Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls) has just released the first song off her forthcoming album of Radiohead covers, done all on her “magical ukulele.” The album will be out via her bandcamp page in late July.
Not only is this the first time I’ve been able to understand a few of these lyrics without having the look them up (love you, Thom), the effect of the ukulele is far more chilling and unsettling than I would have thought. Amanda said, “the ukulele is perfect for laying that genius [of Radiohead songs] bare. I tried to strip the songs down as far as possible without destroying them.” It’s a very interesting, dark musical arrangement for such a teensy instrument. No hula here.
If you want to buy the song, it costs 40 cents to download. As Amanda explains, “Because: 9¢ goes to Radiohead (for letting me play their song) and the remainder goes to Paypal (to cover their transaction fees).” The future of direct music?
Today we got our first listen into the solid forthcoming album of covers of Mark Mulcahy’s songs, Ciao My Shining Star, a benefit album for this wonderfully rich songwriter in his hour of financial need (his wife died, leaving him with small twins to raise).
The lead off track is an icy reworking of “All For The Best” by Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke, and we’ll get to that in a sec, but the one that caught my eye even more quickly is the new cover from The National. I’ve loved this song below for a few years now, and I am flabbergasted at how much the original just sounds like a National song now that I listen to it through that filter. I think this will be the “Sleep All Summer” of my fall – both versions are equally addictive. The closing strings on The National’s version actually caused my chest to hurt.
With the backbone of Mark Mulcahy‘s solid songwriting, this covers album looks to be one of the best ones out in 2009 (tied with Dark Was The Night). The roster of artists featured is incredible: Thom Yorke, The National, Michael Stipe, Ben Kweller, Frank Black, Liz Phair, Vic Chesnutt, Elvis Perkins, and more.
So who is Mark Mulcahy and how did he inspire so many of my favorite artists? I first heard of him through Nick Hornby’s Songbook, when he wrote, “I would have missed out on people like Mark Mulcahy, whose first album, Fathering, I bought [on the recommendation of a music shop proprietor], and played repeatedly for months. ‘Hey, Self Defeater,’ the first track … made it onto just about every compilation tape I made that year.”
Since being introduced, I have come to respect Mulcahy as a literate first-class songwriter, and this song from his band Miracle Legion first appears simple, yet is laden with ache and meaning in the smallest of moments, like watching a sibling cut grass and the overwhelming monotony of life that can imply. The jangly effect of the original reminds me quite a bit of some of my favorite things about late-80s R.E.M or The Smiths. Thom Yorke’s version is distant electronica, layered all crisp and sad and perfect.
Some people can’t get into the mashups that the young people are doing. This is not a problem that afflicts me.
I don’t tire of the Jaydiohead mixes that put Jay-Z in a mythical room with Radiohead, with the result sounding so orchestrally epic and effortlessly cool. I adored using “Fall In Step” from the previous release in my inaugural voyage as a DJ – it sounds extra-good when played over massive club speakers. This one’s ace too:
A few weeks ago, Radiohead‘s first three albums —Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995) and OK Computer (1997)— were re-released, each packaged with all kinds of fancy accouterments like bonus discs of rarities, demos and live cuts and DVDs of videos and TV performances. Full tracklists here.
I’ve got a set of all three to give away to one of you guys! As I sat in the haze of work on Friday afternoon thinking about how to best run this contest, I was gchatting with my friend Josh. He is a rather intense Radiohead fan (and in fact just made me a lovely 2-disc collection of HIS favorite rarities and live cuts).
Superfan Josh’s idea for this contest was simple: “Ask ‘em what they think the dude says at the end of the ‘Just’ video.”
So there you have it; a fascinating idea. People who can read lips may not enter, and folks that live outside the U.S. can’t win (sorry! sorry!). You have one week, til next Saturday the 18th. GO.
Later this month (April 21), Capitol/EMI will also reissue 12 Radiohead EPs on 180-gram vinyl as part of the “From The Capitol Vaults” vinyl series. I do not get to give those away, but it’s pretty cool.
This weekend I was finishing my taxes and getting it back from The Man, whilst listening to Radiohead to make the undertaking a bit less tedious.
The recording of their live set from last August echoed through my kitchen, the show where I saw em for the first time at the Outside Lands Festival in foggy San Francisco. Photographing the band from that close (under a dazzling collection of cathedral-like lights) and the superb setlist makes me smile every time I think of it.
2008 was the first year of the Outside Lands Festival, and it was a bit of a clusterfuck at times. The sound went out twice during Radiohead’s set, in one of the most surreal moments I’ve had at a concert. Imagine the most sublime wall of sound you’ve felt in years, vibrating all around you — and then complete silence. I watched the band furiously playing on, while all around us the absence of music felt thick like cotton. I joke that for a second I thought it finally happened, I finally went permanently and irreversibly deaf from all the concerting.
After the first burst of silence, Thom jokes about someone putting beer in the plug; when it happens again two songs later, a wave of discontent ripples through the crowd but then we all rose up to sing at the top of our lungs (in an excellent concert moment that still kinda warms me):
“You are all I need…you’re all I need. I’m in the middle of your picture, lying in the reeds…”
I was packed there into the masses singing along in the fog, thin sweater wrapped tight around me under the cypress trees.
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
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.
Sometimes in life you arrive at the train station to find that the express that you had counted on waiting until you got there had actually gotten weary of waiting for you, and gone ahead to pull out to the next station. And really, who can blame it?
I thought that maybe since this fantastic Radiohead show happened almost two months ago, the mp3s would be gone off most of my favorite online haunts by now — but luckily I wasn’t too late. For a variety of debatable reasons, I am just arriving to listen to it now.
D.C. travel update: After eating dinner last night with some friends at Polly’s (which I hear also fed dinner to the Raconteurs on Tuesday night), I found myself alone in this jazz club on U Street (the historic jazz district of DC). Under the heady velvet curtain of that music, it seemed like an appropriate place and time to drink alone, and I taxied home feeling sedated.
So. Your resolutions for 2006 are varied. You want to cuss less when driving. You vow to eat more whole grains, be less (embarassingly) talkative when you are intoxicated, and STOP singing along to Kelly Clarkson when she “happens” to come on the radio. Right?
How about helping children affected by war? Now there’s a resolution I can help you keep. Warchild Music’s mission is simple:
“One child dies every three minutes because of armed conflict. War Child believes children should never be affected by war. Full stop. Our campaigning seeks to address this gross injustice. Sanction action with us now.”
Back in September, I came across their compilation/benefit album Help: A Day In The Life, which is stuffed to the gills with great tracks to raise money for their organization. Includes brand new songs by Coldplay, Razorlight, Keane & Faultline, Emmanuel Jal, Gorillaz, Manic Street Preachers, The Kaiser Chiefs, Damien Rice, The Magic Numbers, Tinariwen, The Coral, Mylo, Maximo Park, Elbow, Bloc Party, Hard-FI, The Go! Team, Babyshambles, Belle & Sebastian, and George & Antony, plus these two sample tracks below:
I Want None Of This – Radiohead From the Warchild Music website: A circular piano riff with Thom accompanied by what could well be a choir of angels, ‘I Want None Of It’ is a thing of awe and wonder. In short, it’s quite, quite lovely. The lyrics deal with a parting of the ways that hasn’t gone too well: ‘You can keep what you want, I want none of it/They’re just bad memories I don’t want’. Very beautiful, very wonderful, very Radiohead.
Hello Conscience – The Zutons From the Warchild Music website: We are looking here at a brand-new, never-before-heard Zutons track in which singer Dave McCabe wrestles with his conscience over the rights and wrongs of going out drinking until you don’t know who you are or which way up you should be. By the sound of the rollicking chorus, his conscience doesn’t get a look in. With fuzzy guitars, rasping sax and a sly wink to The Smiths, you’ll be dancing to this right through the Indian summer.
You can buy it from Warchild Music online, or download it from iTunes. You can also get it on Amazon. Twenty-two varied and excellent tracks for about $12, depending on your method of purchase. Help do something good in the world to kick off the new year!
And since you asked, I made two resolutions: Take my vitamins every day, and diligently continue on my path to becoming a kick-ass drummer.
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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