November 4, 2009

black marks on the concrete now but they were beautiful last night


Bottle rockets and smoke bombs lying dead on the sidewalk
black marks on the concrete now but they were beautiful last night
the picture of our life
can we make this what it was?
everything is right, everything’s wrong
sparklers only burn for so long

…watch the light dance in the dark ’til it’s gone
sparklers only burn for so long…

Seattle’s Rocky Votolato specializes in the kind of hushed, pensive songs that sound especially extra-good in the gray chill of November, so it’s fitting that Barsuk Records (Death Cab, Nada Surf) just announced his forthcoming third album True Devotion (Feb 23) with a live version of this melancholy song.

This version of “Sparklers” was recorded at a house concert this summer in East Palo Alto, up the peninsula from where I grew up, onetime Murder Capital of the US, now with an IKEA. I think the domestic ambiance of the house concert idea is especially well-suited to a gorgeous little song like this one.

Sparklers (Live in East Palo Alto) – Rocky Votolato

This song reminds me quite a bit of something that Ryan Adams could have written, and thematically the bits about sparklers and explosions feel like the remnants of what started in the that fabulous Fourth of July song from Jason Anderson. The domestic intimacy continues with a series of living room shows in the East these next few weeks:

(buy tickets here – and agony, he just came through my town and was looking for a house. Fail!)
Nov 6 – New York, New York
Nov 8 – Boston, Massachusetts
Nov 9 – Boston, Massachusetts
Nov 10 – Providence, Rhode Island
Nov 11 – Burlington, Connecticut
Nov 13 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nov 14 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nov 15 – Washington DC

White Daisy Passing – Rocky Votolato
(my favorite track from his 2006 album Makers)

[img via]

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May 2, 2007

On death & dying, and new Rocky Votolato :: Postcard From Kentucky

Yesterday I found a little dead bunny rabbit in my basement. Nope, he definitely wasn’t just sleeping as I had first hoped. I have no idea how he got in, but (shudder re: picking up dead animals).

It was a portent for the similarly troubling death yesterday of the screen on my laptop that houses all my everything. The computer works fine, just can’t see anything, and it’s cramping my style. I am waiting for an assessment from our resident teenager ubergeek neighbor friend to let me know the damage. Hopefully (for both our sakes) it will be functional again soon. I’m getting withdrawal shakes.

But I’m pleased in the interim to offer you an exclusive new listen of the first track off the new Rocky Votolato CD from Barsuk, due out June 19th. The album (Rocky’s 5th full-length) is called The Brag & Cuss, and this cut is truly lovely and bittersweet, with a night-driving-by-the-glow-of-the- dashboard-lights feel.

Postcard From Kentucky – Rocky Votolato

From the press release: “Most of the record was played by a full band, featuring James McAllister (Sufjan Stevens) on drums, Bill Herzog (Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter) on bass, Casey Foubert (Pedro the Lion) on electric guitar, banjo, mandolin and percussion, and Rick Steff (Cat Power, Hank Williams Jr.) on keyboards and accordion.” Good stuff.

Also, here is a video I shot last month when Votolato swung through town. This is another new song of his called “Lilly White.” There’s one loud and disarming fuzzy bit in the audio at the beginning, but then it should be pretty decent and you can get more of a feel of the new album sound. I like this direction.

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April 17, 2007

Oakland’s Street To Nowhere covers Leonard Cohen

Last Tuesday I saw Street To Nowhere again, opening for Rocky Votolato. Turns out this was kind of the third time I saw them because they opened for that awesome Format show I was at last year at the Cervantes. But I was either late or not paying attention that night, so my loss. They put on a really good set this time around, showing more of their “singer-songwriter” side due to the nature of the following acts, and less of the Weezer-meets-Bright-Eyes rock. Drummer Joey still broke both snare drum and drumstick by song #3, a foreseeable mishap if you were watching the pounding he was giving to those bad boys. Sweet.

In any case, one of the songs that STN included in their set was a surprising Leonard Cohen cover of Chelsea Hotel #2 (I mean, what are the kids covering nowadays from Cohen other than Hallelujah?). After the show, leadman Dave Smallen told me that at the above-mentioned Denver show last year they were kind of off, partly because Dave’s entire extended family was there to distract him. I asked if he was embarrassed or otherwise discomfited by singing Cohen’s lyrics about “giving me head on the unmade bed” in front of his mom and family. He just shrugged — and tells me that his cool mom is actually the one who introduced him to the music of Leonard Cohen. Props to Dave’s mom. My mom introduced me to hippie folk and countless lullabies with three-part harmonies, but no Cohen.

Chelsea Hotel #2 (Leonard Cohen cover) – Street To Nowhere

This version was recorded in bassist Bryce Freeman’s basement in Oakland. And a word of correction: In my previous post, Dave says I called him a 17-year-old. Ladies, let it be noted that he is actually 22.

Check out their album Charmingly Awkward, out now on Capitol. All the kids love it, ’twas selling like hotcakes at the show last week. And look who wrote something nice about them way back when. Chris posted “Boxcars Boxcars Boxcars” [listen], but they did a smashing job on this one Tuesday night, a real crowd-pleaser that’s fun to sing along with:

Tipsy – Street To Nowhere

And completely random side note, but don’t you wish every club you went to had one of these pinball machines?

The King sits there brooding, giving his blessing over your music scene as you feed him quarters.

September 23, 2006

Rocky Votolato: “Tinfoil Hats”

If you are worried about aliens reading your mind (and really, who isn’t?), Rocky Votolato has a song just for you. Actually, despite the extraterrestial theme, I really like this song that Barsuk Records just posted up on his section of their website for public enjoyment. I recommend his entire Makers album (2006), from which this track hails. It’s got a bit more of a beat than many of the other lush and dreamy acoustic plucking tunes on that album, and some wheezy harmonica. Check it out:

Tinfoil Hats” – Rocky Votolato

Rocky is going on tour with Lucero and William Elliott Whitmore, which is going to be a great evening of music. They swing through these parts in late October and I don’t think I’ll be in town, unfortunately. But if I were, I’d be there with bells on.

Makers (via Barsuk) or other Rocky Votolato music (via eMusic). His last two releases, Suicide Medicine and Light and Sound EP, were produced by Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, who also plays various instruments on the albums.

P.S. Baseball update: The Rockies won, and I did indeed freeze my butt (and toes) off. But it was great fun.

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December 12, 2005

Monday Music Roundup

Well a new week brings new music for y’all. Here are five tracks that I found listen-worthy this week. Let me know what you think! Here’s a secret about all bloggers: we crave your comments, so leave a little note if you feel the urge.

Proclaim Your Joy – Mark Eitzel
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Jangly music and feel-good lyrics in this little ditty (who doesn’t need a little uplifting on Mondays?). Also tongue-in-cheek funny. Mark Eitzel (American Music Club) has a voice which reminds me of Evan Dando’s, so I like it by default. I thought this song had interesting musical footprints to it – it mixes what sounds like banjo with some little electronic touches. Different.

White Daisy Passing – Rocky Votolato
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Here is a new artist I just kinda found on the internet and I really like. Texas-born/Pacific-Northwest-resident Votolato has a new album coming out in 2006 called “Makers,” and this is the first cut off that album. This track has a dreamy feel to it, and if you like it you can download more music from his website. His last two releases, Suicide Medicine and Light and Sound EP, were produced by Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, who also plays various instruments on the albums.

Creep – Damien Rice
My first instinct is to like this cover because I like both Damien Rice and Radiohead, but I am kind of mixed on it as a cover effort because it hasn’t changed much from the original. This song, no matter who is singing it, reminds me of being angst-ridden my freshman year of high school. Oh the drama and alienation inherent in being 14.

Consequence – The Notwist (link expired)
I haven’t heard much other music from these guys, but I very much dig the hazy, lo-fi, laid-back vibe to this track. From their album Neon Golden, which made it onto several reviewers’ lists of best indie albums of 2003/04. I would link you to their site to learn more about them, but lord almighty it is the most confusing thing I’ve seen since I got out of calculus. But don’t hold it against their music.

Blue Suede Shoes (live) – Carl Perkins
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This is so awesome. A fabulous song by an American icon, done live. Can’t sit still. “Goodness gracious alive.” I think I like this original better than Elvis’ better-known rendition. According to Perkins, he wrote this song after a show in Arkansas when he was touring with Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash (um, would have loved to see a show on *that* tour!). “Blue Suede Shoes” was recorded December, 1955, and released January 1, 1956 on the Sun label. It is still Perkins best-known contribution to the world of rockabilly music.

ALSO: I have added a new song to my Jeff Buckley Tribute Songs post, thanks to ‘Splean,’ who was very kind to send me the mp3 of the PJ Harvey song “Memphis” about Jeff. Thank you very much and please check it out!

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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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