December 16, 2009

I’m gonna float up in the ceiling, I built a levee of the stars


Swedish folk songwriter The Tallest Man on Earth (Kristian Matsson) has been slaying me since springtime with his song “I Won’t Be Found,” my immediate favorite of all his music so far. With vivid storytelling ability, there is a yowly, authentic soul behind this intricate finger-plucking guitar melody — a song like staccato rain on a summer roof and itinerant wanderers, walking away down a grassy path.

But then I heard this bitterly wistful version, accompanied by that slow piano, and it kicked my legs out from under me — kind of like the way that Ryan Adams’ “Avalanche” did the first time I listened to it, one dark night on my car stereo:

I Won’t Be Found (Daytrotter version) – The Tallest Man On Earth

Deep in the dust forgotten gathered
I grow a diamond in my chest
and I make reflections as the moon shine on
turn to a villain as I rest…

I’m gonna float up in the ceiling
I built a levee of the stars
and in my field of tired horses, ah
I built a freeway through this farce

Since I’d missed the original Daytrotter session in October, I first stumbled onto this on the Music vs. Misery blog (where you need to get the original version, terrific in its own way). After I listened to it a good half-dozen times in a row, feeling all sorts of unmentionable melancholy bubble up inside of my chest, I knew I needed to repost it here.

The Vancouver-based author of Music vs Misery (Megan) is one of my favorite, truest voices in the music blog world these days, and one that I connect with completely as she wears her heart right out there on her sleeve as I do. The fact that her blog is named for a Nick Hornby quote (from a book I am currently re-reading) doesn’t hinder my affections either. Go spend some time there, and while you’re at it, sit with this version of the song for a while. Stuff percolates up when you do.

(Oh — and if Kristian Matsson’s folk legacy aura wasn’t already apparent enough, you should listen to the rugged backwoods banjo deliciousness of his cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Want You” on the Daytrotter session. Similar to the way I feel that Joe Pug’s music is important and laced with immense potential, I am so excited to see where Matsson goes next as an artist, how he develops.)

October 30, 2009

One concession to the Halloweekend: Wild Beasts hoot and howl


Other than that stupendous Dead Man’s Bones track I posted at the dawning of this month, I’ve mostly avoided soundtracking the spooky season. But after a day watching students attired in sheets and sparkles and feathers, and as I now prepare to assemble my own costume for tonight (#1 of 2 for the weekend), I am suddenly in a Halloweeny mood. This Wild Beasts remix is the most perfect thing I’ve heard for all your festivities, to get your Halloween party hopping –and possibly hooting and howling– this weekend:

Hooting and Howling (Leo Zero Remix) – Wild Beasts

In related news, Skip Matheny of the band Roman Candle (quickly becoming one of my favorite new-to-me bands of this year) recently interviewed Wild Beasts for American Songwriter Magazine, in a debut feature called “Drinks With.” Skip used to be a bartender in a retirement home (rad), and sits down to drink and discuss music with this British 4-piece in the basement of the Mercury Lounge, before they played a show together.

I thought it was a shining example of what can happen when musicians get to talk music, instead of us commoners who know not what we speak of. Skip had great questions, like:

When you are writing, do you all think in terms of pop songs or craft? For example the repeated line from your song “All the King’s Men,” “Let me show my darling what that means” works in a similar way to an old ballad, or to the repeated line in a song like “The Gallery” by Joni Mitchell. By the last time you hear the repeated phrase, it’s incredibly different and twisted from the first time you heard it.

HT: I think the beauty of pop is that it’s forgiving of everything. You can throw anything into it, and it’s still pop. You can throw in some sort of Japanese folk music with ghetto hip-hop, and it is pop. Also, it is a really underestimated skill: taking big ideas and condensing them down into simple lines. Some people have just got it. I think we’ve gotten better at it.

All The Kings Men (live on Daytrotter) – Wild Beasts

Also, in that Daytrotter session write-up, Sean Moeller muses how “Hayden Thorpe sounds like David Bowie, out there making mini operas, the kinds of which no one has ever attempted before. He does this with sweeping textures and resplendent coloring, making us feel as if we’ve never seen this hue they call red before and this yellow is something dream-like and without a properly programmed definition.”


October 14, 2009

Brendan Benson covers Superdrag


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.

This is a song that Benson has been covering live in concert this summer, and it’s nice to have a clean recording (for free, at that!). The session also gives us three songs from his current album My Old, Familiar Friend (including the creepy melancholy of “Feel Like Taking You Home”).

Sucked Out (Superdrag cover) – Brendan Benson

Download the rest of the free Brendan Benson Daytrotter session here.

-The Fuel/Friends Superdrag interview
-The recent Superdrag Daytrotter session (the original drawing for which was, incidentally and awesomely, modelled after this picture of mine. Hey!)

August 14, 2009

Starlight Mints :: “Submarine #3″


Everything about this song, from the crisp after-dinner zing of the band who brings it to us, to the heartswelling, immense, gorgeously elegant string section that starts it, to the pop confection that follows — it’s nearly perfect in every way that matters.

Submarine #3 – The Starlight Mints

Starlight Mints are from Norman, Oklahoma, and are signed to Barsuk Records. That tune is the first song on their first album, The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of (2000).

They have a new album out now called Change Remains, and a new Daytrotter session full of good free tunes to go along with it.

[painting by Kelley MacDonald, and thanks to G for making me listen]

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July 21, 2009

Bowerbirds hit Daytrotter, head to Denver for our Underground Music Showcase!


This weekend is my favorite weekend of the entire summer: the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase hits a walkable strip of South Broadway with over 200 bands, singer-songwriters, and comedians at 20 local shops, restaurants and live music venues. Last year I called it “the SXSW of Denver,” and it certainly feels just as saturated with good music as Austin at every turn, but a wristband for all four days of the UMS will only set you back $20.

This year for the first time, the UMS is incorporating some select national acts into the lineup, and I was thrilled to get to help pick some, in my first foray into festival booking. The focus is still our vibrant and gorgeous local scene, but this year we’ve got a few national-level acts that I am very excited about. The first is The Bowerbirds from North Carolina, joining folks like El Ten Eleven (my face is still partially melted from last November) and the superb Ryan Auffenberg from San Francisco. The full lineup is here.

The Bowerbirds have been around since 2006, but my first introduction to their music was only last year when they toured with Bon Iver. There was this…. ohhhh, there was this – which stopped me in my tracks and held me transfixed.

Bon Iver and the Bowerbirds covering Sarah Siskind’s “Lovin’s For Fools” (previous post):

In addition to a recent mention in a piece he wrote for IndyWeek, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) also listed the Bowerbirds in his top picks for La Blogotheque, saying: “Olive Hearts — that song, I went home, and that was the first time i thought about quitting music. Yeah, it really was, I really wasn’t sure I could do it anymore, because that song was so good. I thought what I saw that night just may be better than anything I could ever do.”

bowerbirds-upper-airHere are two songs off their gorgeous new album Upper Air, out now on Dead Oceans Records.

Beneath Your Tree – Bowerbirds
Northern Lights – Bowerbirds

Bowerbirds also recently stopped by Daytrotter for the second time (first time here), and performed four of their songs for free download, three from the new album.

I’ll have a UMS Festival preview coming later this week, if you live in Colorado, please come out. It’s gonna be magnificent. Bowerbirds play 10pm on Sunday night, and you can find many other forthcoming Bowerbirds tour dates here, for the rest of y’all who can’t come play with us on the streets of Denver this weekend.

March 28, 2009

buried in the ground long before me


A.A. Bondy is fast becoming my new favorite artist, and unreleased songs like these from his Daytrotter session last summer scrape at my insides. As I listen to them today in a quiet house, snow sparkling clean in the bright sunlight, something inside of me immediately identifies with the high lonesome harmonica and the roughed-up weariness in the vocals.

Bondy writes, “This song feels like it was buried in the ground long before me and my shovel just happened to strike it one day.” Yeah, and it’s oddly a story of a vampire and an alienation from the world — the sleeping during the day and the going out at night looking for a quenching to the thirst. Never thought I would identify but somehow I do… and there is the mark of a great, great song.

Oh The Vampyre (unreleased, live on Daytrotter) – A.A. Bondy

And one more, about black haired girls and layin’ among the pines as the night comes rolling in.

Among The Pines (unreleased, live on Daytrotter) – A.A. Bondy

Go and get the rest of the set for free on Daytrotter.

A.A. Bondy is playing Sasquatch Festival on Memorial Day weekend. Anyone up for another roadtrip?

[image credit Jonathan Purvis]

February 2, 2009

Ben Kweller covers Neil Young + plays some new songs


Although he still looks eternally (and preternaturally) adolescent, 27 year-old Ben Kweller has been making music for fifteen years now, from catchy pop to punk rock and all shades in between. Recently returned to his home state to settle in Austin, Kweller’s bright new country-inflected album Changing Horses is out this week  on ATO Records.

“I wear my Texas roots on my sleeve,” Ben says on this interview from the BBC a few weeks ago. He’s apparently been writing these Southwestern songs for years (some hints broke through notably on 2006′s superb self-titled album and more recently on his How Ya Lookin’, Southbound? EP), and squirreling away the twang for the perfect time to gather them all into a slide-guitar + dusty heartbreak tour de force.

Kweller is comfortable letting his roots show. “I grew up bass-fishing, playing in creeks, and shooting BB guns,” Kweller says. “Country music was the soundtrack to my life. It’s still a big part of who I am. When Garth Brooks or Alan Jackson come on the radio, somethin’ happens inside. Brings me back to the trees, back to pushin’ cars out of the mud. Reminds me of my hometown.”

BEN KWELLER – Live on BBC2 (Dec 13, 2008)
Intro/Chat I
Sawdust Man
Chat II
From Hank To Hendrix
(Neil Young cover)
Chat III
(from 2002′s Sha Sha)


And also — man. I love that Neil Young song he covers (from 1992′s Harvest Moon), and just like everything Kweller does, the way he sings it is here is so purely unaffected and honest:

Sometime it’s distorted
Not clear to you
Sometimes the beauty of love
Just comes ringin’ through

New glass in the window
New leaf on the tree
New distance between us
You and me

Can we get it together?
Can we still walk side by side?
Can we make it last
Like a musical ride?

Changing Horses is out February 3rd in the U.S. (today in Europe!), and there’s a sweeeet Daytrotter session recently posted as well.


January 4, 2009

if my heart would do just one single thing my head told it to


Viking Moses recently recorded a session for the fabulous Daytrotter folks, and I was reeled in by one song that clocks in at barely a minute. It was the simple story that Viking Moses (Brendon Massei) tells to go along with it:

…Probably the song I’m most proud of. It’s so short, maybe about a minute long, so I hope it’s not very burdensome on a listener. But I just love the melody, and the intention is about as pure as it can be. I wrote the song after I met Laura, and the whole encounter just turned me upside down in the best ways. I’d just met her, and invited her to tour with me, and we parted ways in Saint Louis, Missouri. She went back to New York. I went to my Mom’s in Belton, Missouri, wrote the song at her kitchen table.

Syracuse (Daytrotter session) – Viking Moses

The entire Daytrotter session is ace (and free!). It’s sent me scurrying off to download more from this artist.

The Parts That Showed is the thoroughly enjoyable sophomore release from Viking Moses, recorded on the Oldham family farm in central Kentucky by Paul Oldham (brother to Will). Massei has been making music as Viking Moses since 2004, and was previously signed by Alan McGee (Creation Records founder, and manager of Oasis, Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai, Libertines, etc). He currently releases music with a rotating cast of fellow musicians on Connecticut’s Music Fellowship label.

After contributing a song to Devendra Banhart’s 2004 compilation Golden Apples Of The Sun, he’s often been filed under the freak-folk header. But despite sharing a touch of Devendra’s quavery delicacy from time to time, I don’t hear much freakiness at all.

There’s the occasional burst of warm electric alt-rock reverb, the glorious retro echo of Grizzly Bear, and the appealing acoustic warmth of wild mountain nation folks like Blitzen Trapper or the other brother Oldham. As the Viking Moses Myspace page says, “They only call it FOLK so you’ll BUY it!”

This melody has stuck in my head for days:

Sole Command Of The Day – Viking Moses
(from The Parts That Showed)

ADDENDUM: An EP of Neutral Milk Hotel covers?!

[top photo credit Sarah Cass]

October 9, 2008

Will Johnson soulful, acoustic: “I, The Kite”

Listening to my friend Dainon‘s quality eclectic radio show tonight on reminds me of this achingly potent video that he shared with me recently. Shot live in the KRCL Studios in Salt Lake City, it captures Will Johnson (of both Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel), the heartfelt grit in his voice, and the striking literary nature of this song. This live version is a little slower than the album version, and whole heck of a lot sadder.

UPDATE, 6:38AM: Since I woke up and this is the first song I played –on repeat five times before I was even all the way awake– I think it’s safe to call this today’s obsession. It’s all I want to listen to. I ripped the audio because this live version is so bittersweet and heartbreaking:

I, The Kite (live on KRCL) – Will Johnson

UPDATE, 11:07AM: A reader just pointed me in the direction of a bit more album-faithful but equally fantastic version from Daytrotter a few weeks ago. Will shares, “Written right before the separation with my ex-wife. I was definitely zeroed in on some of that unraveling that was going on with that relationship. I hate to say it, but it’s a souvenir of that.” Eh, well that punched me in the gut; I guess it’s no wonder that it resonates so heavily with me.

I, The Kite (live on Daytrotter) – Centro-Matic
[full session here]


In the morning we were scorned in some overcrowded dream
With new faces, black erasers, and a D-movie like scream
And you smiled in a way that gets you into casting calls for life
But your blouses of corruption ripped your dreams right out of sight

And we tried innocence and tried formaldehyde
In the end you were left with the string and I, the kite

So we’re older and the soldering iron at your side
Fixed the damage of the organ cutter before he could really start
And you smiled in a way that gets you on the guestlist, say, for life
That’s as useless as a screen door on an operating submarine

And we tried innocence and tried formaldehyde
In the end you were left with the string and I, the kite

[From the 2008 double album Dual Hawks]

RELATED: Check the audio from the South San Gabriel set at Denver’s Hi-Dive just a few days later.

September 19, 2008

it’s got lots to do with magnets and the pull of the moon

One of my favorite bands discovered in 2008, the eloquent and eviscerating Frightened Rabbit from Scotland have finally recorded a Daytrotter session for your musical consumption. Check out four songs: “My Backwards Walk” and “Poke” from Midnight Organ Fight (substituting the Scottish way of saying head – heeed!- on the latter tune for the bad four letter word that starts with a c), plus “Be Less Rude” and this one from 2006′s Sing The Greys:

Square 9 (live on Daytrotter) – Frightened Rabbit

Of the song, frontman Scott tells Daytrotter: “I was heavily into Doves at this time, and still am. This was some attempt to ape their sound and rhythmic pounding. I was also interested in using that Blue Monday kick drum on an indie rock track. The song itself is based on the common theme of wanting to start again with someone. Throwing out what’s happened before and remembering why you were together in the first place.” I interviewed Scott back in June and I have continued to listen to the current record at least once a week since then.

Get the other three downloads and words here. Frightened Rabbit is currently on tour with Death Cab For Cutie and Spinto Band.

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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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