March 9, 2009

Mile-Hi Monday Music Roundup (SXSW Party announcement!)

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Something different for the Monday Music Roundup this week: Seven songs from the seven Colorado bands that we are presenting at SXSW for our first Mile-Hi Fidelity day party!

A bunch of my favorite Colorado people are getting together to throw y’all a nice little fiesta with some of the finest tunes being made in our state. We will also ply you with free drinks, and the famed Gigbot Photobooth will be there (free high-quality hipster Glamour Shots of you and all your friends!). We plan to rock it. Please do come by and say hello on Friday, and take a listen here today.

King Arthur – The Epilogues
Starting with a very enthusiastic countdown, this Epilogues track hints at the sound of the brother-fronted Denver band: dark but danceable, brooding but melodic.

Twice My Weight – Meese
Just saw the new Meese album performed live last week (my Denver Post photo essay here), and it sounds catchy as hell, all glitchy hooks and fraternal harmonies. As Julio says, “call me crazy, but I could see a number of songs off of their forthcoming album on one of those Gossip Girl (in a good way) type shows at the part when the main couple in the show are about to break things off, but they decide to give it another go by having an intense makeout sesh.”

Red Orange Yellow – The Photo Atlas

The Denver dance-punk phenoms The Photo Atlas released their debut album on the hip and happenin’ Stolen Transmission label, founded by the fascinating Sarah “Ultragrrl” Lewitinn. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen them live; I look forward to pogoing around a bit on a Friday afternoon.

When I Was In The Fire – Young Coyotes
I don’t even know what I need to say about Young Coyotes that hasn’t already been proclaimed from the rooftops. Despite a personnel change and a new coyote in the fold, they still have the shout-out-loud exuberance, shimmery songs, and heart-thumping percussion that made me want to run away with them the first time I saw them, back at the Underground Music Showcase last summer.

Anthem – Born In The Flood
I saw Born In The Flood open for Kings of Leon two years back, and I was mightily impressed. You can hear why they were such a good match to share the stage with KOL here on this song– an anthem worth blasting loud, indeed. They also won our Denver Post Underground Music Showcase that summer, and keep getting better. En fuego!

Who’d Stop The Rain – Dressy Bessy
Part of the Elephant Six Collective, Dressy Bessy is fronted by a ferocious guitar-wielding female who reminds me of quietly-foxy Daphne on Scooby Doo (it’s the boots?). A Dressy Bessy show is bold, hollering, snappy fun from start to finish.

Hey Hope – Overcasters
Formed from members of half-a-dozen other Denver bands, The Overcasters have an otherworldly grip on the stage when they play, all haunting echo, reverb, and an undercurrent of elegant melody. We’ll end the day with their set, which one Denver music fan wrote is all “volume and beauty … in equal parts, oil lamp projecting trippy colours behind them. Your clothes vibrated, the rest of the world melted away and you were immersed in pure sound, a make-you-smile-for-hours great sound.”

We hope to make you smile for hours. See you next Friday.

*****

Also… since we’re talking about my favorite Young Coyotes, tomorrow they have two new EPs for sale! On March 10th, you can get both five-song EPs for digital download on Brother Bear Records.

The Basement EP consists of five tracks previously recorded in the band’s basement. The Exhale EP contains all new material recorded at Coupe Studios in Boulder, CO. Both EPs will be available for sale at all major online retailers and Basement will also be available for free download (!) on the band’s website. Sounds like:

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[Mile-Hi Fidelity poster by "Denver icon of rock" Jonathan Till]

March 2, 2009

Monday SXSW Music Roundup

sxsw-2009

So the countdown has begun in earnest to my first SXSW. I know, right? How did it take me this long to go? In past years I’ve focused on festivals in other regions (UMS Denver, Noise Pop SF, Coachella, etc) and wound up without the money or wherewithal to trek to Texas.

This year, we change that.

Two weeks from Wednesday, I hop a plane to Austin. I couldn’t be more excited, or more overwhelmed. There will be a showcase that Fuel/Friends is helping to present (details forthcoming) and lots of great parties and showcases that I am anticipating. In addition, I’ll be helping out with an actual panel (!!), so come see me if you are attending the conference portion.

I downloaded two torrents full o’ music from SXSW Showcasing Artists and have been slowly working my way through them all weekend. Here are five from the bazillion that first caught my ear as artists that I will want to keep my wits about me for to try and make their shows. Even if you’re not going to Austin, have a listen to five I love:

vijay-kishoreNeverEnds
Vijay Kishore

The stream of music can be numbing after the first hundred, but this song just absolutely stopped me in my tracks, dead, heartworn. Web information tells me that Vijay Kishore is from Birmingham, England, but all I know is that the gorgeous falsetto and high lonesome drone of his voice sounds uncannily like an incarnation of Thom Yorke or Jeff Buckley, from an Indian gentleman with a shaved head. I have nothing else to say, except that I have chills. He’s playing a ton at SXSW, including an official showcase Thursday night at Creekside.



Wave and Water
gano1Gordon Gano and the Ryan Brothers
Lead Violent Femme takes to the airwaves again with this song that could probably be on all your summer mixtapes. Over a barely-contained funky guitar line and shiny brass melodies that echo Cake, Gordon Gano brings that same dry delivery to his latest (catchy) creation. I didn’t know he was at it again, didn’t know he’d be at SXSW (late Thursday at the Parish Downstairs).



elemeno-pBaby Come On
Elemeno P

This song makes me feel dizzily and joyously confused. I first heard it tonight when I was putting dishes away and lordy I think I nearly dropped a glass or two from the force of my spontaneous dancing. There’s yelling like those snappy street gangs in Broadway musicals, a huge marching drum beat, and melody for pogoing to. Elemeno P is from New Zealand and theirs will undoubtedly be a fabulously fun show (not sure when they’re playing yet).



Eager To Sail
wine-and-revolutionWine And Revolution

My experience with wine is often that it leads me into thick sleepiness, and distinctly not revolution, but this Austin band would like to encourage me otherwise. From listening to this selection, it seems as if they wish me to travel with them through a long line of good sounding influences, from the Kinks to Voxtrot, and have a lot of fun while I’m at it — to which I say, “okay.” Wine and Revolution is playing a handful of shows Wednesday and Friday.



radioclitKamphopo
Radioclit

I’ve read a lot about Malawian artist Esau Mwamwaya and the Radioclit DJ duo on Gorilla vs Bear over the last year or so, and always smile at the joyous African-inflected dance creations that they often release free into the world. This cut builds Southeast-African rhythms & words over music from Architecture in Helsinki. Radioclit preserves an earthy connection with their music while featuring folks like M.I.A. and Santogold on some fabulously sweaty-fun remixes. It’s where I’ll be midnight Thursday, in the Beauty Bar Backyard.



So…who’s on the early flight out of Denver Wednesday morning on Southwest?

February 9, 2009

Monday Music Roundup

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Ah, Radiohead, you win.

I did in fact watch most of the Grammys last night in between sorting mail and promo CDs and going through bills. It was that riveting. And just like when I cried last year when Kanye started singing ’bout his mama, I also cried this year when Jennifer Hudson sang (so sad), and just like last year I was also left largely disaffected by the pop music industry in general. Except Radiohead. I actually yelped –out loud– during their performance of 15 Step, watching the faces of the USC kids pound their big drums so ferociously. That is easily the single most electrifying performance I’ve seen on the Grammys. And now I want to travel somewhere, anywhere, and see Radiohead again. Bless their hearts. [watch and listen]

That, and I couldn’t help but noticing in the Memorial montage that a guy named Pervis died this year and I really feel that should be the new hipster baby name because it’s awesome.





La musica nuova:

vox-jaguarsSwagger
The Vox Jaguars

These kids play with, well, a swagger and a band name that sums up what it’s like to be 19 and bursting with confidence. I heard The Vox Jaguars over on Some Velvet Blog, all fuzz and scowl and garage rock, replete with fake British accents asking, “wot?”. They’re also from the coastal town of Santa Cruz, just over the hill from where I grew up. Two are in high school still, which I guess means they go to San Lorenzo Valley or Harbor High. Weird. They have an EP out tomorrow on Anodyne Records, home to the Meat Puppets — and they show fun and promising verve.





bon-iverThe Park (Feist cover)
Bon Iver

There’s a sensual and spine-tingling mournfulness in this cover (from a live session on Triple-J radio in Australia) that reminds me so very much of Jeff Buckley taking on the sweet and mournful sorrow of Nina Simone’s “Lilac Wine.” It’s unexpected, and uncanny.





illinoisMissing Piece
Illinois

This unadorned song sounds like someone sitting up at an old piano on your grandparents’ sunporch, the honeyed notes floating through the air and swirling around with the dust motes. Evocative very much of Ben Kweller’s prettiest numbers, our protagonist wonders here if he is someone’s missing piece. I guess you never know until you try. Illinois is still not from Illinois, but they are giving away all kinds of free music leading up to their new album The Adventures of Kid Catastrophe on May 5th. Check out the other goodness.





beasts-of-seasonsSpirited
Laura Gibson

Redolent with a richness in her warble that feels more at home in the 1930s than today, Laura Gibson‘s music feels very grounded and a bit otherworldly all at once. I’d like to see her play with Elvis Perkins in Dearland because they are some sort of soul siblings and might not know it yet but omg. She is actually on tour in the coming months with Juana Molina and also Fuel favorites Blind Pilot (but only for the SLC stop!). Her new album Beasts of Seasons is out February 24th on Hush Records.





tourart1940 (Submarines cover)
The Morning Benders

Berkeley’s Morning Benders bring their pleasing super-sunny pop harmonies to Denver next Saturday, and in a charming little gesture with their tourmates The Submarines, they’ve each covered one another’s work and released it for free to the adoring fans. I like the way this song takes a minute to get its training wheels straight and rolling on the merry way, with the hints of Sixties psychedelica throughout.



January 26, 2009

Monday Music Roundup (+ contest!)

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One night last week when I should have already been asleep, instead I sat up in bed scrolling through Failblog archives and absolutely dying laughing. Along with the FYP blog (for example: omg), Failblog is my new favorite — for reasons like this or this, or this or this.

That’ll start your Monday off right; so will these songs.

Hospital Bed
Seabear

The opening violin stirrings of this song are breathlessly gorgeous, heart-stoppingly so. After the condensed symphony of the first seconds, it transforms into la-la-las and quiet plucking and patter that sounds like rain on the cabin roof on that one night, so black, during the storm. I could hear you breathing.
Seabear is from Iceland, and this song is off their 2007 album The Ghost That Carried Us Away [and brought to my attention by this fine set of ears]

Help I’m Alive
Metric

I posted this last week as part of that gigantic hour-long mp3 from my set at the Larimer Lounge, but it is such a fantastic song that it deserves a starring role. Emily Haines is a sometimes-member of Broken Social Scene and Metric, in addition to putting out solid solo albums. Make no mistake, this is a kickass girl-rock moment on par with the riffs of Veruca Salt’s “Volcano Girls,” with the danceability of Blondie and Hello Stranger. Over the shadowy industrial chugging there bursts a golden sheen of ’80s rock and snarl. My favorite, favorite part comes at 1:17 — one of the absolute best moments in a song I’ve heard in months. Listen/try to sit still. You can’t. You’ll dance. This is the leadoff track from the forthcoming 2009 release Fantasies.

A Song For Milton Feher
Richard Swift

I saw Mr. Swift open for Wilco on the blessed day that they converted me to raving lunatic fan. I remember being impressed by his toe-tapping poppy, piano-based compilations and huge head of curly hair. Apparently Milton Feher is a classical dancer, and I have no idea what this song is on about, but it’s a catchy blend of sunny pop sensibilities and synthesizers. This track was first on Swift’s free EP Ground Trouble Jaw last year, and will also be featured on the forthcoming full-length The Atlantic Ocean (both via Secretly Canadian). [thanks Bruce]

Black Lung
Cedarwell

I love the homespun charm in this song, the way it sounds like it’s being recorded in someone’s kitchen. The double-tracked vocals have a shimmering air of transparency that reminds me of Bon Iver’s home projects. Cedarwell is a man named Eric Neave from Wisconsin, and there’s a pretty little breakdown at the end with campfire clapping that always makes me smile. Find a dozen more songs for download on his site, with a donation suggested. Thoroughly lovely. [via MOKB].

Back From Exile
Nickel Eye

While The Strokes continue to consider offering us a new album, bassist Nikolai Fraiture has become the latest Stroke to embark on a side journey with his band Nickel Eye (get it? Nikolai?). The album brings old poems of Nikolai’s to musical life, and features Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Regina Spektor.

CONTEST: You can win one of these autographed 7″s I’ve got (pictured below on my kitchen table, “Brandy of the Damned” b/w “Back From Exile”) just by leaving a comment for me. Discuss Strokes side projects if you wish, or something else I will find entertaining, and I will pick two random winners. Contest runs through the end of this week, and the Nickel Eye album (The Time of Assassins) is out tomorrow on Rykodisc.

nickel-eye-single

January 12, 2009

Monday Music Roundup

tiger-and-piglets-two

The cunning, evil piglets run to the tiger, smothering her with their small hooves and short snouts. Made weak by the cuteness of the piglets (and undoubtedly aware of the fact that she is only making the situation worse by being in the picture herself), she reaches out her paw, licking her lips, grasping for an errant piglet she can stuff in her mouth. That would really ruin the moment, she thinks to herself, desperate for some way – any way – out of this moment of terrifying cross-species affection.

I find the Fuck You, Penguin blog entirely hilarious,  even if I’ll admit to feeling a little shy about admitting it. Really, you think you’re too good to let animals “say” funny things and make you laugh, but you’re dead wrong.

When I’m not looking at tiny cute monkeys and stuff this week, I’ve been listening to some electrifyingly good music:

Fall In Step
Jaydiohead

Last week, a mash-up artist called Minty Fresh Beats unleashed an entire (undoubtedly illegal) album of Jay-Z/Radiohead blends that kiiind of has been rocking my world all week. Before he gets arrested and the files expunged from the internet, you need to go listen to that kickass opening to “15 Step” with Jay-Z’s “ah, ah, yeah, whoo!” and then the shattering fragmentation of the beat that makes my head spin around. I haven’t yet been able to listen to this without smiling. The whole album is inspired and near-flawless.

You Can Be Timeless
Henry Clay People

The formula may be one we know: the slow start, the ragged heartfelt vocals, the muted power chords and then — the explosion and the crush of hot summer nights and a rebel vibrancy. Henry Clay People remind me of The Hold Steady and Springsteen and there, I’ve said it. I cannot stop listening to their fresh take on themes we all know so well and a language I speak fluently. Signed to the Autumn Tone label (Aquarium Drunkard) and opening for Airborne Toxic Event in these next few months (including Feb 23 at Denver’s Bluebird), this is a band I am totally gonna investigate more. Hot dang. For Cheap Or For Free is out now.

Nothing To Worry About
Peter Bjorn & John

How charming; the whistling Swedes have tapped the same children’s choir as Justice’s D.A.N.C.E. (a fact I may have arguably made up just now, but certainly sounds true).  In another “wow, the internet is weird” moment, the first song off the new album from superstar-whistlers Peter Bjorn & John was leaked via Kanye West’s blog last week, and as Kanye says, “SHIT IS DOPE!! DRUMS ARE CRAZY AND I LIKE THE KIDS ON THE HOOK…LOL!!!… The new PB&J album Living Things will be out at the end of March, and this hugely stomping song sounds nothing like the young folks ditty. Peter Bjorn & John were also just announced on the initial SXSW lineup — and it looks like I will be making the trek to Austin this year for the first time! Suggestions on BBQ are now being accepted.

Five Years Time
Noah And The Whale

In a pleasant mixing of your memories of Sunday School stories, Noah And The Whale scramble tales of divine intervention with that whistling you’re not getting this time around from Peter Bjorn & John. Over a sparkly effervescent ukulele, this band from Twickenham, England just charmed my pants off and made me clap my hands. Wow, that sounds like an odd predicament to be in. This song is all fun fun fun, love love love, and sunshine — and despite the message of “in five years time, I may not know you,” they want to drink and laugh in the park with you today. Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down is out now and they’re hitting the UK in March.

World Without End (live on HearYa)
A.A. Bondy

A friend who makes cooler mix CDs than me just included an A.A. Bondy track on his year-end retrospective and it perked my ears up with the thick melancholy authenticity. Bondy is the former frontman of Verbena, and this track comes to us free and clear from the excellent Hear Ya Sessions compilation (those in-studio DIYers who taped Samantha Crain at the end of the summer). I’m reminded here of the simplicity of the Avett Brothers — a rawness, and the ability to eviscerate with very few words: “and now you are broken, and I am less,” followed by a bittersweet harmonica of a thousand walking-aways. Just off a fall tour with the Felice Brothers, Bondy’s American Hearts is out now on Fat Possum (and there’s a free Daytrotter session here).

December 8, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

I went skiing this weekend, a rare occurrence for me despite living in Colorado. My body doth protest heartily today, after using muscles near-forgotten. I am a novice skier but by the end of the day Saturday I was hitting a stride where I wasn’t fighting against the giant contraptions buckled to my feet and I could just glide down the mountain (almost) naturally. It felt at times like flying, silently.

It was a gorgeous day and occasionally the sun would break through the clouds and shimmer across Lake Dillon in the distance. Even though I was listening to things like The Strokes and The Darkness, I couldn’t help but think of the Josh Ritter lyric, “The lake was a diamond in the valley’s hand.” A few times I stopped dumbfounded on the edge of the run and said out loud to no one in particular, “Man alive, that’s gorgeous” — all I have is a cell phone snap that doesn’t do it justice.


We also saw a free Girl Talk concert outside at Keystone Friday night (part of the impetus for the original trip) and it was short but fantastic. Gillis could have held the stage for another two hours and I think we would have all been happy as cold little clams. Due to the fact that we were dancing outside on snow, it never got as hot and sweaty as your standard Girl Talk concert, leaving us all wanting more and more.

Here are a few new tunes in these waning weeks of the year:

Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus

This is a fantastically sloppy, raucous track from Jersey’s Titus Andronicus. Like the band’s live shows, the song is loose and unhinged, with frustrated lyrics about the creative pressures like “throw my guitar down on the floor, no one cares what I’ve got to say anymore.” Frontman Patrick Stickles vows to write his masterpiece another day, but it sounds like they capture a fine visceral slice of their lives right at this moment. The band is named for the bloodiest of Shakespeare’s plays, and the re-release of their debut album The Airing of Grievances is due January 19 (XL Recordings). They hit the road next month with Los Campesinos!.

Headin’ Inside
Surf City
A dear friend is currently out of these snowy Colorado climes and spending a month in New Zealand and Australia. She regales me with emails about how humid it is there, while I am watching snow twirl outside my window right this minute. Fittingly, in the dead of winter New Zealand band Surf City (formerly Kill Surf City) brings a hot and feisty slice of July back into my music life this week. With an opening riff that sounds like the Jesus & Mary Chain channeling Dick Dale, they tie up the classic pop sound with “the simple structure meets raw energy” of punk. Their self-titled EP is out now on Morr Music.

Hurtin’ You
Ben Kweller

Deep within Ben Kweller‘s gawky indie-rocker heart, which normally beats with sublime pop harmonies and sunny construction, there lies a downhome country fella. We’ve heard hints of it spun marvelously in 2006′s self-titled album and more recently on his How Ya Lookin’, Southbound? EP. But this new slide-guitar laden song from his forthcoming Changing Horses full length (ATO Records, February ’09) just consummates the ongoing flirtation once and for all. And I’m glad.

Overcome
Juliette Commagére
One of the coolest girls ever to wield a keytar, the fearless Juliette Commagére fronts the L.A. band Hello Stranger, sometimes in knee-high red boots. Now embarking on a solo jaunt, Juliette gives me chills in the opening moments of this pristine song with cascading harmonies that sound more at home in a Tibetan monastery, but then breaks into a fine, loud Blondie-type rock. Ry Cooder guests on her enticing album Queens Die Proudly, out now on Aeronaut Records.

Girl Ain’t Preggers
Grampall Jookabox

The world might be a better place if every song came complete with a video game where you can jump over babies while the song discusses the protagonist’s conflicting feelings about the girl not being pregnant (starting with “I need some money right now, I can’t pay for no baby,” then moving into a surprisingly sentimental line of thinking about how cute tiny baby hands are, and ending with, “Don’t it make you feel bad that the girl ain’t preggers?“). Despite two of my guy friends each feeding over 25 babies on this game and being praised for their superior parenting skills, I regret to inform that I kept landing on the babies. Sigh. Grampall Jookabox‘s new album Ropechain is out now on Asthmatic Kitty.

November 24, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

As excited as I am to bust out my near-expert turkey skillz this week, I kinda hate late November. Around this time of year I suffer from unrelenting twinges of anxiety every time I listen to part of a new album, because great is my worry about excluding a late-year release for consideration as one of my favorites of the year. What if I just don’t know it yet, and mistake that for not loving it? Will I adore it come February? What kind of a huckster am I?!

I’m reprising my talking head role (like Max Headroom) on NPR’s World Cafe this year, and I am so aware of all the wonderful music this year held, and the inverse proportion to my amount of listening time. Sigh. I think I have 8 of the 10 favorites nailed down with two dark horse spots left to be filled. Wish me luck. What are your favorites of the year?

A few more tunes from 2008 that are very good:

City of Electric Light
Chad VanGaalen

The opening lines of this song are among my favorite this month: “And I thought you were the moon in the sky, but it turned out you were just a streetlight, you were burning like a hole in the night.” Ah, the old story of mistaken identity; an error that many of us make. This track traces the journey from infatuation to disillusionment, and uses what sounds like xylophones. You cannot go wrong. Calgary’s Chad VanGaalen makes shiny, multi-instrumental homespun recordings, with his newest release Soft Airplane out now on Sub Pop.

Not The One
Francois Virot
My NYC friend Cara posted this track from Francois Virot out of Lyon, France, saying that he had a “sort of shambolic happiness, a violent acoustic guitar player type. he’s got the right kind of crazy going on in his voice.” I love the torrent of strumming acoustic guitar as percussion, and the way he flirts with an untamed edge throughout this song. As he repeats, “It’s over now; I’m not the one, not the one, not the one…” it’s as if he is primarily trying to convince himself. Virot has a bunch of tour dates coming up, but mostly all in France. My brother is teaching English in Calais for the year, so maybe he can scrape together the funds to see this guy — this kind of passion would be amazing live. Yes or No is out now through Red Eye Distro.

To Ohio
The Low Anthem
Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, The Low Anthem has made a fantastic album that friend Bruce says sounds like a night ride home in Joni Mitchell’s car. That’s the best way I’ve heard yet to capture what this song feels like, from a band who hand silk-screens their CDs with love and says their ethos is “not entirely jaded yet: music that really is music, not an advertisement. Imagine that.” Citing influences in the vein of Dylan, The Band, Tom Waits and Neil Young, they vacillate between stripped-down acoustic arrangements and a more rollicking jam that echoes modern contemporaries like The Felice Brothers. The female vocal harmonies on this song also add such a warm and bittersweet undertone. The band is currently unsigned, and their album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin is out now.

The State I Am In (live on BBC)
Belle and Sebastian
From 1996-2001, Glasgow’s twee extraordinaires Belle & Sebastian recorded five sessions at the BBC for folks like John Peel, Mark Radcliffe, and Steve Lamacq, and they are now releasing this look into their early years as a band. If it’s possible for the songs to take on an even more vulnerable timbre, they do here. I enjoy hearing the intimacy of these sessions, the acoustic takes on favorites, and the four previously unreleased songs. The BBC Sessions is out now as double-disc on Matador (second disc is a live gig from Belfast in 2001).

GMF
The Features

In 2005, I fell in love with the awkward indie pop of Nashville’s The Features, with their song “Blow It Out” (celebrating sitting between a pair of speakers and playing vinyl very loud) making it onto pretty much every mixtape I created that year. This first single from their new album Some Kind of Salvation pulses with darker textures, and surprisingly reminds me more of The Killers. How did that happen? It’s an interesting development for this ebullient band.

November 4, 2008

Monday Music Roundup, Tuesday edition

On this rather historic U.S. election day, I can almost feel the crackle of excitement in the air around town. I am pleased with this. I am excited for people getting involved and for the sense of personal commitment and ability to make a difference. As the wise Italian hip-hop sage Jovanotti once said in his song “Dal Basso” with Michael Franti: “tutto nasce dal basso (e poi va su)” — all change is birthed from the bottom (and then rises up). Let’s go out and do it.

The music of the week for me includes:

Black Rice
Women

As demonstrated at their scuzzy-loud, pop-layered, feedback-drenched show last night in Denver, there aren’t actually any women in this Canadian band. They are, however, engaged in a fierce battle for “Worst Band Name To Google, Ever.” Currently Air and Bread hold the title, but Cake and Spoon are close behind. Nice try, Women. Their self-titled debut album (out now on Flemish Eye) was recorded by labelmate Chad VanGaalen, and possesses a delightfully unclassifiable combo of ’50s reverb, Warhol’s art experimentation, and ’90s spaceyness. The night seemed abuzz with folks wondering who this band was.

Steal Away
Murder by Death
It is not possible to hear this song and deny that the spirit of the Man In Black is back walking among us in fresh new incarnations. The moniker Murder By Death sounds vaguely emo, but actually they take their name from the 1976 Neil Simon/Robert Moore movie. This four-piece from Indiana turns an inventive and melancholic ear to their craft to create a uniquely brooding blend of creatively dark Americana. Red Of Tooth And Claw is their fourth album, their first on Vagrant Records, and the excellent Eric caused me to take a closer look at them when he wrote that it’s “full of fatally-doomed antebellum romance and directly descended from the Southern gothic tradition.” Yes.

Wicked
Blitzen Trapper
Currently on tour with Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and his Jicks, Portland’s Blitzen Trapper comes through Denver later this week in support of their rad Sub Pop debut Furr. The title track is one of the loveliest songs to add to my playlist in recent months, and one creative friend wrote that it “makes me well up like I am watching that movie about sled dogs by disney,” a description that amused me greatly. This previously unreleased tune from BT carries on a bit of that wild playfulness, and can be found on the soundtrack to the movie adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke, which also includes the 2004 Ben Kweller song “The Rules,” and a Doors cover by Nicole Atkins & The Sea.

The Sun Smells Too Loud
Mogwai
The sweeping cinematic grandeur of Scottish band Mogwai will take the willing off onto mental escapades, much like what Sigur Ros does for me. The last I heard from Mogwai they were weaving their atmospherically gorgeous contribution to the Zidane documentary, but the newest free Matador Records sampler highlights this cut off their sixth album The Hawk Is Howling. It is dizzying like a bright sun, elegant in the build and cascade.

Good Arms vs. Bad Arms (live)
Frightened Rabbit

As I’ll probably sum up in some sort of end-of-the-year retrospective, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit put on one of my top 5 shows this year. Some might shy from the guttingly brutal lyrics in their introspective-but-ferocious songs chronicling the death of a relationship, but I’ll jump in. I’ll do the catharsis, and they do it so well. Frightened Rabbit have a new live album out now on FatCat UK called Liver! Lung! FR!, which is an unconventional but fitting title for a band that eviscerates me like this. This version of Good Arms vs Bad Arms is slower, sadder and somehow more beautiful than the album version. It sounds almost like a eulogy, and in a way I guess it is.

October 27, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

No two ways about it — I’m pretty proud of those Halloween carving adventure results. First time I ever tried one of those fancy kit things with tracing wheels and all (mine is on the right), and I still popped the eyeball out of the left eye and had to tape it back on (shhhh, don’t tell). Since we always used dull carving knives and grabbed the gooey innards with our bare hands when we were kids, I felt a little out of my element when handed mini saws and ridged plastic scrapers. But what I lack in inborn creativity, I make up for in being able to trace.

I also solidified my costume this weekend at the Buffalo Exchange secondhand shop in Capitol Hill (Denver) with my friend Laurie. When she screamed and then died laughing after I tried said element on, I knew it was a keeper. My mom took out a needle and thread yesterday to make some alterations to the dress (because she is the best mom ever) and I am set. Boo!

Music for this week:

If You Want Blood (AC/DC cover)
Mark Kozelek

Gathering a wide variety of covers from his days with Red House Painters and also his solo career, Mark Kozelek is releasing The Finally LP on December 9th. Always staggering in the ways he reinvents originals, many of the tracks collected here were first featured on compilation albums that are no longer available. If you know me at all, you might know that I am a sucker for covers (and love his) so I will be picking this one up. AC/DC never sounded so pensive, so sensual, so sad. Listen to his previously unreleased cover of Husker Du’s “Celebrated Summer” here, and pre-order the record on his Caldo Verde imprint.

Fresh Feeling (live in 2005)
Eels
This song takes me back vividly to a perfectly encapsulated feeling of, well, freshness. Possibility. Old paint peeling and new horizons suddenly coming into sharp focus. I never tire of the the sweet melancholic strings combining with the crispness of the sharp clean beat. This live version of Fresh Feeling is from Manchester in 2005, and part of a free 4-song EP for download on the Eels website as part of a promotion for the new Blinking Lights deluxe version. Lately I’ve been quite impressed with Eels reissues and special collections – the packaging and liner notes alone are a journey. And since I’ve never caught E live, I can always use more free live Eels. You have until tomorrow to go and get it!

Born In The ’80s
The Boat People

While I watched Game 1 of the World Series, Bruce from Philly and I were electronically bantering, and he recommended I check out The Boat People from Brisbane and Melbourne. Their music is jaunty and bright and catchy – like Phantom Planet and the cousin Coconut Records. Even though the song talks about being born in the Eighties (and they likely were) don’t let it mislead you — the music isn’t bound to that decade. Their album Chandeliers is out now, with colors and lines on that wonderful cover art that echo the feel of the music inside.

Black White
The Raveonettes
Julio feels nauseous when he thinks about how effortlessly cool Danish duo The Raveonettes are, and listening to this new attitude-laden slowburner from their fresh Beauty Dies EP makes me jealous as well. All I know is that when they make a movie of my life I kinda want a scene where I get to walk down the street with this playing. I will probably wear sunglasses. In keeping with their vibe, this feels like such a stark, spacious song while vibrating with those warm surf-retro guitar tones. So sexy. Stream the full EP here, it came out last week on Vice Records.

Duet (with Ray LaMontagne)
Rachel Yamagata

So one more song featuring Ray’s warm voice before I head out the door to his show in a few minutes — and this is an incredible tune that has knocked me flat. The duet here is from Rachel Yamagata‘s new album Elephants… Teeth Sinking Into Heart, and it is exceptional. One of my favorite Ray moments falls within the nakedness of early renditions of “Can I Stay,” and this feels like its musical twin, or its postscript. Yamagata’s voice has innate qualities that have always reminded me of a female Ray (or perhaps the sadness wound deeply into Lisa Hannigan’s songs). Now the twain shall meet in this flawless, delicate, intimate bedroom classic.

October 13, 2008

Monday Music Roundup

This last week I started twittering. Suddenly all the small moments in my life are memorialized in 140 characters or less. So now in addition to being able to keep up with what some of my favorite real-life friends are doing RIGHT THIS MINUTE, I’ve also laughed daily at the twitter feed of writer Joshua Green Allen aka fireland. I don’t know him for reals but I first read about him over on Heather’s Dooce blog, and he turns out to live up in Denver. Now, my Denver is never as fun as his Denver, but now I can chuckle at his twitter feeds like: “First time I’ve ever been fired for sexual harassment during a job interview, but your sick gams ARE my biggest managerial weakness.”

Allen also penned a great article about the perfect length for a song, and posits that it “had to be closer to three minutes than two, but definitely shorter than three minutes. Three minutes is where bloat starts to set in. Where the band thinks: Hey, let’s do the chorus seven times. Hey, let’s give the saxophone guy a real moment to shine on this one. Hey, let’s add another bridge.”

He goes on to give some love to The La’s “There She Goes” as the ultimately perfect song of that perfect length. In sum, a man after my own heart. Listen to the 2:42 muxtape too if you’re in an abbreviated mood.

Music for this week:

Pop Song
Starfucker

This Portland band played on Saturday at Denver’s Hi-Dive but I was literally still trying to thaw under my comforter from a freezing afternoon attempting to understand Australian Rules Football in a friend’s tournament over at the Air Force Academy. Starfucker rocked the joint, and I dozed cozily. But I’ll bet the cool kids there enjoyed their sound — sexy but not sleazy, light but with an undercurrent of electronic grime. I think this song should have played in Empire Records; it’s got that mid-90s innocence and pop heft. Starfucker’s self-titled debut is out now on Badman, and their cover of Madonna’s “Burnin’ Up” is also streaming on RCRDLBL. Worth noting, they are neither the NIN song nor the Belgian band of the same name, but apparently this recreational hobby seems to be hitting its stride.

Balloons (Foals cover) - Holy Fuck
Balloons (original) – Foals
Hey, while we’re already using words that make my mom blush, let’s throw this little nugget in here as well. This week Foals and Holy Fuck released a collaboration/mutual admiration society 12″ where they each covered one of the other’s songs. These dudes both played Monolith, so I like to picture them sitting down at the oxygen bar and coming up with this idea amidst the red rocks. It could happen. To get the vice-versa cover (Super Inuit), click here. The split 12″ is out now on white vinyl via Young Turks, or on their tour(s).

Satanic Messiah
Mountain Goats

As I write this Sunday night (35° outside!), I’ve been listening to Mountain Goats on shuffle while I pack and go through stuff I’d rather not look through in prep for moving this next weekend. The poetic ache of Darnielle’s lyrics, his indignation and passion keep these songs on repeat. The newly-released Satanic Messiah EP is not Darnielle’s foray into black metal but rather a lovely 4-song acoustic collection with religious metaphor themes (not uncommon in his songs). Of these songs, Darnielle writes, “I am fond of them; they remind me of old vanished things.” This particular tune is ostensibly about going to see a show or performance, and how “we were all made young when he stepped onto the stage, like an animal escaping from his cage,” and then sings about how they all were “too dazed to leave when it was over.” Mountain Goats play Denver on Friday night with Kaki King, and I’m going to hope for something similar.

I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover)
Denison Witmer
No, really. Listen to this cover, even if you haven’t given Bonnie Raitt much thought since you (like my sister) sang this song in Pops Choir in high school. Philadelphia folk artist Denison Witmer loves covers as much as I do, and he’s taken to releasing a whole slew of them for free in his achingly stripped-down style. Through his MySpace and a partnership with the ace Cover Lay Down blog, Denison has been giving away free songs on a regular basis, including ones originally by Band of Horses, Oasis, Van Morrison and Red House Painters. This particular one is my favorite of the batch. It starts with a settling in a room; you can hear the grey empty space starkly bouncing back his plaintive, resigned voice. It is an absolutely devastating song, and especially the way he does it — all void and defeated. Witmer’s new album Carry The Weight is out November 11th, and side project alert: check out his River Bends band with Steve Yutzey-Burkey of The Swimmers.

Urban Lull (At Once Charmed)
The Umbrella Sequence
I’ve said it before, but our local community college radio station is one of the best I’ve ever listened to. They have turned my ears on to so many things that I previously missed, like The Umbrella Sequence from Minneapolis. This song came over my car speakers the other day and I was instantly addicted and turned it way up. With sunshiney chiming pop melodies that fight valiantly (and occasionally win) through a scratchy wall of fuzz and electronica, they garner comparisons to Flaming Lips and Super Furry Animals. This is the lead-off track from last year’s Events (on Princess Records), and like a good aspiring rock star, Ryan Rupprecht sings over and over “We’re all getting bored” — but no, I am definitely not. Great song.

OH, A CLOSING PLEA: Help me think of fabulous Halloween costume ideas, potentially surrounding a long red dress with marvelous sequin trim I found in my basement? I also have a red feather boa, if that helps (or perhaps doesn’t). Or suggest something completely different. I’ll probably be at the Girl Talk show first that night, so I could go dressed as a hipster in neon sunglasses.

Or just this, I suppose. That would be amazing. [via]

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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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