January 23, 2011

i am flying on a star into a meteor tonight


The next song from R.E.M.‘s forthcoming Collapse Into Now will be played in the UK tomorrow, but leaked into the superfan internet pool this weekend through an accidental (?) posting on the Warner Brothers’ Records site.

The song follows a man wandering in a darkened Berlin (“we walk the streets to feel the ground“) looking at the lights all around, surrounded by people but choking on an alienation that echoes the faceless grey-flannel subway-rider daysleeping vibe I get from their album Up. There is a turbulent ache and distance in this song as he sings “well I don’t mind repeating: i am not complete. I have never been the gifted type.”

Musically this is absolutely a return to the form of the R.E.M. that I deeply love. A friend sent me this with the subject line “welcome back to 1994,” and without trying to resurrect an era, R.E.M. have done something classic yet fresh on this one. There will always be that piercing twang and divine jangle that the boys from Athens can do better than anyone else. I do feel like I am hurtling in the night sky as I sit and listen to this on repeat.

i know, i know, i know what I am chasing
i know, i know, i know that this is changing me

I am flying on a star into a meteor tonight
I am flying on a star, a star, a star
I will make it through the day and then the day becomes the night

I will make it through the night.

STREAM: Uberlin – R.E.M.

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The Murmers message boards are pretty unanimous in echoing my reaction to this song, with one person calling it the best R.E.M. song in ten years, and a succinctly awesome fella just saying: “Dont need any help to cry but these lines have just thrown a serious curveball to an REM cynic like me. Cried. Like a baby. Literally. Fuck you Stipe.”

220px-R.E.M._-_Collapse_into_NowCollapse Into Now will be R.E.M.’s fifteenth studio album (how is that possible?!), and is out March 8th.

EDIT: “Oh My Heart” is also completely, thoroughly breathtaking. Sweet, sad, and true.

Oh my.

[top image: engraving of the Perseids from the 1800s]

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June 30, 2010

Fuel/Friends R.E.M. premiere: “Good Advices” demo

REM - Fables Of The Reconstruction - bw photo - Ed Colver

In 1985, R.E.M. were young lads preparing to record their third studio album in London in winter, far from the warm verdant tangle of Georgia. Twenty-five years later (!!) Capitol Records is digitally remastering Fables of the Reconstruction, and releasing it on July 13th along with a companion disc of the demos containing R.E.M.’s original vision for the album, rich in storytelling. Peter Buck also penned some new liner notes.

R.E.M. is teaming up with blogs to unveil exclusive streams of the remasters and the demos. Here is Fuel/Friends’ exclusive, a new look at a bit of mid-80s nostalgia from a band I heartily love:

REM - Fables Of The Reconstruction - 25th Anniversary 2CD cover artSTREAM: Good Advices (demo)

This demo version of the penultimate song on the album finds Stipe’s vocals more meandering (think “Cuyahoga”) than the focused jangling tune that eventually made it to the album. I never tire of how demos reveal new layers of the narrative we know; the reissue double disc also includes one never-before-heard demo for a song called “Throw Those Trolls Away.”

I am pleased that R.E.M.’s earlier work is getting cleaned up shiny and new, and how can we believe that it’s been 25 years? I hope Life’s Rich Pageant is next – I still have that one on vinyl.

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November 5, 2008

When I was young and full of grace and spirited, a rattlesnake

R.E.M. in Santiago last night:

(“I Believe,” from one of my favorite R.E.M. albums, the whole of which is very fitting today)

Yesterday, I voted for change, and today I am inspired, excited and full of hope for our country. As I poured my coffee, I found myself thinking about what I could specifically do to get involved in what lies ahead.

As one inspiring man was quoted as saying in our local paper, “I hope everybody can say, ‘What can I do?’ instead of ‘What do I get?‘”

[thanks c]

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June 18, 2008

The insurgency began and you missed it

R.E.M. had a little help tonight at their encore in Philly; Eddie Vedder joined them (and Johnny Marr) onstage to sing the excellent “Begin the Begin.” So many great shows happening from both artists lately, to see them together would be astounding. Until video surfaces (edit: here), I’m gonna have to imagine it went something like this:

[video from 2004, the mutual admiration society continues]

UPDATE: mp3 from last night!
Begin the Begin (live in Philly 6/18/08) – R.E.M. and Eddie Vedder

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November 19, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

Ah, MySpace, why do you sucketh my time so?

Bleary eyed, I am emerging from a quickly-passed hour on MySpace to begin writing this post on Sunday night; I’ve been looking up people I went to high school with because my 10-year HS reunion is this Friday out in Campbell, California. Yes, our class (1997) was a little lazy and we didn’t get anything organized until now, about 5 months after the actual anniversary date of the blessed graduation day. We all vowed to K.I.T. and never change and stay sweet (S.W.A.K. of course); I am pleased to report that we have all, in fact, changed.

Looking at people’s profiles, sometimes it’s shocking to stare at a face and then suddenly like one of those 3-D pictures where the image jumps out at you, go “Oh my gosh! That’s ____!” All these far-flung jobs, babies, spouses, organizations, not to mention new haircolors, different sizes now, better fashion sense — all these things should make Friday night a total mind trip. I am looking forward to it.
Well, that and the karaoke.

I feel like I should go make a 1997 high-school memories playlist, but won’t subject you to it. New tunes:

Arm Twister
The Tripwires

Like a rough-edged Beatles track lost in the vaults, or something from a Sunday drive with Chuck Berry (who they also cover on their album) this pleasantly powerpopped-out track from Seattle’s The Tripwires features a lot of connections to bands we love ’round these parts. Members of the Minus 5, The Young Fresh Fellows, Screaming Trees and REM cooperate here to make some mightily pleasing sounds. Count me a fan of the crunchy guitar, the layers of harmonies, and the pitch-perfect ’60s rock sensibilities. Makes You Look Around is their current album, just out last week on Portland’s Paisley Pop label.

Like A Vibration
The Whigs
Stream the new plugged-in album version: Windows [Lo] [Hi]
Quicktime [
Lo] [Hi]
or if you need an mp3
Like A Vibration (live on MOKB)
Oooh, these guys rock. I wrote about The Whigs last year with their fantastic song “Technology”, when they were a wee unsigned fledgling band. Now they’ve gone and hooked up with ATO and are prepping to release their first album with them, Mission Control, due January 22. Definitely stream the album version of this song — kinda like a Replacements-meets-Pavement yowly-howly vibe here, all fuzz and aggression, but with a strong melody. In order to stretch and include them in the mp3 roundup, I got the acoustic live version above too from Dodge’s awesome in-studio session with The Whigs earlier this year. The Whigs will be heading out on tour with Johnathan Rice and The Redwalls in the next few weeks.

We Don’t Talk Like We Used To
Elliot Randall

This dude opened for Roger Clyne at the formidably barn-like Slim’s this last weekend in San Francisco, and he’s also on the new KFOG Local Scene CD along with Fuel-favorite Ryan Auffenberg
[KFOG’s podcast on Elliot here]. My friend Brad Kava at the Mercury News said of Randall’s 2007 album Take The Fall that it “flies below the radar but could take off at any minute… A little bit country, a little bit Elliott Smith.” This cut is a slowburn little gem of bittersweet harmonies that reminds me of Ryan Adam’s duet tunes with Norah Jones like “Dear John.” In fact, whoever’s doing backing vocals here sounds a lot like her. Lovely and sad, tear in your beer stuff. Note: Elliot is definitely not the same grizzled guy with a similar name from Steely Dan; according to this Elliot’s MySpace, we share a birthday three years apart — he just turned a mere 25 on August 19. Sounds like he’s lived more than just those years, don’t it?

Wave of Mutilation (Pixies cover)
Joy Zipper

There’s a fantastic new Pixies covers jamboree out on the very cool, always vinyl-loving American Laundromat Records. These are the same folks that brought us the 7″ vinyl series and the High School Reunion soundtrack covers album. This new covers album Dig For Fire: A Tribute To The Pixies features artists well-known and otherwise, but the variety just serves to highlight how well the original songs were constructed. This version of “Wave of Mutilation” loves being done by a girl-fronted band, all loud and fuzzy like the Breeders’ second coming. Joy Zipper is a guy-girl duo from NYC and I dig em like The Raveonettes — absolutely go check out their song “Go Tell The World” on their MySpace. Yum. Other artists on the Pixies comp that I’ve written about before are OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mogwai and Dylan At The Movies. ALR also has an interesting-sounding album of female artists covering Neil Young due in early 2008. I am never let down by their offerings.

Changing Your Mind
Bob Schneider

Lest you think I gave ole Bob the short end of the nasty stick with my recent show review, allow me to suggest this soul-flaying unreleased tune from him. This just goes to show that when he’s good, he’s really good. This pure, achingly vulnerable track is one that he performed in Denver, and listening again to the full studio treatment of it just does something to my heart. I also located a live mp3 of that song I quoted at the end of the show review, I’ll be adding that up shortly. So worth delving into.

July 7, 2007

New songs from R.E.M. rehearsals in Dublin, 6/30/07

R.E.M. gave Irish fans a fantastic treat this last week by playing five shows at the historical Olympia Theatre (the oldest theatre in Dublin), calling the shows working rehearsals of new material for their next album. All in all, ten new songs were debuted in this first night’s show (June 30, 2007) and they sound really strong to these R.E.M.-loving ears.

One of the best of the new batch is “Until The Day Is Done,” because it’s reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite R.E.M. songs, “Sweetness Follows.” Several of the new songs (“Horse to Water,” “Staring Down . . .”) have a sort of a fervent Monster-era feel to them; this is good in my book, Monster remains one of my favorite R.E.M. albums.

Continuing this theme of Heather’s Favorites, the encore also contains two of my favorite songs from New Adventures in Hi-Fi: “New Test Leper” (man, what a fantastic, gorgeous, sad-sounding song) and “Electrolite” is simply magnificent — a pure and wonderful singalong.

Olympia Theatre, 6/30/07
Living Well (new)
Staring Down the Barrel of the Middle Distance (new)
Second Guessing
Mr. Richards (new)
Houston (new)
On the Fly (new)
Letter Never Sent
Man Sized Wreath (new)
Little America
Until the Day is Done (new)
Maps and Legends
Disguised (new)
Accelerate (new)
Horse to Water (new)

These Days
New Test Leper
I’m Gonna DJ At The End Of The World


Photos credit remhq.com and
this gal. Also check out this review from The Independent (UK).

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April 23, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

I was stoked Saturday morning when I read about a program called Tangerine! that automatically analyzes the songs in your iTunes library for beats per minute (BPM) and then allows you to make playlists based on beats. I’ve been looking for something exactly like this that will give me the right beats for running different speeds. I’ve been addicted to lengthening the amount of time I run lately (thanks new shoes!) and always delight in finding the perfect song for the MPH I am going – my feet strike the ground with the drumbeat and compel me to stick with it.

My sheer unbounded joy turned to dejection when I saw that Tangerine is currently only for Macs. Boo for me. Does anyone know of websites or tools for creating running playlists based on the speed you are running? I have quite a few tunes that I personally have learned are the perfect speed for running (Pearl Jam’s “Undone” is my current fave), but would LOVE to cull my collection for other candidates. Lemme know what works for you?

Here are some tunes which may or may not work for running.
They’re all worth a listen:

Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights
Ike Reilly Assassination
The new album from Ike Reilly, We Belong To The Staggering Evening (May 8, Rock Ridge Music), is very securely in my frontrunners for Best-Of 2007. I’ve been spinning it at high volumes all weekend long and this is one fantastic album: full of bluesy, boozy, humid, rock riffs and intelligent, biting, evocative, rough-and-tumble lyrics that make me want to take off with Ike through the desert on the run from the cops, with a knowing glance between us and the windows down.

This song starts like a old-time automatic piano in a dusty Western bar somewhere, then busts into a full and marvelous scorcher. Ike sings his heart out, with lines like, “It’s those lies you tell that make me wanna be your lover, the crime in your eyes makes me wanna run for cover, the storm in your thighs makes it all feel right . . . ahh those charcoal days and those sterling nights…” I had a ridiculously difficult time selecting which track to feature since they are all so different and excellent – a single track cannot do justice to the album. I literally went back and forth for over an hour here. Depending on the tune, you get the wide-open anthems of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, the ambitious pop harmonies of Oasis, and the bluesy back-porch swampy harmonica of a generation past. Preorder this album immediately.

Ooh Girl
Red Button
A delightful reader who turned me on the to the best Cotton Mather b-side I’ve heard (“Heaven’s Helping”) returns to my inbox with a fantastic power pop tune from Los Angeles-based Red Button, the project of Seth Swirsky (who has written songs for everyone from Rufus Wainwright to Al Green) and Mike Ruekberg (who scored the indie film Dummy with Adrien Brody). From the lush string opener that echoes Eleanor Rigby, on into the jangly harmonies, I love the unabashed goodness of this little gem. The album is called She’s About To Cross My Mind — it’s 11 songs in 33 minutes. You can sample their other tunes on their website, and how’s this for a ringing endorsement: “If The Red Button had beeen around in the ’60s when I was producing, I would have signed them to EMI.” – Norm “Hurricane” Smith, Beatles engineer (1962-1966) and record producer (Pink Floyd, The Zombies) for EMI. Delicious.

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Five-Eight feat. Michael Stipe
This CD was released last month with barely a ripple, but it celebrates an amazing evening in Athens, Georgia musical culture. On September 12 of last year, local musicans gathered at the 40 Watt Club in Athens for a big party — and to record covers of a variety of R.E.M. tunes as a benefit.

Turns out four members performing that night didn’t need to rehearse any of the songs: R.E.M. was in town for their induction into Georgia’s Music Hall of Fame, and joined in on several tunes. This version is rough and fast, almost punk — a joyous ending to a fantastic evening. Net proceeds from Finest Worksongs benefits Community Connection of Northeast Georgia and Family Connection/Communities in Schools, so it’s a great album for a good cause.

The Harder They Come
(Jimmy Cliff cover)

Pat MacDonald
Speaking of good causes, the Bridging The Distance compilation was released last week on Arena Rock Recording Co. as a benefit for p:ear which works with transitional youth in Portland, Oregon. Very interesting song choices to cover – ranging from Fleetwood Mac and Yes songs to Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, and even Sam Cooke – from a variety of bands like The Decemberists, Chris Walla (of DCFC), The Minus 5, The Dandy Warhols, and this guy who may or may not be the same Pat MacDonald whose future is so bright he’s gotta wear shades. A pulsating, fuzzy, supersonic cover of the ’70s reggae Jimmy Cliff classic.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy (yep. for real)
Ian Hunter
I’ve been listening to this cheesy ’70s rock winner all weekend because I see that Ian Hunter has a new album coming out in a few weeks. Former Mott the Hoople frontman struck guilty gold in my book with this song, from the opening cockney “Allo” and the Wayne’s World-worthy guitar solo in the middle (also unfortunately covered by Great White in the ’80s). Nothing on the new album can touch the playful dance-around-and-shake-it goodness of this. Ian Hunter is still rocking the perm and the aviator sunglasses. I guess he figures to stick with what worked with the ladies. Shrunken Heads is out May 15 on Yep Roc.

March 18, 2007

Country feedback

I went on a girls’ weekend in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado (some of them; we have many) and I was happily tasked with being the mixmaster for the affair. It was an event rife with some possibly questionable choices in the name of fun on my part (Journey), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But that was in the car and for the going out. This stunning gem was just mine, from a moment of solitude. Very early Saturday morning I couldn’t sleep for some horrid reason, so I got up and went out on the porch of the lodge for some sitting and music-listening and looking, a favorite hobby of mine when I have time for it. As the sun rose over the mountains, this perfect song (one of my favorites) came on and it was a near ten minutes of flawless, bittersweet perfection:

Country Feedback (live) – R.E.M.
(with Neil Young on second guitar, at Bridge School Benefit 1998, also released as fan club single)

Admittedly I have been on something of an R.E.M. kick lately, but this one just popped up on my iPod on random out of the 11,000. Michael Stipe says at the beginning that (out of all the fine offerings from their 20+ year career), this is his “particular favorite R.E.M. song” — it’s easy here to see why. Gorgeous. I love the opportunity that solitude affords to really *listen* to a song, and I couldn’t help but think as this one played (a few times on loop) how a song like this is a perfection example of Stipe’s cryptic lyricism; the juxtaposition of the seemingly meaningless alongside the profound.

This flower’s scorched
This film is on
On a maddening loop
These clothes,
These clothes don’t fit us right and I’m to blame
It’s all the same, it’s all the same

You come to me with a bone in your hand
You come to me with your hair curled tight
You come to me with positions
You come to me with excuses
Ducked out in a row
You wear me out, you wear me out

We’ve been through fake-a-breakdown
Self hurt, Plastics, collections
Self help, self pain,
EST, psychics, fuck all

I was central, I had control
I lost my head
I need this, I need this

A paper weight, junk garage
Winter rain, a honey pot
Crazy, all the lovers have been tagged

A hotline, wanted ad
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
I need this
I need this

Even the times when I don’t exactly know what Stipe is saying, I kind of know what he means.

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March 13, 2007

A killer live R.E.M. show from Hollywood, 2003

The induction of R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night got me all sentimental about just how deep my love flows for this band, which I have logged thousands of hours listening to since high school. Yet there are times when I still feel like I have only scratched the surface of their careers, knowing there are dozens of tunes from them that are so deserving of my love, but that I have not yet discovered. What a great predicament.

This is a fantastic soundboard-quality set from the Avalon in Hollywood, 2003. It was a two-disc promo distributed to radio stations, so now you can be as cool (and with ears as happy) as the big dogs. Features Ken Stringfellow (The Posies) and Scott McCaughey (Minus 5) as band additions for this set.

R.E.M. live in Hollywood
The Avalon, Oct 29 2003

Finest Worksong (what a way to start)
These Days (ooh yay! love this album)
The Wake-Up Bomb
So Fast, So Numb (“This is now, this is here, this is me, this is what I wanted you to see” — one of my favorite driving & singing songs)
Exhuming McCarthy
Sweetness Follows (“live your life filled with joy and wonder“; introduced by Stipe as “a beautiful song from 1991″ and it is indeed a masterpiece)
Bad Day
World Leader Pretend
Strange Currencies (a vastly underrated love song)
Losing My Religion (even after hearing this song so many times, don’t you just feel happy at those opening notes?)
At My Most Beautiful (another vastly underrated love song; “I read bad poetry into your machine, I save your messages just to hear your voice“)
She Just Wants To Be
Walk Unafraid (I loved Up)
Man On The Moon
Life And How To Live It
Welcome To The Occupation
Nightswimming (can’t even talk about how flawless this one is)
Final Straw
Permanent Vacation (unreleased)
Imitation Of Life (fantastic last song choice)

The whole show: ZIP IT UP
(zip only re-upped 6/13/07, individual links are expired)

Regarding the induction last night, I got a few play-by-play emails from friends but I missed seeing it. Anxiously awaiting an mp3 of Vedder’s duet with R.E.M. on Man On The Moon.

Man On The Moon – R.E.M. with Ed Vedder
Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction, March 12, 2007

God bless the Pearl-Jam-crazy Italians! [more mp3s]

ADDENDUM: In his heartfelt induction speech, Vedder said, “How do you explain the dialogue between Michael and the listener — a dialogue that grew up and we grew up with it? Such wisdom in the feelings in these songs that — I think they helped us find things that we knew were inside us, and I think they helped us find things that we didn’t know we had inside us. And I can say, there are things that I hold and feel [hand on heart] very deeply about inside here that Michael Stipe put in there himself. What’s really incredible about this is, is that while this is happening — this all happens without ever being able to understand a fucking word he is saying. . .”

Read the full transcription here

December 8, 2006

New Christmas tune from Mike Mills (R.E.M.) and Sally Ellyson (Hem)

With everyone’s top lists popping up all over the place and Hem’s album Funnel Cloud on many (and R.E.M. always on mine) I thought this new Christmas single for charity could use a little shout-out:

Mike Mills of R.E.M. and Sally Ellyson from Hem have recorded as new song as a benefit for kids this holiday season. It’s available right now on iTunes for 99 cents, all proceeds benefiting the Red Apple Foundation.

You can hear a sample of the tune on their MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/redapplehelpskids. It is a cover of a Big Star song (“Jesus Christ”), so you know you’ve got some great power pop right there. Check it out, I think you’ll like 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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