roster of, well, really laid back artists.

Thank You, Goodnight: Live Tracks from Bonnaroo and Vegoose
is available directly from Brushfire Records store, as well as from your local indie brick & mortar record store (find your nearest at Think Indie).

1. Take You There – G. Love and Special Sauce
2. Wasting Time – ALO
3. Staple It Together – Jack Johnson
4. Songs We Sing – Matt Costa
5. Color Of Your Blue – Money Mark
6. Constellations – Jack Johnson
7. Hot Cookin’ – G. Love and Special Sauce
8. BBQ – ALO
9. These Arms – Matt Costa
10. Island Style – John Cruz (Featuring Jack Johnson)

August 9, 2007

Exclusive first listen to new Matt Costa

Like a sno-cone on a hot afternoon, I’ve got a sweet treat for you today kids – Fuel/Friends is pleased to host an exclusive first listen of the brand new Matt Costa.

I’ve written before about this earnest 25-year-old singer/songwriter from California, and this autumn will bring us Unfamiliar Faces, his dang catchy follow-up album to 2005′s Songs We Sing. If you thought you had his sound pegged . . . think again. This new stuff blows the old out of the water (and I like the old stuff).

This is just a short clip, but I think you’ll like the taste:

Unfamiliar Faces is out October 2nd on Brushfire Records and it is absolutely delightful, showing both a depth and a playfulness from Costa. Although he’s always been an amiable listen, this album brings both a greater musical inventiveness and maturity to his sound.

I’ve been listening to it all day and have no intentions of stopping anytime soon.

TRACKLISTING: Unfamiliar Faces
Mr. Pitiful (that’s the toe-tapping song in the video)
Never Looking Back
Emergency Call
Unfamiliar Faces
Cigarette Eyes
Trying To Lose My Mind
Heart Of Stone
Miss Magnolia

August 7, 2007

Rogue Wave wants to jam with you; can you come over?

It was a dark and stormy night in May (all the best stories start with dark and stormy) when I got a phone call from a friend: “Hey, I’m heading out to Rogue Wave‘s Oakland studio for a huge jam session for their new album!” Along with thirty of their friends, ranging in age from teensy to old, experienced musican to absolute novice, Rogue Wave staged a melodic cacophony for in their song “Own Your Own Home” on their newest album Asleep At Heaven’s Gate. It sounded like an insufferably cool idea to me at the time, and guess what?

It was.

ROGUE WAVE: The Making of Asleep At Heaven’s Gate

Impressions of the third studio release from this talented Bay Area band are extremely positive. This record could go huge for Rogue Wave if people have their ears on right. It is fresh and musically rich — apparently over 150 instruments were used on the album, and my ears love it.

The album has a jangle and a shimmer a la former Sub-Pop labelmates The Shins or Band of Horses, but I also find it echoing another one of my favorite records lately, The Swimmers from Philadelphia. If you recall, The Swimmers made an album centered around a short story of a man who swims home through a series of his neighbors’ suburban swimming pools, and the entire thing is rife with the feelings of floating, or sinking, or sometimes drowning. Several songs on Asleep At Heaven’s Gate evoke that for me as well.

Much of this album strikes me immediately and viscerally. Example: the first time I listened to it, I was doing sit-ups at the gym and had to keep stopping to drum along on my solar plexus (um, gym talk) to some of these potent rhythms. And while it is not unusual for me to feel like the rhythm is gonna get me, I loved the variety on this album — they experimented with everything from drumming on walls & doors to handclaps and “ass slaps” (according to their MySpace).

The album opens with a newly-rejuvenated Pat Spurgeon machine gun rat-a-tatting his healthy-kidney insides out (he got a transplant in January) on “Harmonium,” which swirls and sounds more epic than anything they’ve done that I can recall. There’s a flow to the whole album, but some standout tracks for me are “Chicago x 12″ (which features Matthew Caws of Nada Surf), the unrelenting “Phony Town,” and the alt-country inflected album closer “Cheaper Than Therapy.”

Zach Rogue says that the band was listening to a lot of Wendy Carlos while they were writing this album — she scored movies like The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. I can hear that ambient influence on songs like the infectious “Like I Needed,” which starts out just creepily enough. “Own Your Own Home” begins with the directive to the crowd heard in the video above, and ratchets up the group-clamoring and feverish strumming to a cult-like din at the end of the song. It’s a combination of celebration & “bust out the grape Kool-Aid.” I love it.

Asleep At Heaven’s Gate is out September 18th on the fine little Brushfire Records label, and they’ll be touring in support of it this fall (some shows with none other than the fabulous Feist).

TUNES: Since I’ll be drawn and quartered if I post any of the new goodness from Rogue Wave, I’ll have to go with some of the old goodness. This is a nice little set from one of my favorite record stores, the warehouse/Mecca of Amoeba Records on Haight in San Francisco:

Live @ Amoeba Records, 1/21/06
Are You On My Side
Bird On A Wire
Sewn Up
Odorono (The Who cover)
Publish My Love
Endless Shovel
Love’s Lost Guarantee


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.

May 25, 2007

Spiderman winner and a sweeeet new giveaway from Brushfire Records

I didn’t forget about that Spiderman 3 soundtrack contest — you guys thought of some freaky superpowers. I think Ali’s was closest to my own heart, although if I had this superpower I would be ridiculously sleep-deprived from going to a concert every single night, somewhere in the world:

At May 14, 2007 12:12 PM, Ali said…
The superpower I wish I had would have to be the ability to Apparate (referencing the magical Harry Potter-isms), to appear somewhere else (like a pete yorn concert, for instance) *snap* just like that. anytime, anywhere, whenever. no plane tickets, rental cars or luggage necessary.

Ali, please email me your address and I’ll get your soundtrack prize pack sent. Thanks for playing!

NEW CONTEST — and this one may be my favorite yet.

I am a hearty fan of the laid-back quality tunes on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label (formerly The Moonshine Conspiracy Records), which was started in 2002 as an offshoot to the surf film collaborative Woodshed Films. Jack birthed this idea in 1998 with Emmett and Chris Malloy during the creation of the surf film Thicker Than Water, and since then they’ve released soundtracks to several like-minded films, and built up a roster of artists whom I unfailingly enjoy.

So, I recently came across a new bright green Matt Costa t-shirt that I picked up in a schwag bag at a conference last year and it gave me the idea for this new contest. Thanks to the good folks at Brushfire, one random winner will get a fine smattering of the entire artist catalog:

1 Matt Costa CD [previously on Fuel]
1 Money Mark CD [previously on Fuel]
1 ALO CD [previously on Fuel]
1 G. Love CD [previously on Fuel]
1 Jack Johnson CD (your choice)
1 XL Matt Costa t-shirt
1 signed Matt Costa poster

Leave your name and email address (and some pleasant words or a joke or something if you want to make me smile too) in the comments and I will pick one lucky person next Friday.

Let It Be Sung – Jack Johnson w/ Matt Costa & Zach Gill of ALO

Rainbow – Jack Johnson and G. Love

April 6, 2007

Brushfire Records prepares to liberate the animals, orchestrally (with ALO)

Santa Barbara, California good-time jam band Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) is preparing to release their newest album on May 1st, their second on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label. Entitled Roses & Clover, it’s the follow-up to last year’s Fly Between Falls, and a short video is available showing the band in (and around) the studio during the making of the album:
[Windows Media] [Quicktime]

This new track surprised me when it started, with the striking piano chords, the expansiveness of the Eagles, and the lyrics about Maria which made my thoughts flash briefly to the Counting Crows. I am very much looking forward to hearing the rest of this album (other tunes are described as “ukulele-led funk workout” and “sun-drenched reggae-tinged” tracks) if this is any indication:

Maria – ALO

A headlining U.S. tour with ALO kicks off on Cinco de Mayo at the San Francisco Fillmore.

And despite some crazy random APRIL snow showers today (?!) I am planning to head up to Denver tonight to see Peter & The Wolf at the Hi-Dive (with two great others, Saddle Creek’s Maria Taylor, and local Gregory Alan Isakov). My pal Dainon originally recommended Peter & The Wolf to me, and since then I have been wanting to catch his live show, which I hear is superb. This scratchy A.M. radio-goodness tune from him is pretty close to perfect:

Silent Movies – Peter & The Wolf

November 14, 2006

Feelin’ a bit more Feisty

Today I was driving along listening to the new (excellent and enjoyable) soundtrack for the A Brokedown Melody surfing film (I know, with all this talk lately about surf films one might think I actually know how, but one would be so wrong). Track 3 is the Kings of Convenience song “Know How,” and I was thinking about how much I enjoy their duets with Feist, when all of a sudden her uncredited and unmistakable voice chimes in, making me very happy with my psychic powers.

Know How (featuring Feist) – Kings of Convenience

I recommend the whole album; I’ve listened to the Vedder ditty about seven times obviously, and the diversity of laid-back melodies on there are top-notch.

Also, speaking of Feist, a remix of her song “Inside Out” will be featured on a new CD being offered by Urban Outfitter stores in conjunction with Filter Magazine to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. The Give.Listen.Help compilation will also feature folks like Wolfmother, Cat Power, Chris Walla and Thom Yorke, and all offerings look unique (remixes, live versions, etc) so you might want to check it out next time you are picking up a pair of $134 jeans or a tongue-in-cheek bit of urban hipsteria.

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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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