January 30, 2007

“My idea of fun / Is killing everyone” :: This just in, Iggy Pop still angry after 33 years

Iggy Pop is releasing his first new CD with The Stooges in 33 years, and he clearly still has a bone to pick with you. Take a listen to the aggressive new track (we would expect nothing less):

Idea of Fun – The Stooges

The new Stooges album The Weirdness is slated for March 6, and it’s got 12 tracks with picturesque titles such as “Greedy Awful People,” “End of Christianity,” and “Mexican Guy.”

My bass hero Mike Watt joins all the other original members, as he’s been doing with the Stooges since 2003 (great pic here), and holds down the low notes on the album in relentless form. Sounds good to me.

November 29, 2006

Odds & ends

I love you, Colorado. But I’ve decided you are a wuss.

There is (a beautiful and powdery) 3 inches of snow on the ground this morning, tops. And it’s a snow day. I say everyone should get some snowshoes and 4-wheel-drive, and life should continue as normal. Thank you.

In the shutdown interim, here are a few odds & ends that are entertaining me this morning:

Ûž A reader pointed me in the direction of mp3s from the KEXP session with The Rosewood Thieves (my previous post here, definitely check them out). They performed 5 songs, including a Dylan cover. I am strongly digging their bluesy rocker sound.

Ûž My new friend Adam wrote about his new supercool fancy tracker thing for runners that goes in your shoe, wirelessly connects with your iPod, and tracks your running stats, even TALKING TO YOU while you run. I need that (it should say pugilistic things like, “Frickin wuss! DO NOT WALK UP THIS HILL!” Maybe yell obscenities at me to keep me moving). It appears to be reasonably priced at $29, but then you also need the special Nike shoes with a pocket to hold the sensor (can I do it myself with an x-acto knife?) and an iPod Nano (mine’s a 60). Drat. (wait, or not).

Ûž A couple of interesting “from the studio” news bits:

-Shirley Manson (Garbage) goes solo, Jack White and Billy Corgan are involved

-Norah Jones finishes third album, M. Ward guests

-Mike Watt plays bass on Kelly Clarkson’s new album (for real)

-!!! Sign to Warp Records (same label as my new love Jamie Lidell), new LP Myth Takes coming in 2007. If you haven’t heard their unique disco-funk sound (and I think you say their UnGooglable name Chk Chk Chk), here’s an mp3 of their song Take Ecstasy With Me from 2004′s Louden Up Now. You wanna dance around, don’t you?!

Ûž There’s a new Contrast Podcast you should listen to, this one on the fun ornithological theme of Chickens and Other Birds. I was going to contribute either Cake’s wonderful song that I can hear playing in my head just typing it: “Comfort Eagle” (but someone else submitted it, yay!) or the fantastic boogie “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens.”

But coulda woulda shoulda I’m lazy.

Ûž There’s a new documentary out called American Hardcore; maybe I want to punch someone after just watching the preview. It’s open now in selected theatres, and it features folks like Henry Rollins, Jesse Malin, Ian MacKaye, Flea, Mike Watt, Moby, and Tommy Stinson. Like a microcosm of the Punk: Attitude documentary from last year, this one focuses on the specific aspects of the American punk-rock scene within a 6 year period from 1980-1986. Looks interesting.

Ûž Here’s the perfect Christmas gift for that world-renowned air guitarist on your list. Now they just need to make the corresponding sensor pants for us air drummers and I will be one happy camper.

Ûž I am liking this new song from distinctive Liverpool band Clinic, off their upcoming 4th album Visitations (January ’07, or on iTunes now).
Listen to Harvest.

Ûž Finally, one more reason to love the (gratuitious and borderline creepy) internet: A MySpace group for those who love it when everyone’s favorite prolific alt-country rocker turns around: Who Wants To Look At Ryan Adams’ Ass?

August 7, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

Color me tickled pink.

I had such an interesting, surreal time at the Radio & Records Triple-A Summit in Boulder on Friday. I got to meet a lot of interesting record reps and label folks, came home with a huge stack of new CDs to listen to, and learned about some cool radio stations and programming in the U.S. right now.

The day was this weird combination of folks who truly KNOW and LOVE music (I had more fantastic conversations in 18 hours than I have in the last 18 weeks) right smack alongside the business side of things, this pushing of music as a commodity. I saw the side of marketing and branding and distribution and all the things that are undoubtedly necessary in today’s world to have music be heard, but also seems in a weird way (to my naive and idealistic mind) to somehow contrast the beauty and art contained in a great song. But it’s necessary, so there you go.

It also felt a bit conspicuous being a blogger alongside radio programmers. I love radio, I love a good radio station, there is fantastic variety and quality on a lot of these stations. But I felt as if I might get run out of there at any moment because a blogger is kind of the anti-radio-programmer: instead of me waiting for a radio programmer at a big station to add the artists I feel passionately about, now with the internet and mp3 blogging, I can just go right to my computer, find cool new stuff, create a playlist, and essentially be my own programmer. So I am not sure how the two fit side by side. I think that a lot of folks there may have felt the same way: there was certainly a lot of warmth and interest towards what I do, but I was very aware of the dichotomy and wondering how, in the future, the two will intertwine.

The best thing about the day was that I found enough fodder for dozens of posts about new artists. Musicians were milling about, I got to talk to several on your behalf, hear about their musical philosophy, how their records were created, their backstory and their songs. It was beyond cool.

Here are some of the best new songs that caught my ear from the event:

Balancing The World
Eliot Morris
I believe this recommendation came about from a conversation wherein I was saying something about Counting Crows. The name of this artist immediately followed, and if you like Counting Crows, please give Eliot Morris a shot (I also hear some reminiscence of Matt Nathanson here). Uplifting, intelligent pop at its best. Check him out on MySpace – his album What’s Mine Is Yours comes out August 15th on Universal and I will definitely pick it up. The new release features collaborations with Dan Wilson of Semisonic and David Lindley (Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, James Taylor). Funny, I just noticed that he is on tour with Counting Crows. Well, good pairing I guess.

You Made It
DJ Shadow feat. Chris James
From DJ Shadow‘s upcoming release The Outsider (Sept 12, Universal), and featuring Chris Martin Chris James of Stateless, this sounds like nothing I would have ever thought I’d hear from DJ Shadow. The electronic effects are restrained; this is mostly an acoustic guitar based song over a subtle, tense beat with soaring, melodic vocals. Very nice. DJ Shadow is currently on the road, through Asia and the UK (with one rad stop at the Greek in Berkeley, opening for Massive Attack in September).

I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)
Sandi Thom
Please be aware before you listen to this that it will stick in your head and you may find yourself singing it all day long, with its clever lyrics of nostalgia and being born in the wrong era. I saw Sandi Thom perform at the luncheon on Friday and I was impressed. She’s in her early 20s, a rosy-cheeked, passionate Scottish-Irish vocalist who was quite charming. There was a definite rootsy vibe and strength to her demeanor. Her accompaniment on this tune was a guy sitting on and playing an amplified wooden box, which fascinated me. Check her out on MySpace and her album Smile . . . It Confuses People. She plays Atlanta tonight and has a handful of U.S. dates coming up. I liked her and would see her again.

Fire Island, AK
The Long Winters
Okay, so one of the best sessions for me was the Rate-A-Record deal on Friday afternoon. Moderated by my friend Bruce, ten “mystery tracks” were played for us and we had these little handheld boxes that let us rate the songs on a scale of 1-10 and then discuss them. I could do that every single day of my life and be content. Sitting around and talking about music with real people (as opposed to blogging about it) was stimulating. This was one of the toe-tapping tracks that I liked (others hated), from The Long Winters‘ third release on Barsuk Records: Putting The Days To Bed. The Long Winters are doing what I think every band should do by offering 5 full-length mp3s on their website, if you want to hear more. “Members Emeritus” of their band have included Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies.

Timely note: Nada Surf just sent a post on MySpace saying that The Long Winters are playing a secret show tomorrow in New York City. They say, “If you are interested in attending a free Long Winters show on August 8th in NYC (and are at least 21), send an email to secretshow@barsuk.com and we’ll send you all the details.”

To Go Home
M. Ward
Another one I liked from the Rate-A-Record session, from M. Ward‘s forthcoming album Post-War (August 22, Merge Records). Where the Eliot Morris track above is pleasant and melodic and everything fits together, this track is thrumming and thumping with borderline dischordant piano in the background – but somehow it still all works together in a very compelling way. If you’d like to check out more from M. Ward, eMusic has a good selection of stuff from him. He is also currently on tour, and SO WORTH NOTING: The 3 California dates are supported by the formidable Mike Watt.

More music from the conference to come. Stay tuned.

June 17, 2006

Free SF Screening: We Jam Econo

Go to 12 Galaxies (a cool little club, as I so recently found out) on June 26th for a free screening of We Jam Econo: The Story of The Minutemen. Mike Watt is cooler than me, and plays the bass like nobody’s business. You can read a little history about him on this previous post, and brush up on your early ’80s So-Cal punk essentials here.

Corona – Minutemen

Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (Van Halen cover) – Minutemen

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February 14, 2006

Mike Watt: Ball-Hog or Tugboat?

I rocked this album probably hundreds of times in high school. All I knew is that it featured some of my favorite artists, which truthfully is why I bought it. I didn’t really know at the time the imitable punk-rock legend that Mike Watt (of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE) actually is. But it was a great introduction.

Released in 1995, Ball-Hog or Tugboat? wins for the most eclectic & confounding title in my collection. 17 tracks, Watt plays thud-staff (bass) on all of them and wrote 14 of the tracks. His steady, bumping presence is complemented by Ed Vedder, Evan Dando, Dave Pirner, Frank Black, Adam Horovitz, Mike D., Flea, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear, Krist Novoselic, Joe Baiza, J Mascis, Thurston Moore, Henry Rollins, Mark Lanegan . . . it’s just madness is what it is.

The thing that I like best about this album is its diversity. You have every type of song on here from classic pleasing (rocking) pop songs to hardcore rock, and punk, and jazzy funk, and Henry Rollins (angry! angry!). There are also great stories told throughout the songs, such as “Drove Up From Pedro,” which tells of Watt discovering punk at a Germs show in Los Angeles.

Here are three of my favorite cuts, but you gotta just buy the album because there are so many great tracks I didn’t post. I somehow got the big massively tall version (above) of the CD case, but it also comes in a nice square blue cover as well. Which would be easier to file in the ole IKEA CD cabinet.

Piss-Bottle Man – Evan Dando on vocals (golden)

Chinese Firedrill – Frank Black on vocals (*gorgeous* acoustic guitar )

E-Ticket Ride – with Mike D. and Flea (and the baby of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore & Kim Gordon providing, uh, background vocals)

Other songs I like that I left off here are “Big Train” (little double entendre lyrical content with Dave Grohl, Ed Vedder, and J Mascis), “Against the ’70s” (with Ed Vedder, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl – and didn’t that track get some radio play too?), “Sidemouse Advice” (swingin jazz with Carla Bozulich and Flea), and the title “Intense Song for Madonna to Sing” (and indeed it would be) always makes me laugh.

Mike Watt was instrumental in the Southern California post-punk movement of the ’80s, along with his band the Minutemen, and later fIREHOSE. He began playing music in his early teens, along with friend D. Boon, who would be a co-founder of the Minutemen. From his innocent beginnings (“I didn’t know what the bass was,” Watt says. “In arenas you couldn’t really hear it. But we saw on album covers that every band had a bass player, except the Doors and the Seeds. So we knew it was a big part of the band. In the pictures it looked like a guitar that had four strings. I didn’t know they were bigger. I didn’t know it was lower.”) Watt grew into a kickass & well-respected bassist.

Watt and Boon were in on the very beginnings of the Southern California punk scene, and the way it slowly began to change the face of music. Watt was there as bass became more of a crucial element in the music that he loved to make. “Before punk, bass was kind of where you put your retarded friend,” Watt theorizes. “Left field. It was a real inferiority complex dumped on me because of the bass guitar. But with punk, you had everyone lame, so all of a sudden the bass player was elevated and everybody was brought down. It was a lot more equal, and the bass drove the songs more. They were all learning, they were all beginning.”

The Minutemen released 5 albums before D. Boon’s death in 1985 in a car crash. Watt then went on with fIREHOSE to release more music (Watt says that he got the name fIREHOSE “from watching a film short of Bob Dylan doing Subterranean Homesick Blues using cue cards for the lyrics. I thought that it was funny when he held up the card that said ‘firehose’.” So there you have it.). Watt has jammed both solo and as a temporary member of bands such as Porno for Pyros, J. Mascis’ band Fog, and, most recently Iggy Pop & The Stooges. Not too shabby.

Turns out this is also a timely post because there is a wonderful documentary out about the Minutemen and their influence on the punk-rock movement. Titled We Jam Econo — The Story of the Minutemen,” the film premiered last year in San Pedro, California, and is still making the rounds to cool venues across the U.S.

Tomorrow night (the 15th) it is playing at the Art Institute in San Francisco, and there are about a dozen other screenings worldwide in the next few months. Watt is on tour this Spring both solo and with Iggy Pop. Check out something of a punk-rock legend if he comes to your town.

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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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