August 13, 2010

Nada Surf covering Spoon


Are you aware that Nada Surf has an excellent new album of covers? If I Had A Hi-Fi came out a few months ago, after being first available only on tour at their merch booth, and is now consumable by the general intelligent public. That includes you, dear reader.

I love covers because they show the diverse range of influences on a band, and it is fascinating to hear your favorite musicians interpret another’s work. Nada Surf has chosen old and new songs from folks as varied as Kate Bush, The Go-Betweens, Depeche Mode, and The Muslims (now The Soft Pack). Matthew Caws told me about this idea back in November of 2008, and I’ve been waiting with bated breath ever since.

This Spoon cover is absolutely ace. Ira Elliot of Nada Surf is one of my favorite drummers in all of rock and roll – so feisty and precise. Here, he just makes me smile. This is a great song, and sounds marvelous filtered through Nada Surf’s harmony and clatter.

nsiihahfThe Agony of Lafitte (Spoon) – Nada Surf

There are handwritten notes from the band behind the disc tray in the CD case about each song and why they picked it. Matthew writes, “The same ‘Sylvia’ dropped us from Elektra right after we made The Proximity Effect.” Ouch.

The Agony of Lafitte – Spoon

If I Had A Hi-Fi is available now on Mardev Records.

[top photo credit the superb Peter Ellenby in SF]

October 12, 2007

New from Nada Surf: “See These Bones”

Hey, Friday afternoon inbox surprises don’t get much better than this bolt out of the clear blue sky: a brand new song from New York trio Nada Surf!

“See These Bones” is a layered, lovely, mid-tempo tune that just builds and grows as it ambles along, with lots of backing vocal “oooooohs” and shimmery guitar melodies. This is the final track on their forthcoming 5th album LUCKY, which will be out on Barsuk Records on February 5, 2008.

It’ll be the follow-up to 2005′s elegant, eloquent, melodic indie-pop of The Weight Is A Gift. The new album features artists such as Ben Gibbard (who I think I hear on this track, no?), John Roderick of The Long Winters, Ed Harcourt, and guitarist Phil Wandscher of Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter (whom I will be seeing open for Josh Ritter this Thursday in Boulder). I am excited for this; the sample is a nice way to start the weekend.

See These Bones – Nada Surf

10/13 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
10/15 Columbus, OH – Basement
10/16 Cincinnati, OH – 20th Century
10/17 Louisville, KY – Jim Porters
10/18 Indianapolis, IN – Birdy’s
10/19 Chicago, IL – Schubas
10/20 Chicago, IL – Schubas
10/22 St. Louis, MO – Gargoyle Club
10/23 Nashville, TN – Exit Inn
10/24 Birmingham, AL – Bottle Tree
10/26 Tampa, FL State – Theatre
10/27 St. Augustine, FL РCaf̩ Eleven
10/29 Athens, GA – 40 Watt Club
10/30 Asheville, NC – Orange Peel
10/31 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
11/1 Charlottesville, VA – Satellite Ballroom – UVA
11/2 Baltimore, MD – 8 x 10

The week before the album comes out, they’ll also play some fine little acoustic shows down the West Coast and then hop over to NYC:

1/30 Seattle, WA – The Triple Door (acoustic)
1/31 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge (acoustic)
2/2 San Francisco, CA – Swedish American Hall (acoustic)
2/7 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg

[photo credit Peter Ellenby]

March 27, 2007

Look ma! I’m a rock photographer!

If I could go back to my high school days and do one of those job shadow days again, instead of choosing a doctor or lawyer I’d pick to shadow a rock photographer. BUT WAIT. I recently got a glimpse of that good life, courtesy of Peter Ellenby, Noise Pop photographer extraordinaire, as you may recall.

Peter just sent me the results, and here are a few of the shots that I took with my own unsure hands. I think it’s the coolest thing ever and love the way they turned out.

March 6, 2007

Noise Pop: “I’m nervous when I’m near you, as if I have fallen ill”

Saturday night at the Rickshaw Stop was a beyond-sold-out affair of tightly wound and very playful tunes. The club is smaller than some yuppies’ garages, all draped in red velvet fabric and strung up with globe lights with a stage barely elevated above the heads of the voluminous crowd. The indie kids turned out full force in their Vans, leggings, chunky glasses and skinny jeans, ready to dance. Featuring sets by The Old-Fashioned Way, The Changes, Dios (Malos) and capped by The Spinto Band, this was one show I was most excited about at Noise Pop. I was not disappointed.

The Old-Fashioned Way opened with an enjoyable set, and had the quirky dork-rock vibe down to a T. Their music was multi-instrumental and lighthearted. I jotted in my little notebook (yes, I took notes. With so many shows, my memory ain’t what it used to be) that they sounded a bit like the rumbly baritone of Nick Cave meets the playful music and harmonies of Mates of State. There were seven members packing the tiny stage, with most of the girls in frocks that looked handmade and a frontman that defied typical lead-singer stereotypes.

Before the set by The Changes, I was flagged down by Noise Pop photographer Peter Ellenby, whose work I’ve written about here. He asked me to photograph the next set for him and handed over his camera.

I was a rock photographer for a spell, and was ridiculously excited, as that is a job I have long thought would be so interesting and cool. I perched atop a piano by the stage and happily started clicking. If only I had known better how to operate all the bells and whistles on the camera, I could have possibly done some neat things, but as it was I told Peter that I’d be happy if even one or two shots turned out worth keeping. I was so thrilled to get to try.

The music from Chicago’s The Changes is infectiously good power-pop with hummable choruses and jangly guitars. I am expecting their album Today Is Tonight in the mail shortly, which was recorded at the same Chicago studio as The Redwalls. I hear a little bit of similarities in the vibe of the two bands, and I am looking forward to enjoying the entire album.

VIDEO: The Changes, “Water Of The Gods

I was expecting a lot from Dios (Malos). They’d performed an acoustic set earlier in the day at the Noise Pop Expo, which I heard was amazing, and I’ve heartily liked all the studio material I’ve spun from them. They took the stage illuminated only by a garage-variety shoplight behind them, which lent the set an eerie backlit vibe and cast monstrous shadows (which were fun to watch).

Their performance was good but unfortunately not great, with the flow often interrupted by friends of theirs climbing on stage, or discussion about what to play next. I selfishly wished they had been a little tighter as they ripped through their set because they really are a quality band (with an animated drummer that I adore). Check his entirely translucent blue drumset:

VIDEO: Dios Malos

Spinto Band
finally took the stage around 11:30, and they were jittery and spastic and insane. Made me nervous just to watch them, but in a good way, as if the stage could barely constrain their need-Ritalin exuberance. As they set up their instruments, I felt like we were preparing for a high-school battle of the bands, but despite their unassuming and freshfaced looks, these kids have all the pieces in order and definitely know how to rock a crowd.

They launched straight into “Crack The Whip” which is my favorite song off their excellent 2006 album Nice and Nicely Done, and it was all pleasantly upbeat sailing from there. Check this video from later in their set:

VIDEO: Spinto Band

I’d shell out to see each of these bands again, they were awesome. What a night.

January 23, 2007

Your favorite rock photography

As I was standing in line at the post office yesterday to mail out some goodies, among them the CDs for the Lucinda contest winners, I remembered that I have one other contest in motion that I need to settle up – the Peter Ellenby photography book winner.

The contest asked for you guys to submit a link to your favorite rock photograph. The images you submitted gave me chills, and in fact that was my primary indicator of who should win — my initial gut reaction. Chills or no chills? This one did it for me:

So, why is Tom is the winner with this picture? I have a theory that sometimes a woman’s eye (the photographer here is Alyssa Scheinson) can capture a moment in a unique way. There is a breathless impact to this shot — the sensual way the light plays off Harvey’s skin without seeming sleazy, and the warm glow of the yellow in contrast with her edgy punk look – it just fascinated me visually.

Here were two runners-up that I also really liked:

Slush writes: Billy Bragg, 42nd st, NYC, 1984One of my favorites; Billy Bragg reaching to the masses on 42nd st New York City, oddly enough on 9/11, 1984. This is sort of the opposite of the Springsteen shot. It’s music stripped down to it’s essential elements; just a bloke, his guitar and something important to say. Obviously love the quizzical looks from the passers by, and the way Billy is looking up at the sky. It takes courage to put yourself out there!

The title of this was “clashfullthrottle.jpg” and as Adam writes: “I think the name of the file says it all.


Even if you didn’t win, I still highly recommend this book and bonus CD: Every Day Is Saturday. If you are perchance a New York-type, Ellenby has a gallery opening with images from the book and a special acoustic show with Nada Surf on Thursday, February 1st from 6 – 8 PM at Brooklyn’s Nelson Hancock Gallery. The show will run throughout the month of February and sounds very cool.

I Turn My Camera On (John McEntire remix) – Spoon
From the Sister Jack CD Single

January 11, 2007

New Noise Pop Festival confirmations & NEW Contest

The 15th annual Noise Pop Festival takes over the city by the bay (San Francisco) February 27 to March 4th. They’ve just announced some new confirmations to an already stellar lineup, bringing the current list of performers to:

Roky Erickson and The Explosives
The Ponys
The Dandy Warhols
Jolie Holland
The Donnas
Ted Leo And The Pharmacists
Josh Ritter
Richard Swift
Ghostland Observatory
Vic Chesnutt
Lyrics Born
John Vanderslice
Spinto Band


I am hoping to possibly come out for Noise Pop: My sister just got a job at Stanford and will surely need some help unpacking and getting settled and what better way to get settled than to see a bunch of awesome shows! Logical.

I wrote about Peter Ellenby’s new book of rock photography, Every Day Is Saturday. I got the book for Christmas and I can categorically say that is awesome, one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while.

The photographs open new ways of seeing bands I thought I knew, give insight into the artists pictured, and illuminate the vibrant music scene that comes from and passes through the San Francisco area.

The commentary accompanying the photographs, by author Christopher Slater, is top notch — taking you behind the scenes of the pictures in the book in a very engaging fashion, and filling in the reader on the music world in San Francisco for the last 15 years. The segments documenting the rise of the Noise Pop festival, and Peter Ellenby’s role as un/official Noise Pop photographer, are required reading. Here’s an excerpt:

Noise Pop and the success of Ellenby’s photographs opened up a much larger world for him, both professionally and personally:

“I really met a whole lot of people. We had so much fun doing this thing [the early Noise Pop festivals]. I mean, it was totally exhausting, but it was the catalyst. I realized, this is exactly what I want to be doing. Going to the shows, seeing amazing bands, finding new amazing bands, meeting new amazing people, meeting my wife. It’s not just about music and photography — it’s about friendship and all this other stuff.

And it all started that weekend. I think it was four days. You know, like when you hear a song and say, ‘I’ve been waiting for this song forever.’ Or when you meet your soulmate, it’s like, ‘This is what I love.’ It’s so great to finally find that.”

That beautiful passion comes through in this book, and frankly made me want to pick up a camera and learn how the heck to use it.

After seeing the faces of all these bands that I somehow missed and never heard, I also found myself curious about their music — then I remembered that the book comes with a sampler CD of just that, tucked in the back. Fantastic soundtrack for a second reading.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, I have one extra copy of the book and CD to give away, thanks to a shipping snafu from Amazon. I don’t usually run two contests at once, but since I am closing up that Lucinda contest on Friday (great entries, folks), I figured we’d start this one up.

To win the Peter Ellenby photography book, leave me a comment with a link to view your favorite concert photo on the web. Doesn’t have to be one you took, but you can upload your own if that’s your choice. For example, mine would be this.

A little tricky of a contest, I know, but I hope to get some good visual responses. Also make sure I have a way to contact you if you want to win. I’ll run this through next Thursday (Jan 18). Oh, and since I have to pay for shipping this one myself, only US peeps can win. Sorry, my lovely and respected international brethren.

December 20, 2006

Gift book idea for the cool kid on your list: Every Day Is Saturday

Here’s something my coffee table lacks this Christmas: A new book of photography by San Francisco’s Peter Ellenby called Every Day is Saturday, documenting the meteorical rise and rocking shows of many artists within the “indie rock scene.” Considering it is accompanied by a mix CD (with folks like Grandaddy, Death Cab for Cutie, American Music Club, Rogue Wave, The Wedding Present, and many of the other bands featured in the book) it’s available for a mere pittance at $17.

I mentioned Ellenby a few months ago because of his fine photographic coverage of the Rogue Wave benefit concert in SF that you may remember me talking up, and I like what I’ve seen of his work — his eye for a good shot. I love rock photography, and how could I personally not adore a rock photographer who says that “his favorite places in the world are the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco“?

Some of the folks he’s photographed that appear in this book are: Beastie Boys, Bob Mould, Bright Eyes, The Donnas, Earlimart, The Fastbacks, The Flaming Lips, The Foo Fighters, Ivy, John Lee Hooker, John Vanderslice (bottom), Les Claypool, Matt Nathanson, Mike Watt (left), Modest Mouse, Nada Surf, Neko Case, Red House Painters, Sebadoh and more . . .

Also contributing to the book were John Doe (from the band X) and Tim Scanlin (remember Addicted To Noise?), and a fine SF writer named Christopher Slater. When I first read it I thought it said Christian Slater and I was gonna get excited and go all Pump Up The Volume on you. But it’s actually not him. Worthy nonetheless.



November 1, 2006

The OC does it again / Rogue Wave update

I don’t watch The OC (well, maybe once out of morbid curiousity, plus it’s totally no good anymore since Marissa died, right?) but they have a pretty solid history when it comes to the soundtrack mixes that they put out, and the upcoming #6 is no exception.

This album is a inventive bunch of indie rockers covering indie rockers, including some covers of songs that are barely old enough to drive yet, much less be considered for cover material. I am looking forward to hearing these.

OC Mix 6: Covering Our Tracks
Goldspot – “Float On” (Modest Mouse)
Rock Kills Kid – “I Turn My Camera On” (Spoon)
Lady Sovereign – “Pretty Vacant” (The Sex Pistols)
Mates of State – “California” (Phantom Planet)
Pinback – “Wasted” (Black Flag)
John Paul White – “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” (ELO)
Rogue Wave – “Debaser” (The Pixies)
Syd Matters – “Hello Sunshine” (Super Furry Animals)
Tally Hall – “Smile Like You Mean It” (The Killers)
The M’s – “Come Into Our Room” (Clinic)
Band Of Horses – “The End’s Not Near” (The New Year)
Chris Holmes – “Into Dust” (Mazzy Star)

Here’s a live version of San Francisco’s Rogue Wave covering “Debaser” on 8/11/06 in Boston:

Debaser” (Pixies cover) – Rogue Wave

And speaking of Rogue Wave, that benefit a few weeks ago for drummer Pat Spurgeon was a sold-out home run success, thanks in part to those of you readers who contributed to the fund and the other bloggers who responded to my call to post up a little something about the fundraiser. Every little bit definitely helped.

The band writes, “Thanks to everyone who came out to see us this September, and thanks to all of those who donated to the Pat fund. We have raised a lot of money to help Pat through this difficult time, and you are a huge part of that.

For those of you who couldn’t make it out to the benefit show in San Francisco, here is a little video recap of the night.

In addition, world famous rock photographer Peter Ellenby photographically documented the night (shown here), and you can purchase copies of his prints here. All proceeds will be donated to Pat.”

Thanks, kids. You rock.

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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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