January 2, 2008

Gonna make a pie with a heart in the middle

This song keeps looping in my head tonight. I just finished watching Waitress which was more complex than I had thought, not just about baking pastries in a small town. Keri Russell plays a waitress with heart in a small town who bakes amazing pies. Her husband doesn’t support her dreams, the joy she finds in creating something small and sweet that makes people smile and brings joy into their day. As her belly grows with pregnancy, something begins to ferment and rise within her as she flirts with the ideas of other roads for her life to follow.

This charming melody is something that she sings a few times in the film while she bakes, a lullaby and a little love song. It’s bluegrass-tinged, a little sugary, and not at all rock and roll, but I’m a sap for good sweet singable melodies for kids, so I ripped this one and already do a pretty mean rendition.

Baby Don’t You Cry – Quincy Coleman
[there’s some good stuff on her MySpace, check it]

In addition to making me hum the Tori Amos song “Waitress” all day (which is not on the soundtrack), the film also included tunes from the likes of Cake, The Bottle Rockets, and these two:

You’re Gonna Get It – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings [link]
The Electric Love Letter – Langhorne Slim [link]

September 18, 2007

Photos from Monolith, Day One

I’d call the Monolith Festival this weekend a rousing success in terms of quality, diversity, and incorporation of local musicians and artists. Here’s some highlights from my Friday.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah played in the daylight to a 1/3-full main stage audience. We all know that the lead singer Alec Ounsworth has an unusual warble, to say the least, and after seeing them I was kinda lamenting the way that the “Saaaatan, Saaaatan…” line stuck with an iron will in my brain all afternoon. But all the reasons that made them the blog sensation superstars are still in full effect – their exuberant and melodic sound, the catchy, solid, danceable tunes. The Talking Head comparisons are unavoidable in my mind, and I really enjoyed their show. Next time, smaller venue for me.

Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood – CYHSY

Oh Kings of Leon. I’ve been waiting for you guys. After seeing them at the Ogden Theatre a few months ago and being completely converted, this was one of my most anticipated sets and they didn’t fail me, bringing an hour of excoriating rock (okay, 56 minutes) which was more than I expected for a festival act at 7pm.

They played a fantastic set, including the claptastic Spiral Staircase, Four Kicks (which always makes me feel all pugilistic), and a slightly-sped-up version of Fans which sounded great to these ears — it’s one of my current favorite tunes. I took a video of Charmer that regrettably starts with some too-loud audio and an out of focus bit, but then it shapes up and ain’t too bad — it gives you a sense of the swagger in their show and how they project a huge enough sound to challenge those red rocks.

I think they were one of the best-suited bands to the huge venue; as I wrote in the little blurb for the festival program, “Their live show pulls songs from all three of their full-length studio releases, a catalog of material that grows and shimmers in a live setting. The songs seem to pull air from the ether around them in a supernova of raw and unbridled Southern garage rock.”

Fans – Kings of Leon

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club electrified the second stage in a set that I’ll talk more about when I post that interview soon. The Decemberists also played the main stage and it sounded superb from up above, but I regrettably didn’t make it back down those billion stairs until Cake, who I thought played a great show as usual. There was some skepticism from folks who haven’t followed their consistently fun, intelligent, clever output since the “Going The Distance” hit, but I think they converted a few. I only got one picture – John McCrea rockin the white-rimmed sunglasses, fedora, and track jacket like a child molestor on vacation (sorry but come on).

You Part The Waters – Cake

Saturday dawned clear and lovely. More pics coming.

April 19, 2007

Friends, lovers, and bread.

I literally woke up with this Josh Rouse cover in my head this morning, and laid there barely half-awake with the sun streaming in between that crack in the blinds, these crystalline opening notes running on repeat. It really is a sunrise kind of song. So I decided to temporarily preempt what I was going to post in favor of this cover-licious compilation.

What would possess a bunch of modern-day indie rockers to contribute to a cover album of ’70s AM-radio deluxxe group Bread? All of their stuff forever sounds like it should be listened to on a big ‘ole 12″ vinyl LP whilst wearing platform espadrilles and a loudly patterned shirt. Or maybe just nothing at all. But if you can get past the overarching soft-rockness, the harmonies are tasty, the music has definitely affected the generation of fine music that I like now, and there is a laid-back goodness oozing all over this stuff.

Josh Rouse’s lovely cover is pretty much note-for-note faithful of this ridiculously sad-sap, “please walk all over me because I love you, you goddess” song, but it absolutely works with his striking tenor, and is nice to wake up to on brain radio:

It Don’t Matter To Me (Bread cover) – Josh Rouse

It Don’t Matter To Me – Bread
(add that to the list of worst band names to Google, along with Cake and Live)

Friends and Lovers: The Songs of Bread was released in 2005 (actually, two years ago to the day as luck would have it) and in addition to Rouse also features Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of The Posies, Cake, Erlend Oye (of Kings of Convenience), Oranger, Rachel Goswell (of Mojave 3), and Bart Davenport (of Honeycut).

Friends and Lovers (Bread cover) – Erlend Oye

Man alive, listening to this stuff –the originals and these covers– makes me feel like an 8-year-old again, riding my bike really fast, or sitting on the cracked tan vinyl backseat of my dad’s dusty green Datsun with the radio on. You don’t realize how much Bread you’ve probably passively absorbed in your childhood. Rhino Records recently released a Best Of Bread album as well, if you just can’t get enough.

And if you’re still too insecure to fully bask in side of your brain that wants to love Bread, let John McCrea of Cake excoriate you as he defends their cover of “Guitar Man”:

Yeah, why make fun of a well-written song unless you’re an insecure person that needs to use music almost like insecure middle-age people use fine wine,” he said. “You’re using music as a badge. And simultaneously I think what you do is drain the actual joy out of it, and it becomes somewhat of a calcified exoskeleton of your pathetic and, I guess, not fully defined ego.”
- John McCrea, Cake

So there.


March 6, 2007

Noise Pop: “As soon as you’re born you start dying, so you might as well have a good time . . .”

Almost local band (Sacramento) Cake just blew my mind Sunday night, the perfect way to end six craaaazy nights of Noise Pop.

I’ve seen Cake thrice now and they never fail to pull off an excellent show, easily in my top 5 live acts (actually, probably top three). John McCrea is a fearless ringmaster of his own little circus, with a sardonic wit and perfect 800 SAT vocabulary to boot, and the band is tight and ace-rhythmic. The whole crowd was dancing just as hard as we could, and indeed you’d have to be dead not to want to join in. Check how they started their set:

VIDEO: Cake — “Comfort Eagle
(it stabilizes at around 20 seconds – aka I stop jumping)

If you’ve ever been around me while I listen to Cake, you’ll realize that it was a genuine sacrifice for me not to sing and dance my little heart out to this one, in order to hold the video camera (mostly) steady. I usually manage to dance to Cake even if seated.

Cake plays with no setlist, freestylin’ along as they feel the urge (much to the chagrin of some pugilistic and determined audience members, who seemed to think Cake was a jukebox for requests until McCrea shouted several fire-eyed “f*ck you”s in their direction).

We got songs from all the Cake albums, from the vastly underrated ‘You Part The Waters’ off Motorcade of Generosity, to ‘Stickshifts and Safetybelts’ (!!!), ‘The Distance’ and the Willie Nelson cover ‘Sad Songs and Waltzes’ from Fashion Nugget, delightfully lots off Prolonging The Magic and Comfort Eagle (my 2 favorite albums) – ‘Love You Madly,’ ‘Mexico’ (in lamentably forgotten 3/4 time signature) the fantastic ‘Shadow Stabbing,’ ‘Never There’ . . . and a few from the newest one Pressure Chief (‘Wheels’).

They also threw in some non-album tunes like their cover of ‘Excuse Me I Think I’ve Got A Heartache’ by Buck Owens, and mentioned that they finally have a “new” release coming out (independent, now that they are free of the indomitable iron will of the major labels – “You’ll never see us on Conan again!” McCrea defiantly pronounced) called B-Sides and Rarities. It’ll be available shortly via cakemusic.com.

You think perhaps that you are too cool to sing along at concerts? Not at Cake you aren’t, my friend.

McCrea never fails to lead the crowd in several extremely passionate participatory tunes, including ‘Sheep Go To Heaven’ and, my favorite, the “Na na na na nana, Na na na na naaaaana“s of ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket.’ He splits the audience down the middle, and pits us against one another in a savage fashion (it’s like Lord of the Flies, really), taunting us (“They’re f*cking LAUGHING at you!”) to whip the crowd to a fever pitch. I think I almost bust a blood vessel in my eye, and probably made up for six days of fitness slackery with all the gleeful pogoing and hip-shaking boogying I could muster. What an evening. If you’ve never seen Cake live, DO IT. Get as close to the front as you can, wear comfortable shoes (I ditched my knee-high boots behind a speaker after about 5 minutes) and prepare to have one of the best times you can legally have in the contiguous 48.

The show was held in fine closing-night soiree fashion at Bimbo’s 365 Club — the classiest live music joint in the city, bar none. It’s a 1930s dinner club that retains all of its elegance and suavity from that era, even down to the grand piano, the wooden dancefloor, and the row of angled make-up tables and attendant in the ladies’ bathroom. The walls are draped with swags of glittery silver fabric, and until recently, they also had the real, live lady-mermaid swimming in a fishtank. McCrea commented on the missing mermaid, and it truly is a crying shame. Not enough ladies swimming in tanks in today’s modern nightlife, I say.

The show was ably opened up by a trio of great bands, San Francisco’s Scrabbel and The Botticellis, plus the effortlessly cool Money Mark. I liked all of them – here are some video clips:

VIDEO: Scrabbel — “Rosamo

VIDEO: The Botticellis — new song

VIDEO: Also from The Botticellis — “Up Against The Glass

Money Mark was rad. I’ve spun his new disc Brand New By Tomorrow several times now and like it more each time. I caught part of his in-store at Amoeba Records earlier in the day:

Despite some keyboard malfunctions which prevented a successful rendition of his great new tune “Pick Up The Pieces” (which was co-authored with Jack Johnson), Money Mark pulled off a really good-spirited and varied set. He invited folks up on the stage to dance along and I almost, almost did. But the guy who actually did climb up and doggedly jogged in place, dropped for push-ups, and did jumping jacks far bested anything I could have come up with.

There was also diminutive curly-haired Hispanic fella standing next to me in a leather bomber jacket, bobbing his head and taking in the show. About halfway through the set, Money Mark notices him and beckons him to join the band up on stage. He climbs up, Money Mark hands him his sweet gold guitar, and dude jumps right in with the melody. Turns out it was Tommy Guerrero, who has collaborated with all those guys on stuff like the Sprout surf film soundtrack. Tres cool.

Here is the rather restrained opening tune – he launched into much more upbeat stuff after this, but I rather enjoy this good-day sunshine pop vibe:

VIDEO: Money Mark, “Color Of Your Blues

They’re calling boarding for my gate now as I type this in the airport, so I should go. I’ve never figured out why everyone is in such a rush to pack onto the plane as soon as boarding is announced — I always wait until the last minute. Less time in the sardine can, the better.

Bon voyage, San Francisco. Thank you for taking such good care of me and entertaining me in fine style. I think this was an absolutely peerless festival experience. I will definitely be back, because as Cake says (and I heartily second), as soon as you’re born you start dying. So you might as well have a good time!

July 18, 2006

He moves his words like a prizefighter

Let me start by saying that although I am a force to be reckoned with with certain kinds of puzzles and games (Jeopardy, um, checkers), I HATE the New York Times crossword puzzle (and no, I am not using that word too strongly). Clues like “slant differently” and “Banquo, e.g.” just make me feel stupid. So I avoid it and we are all happier people. That being said, Wordplay made me want to give it a second chance and sharpen my pencil.

Wordplay is a new documentary about championship crossword puzzlers that I saw this weekend. No, really. AND here’s the rub: It is actually vastly enjoyable and entertaining with quite the deluxe soundtrack (you knew I was going there).

From the opening notes of the perfectly placed Cake song (“Adjectives on the typewriter/He moves his words like a prizefighter/The frenzied pace of the mind inside the cell“) to the Eels & They Might Be Giants in the middle, Talking Heads covers by Shawn Colvin (has Sunny come home yet?) and the original compositions by Gary Louris (The Jayhawks & Golden Smog), it’s fantastic.

This movie explains what the little nerds of Spellbound aspire to when they grow up. It’s crazy to hear these people speak in such reverent terms of their annual gathering in the Stamford, CT Marriott; it is the Holy Grail, American Idol, and the prom all rolled up into one. But it’s played with a light touch by director Patrick Creadon, and is overall a lot of fun to watch. You end up rooting for your favorite competitor, and as my friend is rumored to have said, “I never expected to cry in a movie about crossword puzzles.”

If I cried at all, by JOVE, it was due to laughing at Jon Stewart, who stars in the movie as well as other crossword-puzzlers like the Indigo Girls, Bill Clinton and (Yankees’ pitcher) Mike Mussina. Jon Stewart’s comments about what he perceived famed Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz to be like before he met him were worth the price of admission alone: “You picture this guy who’s like . . . 13, 14 inches tall, doesn’t care to go more than 5 feet without his inhaler. But then you meet him and, wow! He’s tall. He’s like the Errol Flynn of the crossword puzzle world.” I wonder if I could somehow get Jon Stewart to come live at my house.

Shadow Stabbing – Cake
Originally from Comfort Eagle (2001), possibly my favorite song on that album.

Saturday Morning – Eels
Originally from Shootenanny! (2003)

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) – Shawn Colvin
Talking Heads cover, originally from Cover Girl (1994)

Plus, you can listen to songwriter Gary Louris perform three other songs from the movie (“Read Every Word” from the ending credits, “Listen Joe,” and “Tarpit”) on Minnesota Public Radio.

13 Across: Good fun.

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January 26, 2006

I just want to play on my panpipes. I just want to drink me some wine.

What a quirky evening of joy it is to spend a few hours with Cake. Seeing them live is always a treat, what with the crowd providing the background vocals, the dry acerbic wit of singer John McCrea (a true showman), the prominent percussion and thumping bass grooves.

Plus, I got to see the Fillmore Denver, which tries to be as cool as Fillmore San Francisco, but of course cannot. But don’t hold it against Fillmore Denver which is just a baby venue which will grow in stature and favor with the people. One excellent thing that Fillmore Denver has in common with Fillmore San Fran is the plentitude of concert photographs from the performers who have graced their halls over the years. I realized as I stood there just how happy it makes me to look at those photos. For years growing up every time I went to the Fillmore SF I would always look at the photos. I always look at the pictures first before reading the caption to see how many I know. When I feel that flash of recognition from their faces, rather than from reading their names, the songs and the music all comes to me in a rush and I remember great shows I’ve been at with these folks. I always feel surrounded by friends when I see photos of all that superb musical history in action.

And it may be late and I may have been drinking, but if I was the boss of concerts, let me tell you a little thing or two about how it would be. I would only invite very small people. Short folks who would never obstruct my view. If you tall folks insisted on coming we would have a special section for you. Tonight it was ridiculous. I said on many occasions, “Self, could more tall people stand in front of you?” It was like, hey, you’re 6’3″? 6’4″? Could you stand in front of Heather? That would be super.

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December 9, 2005

Let them see Cake

Cake fans, the band is going on tour in early 2006! Starting in Massachusetts, loping across the country (through Denver, yay!) and on into California for several shows, this will be a fun one.

For tour dates, go to http://cakemusic.com/tour.html. Tickets go on sale for many shows tomorrow, Saturday the 10th (or some California shows on Sunday).

I won tickets to see Cake live once (from KFOG, possibly the best radio station in the world) at Yoshi’s in Oakland for a private concert. It was *so* grand. In addition to can’t-stay-in-your-seat music, clever lyrics, and all forms of percussion known to man (cowbell? got it. little vibrating thing? got it too.), we got to sing along to “Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.” It was like summer camp without the bugbites and hot guy counselors named Flash.

Here is a Cake track off the new Stubbs the Zombie soundtrack, which is full of fun retro cover songs. It is a hokey version of Strangers In The Night (exchanging glaaaances).

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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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