So you think you know your rock history? Or do you just want to see how little you actually know? Newsweek has a wicked hard Rock ‘n’ Roll Quiz. It’s probably the worst that this nerd has ever done on a test (52% score), but it is extremely entertaining if you like the minutiae of musical history. Fun sound clips throughout, too, so turn down those speakers at work before you start the quiz — I mean, before you start working on that, uh, important spreadsheet, boss.
And as usual, here are 5 songs that have kept me company this past week:
The Black Keys
The boys of The Black Keys have parted with the Fat Possum label (but not before leaving them with a nice ‘lil EP of Junior Kimbrough covers) and joined Nonesuch Records, thrashing through their unique Hendrixesque garage-blues sound for a new disc, Magic Potion, due out in September. It’s heavy and wonderful, with a casual, loose, calling-out-key-changes-across-the-garage feel to it. They just finished a short tour opening for Radiohead — I guess their job was to exhaust the Radiohead fans before Thom Yorke and crew come and sing them into relaxed & hazy happy-land. The Black Keys also have more tour dates coming up, those are some I would check out.
The Minus 5
There is a jangly, shimmery, indie-bluegrass-rock sound to this track, with more than a passing resemblance to the wavering honesty of The Shins or Band of Horses. The Minus 5 is helmed by songwriter Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows), who is joined here by friends such as Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), and Ken Stringfellow (The Posies), among others. From the self-titled 2006 disc (so-called “The Gun Album“) on Yep Roc Records.
A friend and I spent some time re-dissecting the Clerks soundtrack last year, and one of the best efforts on that disc is by Golden Smog (a cover of Bad Company’s “Shooting Star”). I don’t recall us knowing then who, exactly, was in Golden Smog but now I know that it is a mixed blend of Gary Louris & Marc Perlman (The Jayhawks), Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run), Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco, again!). This offering is a warm mid-tempo song from their upcoming album Another Fine Day (out on Lost Highway Records, July 18th).
“Supermassive Black Hole“
I just had not had the time to listen to Muse (even though they were running an ad over there, stage right). Then my cousin Alan posted an uber-enthusiastic status update on Facebook (I know, why doth the Facebook have such power over me?) wherein he raved about Muse. He recommended I check out several of their tracks while he tries in vain to contain his excitement before their concert in San Francisco tomorrow night. I completely love this song – a heavy arse-shakin’ blend of interesting sonic electronica and superfun stadium rock (a la the falsetto swagger of Eagles of Death Metal). From Black Holes and Revelations, released last week.
“A Lifetime in Heat“
A very persistent reader kept sending me little blurbs about this band. I finally got a chance to listen to them – and I am glad she was so tireless! (Takes a while sometimes with me). Guggenheim Grotto is an Irish trio reminiscent of a blend of the intelligent composition of Badly Drawn Boy with the loveliness of Damien Rice or the backyard-hammock drifting of Iron & Wine. Their 2005 album Waltzing Alone is available on eMusic, and their Lifetime In Heat EP is downloadable in full from their website. Nic Harcourt from KCRW called this “one of the most beautiful records of the year,” and my peeps over at NPR’s World Cafe/WXPN have been spinning them as one of their “Artists of the Week.”