August 24, 2009

Monday Music Roundup


On Sunday afternoon, my folks snagged some sweet birthday tickets for us to see the Rockies and the Giants play in Denver — fabulous seats, about six rows back on the third base line. Despite the 90+ degree scorcher of a day (and some family rivalry), the seats were filled, and some of my favorite fans were the eight and nine year-old boys waiting by the Giants dugout for autographs from players before the game. I think so often as adults we feel bereft of heroes, and it was amazingly refreshing to stand next to these kids in their team jerseys and hear their shouted, squeaky-voiced enthusiasm when, say, Tim Lincecum walks out from the dugout to warm up. This sign that the kid next to me made reaffirmed my faith in believing in things — even though the Giants lost (“Go both teams“).

Ahh, a Sunday well-spent.

I haven’t done a Monday Music Roundup in a while, but today there seems to be a glut of good new songs that I’d love to share with you and your eardrums. Shall we?

sunshowerFlaming Arrow
Jupiter One

Just tapped by the lovely, quirky Regina Spektor to open her upcoming North America tour, NYC’s Jupiter One is a duo with folksy roots and Seventies AM radio leanings. This song is all lemondrops and summer street strolls, over lyrics about burning buildings. What an odd, totally successful juxtaposition. I can’t get enough of this song lately. Sunshower is out September 15th on Ryko.

eels-myspaceIn My Dreams

Since we last talked about these things, Mark Oliver Everett, aka EELS, has released a new album called Hombre Lobo – “Wolf Man” for those who remember things from Sra Navarro’s Spanish class junior year, or the equivalent. He’s one of the purest, cleverest songwriters we got around, whether he is being sardonically prescient or heartbreakingly earnest. He did one of them MySpace Transmissions sessions (the same place that produced this moment of stunning awesomeness), where E played three new songs (like this one above, with such purdy piano), an older tune, and a cover Bob Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country.” For the price of free, this is a nice little download. Send me a note if you’ve never gotten into Eels and I’ll suggest a few places to start, because really — you should.

port-obrienMy Will Is Good
Port O’Brien

When I was sailing on a boat, I listened to the nautical sounds of Port O’Brien often in my head (not on my iPod for reals because they were not allowed on board). I used the Port O’Brien song “Stuck On A Boat” for my seafaring mix, complete with the lapping sounds of the waves against a hull, and have been drawn for a long time to the mariner’s world they sketch out for us (frontman Van Pierszalowski was a commerical salmon fisherman). From Oakland, CA, Port O’Brien has a new album coming out called Threadbare (due October 6, TBD Records), which flirts with melancholy and weightier themes, and shows a new maturity to their sound due to some sad life circumstances the past year. See what you think of it; I like the seasick jitter of this song, with the humming voices in the background — kinda like a sea shanty. Yeah.

jon-spencerGee, I Really Love You
Heavy Trash

I first stumbled across this side project of Jon Spencer (he of the Blues Explosion), and its effortless bad-ass-ness two years ago, appreciating that retro garage rock, notable yowl, and filthy reverb. As I wrote then, Heavy Trash have a “rough and tumble rockabilly punk sound that makes me want to drink, smoke, and fight. And I don’t even do two of those three things.” I found this new stuff over on Bruce Warren’s blog, and he described them as “Blues/rock/soul/punkrock/garage/R&B colliding all together in one big New York City kind of rock mess of hotness.” I can dig that. Midnight Soul Serenade is out in October on Big Legal Mess Records.

black-holliesRun With Me Run
The Black Hollies

With songs to their credit like “Gloomy Monday Morning” and “Paisley Patterned Ground,” it should come as no surprise that Jersey boys The Black Hollies are still championing a spacey, mood-ring vibe on their newest efforts. These whippersnappers are a band Rolling Stone once said “would bring a smile to Brian Jones’ face,” and the first single explodes in a shimmering kaleidoscope of organ melodies and shiny happy harmonies. Softly Towards The Light is out October 6th on the Ernest Jennings Record Co label (Takka Takka and O’Death are labelmates), and you can catch The Black Hollies on tour with Benjy Ferree in the coming weeks.


Oh and: you’re welcome.

June 22, 2009

Monday Music Roundup

5098_556565316554_7303238_33483639_5737487_nYesterday afternoon found me sitting in an upper level of Coors Field with my dad and sister, celebrating Father’s Day with him in the sunshine as we watched the Rockies beat the Pirates. That’s what it looked like:

I was reflecting on how impossible it is to feel like anything is seriously amiss in the world when I get to have an afternoon like that — yelling at the players with my pops, tossing about my feeble knowledge of stats this season (I know just enough to be dangerous), and remembering all the Giants games at Candlestick Park when we were growing up.

It was a good day.

Here are a handful of tunes that have been keeping me company lately…

aa-bondy-coverWhen The Devil’s Loose
AA Bondy

Formerly of the band Verbena (whose 1999 major-label debut was produced by Dave Grohl), AA Bondy‘s solo songwriting knocked me for an immense loop when I was seduced by his Daytrotter session. Several songs from that session are now due to show up on his forthcoming sophomore release, and this is the title track. You’ll hear a bit of old-time parlor smoke in his voice, reminiscent of the creeping goodness I find in M. Ward, with a fuller sound to the new material. Bondy just announced some dates next month with Conor Oberst, and he hits Denver’s Hi-Dive this very night. You should go. When The Devil’s Loose is out Sept 1 on Fat Possum.

Periodically Double or Triple
ole-856250x250Yo La Tengo

This feisty, organ-laced number from Yo La Tengo‘s millionth (ok, I think 12th) album spans all kinds of eras from late Sixties-brilliance to the sexy tease of funkadelica. It’s reminiscent in ways of my favorite song off the last album, the falsetto glory of “Mr. Tough” (which, incidentally makes the best iTunes Genius playlist fodder, if’n you want to dance). Yo La Tengo never seems to stop experimenting; Popular Songs is due Sept 8th on Matador.

rsfarcoverLaughing With
Regina Spektor

Never afraid to experiment with an intriguing blend of playfulness and truth, first listens of Regina Spektor‘s new album Far are promising. The first song I heard from it was “Folding Chair” which charmed me with a vignette involving a beach chair, feet buried in the sand, and sea just being a wetter version of the sky. But this song is acutely incisive and couldn’t be further away from playfulness. Armed with her piano and her honesty, she muses, “No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake, no one’s laughing at God when they see the one they love hand in hand with someone else, and they hope that they’re mistaken.” It’s a heady, sharp one. And true, as far as I can tell. You can stream the full album now on her MySpace, Far is out tomorrow on Sire Records.

Waterfall (Judee Sill cover)
dan-rossen-covers-judee-sillDan Rossen

Back in the sister-goldenhair days of yore, Judee Sill was an important talent in the Laurel Canyon scene. Before her untimely death, Judee originally wrote “Jesus Was A Crossmaker,” covered radiantly by The Hollies and introduced to a bunch of the younguns on the Elizabethtown soundtrack. Here Grizzly Bear‘s Daniel Rossen covers an obscure song of hers with shimmering technicolor beauty and a ukulele. I absolutely love it. He joins folks like Ron Sexsmith, Princeton, and Beth Orton on the upcoming Crayon Angel: A Tribute to the Music of Judee Sill, due Sept 22 on American Dust; Rossen’s mom must be proud.

bensonPoised and Ready (rough version)
Brendan Benson

When Brendan Benson announced a new album last week, the tracklisting included several songs that were first unveiled as “Ruffs” back in March of 2007. Before he began recounting with the Raconteurs, his solo career gave us some of the most intelligent, sharply-crafted power-pop tunes of the last few years. Even on this rough demo version – come on, you can hear how fabulous the new album is likely to be. I was converted to Benson’s songcrafting genius through a prized series of mix CDs from a friend, all heavy on Benson’s best songs — of which there are many to choose.  My Old, Familiar Friend is out August 18th on ATO Records, and I am really looking forward to it. Now go listen to this masterpiece as well, the snappier 2005 version I vastly prefer:

The Alternative To Love – Brendan Benson

June 1, 2009

Monday Music Roundup

This weekend was a complete derailment of all intended rock-and-roll-lifestyle plans of official musical merriment, but what is late Spring all about if not sitting on patios for hours, sipping some sort of cherry juice concoction and getting sunburned? Or standing under gorgeous old trees in a backyard, barbequeing hot dogs and …bison (!). All in all, a fabulous weekend — ‘cuz summer’s almost here.

Here’s the new songs I am listening to, as we welcome June with the windows down.

hockeySong Away

Here’s my full dork disclosure. When I hear a new song I really like, I’ve been known to burn it onto a CD and listen to it on repeat all the way on the drive up to Denver on a Friday night. That’s an hour, kids — an hour of completely unrestrained overindulgence. I don’t know any other way. This is my new favorite song of the moment, from Portland’s Hockey, which boasts a little bit of Talking Heads, some classic solid pop riffs, all in a jittery danceable blast. It promises (and delivers) a truthful song over an eighties groove, with lines like “This is believe me music, this is forget me music / This is who can love me you know, this ain’t no roxy music…” — SOLD. Mind Chaos is out August 25th on Capitol.

Two Weeks of Hip Hop (Dead Prez vs. Grizzly Bear)
grizzlymashupThe Hood Internet

Since we’re on the subject of flawless summer party songs, I’m also just gonna admit that this song makes me dance around in a ridiculously white-girl, totally inappropriate manner in my kitchen, bedroom, what have you — the kind of moves that make people who can actually dance uncomfortable. The Hood Internet from Chicago takes on Grizzly Bear and Dead Prez together in one mashup, and make something completely irresistible. It’s the only time you’ll hear those sublime oceanside harmonies of “Two Weeks” with musings about who shot Biggie Smalls. Enjoy it. [img via]

Savoir Adore

My trusted friend Eryc forwarded me this press release, with heady words: “Holy crap! Have you heard this little EP? You’re gonna love it! You’re gonna blog about it! You’re gonna dry hump it!” He’s right on many of those assertions — Brooklyn’s Savoir Adore has put together a punchy, potent EP that rambles and clatters right across my speakers. Just the exuberant opening percussion parade on this song is enough to make me fall in love, even before those immense guitar riffs start drilling and the male/female vocals start enchanting. Their Machines EP is available now for free download, and their debut full-length In The Wooded Forest is due August 25th on Cantora Records (who brought us MGMT and Violens, who I love). Woot!

College Town Boy
dentmaycover-2Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele

Dainon waxed on and on about seeing this Dent May fella and his instrument of wonder at Sasquatch over Memorial Day Weekend, and anyone with coke bottle glasses and wryly ironic ditties (accompanied by most humble of idyllic stringed instruments) can earn a listen from me. This song is a note-perfect caricature of a slacker with aspirations between hanging out at the local townie bar and regretting that he never studied abroad. The Good Feeling Music Of Dent May And His Magnificent Ukulele is out now on Paw Tracks Records, and this tune was first on his charming EP A Brush With Velvet. Also – for more of Dent, check his Daytrotter session.

porloloRattle, Room

One of Colorado’s most stirring female musicians, Porlolo‘s Erin Roberts has an earthy, elegant current to her music. The latest release Meadows presents eleven orchestral folk-Americana songs that run the gamut from the bluesy “I Don’t Know” to the playfully earnest “Animals Should Live Forever.” But here over gorgeously elegiac strings and trumpets, Roberts sounds like she would be more at home in an Irish castle in a city ending with “-derry,” perhaps late at night by a flickering fire.

Before Porlolo takes off across the country next week to some big-deal cities like Chicago and NYC, Porlolo is playing this Thursday night at Denver’s Hi-Dive with Houses (adored previously) and The Wheel, and I do plan to be there, thank you.


Oh! And!! You’re welcome.

May 18, 2009

Monday Music Roundup

This weekend felt like the head-clearing kickoff of summer for me.

In addition to examining the smattering of new shoots emerging in my garden, running down green trails Saturday morning, an excellent peppered bacon breakfast with good company on Sunday morning, and Sunday twilight rooftop patio relaxin’ in Boulder, I was enraptured twice by The Bittersweets.


The Bittersweets converted me into something of a frothing-at-the-mouth missionary by Saturday morning. After leaving their Friday night show practically vibrating from the perfection of it all, I went home singing their songs in my car, to myself, loud and strong and clear. Saturday morning I started calling people, emailing those who I might be able to entice away from the sold-out Flight of the Conchords / Iron & Wine show at Red Rocks to come see The Bittersweets at Swallow Hill (sadly, a very low conversion rate).

So what was it about them that left me so rattled in all the right ways?

Well, as I told a friend on the phone shortly after waking, they kinda broke my heart and fixed it all in one night and I couldn’t breathe. Both the strength of the songwriting and the brilliant chemistry of primary songwriter Chris Meyers and lead vocalist Hannah Prater are exceptional, along with the slide guitar and harmonica of Jason Goforth rounding out the trio. “Come,” I wrote to friends. “Like Whiskeytown before anyone heard of them and before Ryan Adams started twittering about his decline. Or like Gillian Welch in a tiny tiny venue.”

They played their rootsy, honest music for a solid two hours, songs laden with plaintive lines that stopped me dead (“it’s been years, and I’m still fucked up, like some stillborn afterthought“). There were a handful of beautiful covers in there — Lucinda Williams’ “Orphan” early in the set, the sweetly wrenching “Broken Things” by Julie Miller, and towards the end of a late night, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” (Dylan) and “I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You” by Tom Waits. Tom Waits is real good at that hour.

They closed their main set with the heart-stopping rendition of “When The War is Over” that I was waiting for — but they sang it standing down in the crowd with no microphones or amps, lapsing in the middle of the song over to “Falling Slowly” as I hoped they would. You could have heard a pin drop and it felt like half the audience was swallowing back a lump. The first time I heard that song, I personally “knew” instantly that it was about a divorce and the wake left, because of the way it punched me square in the metaphorical jaw. I talked to Chris afterwards about his song, letting him know how devastatingly powerful I found it to be. “Yeah,” he said, “People always come up to me and think it’s an anti-war song, and tell me how powerful of a political statement it makes, but the war there…” he looked around over his shoulder, then leaned forward towards me, “…it’s the war of a divorce.”

The shots I took Friday night are here, so you can see a little of what I saw. GO see The Bittersweets, por favor. My handstamp from Friday said it all:


A few more “wow” tunes this week:

The Love Language

This song starts with machine -gunfire drums under a huge carnival big-top, all swirling sequined girls and fire-twirling. What a fun, perfect summer song from North Carolina’s Stu McLamb, performing as The Love Language, a band that my friend Oz at HearYa is calling his favorite new discovery. I like taking Oz’s word for things, and I think LL might be getting a fair amount of rotation from me all through these upcoming summer months. This tune is from the home-recorded, self-titled debut album. Man, there’s a lot of Voxtrot here, and, as their MySpace description says, LL sounds “like etta james kicking heroin.”

Flightless Bird, American Mouth (alternate version)
iron-and-wine-around-the-wellIron & Wine

If my sources are correct, the formidable Sam Beam played this gorgeous song at Red Rocks on Saturday night, aptly controlling the there-to-laugh crowd with “songs about God and shit.” Alongside songs like “Woman King” and a set-closing “Trapeze Swinger” — even without hearing what he played in between, I’d say that sounds like a bit of heaven. Tomorrow Iron & Wine is releasing a 23-song double disc of rarities and b-sides called Around The Well, and having had the privilege to sit with it for a few weeks, I can say that I have found so, so much to love within those quiet plucked notes and whispered truths. This version of Flightless Bird, American Mouth comes from the free collection of alternate versions of songs off 2007′s The Shepherd’s Dog, which you can download for free over on the Iron & Wine site. Go. Do it.

catfish-heavenSet in Stone
Catfish Haven

A flirty funk-guitar riff starts things off loose and happy here, and then that compelling Seventies-tastic bassline comes in. There’s a world-weary strain in the voice of lead singer George Hunter, almost as if it’s too difficult to be this earnest, this cool. Hailing from Chicago with a blisteringly boozy soul that feels more at home in the South, Catfish Haven makes my heart beat a little faster. This track is off Devastator, their third album, out now on Secretly Canadian, and one of SPIN’s best overlooked records of last year. I looked right over it, and now am circling back.

Northern Lights

I am pretty sure I first heard of North Carolina’s Bowerbirds when they collaborated with Bon Iver on tour, covering that heartbreaking Sarah Siskind song. Their 2007 debut incited John Darnielle to say they were his “favorite new band in forever” — and what’s not to love in the simplicity of the lyrics here:

And I do need the wind across my pale face. And I do need the ferns to unfurl in the spring. And I do need the grass to sway. Yes, I do need to know my place. But all I want is your eyes, in the morning as we wake, for a short while.” This is the first song off their new album Upper Air, out July 7th on Dead Oceans/Secretly Canadian. Bowerbirds are on tour with Megafaun all this summer, including a date right through Denver here during our 2009 Underground Music Showcase. Hmmm.

mallmancoverartYou’re Never Alone In New York (feat Craig Finn)
Mark Mallman

Any time Craig Finn guest stars on a track, I’m gonna want to hear it — a constant curiosity about how well his distinctive, pointed delivery works outside of the Hold Steady we love. Friends from the shared hometown of Minneapolis, Finn joins Ruby Isle frontman Mark Mallman on a track from his forthcoming solo release Invincible Criminal (Aug 11 on Badman), an album that was written “in the haunted basement of a converted church and inspired by a ghostly apparition of Elvis.” This intro is a slick, shiny song about big cities, I could tell when Craig Finn was about come in because the mood of the song shifts away from electronica and towards that meaningful-sounding swell of piano chords and then — boom. I was right. He comes in just at the right moment, bringing things back down into the dive bars and boulevards. [via P-fork]

May 4, 2009

Monday Music Roundup


Tonight after work I went down and pushed my fingers through the dark, rich-smelling soil in my little garden plot and breathed in the smell of newness on its way. I turned over the black soil with a vengeance, and added some organic fertilizer/compost stuff into it, even planting a few swaths of seeds before the sun slipped behind the peak and the wind grew cold on my damp and dirty skin. I have never ever had a garden before. Other than one notable exception, I’ve never even had much luck growing anything, ever. I feel I’ve always been totally disconnected with the simple profundity of seed to plant.

I am thoroughly, wildly, stupidly excited about this prospect before me that seems like magic right outside my door. Scarlet nantes carrots, Oregon sugar pod snow peas, Cocozelle summer squash, “Contender” beans, Farmer’s market blend mesclun lettuce, Little Gem romaine lettuce, and for good measure and sheer pleasure — Shades of Blue larkspur, snapdragons, and Sunspot sunflowers. The earth is black and soft and smells incredible. My heart is beating a faster just telling you about it.

The last two hours have been thoroughly good medicine after the week I had last week of illness and caretaking — the bastard flu that wouldn’t quit. Mostly recovered now, time spent quiet in a garden is amazingly good for the innards. Before I took sick, here are few songs that I was enjoying. While I was sick I mostly just listened to things like the theme song from The Office and The Daily Show, and that eerie vacuousness from LOST.

manchester-orchestraThe Only One
Manchester Orchestra

Over that zingy opening riff and pummeling percussion, the lyrics pop in with “I am the only one that thinks I’m going crazy and I don’t know what to do / And I am the only son of a pastor I know who does the things I do.” Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra are kids in their early twenties with a terse vibrancy and big bright punk-rock sensibilities beyond their tender years. The Paste review that I read this week claimed this track “recalled power-popsters Supergrass at their most chipper,” which of course immediately caught my attention. The new album Mean Everything To Nothing is out now, and they hit Denver next week at the Marquis, with fun supporting (the new band from The Format frontman Nate Ruess) and Oakland’s Audrye Sessions. Also — Manchester Orchestra is doing an in-store at Streetlight Records in San Jose on May 18; my old stomping grounds. Woot. Plus — Rainn Wilson loves ‘em?

Rebels In The Roses
everest1(live on Daytrotter)

Last Monday night as I lay near dying (or so it felt), the timeless Neil Young took the Denver stage at Magness Arena. Although I couldn’t make it into a standing position, I was pleased to hear that his opening act was Fuel/Friends favorite Everest, in a custom-built pairing. Everest possesses some of that great heart-on-their-sleeve lyricism with drawling country rock that Neil epitomizes. This live track was recorded recently for the excellent Daytrotter sessions, and as the band explains it is “a letter to someone that will never receive it. It’s set at Cave Hill Cemetery in Kentucky, and is the first song on Ghost Notes” — an immense album.

romanian_namesToo Much Time
John Vanderslice

Woke up on the sand and I tied up my sleeping bag…” Over a majestically orchestral opening, this newest song from John Vanderslice‘s forthcoming album Romanian Names sounds like a blazing sun rising over the San Francisco beach, strong and sure. Thanks to my recent pledge to myself to check out more JV after he wowed me in concert, I am deeply liking all the shimmering dense colors on this album. Something about this song reminds me of Nada Surf’s “The Fox,” one of the darker songs on last year’s Lucky — struggling with the weight of loss and responsibility, but still stirring and sparkling. Before setting out on tour with The Tallest Man On Earth (love him), Vanderslice is playing an in-store at SF’s Amoeba on 5/18 and then a CD release show the following night May 19th at Rickshaw Stop.

Moth’s Wings
passionpit-manners-art_210xPassion Pit

Last summer I saw Passion Pit play at the Monolith Festival, where their set shoehorned as many people as you would believe humanly possible into a tiny subterreanean dance party. Their nascent sounds then were irresistible, built largely around the addictively sped-up-crack sounds of “Sleepyhead” — a song which, once heard, will stick in your head for days. This track off their forthcoming Manners (out 5/19 on Frenchkiss) shows that there is another dimension to their uber-compelling sound.  “Moth’s Wings” feels more organic and symphonic — “you come beating like moth’s wings, spastic and violently whipping me into a storm, shaking me down to the core.” It reminds me, actually, of the shimmering, bright cascades of another Monolith standout, Pomegranates. There’s a sharp iridescence here.

3326079106-1Early Aubade
Roman Candle

I’ll end with my favorite new discovery. I should say FAVORITE in all caps.

Like the fiery sparkly namesake of the band, Chapel Hill NC’s Roman Candle explodes into my night. What I’ve heard of their upcoming third full-length Oh Tall Tree In The Ear (May 12) is one of the best new things I’ve listened to in a long while. They’ve been around since 1997 (with connections to other locals like Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary) but are new to me. And while Roman Candle is often compared in the same breath to some pretty solidly enjoyable stuff like summerteeth and good vibrations, today on this song they are all young and hungry Rolling Stones. After you’re done with this one, go listen to “Eden Was A Garden” on their MySpace, and then download the free EP on their website that I’ve listened to 24 times since yesterday. Then come back and we’ll talk about how good they are.

I didn’t know what an aubade was so I looked it up: “A poem or song of or about lovers separating at dawn; a song suggestive of morning.” What a freaking marvelous word to write a song about. Handy with a lyric, this song starts with this fine turn:

“I’d like to thank my lucky stars just for shining out tonight
like a hundred scattered eyes in the ether
I know it ain’t normal thanking stars but it ain’t normal seein’ stars
Outshine the London streetlights either.”

April 20, 2009

Monday Music Roundup


Spurred by an article I read on the Wall Street Journal site this morning about the movement to ban Comic Sans (and other “fonts of ill will”), I’ve been thinking about typefaces today. One of the hardest things about this new site was the damn typeface. Are you aware, dear reader, of the boggling array of choices one has when selecting the visual representation of their words? And that everyone’s computers may see it differently anyway?

Talking with the guys who laid out my new site often boggles my mind. They send me links to whole sites discussing typefaces, almost as if it were a fetish (is it? It is, isn’t it). They compose sentences like, “I find something pleasingly humanizing about slab-serifs.” It is a whole other world that makes my head spin. A pleasing distraction. As I threatened to them over email a few minutes ago, I am going to start dropping serious typeface knowledge at bars, and then run off with a rich font heir.

When I’m not geeking out over the appearance of my written words in this digital age, I am listening to some new tunes. Of course.

Jarvis Cocker

The first single from his second solo album, Jarvis Cocker himself (of Pulp fame, and one of my favorite smarmy smarm voices) took time to answer a few preemptive questions about the release. My favorite is: “#3 – HAS JARVIS GONE ROCK? No – but during the course of touring his last record he discovered that, with this band, he COULD rock & so he’d be a fool not to. (When the situation demanded it).” Clearly.  Further Complications was recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini while the band was in town for the Pitchfork Music Festival, and is due 5/19 on Rough Trade.

First Person
jennyJenny Owen Youngs

This slip of a track (it’s all of forty seconds) starts of Jenny Owen Youngs‘ sophomore album in completely irresistible fashion. All handclaps and ukuleles, this seems like a tune Feist could choreograph something for. Following the success of her ferociously honest Batten The Hatches, her new album Transmitter Failure (May 26, Nettwerk) is richly orchestrated, backed at times with the string section from the Spring Awakening musical (oh, I liked that post).

electric-owlsMagic Show
Electric Owls

After years fronting The Comas, Andy Herod decided (in his words) to “stop playing music for a while because being in a band was ruining my life.” He tells the story of leaving New York City, sitting late at night as a house party wound down to the strains of Neutral Milk Hotel, and how he “just started pulling out all of this old stuff and listening and remembering and learning all over again what used to really electrify my heart.” Recording with local Asheville, North Carolina musician friends under the name Electric Owls, the shimmering and authentic result is an album called Ain’t Too Bright, out on Vagrant Records on May 5. This is just what I needed today.

The Boy From Lawrence County
yonderistheclock-300x300Felice Brothers

Does anyone else think that this dude should get together with the girl from North Country? Seems obvious to me. Last year The Felice Brothers knocked me flat when they came in all whirling dervishes of accordions, wonderfully wordy lyrics, and pure undiluted joy in concert. The sophomore album Yonder Is The Clock (out now on Conor Oberst’s Team Love label) is largely a pensive, gorgeous, twilight album. This song grabbed me on the long drive home Sunday night — so resigned and wistful. It sounds like it already happened a long time ago, the quietly plucking banjo plunking like rain on a cabin’s tin roof, just starting to fall or right after the storm has passed overhead. “Roll on old silver river through the Iron Range, past the sleeping trains that wait. Gold and amber petals in your water wade.”

clem-snideBorn A Man
Clem Snide

I found myself in a conversation at the Clem Snide show on Tuesday night with my friend Luke (the wonderful illustrator responsible for that Fuel/Friends header logo above!) and we had to keep straightening out in our minds how Clem Snide is the band and Eef Barzelay is the frontman. However you say his first name, Eef is a songwriter that impresses me in the league of John Darnielle and the Decemberists — you know, the kids who could have soundtracked an SAT study party. I cleaned out the merch booth after his incisively impressive set, picking up more discs to get acquainted with his extensive catalog. Their newest album Hungry Bird (429 Records) is represented well by this vivid song that hit me the hardest during his set, with its bluesy melody that somehow manages to feel effervescent. When Eef repeated the line over and over again – “We are just bracing for the impact by loosening our limbs…”  something in my chest tightened. “Every single one of us has a kitten up a tree.”

April 13, 2009

Monday Music Roundup


I hope that your Easter looked as good as that one. We got heavy wet snow and I wore my Easter dress anyways, out of defiance (yes, I still try and get a new Spring-y dress every Easter). I am glad to report the usual arsenal of Cadbury Creme Eggs and no Peeps.

Several songs in these past days have set my blogger heart ablaze in the best way. My friend Dainon pointed out that I am on a sky kick lately when it comes to song lyrics, and I was surprised to realize that he is absolutely correct. Lately I can’t get enough of the clouds, the stars, and the atmospheric explosions.

Something in the endlessness, I think.

scoreSleep All Summer
(Crooked Fingers cover)
The National & St. Vincent

Start with the song that I’ve listened to the most these past few days, probably close to a billion times. Matt Berninger opens with the lyrics, “Weary sun, sleep tonight, go crashing into the ocean… Cut the line that ties the tide and moon, ancient and blue,” his voice vulnerably cracking just a little on the high notes. The National and St. Vincent pair up to cover Denver’s Crooked Fingers (of Eric Bachmann, Archers of Loaf), and wistfully wrench at my heart in the best way. The songwriting here made me run immediately to go research Crooked Fingers. I am thoroughly impressed with how much exceptional material Merge crammed onto their newest 20th anniversary covers bacchanalia SCORE! (and oh, it is). You can stream the full album here for a limited time, featuring folks like Ryan Adams, The Shins, Mountain Goats, Okkervil River and Bright Eyes.

I Won’t Be Found
tallestThe Tallest Man On Earth

The influence of Bob Dylan on countless young American musicians is well-worn, and almost genetically hotwired into entire generations by this point, but to find a young Swede who sounds so convincingly authentic in his folk howls and sweeping lyrical songscapes — that’s something that excites me. Kristian Matsson performs as The Tallest Man On Earth and grew up listening to rock and punk in faraway Scandinavian lands, but through Dylan he “just fell into the ocean of American folk-blues.” On this song he sings about the Serengeti, levees of stars, and growing diamonds in his chest. His album Shallow Grave is out now, and also check the twangy theme song he created for the excellent Yellow Bird Project t-shirt site for charity (I’m a happy owner of that National one).

moodyThe Sound
Human Highway

There is an effervescence and simple joy in this number from Nick Thorburn (of Islands & The Unicorns) and Jim Guthrie (Canadian musician who was also in Islands, and is Woody’s grandson). Human Highway was named after the Neil Young song (or maybe the movie), and their album Moody Motorcycle was recorded in Guthrie’s Toronto apartment over a span of two weeks. It has a spontaneous feel to it, full of humble guitar picking and familiar-feeling harmonies that would make the Everly Brothers turn their heads. It was released last summer on my birthday, but I am just discovering it now — a little burst of last summer in the final gasps of winter.

Hallie and Henry (unreleased demo)
say-hiSay Hi

There are several reasons that I can deconstruct liking this unpolished demo from Say Hi‘s Eric Elbogen, ranging from the way his slightly ragged, earnest voice reminds me here of Pete Yorn, or that restrained pulse of the guitar. But mostly? If we’re gonna be honest, I think I like this song because the intro practically begs you to bust out with “Josie’s on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over.” TRY it. Say Hi has released a fabulous album called Oohs and Aahs on Barsuk, and is currently on tour with Cloud Cult.

Layout 1Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen cover)
Lemonheads & Liv Tyler

This vocal pairing is something I can totally picture occurring in the break room of Empire Records after Rex Manning leaves, Evan’s golden hair falling over his eye as Liv puts aside her studying for a few minutes. Harvard can wait. Starlets who sing can be a very bad idea, but Liv Tyler actually has a dusky, delicate singing voice she can be proud of. Here she joins with Evan Dando’s golden, malleable croon to cover one of Leonard Cohen’s bittersweet gems of a relationship’s twilight (“let’s not talk of love or chains and things we can’t untie”). The results join covers of artists like Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Linda Perry on the forthcoming Lemonheads covers album Varshons (due June 23 on The End Records). Kate Moss also sings. The concept could go terribly awry, but I enjoyed the last Lemonheads album so much that I hold out hope.

March 30, 2009

Monday Music Roundup, Numero Group edition


Barely having caught my breath from Texas, I prepare this week to board a jet plane to Chicago for a mostly-work-related (but fun) 5 days in the Windy City. I’m going to check out a semester study program that I help coordinate and timed my visit so that I could see the Numero Group‘s hotly anticipated Eccentric Soul Revue on Saturday night. I am thoroughly excited about it, since I adore most everything that this crate-digging reissue label has discovered, dusted off, and given new life to.

When I explain the Numero Group concept to friends, I liken it to musical archaeology of the raddest order. Founded in 2003 by Ken Shipley (an old high school pal of mine), Rob Sevier and Tom Lunt, the Numero Group relentlessly explores old vinyl singles and reels of tape from groups with potential who never made it to top 40 airplay, the unnoticed and unappreciated. Their goal is to create reissue libraries of varying niche genres and of the highest caliber, and to date this library feels like “a mix of thrift shop soul, skinny tie pop, Belizean funk, and hillbilly gospel.” In my mind they are one of the coolest labels currently in existence.

I’ll be visiting the Numero Group on Wednesday to see my student’s internship placement there that I hooked up. I look so forward to seeing what goes into making one of their excellent compilation albums. If you are looking to expand your musical horizons, to be schooled (humbly) through the exhaustive liner notes on genres you never even knew existed, and to hear some of the best music that was ever forgotten, check out the Numero Group’s catalog.

Today’s Monday Music Roundup is five songs from their brilliant library, with the goal to entice you to explore them further.

Gary Charlson

From the #24 Numero release It’s All Pop! (a compilation of songs from the Missouri Titan Records label) this song starts out pretty heartfelt for a power pop song, talking about their relationship and how well they know each other over a rich golden guitar riff. Then he segues in with the winner line, “Won’t you come over so we can make out in the dark?” SAY YES, mystery girl. Gary Charlson is a forgotten Missouri power-chord winner, along with all the other artists on this charmingly effervescent (and rockin’) compilation.

Shame, Shame, Shame

Oh man, this song is bursting with explosively hot Equatorial vibrancy. One of the Cult Cargo series, Belize City Boil Up was a breathless recommendation to me several years back by a friend out on tour with a band of an entirely different type. We found common ground on this blisteringly sexy hybrid of songs from the shores of Belize, calypso, funk, disco and soul all with a dash of the exotic. Restored from their original analog, as the Numero Group is so good at doing, this cut starts with an exhortation — “You know babe, I want you to feel that!” And I do, and you will too.

young-disciplesCountry Loving Country Style
Bobby McNutt

In 1967, Allen Merry formed a youth program in East St Louis through the South End Community Center. The Young Disciples aimed to channel kids towards making (soulful funk-drenched) music instead of bad decisions, and the good-beyond-their-years results are reissued on the Eccentric Soul series album of the same name. There’s nothing country about this song, other than that the singer comes from there and laments the women in the big city — but he does it with wails and certain gyrations.

Can’t Let You Break My Heart
home-schooledThe Quantrells

Another favorite of mine from the Eccentric Soul series, the Home Schooled: ABCs of Kid Soul collection recalls groups like the Jackson 5 in their dulcet, prepubescent hit-making talent. As the album notes ask, “You know Michael, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Jackie, but what about Altyrone Deno Brown, Michael Washington, or Little Murray & the Mantics?” No, I didn’t know about those Mantics, but now I do and I am a better (more funky) woman because of it.

recording-tapWe’ve Had Enough
Arnie Love & The Lovettes

The “heavy sugar boogie” of Recording Tap from the Don’t Stop Numero series includes the fluidly hot basslines and tribal drumbeats of this up-all-night burner, minus the white bellbottoms and spangles. With the eager chorus of women here on background vocals, and those strutting bass notes that reel out and glide back in, this is for those, as Chris says, who feel the new Hercules & Love Affair album just isn’t quite dramatic enough.

Tickets are still available for Saturday night’s show at the Park West. The performers are all from the defunct Chicago soul label Twinight, which was resuscitated on the 2006 Numero compilation Eccentric Soul: Twinight’s Lunar Rotation. Some of these groups are still actively performing, while others will take the stage for the first time in 30 years. According to the Numero breakdown of Saturday, “In true revue fashion, we’ve hired Chicago’s stalwart Uptown Sound to back the entire performance and expanded their tight rhythm section to include horns, backing vocalists, and strings. The show will be preceded by an interactive slideshow of photographs by Michael L. Abramson who document the Southside soul and blues scene in the mid to late 70′s and a DJ set from The Numero Group.”

Aw, come on! I’ll be there with my new camera lens (replacement for the casualty of SXSW) and eager ears. I would imagine there might also be some dancing.

Buy your ticket to the revue.

Also — subscribe to Numero Group for the entire 2009 year on vinyl or CD. You’ve spent $100 on less.

March 23, 2009

Monday Music Roundup

[Editor’s note: While I’m somewhere between Luckenbach and Marfa today, I’ve asked my friend Dainon to write today’s Monday Music Roundup. He has superb taste. You are in good hands]


Cotton Jones Blood Red Sentimental Blues
Cotton Jones
Cotton Jones’ EPs have surfaced here and there (mostly whenever Maryland’s Michael Nau was taking breaks from his other outfit, Page France), but he finally got serious and released a full-length of this half-folky, half-psychedelic stuff earlier this year. It works better than all that came before it, too. Page France was one of those love at first listen sorts and he gets it right on this band and number, too, just in an all new way. Here, you see dust particles hanging in the sunlight. You fully expect the organ to kick in when it does. You can even feel its sepia tones.

Also, if whistling makes you happy and you know it, turn up “By Morning Light” and tap-tap-tap along to that ketchy rhythm.

Look In On Me
James Jackson Toth

jamesjacksontothRemember Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice? Maybe? James Jackson Toth spearheaded that movement but, in this music lubber’s opinion, it wasn’t entirely listenable. And his first solo album is kinda wordy and scattered, too, but, when he’s channeling early Mick Jagger, as he is here, it feels warm and right and slightly drunk. There’s a story to attach to this, too, one that involved a ridiculously great night, a morning-after walk of shame and still buzzed smiles as this song up and declared itself the perfect soundtrack of that long moment, but that’s all that needs to be said about that.

Also, try his “Beulah The Good.” It’s a different sort of fantastic, but an absolute thrill ride all the same.

samrobertsbandThem Kids
Sam Roberts

One of those Big Deals up in Canada who still hasn’t managed the same kinda success south of their border, I read someplace that this album has enough heart in it to change alla that noise right quick. Perhaps. Listening to Sam Roberts channel the energy of the Strokes here (without the silly pretense to go along with it), it’s hard not to believe that. If you’re not a giddy headbanger singing “The kids don’t know how to dance to rock ‘n roll!” by the tail end of this one, well, rewind and repeat it already. Only do it louder this time. That’s an order.

Also, the lovely “Words and Fire” deserves to land on movie soundtrack in the near future. Just saying.

Funeral Song
Laura Gibson

lauragibsonI like this description of this lovely Portland-based singer-songwriter, borrowed from Hush Records … “She couldn’t tell you what band put out what particular album in what year, but she could probably describe where she was, how she felt and what you talked about, when she first met you, or what the trees looked like the last time her heart was broken.” Laura’s voice comes from another time. Listen closely to this song and you might hear some Billie Holiday in there. Listen closer and you’ll hear a saw being played.

Her recently-released Beasts of Seasons is a disarmingly good album that seeps into your skin the more you allow it to. Her songs sound like shared secrets. She recently said she is more influenced by her books of poetry than she is other musicians; there appears to be some real truth to that.

Also? “Where Have All Your Good Words Gone?” is likely to knock you flat. Catch her when she plays with Damien Jurado at the Hi-Dive in Denver on 4/4.

mellowowlBottle Rockettes
Peter & The Wolf

You gotta love a guy (Redding Hunter) who records his own CDs, designs each cover with his own artwork (owls wearing bling necklaces are big right now) and makes his way across the US of A, playing ramshackle house parties for gas money. Fresh off 5+ shows at SXSW and currently working on something he’s wont to call his “disco record,” this song is a fast favorite off Mellow Owl, Peter and the Wolf’s latest offering. Is it enough to say this one feels like a summer’s day? Sure, there’s a lazy love story in there, too, but it comes second to the feeling of it. This one really benefits from the vocals of Moss Bailey, too, who pops up all over the album.

Also, “Trainhopper” is classic PATW: an acoustic geet, the story of some kinda gypsy wanderer and lots of those long drawn-out oooh’s to dress it up right nice.

And, just for fun, here’s Peter & The Wolf in action from a couple weeks back. This is an old one called “Silent Movies,” recorded live at KRCL 90.9 in Salt Lake City, UT, where he both managed to play one bar with a transvestite blues house band (yep) and one packed-to-the-rafters house show while he was in town.

[aw heck Dainon. You’re so hired]

March 16, 2009

Monday (SXSW) Music Roundup


In just over 36 hours I will be in Austin, Tejas for my first SXSW Music Festival. I may be a bit disoriented from my way early AM flight, blinking the bright Texas sunlight. I’ll be planning my musical attack, my strategy for eating BBQ and pacing my drinks. Marathon, not sprint, etc etc.

I was up til past 1 last night trying to scrap together some loose semblance of a schedule of bands I would be interested in seeing. Here are five brand new ones that I’ve not written about before, but that my preliminary scientific midnight musical research indicates that you might like as well.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

Just click play. Seriously.

James Brown struts and kicks again in the music of twenty-six year old Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears. This 8-piece band from Austin makes music full of things that can’t quite be expressed with words, so there’s a lot of “whoo!”s and “unh“s and fabulous call and responses. Band members also have names like Sleepy Ramirez and Big Show Varley (come on!). Out tomorrow on Lost Highway, Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is is an immense amount of fun and I just know their live show will be also.

Harold T Wilkins

There’s an effervescent shimmer to this song with distinctively David Byrnesian vocals that loop and swirl all over. Hailing from London, Fanfarlo is a band I first read about over on Bruce’s blog full of impeccable SXSW choices. The best way to experience this little gem of a song is absolutely gonna be through the kitschy video that gets it perfectly right, all blocky colors and bright lights with a timewarp gloss. This tune is one side of a split 7″ with Sleeping States, and will also be on their forthcoming full-length. Brilliant.

jack-oblivianNight Owl
Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers

Okay, wow. One thing I’ve enjoyed about prepping to go to this festival is that everyone I meet seems to have a suggestion about that band that I must see. When someone actually recommends a band called Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers (which happened at the Blitzen Trapper show Thursday), I’m inclined to listen just because of that blessedly wonderful name. Heck I want to be in that band. SPIN Magazine called Jack Yarber (Oblivian) “arguably the finest rock talent Memphis has produced since Alex Chilton,” and his music runs the crazy gamut from garage to classic pop to Chuck Berry soundalikes. His new album The Disco Outlaw is out on May 5 on Goner Records. Do the skate.

Mango Tree
angus-juliaAngus and Julia Stone

This sibling duo from Sydney, Australia has composed a stirringly lovely folk album of delicate harmonies and slowburn arrangements. Angus & Julia Stone‘s distinctive voices (his fragile and clear, hers brassy and sometimes childlike) fit together flawlessly, the result of a childhood spent singing camp-song harmonies. They recorded their 2007 Hollywood EP at the house of Fran Healy (of Travis), and he produced their debut full-length A Book Like This, released a few weeks ago on EMI.

violensViolent Sensation Descends

Zombies! The Zombies stumble into a very fashionable ’80s club where everyone has long angular bangs cut diagonal in a swoop. The music of Violens strikes me as a little new wave, a little smoky, but with good structural bones and catchy melodies under all the haze. This New-York-via-Miami four piece has a self-titled EP in stores tomorrow, and one year-end list of ’08 said, “In 1966, this alternately ominous and sparkly nugget would’ve been the No. 50 British single of the year, after the Creation’s ‘Making Time.’ It’s that good.”

And sweetheavens do you even know how many other bands I am trying to find a way to cram into my happy schedule? In a perfect world where I could clone additional little Heather Brownes to run around to shows for me, some of the folks I would like to see include:

Ben Sollee, The Boat People, Ume, M. Ward, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Starfucker, Ladyhawke, The Donkeys, Department of Eagles, Dan Auerbach, Avett Brothers, Haley Bonar, Radioclit, Eli Paperboy Reed & The True Loves, Sky Larkin, Hymns, Justin Townes Earle, The Rural Alberta Advantage, The Hold Steady, Afterhours, The Features, Grizzly Bear, Laura Gibson, Lisa Hannigan, Tori Amos (!!), These United States, Thao Nguyen And The Get Down Stay Down, The Soft Pack, BLK JKS, Emily Wells, Blind Pilot, Henry Clay People, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Lucero, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Pretty & Nice, Primal Scream, Beach House, Handsome Furs, Harlem Shakes, Here We Go Magic, The Low Anthem, Waz, The Postelles, Madi Diaz, The Ettes, Scissors For Lefty, The Felice Brothers, Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers, Tinted Windows, Future Clouds & Radar, Okkervil River, Explosions In The Sky, Deadstring Brothers, Ezra Furman & The Harpoons, Zee Avi, Say Hi, Voxtrot, and Superdrag (who has a new video and new guest blogging duties). Whew. And I’m not even done going through the calendar yet.

I’m on it.

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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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