September 8, 2010

Short-order music


Philadelphia band Dr Dog announced today that they would be making a handful of new tracks (written since Shame, Shame) available for free download to their fans via their Facebook page over the next few weeks. The first offering, “Take Me Into Town” is an unhurried bluesy treat:

STREAM: “Take Me Into Town”

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Scott Hutchison from Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit blogged Monday about how he recorded a cool, collaborative EP of songs with folks from Twilight Sad, Idlewild, and others in a remote house in Perthshire (with “plenty of fruit wine”) and lickety-split, two songs were available now for free download (quite good ones, all broguey and anthemic). The Music Like A Vitamin supergroup is raising money for Scottish mental health, which of course you need after you submerge yourself in the marvelous misery of Frightened Rabbit for too long.

STREAM: I Forgot The Fall – Music Like A Vitamin (download two songs here)

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And then of course Tallest Man on Earth and Sufjan both dropped EPs on us from out of the blue (bam! available now!), Josh Rouse put together a free EP of live cuts and remixes from El Turista last month, and current Fuel/Friends favorite Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives made a name for themselves by releasing a steady stream of 7″ singles in the Portland music community over the past year, coming out in advance of their full-length, as they wrote and recorded them.

This trend I see gaining steam among indie musicians this summer is one that I love. I call it “short-order music” — not to imply a lack of quality (some of those diner omelettes whipped up in three minutes can be the best thing you eat all week) but rather a visceral, vibrant, of-the-moment transmission direct from the artists you love into your eardrums.

Arguably, we are becoming an impatient, on-demand culture whose attention span is brief and flickering. Nowhere is this more true than in the music community. One is reminded of Veruca Salt (who wants it NOW, Daddy) in our insistence to be constantly sated and titillated, and I am no different. But perhaps musicians can also harness this constant hunger to work in their favor.

In an age where the anticipation of a full album (and the inevitable leaks) can severely quell a musician’s financial gain from new music, this seems like a possible temperance. The guerrilla approach to releasing new songs via digital EP seems to encourage the immediate, bite-sized purchase of new music. At a few bucks per pop (or as Scott Hutchison blogged, “only six fucking quid!!”), it is more financially palatable for fans who are often used to getting, well, everything for free. There also is the perception of less risk – with only five songs, it’s less likely you’ll be getting that 12-minute art rock jam instrumental at the end of the disc. Unless you like 12-minute art rock jams.

While of course there will always be a place for us to fall in love with the well-crafted, cohesive, full album, I also welcome the willingness to mix things up a bit during the in-between days. Let me see what you’ve been up to since the tour ended. Surprise me with four new songs from the summer when I wake up tomorrow. Yeah?

February 4, 2010

Winter in the Hamptons, springtime somewhere in Barcelona

Watching Josh Rouse strum his guitar on a hidden-away Barcelona sidestreet while I ate a Cara Cara orange for breakfast (I accidentally grabbed this variety at the market; it’s rosy pink inside and tastes like sunrises) made today feel like a decadent moment of defiance in wintry February.

I love the new Blogotheque footage by Vincent Moon of Rouse out and about in his (now native) Spain. Rouse blends two songs from his forthcoming El Turista album with one from his 2004 gem Nashville, and it all somehow works together like he was always meant to end up in Spain. His music is consistently satisfying, every time I sit down with him.

I’ve always thought that “Winter in the Hamptons” (ba da da ba da…) also went especially nicely when paired with “Princess on the Porch,” another one from Rouse that I listen to a lot.

I’m always taken by the line, “And baby it’s not you I was searching for, it’s only me…”

Princess on the Porch – Josh Rouse (rarity from Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse CD)
Winter In The Hamptons – Josh Rouse (from Nashville)

…and this one is still my utter favorite. Four minutes of sublime perfection.

Saturday – Josh Rouse (also from Nashville)

el turistaRouse’s new album El Turista is coming out on March 9th on Yep Roc, and if you head over to this site now, you can stream tracks from the new release, and download a free mp3 of “I Will Live On Islands.” The album just got a 4-star review in Q Magazine, where they call it “a glorious cross-cultural hopscotch game that lands on Spanish lyrics, Brazilian samba, and Cuban beats.”

He mightily impressed me that one time I saw him at the Bluebird with Jason Collett; you should try and catch him on this tour.

May 6, 2008

Chloe’s just like me / only beautiful

Josh Rouse! Covering Mother Love Bone! Thanks to Kelly who sent this to me — it’s a song from the latest volume in Rouse’s Bedroom Classics series. I am big fan of volumes 1 and 2, and it’s quite a mindtrip to hear Nebraska singer Josh Rouse take on the formidable late ’80s/early ’90s pre-grunge rock sounds of Mother Love Bone.

“Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” is a dark and melancholy river of a song from the Singles soundtrack, and it is interesting here how Rouse only chooses to cover the intro portion, never lapsing into that chorus of “this is my kinda love, it’s the kind that moves on, it’s the kind that leaves me alone….” Having listened to the original so many times, it is a bit disconcerting where this version stops, but beautifully moody, and I can’t fault that choice in cover material.

Chloe Dancer (Mother Love Bone cover) – Josh Rouse

January 23, 2008

Nick Hornby and Josh Rouse at Union Square Barnes & Noble in NYC

Other than an exceptionally peppy emcee here who seems almost like a Saturday Night Live character, this is a very cool video segment showing author Nick Hornby (Songbook, High Fidelity, Fever Pitch) discussing and reading from his new book Slam, along with musician Josh Rouse performing some tunes off his new album Country Mouse, City House.

This was for the laudable Barnes & Noble “Upstairs At The Square” series in Manhattan which pairs authors and filmmakers with musicians (other artists have included Craig Finn, Rosie Thomas, Badly Drawn Boy, Sondre Lerche, Duncan Sheik, and Jesse Malin).

The connection between these two guests, as Ms. Pep says in the intro, is that “Nick Hornby is a writer who wants you to read his words like music. Josh Rouse is a musician who wants you to view his songs like chapters out of the book of your life.” An enjoyable glance at these two artists that I enjoy.


September 19, 2007

Josh Rouse: “Love Vibration” (live in Denver last night) and bonus EP tunes; new Jason Collett

Josh Rouse kicked off his current tour last night in Denver in support of his excellent new album Country Mouse, City House. I’ve been trying to catch Rouse live for over two years, but this was my first success – I very thoroughly enjoyed his unique fusion of soulful songwriter rock with elements of jazz, blues and funk, along with his velvety smooth voice. It was excellent and I highly recommend catching him when you can.

The Bluebird was very full for a Tuesday night, with lots of enthusiastic fans — and Josh’s family who came in from Nebraska for the show. I randomly found myself talking to his mom after the concert, who was charming and just pleased as punch at both the show and the support. It was sweet. Here was the setlist, and it’s always dim in the Bluebird but I tried with a few still shots also:

I’ve been really digging the little bonus EP of nine songs that comes with the new album. It’s called Country Mouse Companion, and it digs up demo versions, lost tunes, old recordings and different versions of songs that made it to the album. Here’s a sample, it’s for sale at the shows too:

It Looks Like Love (live in studio demo)
Clear Coast (again with band at Eric Fritch’s house)
Hollywood Bass Player (demo in Valencia at home)

Support was provided by the wonderful Jason Collett from Broken Social Scene, whose lyrical imagery is amazing, and has a lovely voice with an unexpectedly sharp, raw crackle to it that pierces me. Here’s a short clip of him performing Hangover Days last night, which he’s also duetted with Feist on. He has a new album due in January on Arts & Crafts, and he told us the title last night for the first time and I am a failure to you all and I forgot it.

Sorry Lori – Jason Collett (new song from forthcoming album)
Hangover Days (with Feist) – Jason Collett

(first eleven dates with Jason Collett)
Sep 19 – Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 21 – North Shore PAC, Seattle, WA
Sep 22 – Night Light, Bellingham, WA
Sep 24 – Plaza Nightclub, Vancouver, BC
Sep 25 – Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
Sep 27 – Independent, San Francisco, CA
Sep 28 – El Rey, Los Angeles, CA
Sep 29 – Hotel Congress, Tucson, AZ
Sep 30 – Golden West Saloon, Albuquerque, NM
Oct 3 – Workplay, Birmingham, AL
Oct 4 – Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
Oct 5 – Exit/In, Nashville, TN
Oct 6 – Exit/In, Nashville, TN
Oct 23 – Southgate House, Cincinnati, OH
Oct 25 – Park West, Chicago, IL
Oct 26 – Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Oct 27 – Fineline Music Cafe, Minneapolis, MI
Oct 28 – The Annex, Madison, WI
Nov 1 – Somerville Theater, Boston, MA
Nov 2 – Gramercy Theatre, New York, NY
Nov 3 – Gramercy Theatre, New York, NY
Nov 21 – Theatre, Murcia, Spain
Nov 22 – Joy Eslava, Madrid, Spain
Nov 23 – Cormoran, Valencia, Spain
Nov 24 – Bikini, Barcelona, Spain
Nov 26 – Aula Magna, Lisbon, Portugal
Nov 27 – Theatro Circo, Braga, Portugal
Nov 29 – The Plug, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Nov 30 – Academy 2, Manchester, United Kingdom
Dec 1 – QMU, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Dec 3 – The Sage 2, Gateshead, United Kingdom
Dec 4 – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Dec 5 – Academy, Bristol, United Kingdom
Dec 7 – Academy, Oxford, United Kingdom
Dec 8 – Concorde 2, Brighton, United Kingdom
Dec 9 – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, United Kingdom
Dec 11 – The Village, Dublin, Ireland
Dec 12 – Dolan’s, Limerick, Ireland
Dec 13 – Cyprus Avenue, Cork, Ireland
Feb 4 – Cayamo Music Cruise, Caribbean

June 11, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

I had a hard weekend. But notably, there were some new releases and musical gems that made me happy, and I also (frickin finally) finished Bill Bryson’s dry and uproarious book about Britain, Notes From A Small Island. I enjoyed it so much that it almost feels wrong. I’m talking ’bout laughing (really, kinda chortling) out loud on every other page, plus really enjoying reading about places I’d visited in the UK that I hadn’t thought about in 5 years; places like this little gem, or here. I wrote a few thoughts about the book for Bruce’s Some Velvet Blog, part of a series on summer reads, and that’s up now.

Hollywood Bass Player
Josh Rouse

After releasing a charmingly laid-back EP with his Spanish novia, She’s Spanish, I’m American, Josh Rouse will be back in solo long form with a new album called Country Mouse City House (out July 31 on his own imprint Bedroom Classics). This track is toe-tappingly catchy with a fittingly strutty bass line — and for some reason it made me want to sing “My Life” by Billy Joel (aka the Bosom Buddies theme song) all weekend. If you preorder the new disc now, you also get a bonus CD with some cool demos and unreleased songs.

A Long Time Away
Howie Payne
Lead singer of the now-defunct Liverpool band The Stands, Howie Payne is set to release his first solo LP this year, and has posted 4 new tracks on his MySpace page for your streaming pleasure. What I’ve heard of The Stands has quite a bit more rollicking sound, hailing from the same scene as neighbors The Coral and The Zutons, but these new songs are precisely some of the aforementioned things that made me happy this weekend. They are a bit more wistful and shaded, with a bit of blowing-through-the-jasmine-in-my-mind reminiscence for me.

The National Side
This next tune from Minneapolis band Romantica is different but I like it a lot. A fellow Ryan Adams fan recommended this to me, saying it was a tune that “you absolutely must check out” and guaranteed that it would be one of my favorite songs of the summer. All I can liken it to would be — okay, so Evan Dando moves to North Carolina and finds a backing band of mariachi dudes to play with. Then there’s also some great “buh-bah-buh-dah-dah-dah…”s which you really just can’t go wrong with in most circumstances. I like it. It’s from their forthcoming album America, out on 2024 Records.

Kingston Advice (Clash cover)
Camper Van Beethoven
Since we’ve already established an abiding fondness on my part for the output of David Lowery, it should come as no surprise that this track is one of my favorites off the new Clash tribute album The Sandinista! Project (out last month on the Megaforce label). As with all tribute albums, there are some questionable stylistic choices amisdt the 36 tracks, but this band is one with the cred to believably cover The Clash in a trippy, inventive way. Maybe I could have done without the fife, but otherwise I dig this.

Pacific Gas & Electric
I am in love with the quirky weirdness of the new soundtrack from Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, full of hidden gems mostly from the ’60s and ’70s. I just got the soundtrack this weekend, and no surprises – we all know Quentin is a genius at this stuff. I’d love to hang out with Quentin and talk music someday. The man strikes me as borderline crazy, but he’s one of the best soundtrackers out there. This cut is a swampy electric blues harp romp, but the other songs on the album range from campy girl groups, atmospheric Italian film scores, the swagger of T. Rex, and the British Invasion sound of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Fantastic off-kilter kitsch.

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.


December 14, 2006

New side project from Josh Rouse

Josh Rouse has been livin’ la vida buena in Spain these days (and its influences are charmingly chronicled in his recent Subtitulo release with songs like “Quiet Town” and “La Coasta Bianca”). He’s got a new little side project going with his novia española: She’s Spanish, I’m American. Just what the title implies, this is Josh pairing with Paz Suay to make some more classy tunes (she also guest-vocaled on Subtitulo).

It’s Rouse gone Putumayo, and I like it. Their EP is out on the Bedroom Classics label the day after Christmas.

[STREAM on MySpace] :
Answers – She’s Spanish, I’m American

Car Crash – She’s Spanish, I’m American

Previous duet with Paz Suay:
The Man Who Doesn’t Know How To Smile – Josh Rouse

Tagged with .
October 31, 2006

AOL, like, totally wants to go to the next Cold War Kids show with you

I am a little confused by the AOL Music Indie Blog. The first time I heard of it, it just sounded like a non-sequitur to me, like a math equation that does not compute. AOL = indie?

They are using their gigantic corporate conglomerate muscle and huge subscriber base to draw these great podcasts from a wide variety of (mostly) smaller independent artists.

I suppose I could just enjoy and keep my mouth shut, but I just have to admit my hesitancy in having AOL be my source for, like, a Josh Rouse interview. Isn’t that what smaller labels and independent radio stations are for? The performances are great so I can’t complain, but I have to admit that the concept kind of rubs me the wrong way.

I know, I know – get over it, and listen to these:

RECENT PODCASTS (the links are to mp3 of podcast) -

M. Ward
(performing Chinese Translation, To Go Home, Paul’s Song)

Cat Power
(performing Love & Communication, John John, Satisfaction, Ramblin’ Man)

Noel Gallagher
(performing It’s Good To Be Free, Whatever, Slide Away)

The Lemonheads
(performing No Backbone, Why Do You Do This To Yourself, My Drug Buddy)

Nada Surf
(performing 8 songs — now that’s just crazy talk: Concrete Bed, What Is Your Secret?, Always Love, Hyperspace, Blizzard of ’77, 80 Windows, Happy Kid, Blankest Year)

José González
(performing Crosses, Deadweight on Velveteen, Lovestain, Heartbeats)

Josh Rouse
(performing Quiet Town and Givin’ It Up)

Jamie Lidell
(performing Game For Fools, What’s The Use, Multiply)

October 23, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

Sleepless greetings from somewhere in limbo between California leaving and Colorado arriving. True story: I am supposed to be catching a few slim hours of shut-eye before my superbly early flight in the wee hours of Monday morning, but the couple in the hotel/motel room next to me are going at it so loudly that I (and surely several neighbors in either direction up and down the hall) can’t sleep. Gotta love motel finds for the best buck. On the bright side, I now have the gift of knowing that my neighbor is a “bad girl” as I keep hearing over and over, and that’s something special that I can cherish. Room 526 at the Pacific Inn, I’m talkin’ to you.

I’m up late and fairly glowing following a rich and fantastic afternoon spent at the Bridge School Benefit concert today, which had some fine, fine moments (and some not so fine, but that’s to be expected with a grand festival bacchanalia). Scintillating reflections on that shortly. But first, here’s a handful of new tunes that I’ve found noteworthy this week. I really wanted to post something from the new Shins album, but apparently SubPop would then be all over me like white on rice (every blogger that posted it seems to have been contacted now to take it down. Fair enough, but it is quite a fine sounding disc I will say.)

The Rat Within The Grain
Damien Rice
I cannot remember where I found this (maybe here) but it is one of my favorite Damien Rice songs to come down the pike in a long time. From his upcoming release 9 (Heffa Records, Nov 14), there is almost a nostalgic folksy sound to this tune that makes me think of riding along on a train, looking out the window. I would deem this a definite travelling song, and highly recommend it. Update: Not on the new album, but I think a b-side on the single for “9 Crimes”.

Here Comes Ruby
Daniel Hutchens
My friend Justin over at Aquarium Drunkard is currently living the blogger’s dream (well, my blogger dream, anyways) by creating his own music label, Autumn Tone, and releasing his first album from Athens, Georgia alt-roots-rocker Daniel Hutchens. I have yet to give the entire album (Lovesongs for Losers) a thorough and proper listening, but I liked this song the first time I heard it. Hutchens is well-respected in the American South, yet largely unknown outside those circles — but maybe not for much longer. This song is simultaneously playful and rootsy, a warm blend of Americana and Southern rock. Justin says, “This guy is a national treasure, and I’ll stand on Steve Earle’s coffeetable in my Jack Purcells and say just that.” I’d like to see that. Check out his site for lots more from Hutchens.

Bad Girl
Ben Taylor
This find was courtesy of Scatter O Light, which recently pointed out some free downloads of demos and unreleased Ben Taylor songs (including some interesting covers). This song’s newly penned, about how Ben needs a bad girl to help him stop dreaming of someone else. Although I picked this song out days ago, I have to chuckle a bit now. Ben, I have a suggestion for a special someone for you. Check out the new Ben Taylor EP available on iTunes called Deeper Than Gravity (October 3, Iris Records) which includes a lovely acoustic version of one of my favorite songs of his ever, “Nothing I Can Do.”

Josh Rouse & Kurt Wagner
And speaking of EPs, I have been spending some quality time lately with the forgotten 1999 Chester EP from Josh Rouse and Kurt Wagner (of Nashville rock/country/soul band Lambchop). A joint effort from two fine musicians on 5 little songs which follows-up nicely to Rouse’s debut album Dressed Up Like Nebraska, but with a slightly darker edge to them. I think it is an essential collection for the Josh Rouse fan, showing an interesting facet of his musical development.

The Only Place I Can Look Is Down
The Bishops
Twin brothers from London (paired with a Scottish drummer — collectively they average about 21 years), The Bishops are yet another buzz band from the UK (NME darlings) with a straight-up Kinks/Clash influenced sound. Their debut EP is becoming available in the States this week from California-based indie label I Am Sound Records. It’s more fun retro-goodness circa 1966. Listen to a few more from them here.

(Funny – United Airlines just called my cell, flight is rescheduled for noon. Neighbors have fallen into a seemingly exhausted slumber. So, goodnight!)

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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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