November 9, 2009

Fanfarlo shimmers and spins :: “Just let the comets lead the way”


We need to talk about Fanfarlo. Seriously.

Despite listening to this album almost nonstop for the last few months, you and I haven’t yet delved into the full-scale conversation that their debut album Reservoir so clearly deserves. One of my favorite releases of 2009, this British/Swedish 6-piece has crafted a joyously shimmering album that arches and soars, and thumps compellingly through the speakers.

reservoir fanfarloReservoir was recorded late last year at Peter Katis’ Tarquin Studios (whose producer’s hand has also lent texture to some of my favorite albums lately, by bands like The National and Frightened Rabbit – “using all the colors“). Combining their youth and enthusiasm with Katis’ seasoned treatment gives us a gorgeous result.

Fanfarlo’s songs use a hugely expressive palette of instruments, heavy on the shiny trumpets, the dazzling saws and accordion, perforated at all the right places with pounding bass drums and quirky time-shifts in the beat. One of my favorite songs on the album is the flawlessly crafted “Comets” that waveringly coalesces at the beginning and end, like the deepening twilight and the stars appearing, wrung tightly with an almost tangible melancholy. “Harold T. Wilkins” is absolutely the best driving and yelling song all year, maybe all decade (“they’re trying to say – SAY!! they’re trying to say — SAY!!”). It feels good all the way down to your toes. The whole album dazzles the ears, and sounds just as delicious on a quiet Saturday morning as it does on a Friday night.

There is a large dose of Arcade Fire’s jubilance, but with a greater effervescence (like a sheer wash of fluorescent color dripping down) and it is uncanny how the swoops and lilts of Simon Balthazar’s voice evoke a young David Byrne. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Ghosts – Fanfarlo
Harold T Wilkins – Fanfarlo

And just in case their well-placed affinity for the song structures of Neutral Milk Hotel isn’t apparent enough, check their recent terrific cover of “In An Aeroplane Over the Sea.”

shows_ive_seenWIN TICKETS! I have a grip of tickets to give away to Fanfarlo’s Denver show, this Friday the 13th at Moe’s, to celebrate the launch of their national tour. It’s one of the most hotly-anticipated shows of my year. Please email me if you would like to win a pair, and I will let you know by Wednesday night if you can get your dancing shoes on, or bowling shoes, as it may be. There are lanes next door and if you’re brave enough, we’ll play (when we’re done singing along).

Nov 9 – Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
Nov 11 – Triple Rock Social Club – Minneapolis, MN
Nov 13 – Moe’s BBQ – Englewood (Denver), CO
Nov 14 – The State Room – Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 16 – Knitting Factory – Boise, ID
Nov 17 – Crocodile Cafe – Seattle, WA
Nov 18 – The Media Club – British Columbia
Nov 19 – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR
Nov 20 – Great Basin Brewing Co. – Sparks, NV
Nov 22 – Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA
Nov 23 – The Echo – Los Angeles, CA
Nov 24 – The Casbah – San Diego, CA
Nov 27 – Muddy Waters – Santa Barbara, CA
Nov 29 – Club Congress – Tucson, AZ
Nov 30 – Sante Fe Brewing Co – Santa Fe, NM
Dec 2 – The Independent – Austin, TX
Dec 3 – The Loft – Dallas, TX
Dec 4 – Walter’s On Washington – Houston, TX
Dec 6 – The Bottletree – Birmingham, AL
Dec 9 – Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
Dec 10 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
Dec 11 – IOTA – Arlington, VA
Dec 12 – Brillobox – Pittsburgh, PA
Dec 14 – Majestic Cafe – Detroit, MI
Dec 15 – El Mocambo – Toronto
Dec 16 – Il Motore – Montreal
Dec 17 – T.T. The Bear’s – Cambridge, MA
Dec 18 – Webster Hall – New York, NY

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October 25, 2009

if you’ve got something to say, say it to me now

Irish songwriter Glen Hansard took the crowd outside Fingerprints by surprise last week, as they waited in line for his appearance inside with Marketa Irglova (of The Swell Season, and the movie Once):

Doesn’t that just give you the best kind of visceral reaction in your gut-parts? Sometimes I wish we could always live inside wonderful moments just like that, where people sing out what they mean, and mean the things they sing. Glen is an artist of the first-class.

That night their set included tracks from the new album Strict Joy (out tomorrow on Anti- Records), the Once soundtrack, Leave (The Frames), Tim Buckley’s Buzzin’ Fly (Jeff Buckley was once Glen’s roadie, ‘member?), and “New Partner” by Will Oldham. Those who were there say it was truly magical.

Say It To Me Now – The Frames
(from Hansard’s 1996 album Fitzcarraldo; a version was later on the Once Soundtrack)

SwellSeasonFinalSMIn conjunction with the fine folks at Fingerprints, I have one autographed poster from that event to give away. It’s only signed by Glen (“Marketa wasn’t feeling great, so after the performance and almost two hours of meeting fans we set her free for the nap that was calling so loudly”).

Leave me a comment if you’d like to be entered for the poster — and go see Swell Season on tour this fall, eh?

11/01 Milwaukee, WI – The Pabst
11/02 Indianapolis, IN – Clownes Theatre
11/03 Toronto, ON – Massey Hall
11/04 Montreal, QC – Olympia
11/06 Boston, MA – Berklee Performing Arts Centre
11/07 Providence, RI – Lupo’s
11/08 Philadelphia, PA – Merriam
11/09 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
11/12 New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
11/13 Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
11/14 Dallas, TX – Palladium
11/15 Austin, TX – The Paramount
11/17 Mesa, AZ – Mesa Arts
11/18 Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
11/19 Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
11/20 Oakland, CA – The Paramount
11/22 Seattle,WA – The Paramount
11/24 Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
11/25 Vancouver, BC – Centre For the Performing Arts
11/27 Boise, ID – Egyptian
11/28 Salt Lake City, UT – Jeanne Wagner Theatre
11/29 Denver, CO – The Ogden
11/30 Kansas City, MO – Uptown
12/03 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theater
12/04 St. Louis, MO – The Pageant
12/05 Minneapolis, MN – The State Theatre
01/19 NYC, NY – Radio City Music Hall

October 23, 2009

Win a Lucero poster (hey darling … do you gamble?)


Gravelly-voiced, unrelentingly rocking Memphis band Lucero engenders the most rabid of fans, and for good reason. Their songs pulse hot and true with the heart of rock and roll (yes, Huey, it is still beating).

Lucero comes through Denver on Tuesday night on their “Ramblin Roadshow & Memphis Revue” tour, in support of their sixth studio album 1372 Overton Park. The album is their major-label debut, and was produced by Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem). After a series of near misses, I think this time I will finally make it to be baptized into the cult. The show is rumored to be daunting in its intensity, but I hope mostly it won’t hurt.

To celebrate with us, talented Denver poster artist Alan Peters (Jupiter Visual) has offered a pair of posters to Fuel/Friends readers. The posters are three-color screenprints, 13″x20″ on kraft brown enviro-cardstock. They’re pretty damn cool.

TO WIN: The new album is named after the Memphis loft where the band used to live and make music, but also enviable: in the ’70s, 1372 Overton Park was a karate dojo where local resident Elvis Presley, among others, took lessons. Tell me a story in the comments about a place you used to live. I’ll pick two winners on Monday night before I go to bed.

1372_Overton_Park_cdNichols is one of the finest writers we have of music to accompany bitter disillusionment and heartbreak, but Lucero’s best songs also burst forth with a sort of irrepressible hope — here, in the shiny Memphis horns.

1372 Overton Park is out now; see you Tuesday at the show.

So what if all my heroes are the losing kind?
We ended up with nothing, but we put up a fight.

Well come on little darlin’, can’t you cut us all some slack?
‘Cause the winners they all took off babe, and they’re never coming back

What Are You Willing To Lose? – Lucero
(from the new album)

Hey Darling, Do You Gamble? – Ben Nichols of Lucero, solo
(great song with a Townes Van Zandt backstory, from this earlier post)

PS: This Lucero song is still one of my favorites from them — or from anyone for that matter. It’s made it onto near every mix CD I’ve made for the past 3 years.

Oct 23 – Varsity Theater – Minneapolis, MN *
Oct 26 – Aggie Theatre – Ft. Collins, CO †
Oct 27 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO †
Oct 29 – The Crocodile – Seattle, WA †
Oct 30 – Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR †
Nov 1 – Mezzanine – San Francisco, CA †
Nov 4 – The Casbah – San Diego, CA †
Nov 5 – The Clubhouse – Tempe, AZ †
Nov 7 – Longhorn Saloon – Ft. Worth, TX #
Nov 8 – Fun Fun Fun Fest – Austin, TX #
Nov 9 – Meridian – Houston, TX #
Nov 10 – Alabama Music Box – Mobile, AL #
Nov 12 – Club Downunder @ FL State Univ. – Tallahassee, FL #
Nov 13 – Czar – Tampa, FL #
Nov 14 – Lizzie McCormick Stage – Orlando, FL #
Nov 15 – Café Eleven – St. Augustine, FL #
Nov 17 – Visulite Theatre – Charlotte, NC #
Nov 18 – 40 Watt Club – Athens, GA #
Nov 19 – Valarium – Knoxville, TN #
Nov 20 – Orange Peel – Asheville, NC #
Nov 21 – Headliners – Louisville, KY #

* with Amy LaVere and Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm
† with Jack Oblivian and John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives
# with Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm and The City Champs

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October 15, 2009

Win a Yellow Bird Project indie rock coloring book!


If you haven’t spent any time around little people lately (kids, not midgets) perhaps you’ve forgotten how deeply calming it is to pick up a marker or a crayon and just spend some time coloring.

Your friends at the most excellent Yellow Bird Project have not forgotten this truth, and in the spirit of creating more awesomeness in this world, they’ve put together an Indie Rock Coloring Book that is suitable for kiddos or creative grown-ups.


Color in the whimsy of Andrew Bird’s whistling, or shade in Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s crazy carnival — we’ve got a couple to give away.

The YBP are the folks that have all our favorite musicans design original artwork for t-shirts (I have and love The National shirt — and you should check out the new Ra Ra Riot one!) with all the funds going to charity. This new coloring book is no different, with all the proceeds going to good causes. I met these fellas at Outside Lands in SF this year, and they are making some positive change in the world despite being younguns. Idealism works sometimes.


A Field of Birds (YBP theme) – The Tallest Man On Earth

And oh, yeah. They have a theme song written by Swedish folk-wunderkind Tallest Man On Earth (!!). I *so* want a theme song.

September 10, 2009

Win tickets to Sunday’s Monolith from The Grates


Why is lead singer Patience (yes, that’s her real name) of Australian band The Grates so excited up there? It could be because she has 2 tickets to Sunday’s Monolith Festival to giveaway to YOU, as well as a copy of their new album Teeth Lost, Hearts Won.

Email me a story about a time when patience was important to you, or why we need Patience, or something rad about Australia (other than that my little brother is moving there, omg news of the family last night)! I will pick a winner at noon tomorrow, that’s 12pm Mountain Standard Time, Friday. Include your full name with your email entry, k?

gratesjpgThe Grates play the Monolith kickoff party tomorrow night, and at the festival Sunday at 2pm. I saw them at SXSW (which is actually what that picture up top is from) and they were a blast.

Burn Bridges – The Grates

Teeth Lost, Hearts Won is out Tuesday, Sept 15th. It was produced by Peter Katis (Frightened Rabbit, The National) and features guest appearances by Kori Gardner of Mates of State (vocals on “Milk Eyes“) and Tim Fite (vocals on “Not Today”).

August 11, 2009

(New contest!) It might get loud.


To get you all riled up and excited like I am for the opening of the new film It Might Get Loud (opening in coastal NY/LA theaters Friday), I have a sweet poster signed by director Davis Guggenheim to give away.

I got little goosebumps of excitement when I saw this trailer, and I might have even uttered a profanity (sorry Mom).

Blue Orchid – White Stripes

From the clips I’ve seen, this movie draws me in because all three guitar players (Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page) truly, humbly love music and feel called to express part of themselves through the guitar. I love watching what flits across their faces as they watch each other play — the hint of a kid-like smile at seeing their idols at work.

The movie also seems to delve into how it can be almost like another language, this guitar playing — one that I can understand the meaning of when heard in the street, but I failed grammar class and could never speak a lick of it myself. As White says, “We’re all attempting to share something with another human being.” The Communication major in me thought that angle was pretty cool, and I can’t wait to hear more.

TO WIN THE POSTER: Leave me a comment saying which one of the three guitarists you are most interested to see and hear from and watch in this film, and why. I’ll pick a winner on Friday! (and sorry but you must be a U.S. resident to win)

sftri611In one of the press clips of the film that I got to screen, Jack White talks about how he came into making music through a Detroit co-worker (Brian Muldoon) at an upholstery apprenticeship he did in high school. The band they formed was fittingly called The Upholsterers, and their first 7″ was Makers of High Grade Suites (2000).

Even in these blisteringly raw tracks, you can hear the rumblings of what was to come from Jack White:

Apple Of My Eye – The Upholsterers (Jack White & Brian Muldoon)
I Ain’t Superstitious – The Upholsterers (Jack White & Brian Muldoon)
Pain – The Upholsterers (Jack White & Brian Muldoon)

threepackjackThe documentary also shows the making of a U2 single (I saw clips of The Edge out at a beach home, noodling), has original music from Page, and yields a new song written on the spot by Jack White for the film (his Fly Farm Blues single is out today on Third Man Records).

It might get loud, indeed.

August 6, 2009

New David Gray: “Fugitive” (and win tickets to see him tomorrow!)


My love for David Gray is vast and deep, the astounding way he can turn a lyric (these, for example are some of my favorite) or birth a simple piano melody to make my heart ache. His show in 2006 at the Colorado Convention Center still remains a top one for me.

Gray has just previewed a new track from his eighth full-length studio release, Draw The Line (due out Sept 22 on Mercer Street/Downtown Records).

Listen to ‘Fugitive’

The album has eleven new songs, two of which are duets with great female vocalists: Jolie Holland (on “Kathleen”) and Annie Lennox (“Full Steam Ahead”). I especially love Jolie Holland’s voice (of the Be Good Tanyas), and in an interview with Spinner, Gray said, “I’m a huge Jolie Holland fan. She’s absolutely fantastic and there’s not many people who manage to be so natural and unselfconscious. Her voice is just so warm. It reminds me of Cat Stevens in the best possible way.” Not a bad compliment, at all.

etown-780986COLORADO READERS! Friday night’s eTown taping with David Gray (yes, that’s tomorrow) has long been sold out, but Fuel/Friends has a pair of passes to give away to the first person who emails me and tells me their favorite David Gray lyric and why.

Easy peasy, and you’re welcome. It’s gonna be a marvelous show.

For those of you who don’t win (or aren’t in Colorado) be sure to check out the list of fall tour dates elsewhere, with more to be announced in the coming weeks.

Oct 23 – Boston, MA, Wang Theatre
Oct 24 – New York, NY, WAMU Theater
Oct 26 – Toronto, Canada, Massey Hall
Oct 27 – Upper Darby, PA, Tower Theatre
Oct 29 – Chicago, IL, Chicago Auditorium Theatre
Oct 30 – Minneapolis, MN, Orpheum Theatre
Nov 1 – Denver, CO, Paramount Theatre
Nov 2 – Salt Lake City, UT, Kingsbury Hall
Nov 4 – Portland, OR, Arlene Schnizer Concert Hall
Nov 7 – Oakland, CA, Paramount Theatre
Nov 9 – Los Angeles, CA, Orpheum Theatre

June 10, 2009

Come wander the Golden Triangle this weekend (giveaway!)


The Golden Triangle sounds like a mystic land of enigma from which no one returns, but it’s actually the area of Denver that the 15th annual Westword Music Showcase will overrun  Saturday with 85+ ace bands, both local and national.

On Saturday, come peruse ten stages of goodness with me; we’ll see local bands worth vigorously loving like Everything Absent or Distorted, Young Coyotes, Meese and Houses, as well as influential Denver punk pioneers The Fluid (their 2008 reunion show looked like this), and super duper national acts coming to town for the occasion: sonic annihilation via Brooklyn’s A Place To Bury Strangers, Cursive from Omaha’s Saddle Creek label, and Boise’s epic Built To Spill. All that for twenty bucks, or less than $10 if you pre-purchase.

Even less expensive (as in F-R-E-E) are the five pairs of passes that Fuel/Friends has to give away to YOU and your selected companion. If you wanna come join us all day Saturday, please send me an email with “WESTWORD GIVEAWAY” as the subject line. We can maybe even have a beer or milkshake at the fest.

I feel fortunate to have a vibrant, active, effusively talented music scene to soundtrack life in Colorado, and the Westword (our local alt-weekly) is one of the two great festivals we have to look forward to this summer, with this tightly-curated day on Saturday.

Several Bocumast bands (Denver’s best record label, according to those who decide these things) add a rich streak of eclecticism through the lineup. I spent this afternoon listening to their spotlight feature on Radio 1190′s Local Shakedown show from last Friday (June 5), with new tunes from bands like Astrophagus, Hunter Dragon, BDRMPPL, Iuengliss, Tim Pourbaix, and Natural Selection. All are playing this weekend; download their tasty free sampler here to prepare.

Raygun – The Revenge of Astrophagus
Taste Her Spells – Natural Selection
cyberpunkmorphbanger – BDRMPPL
Wake-Up Time – Iuengliss

We’ll See The Sun – Houses
(saw these guys last week and WOW. Also; this is one of my new favorite songs)
Momentary Drowning – Young Coyotes
Aquariums – Everything Absent or Distorted
(they hold my heart so tightly)
Preacher Man Blues – The Fluid
Tidal Wave – Joshua Novak
Car – Built To Spill
We At The Disco – Chain Gang of 1974
(ridiculously fun live)
I Keep You In A Flask – Ellison Park
By Yourself – The Knew
From The Hips – Cursive

There’s also a band I don’t know called “Lyin’ Bitch and The Restraining Orders.” And that’s just brilliant.

RELATED: The lineup for the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase (July 23-26) is also starting to be unveiled. Bookending the late summer to the Westword’s June soiree, the UMS is the largest indie music festival in Colorado, and last year we absolutely killed it. This year I helped with the lineup and am even more excited, if that’s possible. Check it out, and support both avenues for discovering (really good) local music!

[for a bunch more free songs, go to the Westword’s Backbeat blog, and listen to the Donnybrook music Snobcast on the subject.]

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June 4, 2009

New contest: Jeff Buckley goodness


Back in 2005, a film festival came to San Jose where I grew up and was living still. Five minutes down the road from the college where I was working, Amazing Grace screened in a theater I’d visited dozens of times. This Jeff Buckley documentary is lauded by fans who have seen it as a gorgeous, heartfelt work about Jeff Buckley and his life.

I remember that as a particularly distracted Spring, and I completely missed the screening — and have spent the next four years compulsively checking the website every couple of months to see when I can watch it on DVD.

The day is finally here.

jb-grace-around-the-worldIn honor of the 15th anniversary of the release of Jeff’s masterpiece album Grace, earlier this week the Grace Around the World CD/DVD of previously unreleased live performances hit the shelves. The deluxe edition also includes the Amazing Grace documentary, available for the first time.

The Grace Around The World performances were culled together and produced by Mary Guibert, Jeff’s mom. They are gorgeous renditions of Jeff’s songs taken mostly from his TV performances all over Europe and Asia from 1994-1995. It also comes with a CD of the audio from these performances. There are a couple of renditions of all the songs on Grace, and also a live version of “Vancouver,” which didn’t make it on the album but surfaced on Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk.

Rolling Stone has been doing a series of podcasts on this release and the anniversary. This episode lets you hear some of the audio from Grace Around The World, and features commentary from Duncan Sheik, who had worked with Jeff, and wrote the tribute song “A Body Goes Down” for him.

Jeff Buckley Grace Around The World podcast

FUEL/FRIENDS CONTEST: One reader gets the limited-edition deluxe Grace Around The World prize pack which includes –

1) The Grace Around The World DVD featuring previously unreleased TV performances from U.S., UK, Germany, Japan and France
2) Grace Around The World CD featuring audio versions of all the tracks on the DVD, plus two additional previously unreleased tracks
3) A pretty sweet t-shirt.

If you’d like to win, leave me a comment, please, and let’s talk about something you love in Jeff Buckley’s music or live performance. Make me smile this week (or make me cry, or give me shivers, something good). Talk about a lyric, a melody, a song, a performance, a quote, a laugh. For me, it’s still absolutely the ebullient joy in this laugh that is my favorite moment ever of Jeff’s. What’s yours?



[top photo credit Merri Cyr]

April 11, 2009

Win all three Radiohead reissues, with a little artistic speculation


A few weeks ago, Radiohead‘s first three albums —Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995) and OK Computer (1997)— were re-released, each packaged with all kinds of fancy accouterments like bonus discs of rarities, demos and live cuts and DVDs of videos and TV performances. Full tracklists here.

I’ve got a set of all three to give away to one of you guys! As I sat in the haze of work on Friday afternoon thinking about how to best run this contest, I was gchatting with my friend Josh. He is a rather intense Radiohead fan (and in fact just made me a lovely 2-disc collection of HIS favorite rarities and live cuts).

Superfan Josh’s idea for this contest was simple: “Ask ‘em what they think the dude says at the end of the ‘Just’ video.”

So there you have it; a fascinating idea. People who can read lips may not enter, and folks that live outside the U.S. can’t win (sorry! sorry!). You have one week, til next Saturday the 18th. GO.


True Love Waits (unreleased, live)
Street Spirit (The Johnny Walker Show, 6/8/95)
My Iron Lung (The Forum, London, 3/25/95)
Black Star (The Johnny Walker Show, 6/8/95)
Thinking About You (T In The Park Festival, Glasgow 7/13/96)
Fake Plastic Trees (acoustic, London 1995)

Later this month (April 21), Capitol/EMI will also reissue 12 Radiohead EPs on 180-gram vinyl as part of the “From The Capitol Vaults” vinyl series. I do not get to give those away, but it’s pretty cool.

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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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