Feb 042009

Intro: Well, we’re back after last week’s bout of suckitude.  Sorry about that, folks.  I’ll try to be better about updating in the future.  Now if I can only get around to actually updating that other blog of mine.  Oh well, on to the column!

Listening: In addition to my recent Josh Ritter addiction, I’ve also rekindled my obsession with 50 Foot Wave.  It’s probably no secret by now that I’m a fan of both crunchy, noisy rock music and of Kristin Hersh, so the Hersh-fronted power trio is pretty much right up my alley.  Songs like “Animal” off their Free Music EP or “Clara Bow” off of Golden Ocean pretty much hit all of my “get on up and dance” buttons.  Which makes it just a little awkward that I’ve been listening to 50 Foot Wave at work.

I’ve also recently acquired the new Franz Ferdinand album (Tonight: Franz Ferdinand), but haven’t had much of a chance to listen to it yet.

Upcoming: Honestly, I’m having kind of a hard time getting excited about anything coming up, other than the new Morrissey album which is out on the 16th.  But, if Moz’s fop-rocking ways aren’t quite your thing, or if the middle-aged Mancunian minstrel isn’t enough for you, then there’s also albums out today from The Fray, The Young Dubliners, and The Von Bondies.

Coming up in the next few weeks are releases from Dan Auerbach and Ben Lee.

Thinking: My most frequent music-related thought these past couple weeks has been some variation on “where the hell’s the lineup for Sasquatch?!”  Seriously, waiting until February to announce their lineup?  It’s almost as if they know I’m going to buy a ticket no matter who they get to play . . .  Of course, the rumor is that John Vanderslice will be playing this year, which (if true) is reason enough for me to go.  One of the best shows I’ve been to in my life was John Vanderslice at the Detour here in Spokane.  It was a cozy little venue and he gave a great show.  I ambushed him after the show to do the classic sycophantic fan schtick and, being the patient man that he is, he introduced himself and hung out to chat for a few minutes.  I was totally being That Guy, and yet he was not only patient enough to talk to me, he seemed genuinely interested in meeting me and in talking about his music and his tour.

Basically John Vanderslice is not only an amazing musician, but also a total class act as a person, as well.  A rumor of him playing at Sasquatch is definitely a Good Thing.

Other rumors regarding the line up are pretty thin on the ground, but the unofficial Sasquatch Festival Blog is probably the best place for them.

News: Speaking of Music Festivals, it looks like the lineup for Bonnaroo has been announced, as has the lineup for Coachella.  Some awesome stuff in both sets, but it looks like Bonnaroo is playing hard for the “Best Festival Lineup of the Season” award. I mean, c’mon, the Boss, The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wilco, Nine Inch Nails, David Byrne, Elvis Costello, Niko Case, Brett Dennen, A. A. Bondy, . . .  I would go on, but I think I damn near ODed on awesome just from that fraction of the list alone.  Shit, anyone want to head out to Tennessee in June?

In much sadder news, 50 years ago, the music died.  A small aircraft carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa.  There were no survivors.  All three were fantastic musicians and rock pioneers.  Here’s a recording of Buddy Holly (with the Crickets) with their first big hit, “That’ll Be the Day”:

Resquiescant in pace.

Song of the Week: Here’s a great recording of 50 Foot Wave performing “Your Ghost”, originally made famous by Kristin Hersh in her solo days.

Oct 142008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.10.14

Uncategorized Comments Off on Tuesday Playlist for 2008.10.14

Intro: Well it’s been a pretty crazy week here, and I’m beat, so the column may be short this week, but it’ll be on time.

Listening: Okay, so the new Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul.  I’m not going to go into too much detail, because I’m hoping to post a couple of proper reviews on it later this week.  One will be by yours truly and the other by my long-time friend and total Oasis fanboy Trevor.  (Some readers may remember Trevor from his review of the last Jimmy Eat World album.)  Spoilers: I really like the album, Trevor’s not such a fan.  Basically, I think it’s a hell of a good Rock album and, while it’s certainly not the best Oasis album, it’s their best release since (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?.

I’ve also gotten a chance to give Everything Is Borrowed, the new album by the The Streets a spin, and I was a bit taken aback by it.  It’s much poppier and whimsical than the previous records.  I’m a fan so far (just got it a few days ago), but anyone expecting the gritty sound and smirking, self-aware, satirical style of Original Pirate Material or A Grand Don’t Come for Free will be be surprised.  Mike Skinner’s still making good use of his sharp wit and his accented-yet-agile vocals.  The highly-syncopated aesthetic is still there, but minor tonality has been swapped out for major and themes of the highs and lows of everyday street life have been replaced with more abstract themes and a more symbolic style.

A great example of this new direction is the hoppy, keyboard-heavy “Heaven for the Weather”, the chorus which is, at first blush, Mike Skinner’s take on the conundrum of hell sometimes seeming the better place to end up in the afterlife.  (The chorus observes “I wanna go to heaven for the weather and hell for the company.”)  In classic Streets fashion, however, there’s some depth to the song, which is also about temptation and discerning the right thing to do.

All in all, though, despite its wit, the album isn’t on par with Skinner’s earlier works.  Skinner seems musically out of place without growling samples and gritty, tongue-in-cheek recollections of urban life.  The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living was not only satirical, incisive, and quick-witted, it was also musically rich without the music distracting in any way from the lyrical focus of the songs.  Skinner obviously knew how to weave his unique vocal stylings in with his Garage-influenced Electronica sound.  With a lighter, more pop-oriented sound, his gruff Mockney accent seems out of place, as does his stuttering cadence.  The result is a sort of aesthetic dissonance which, in places, doesn’t the album a real disservice (especially on track like “The Way of the Dodo” and “The Strongest Person I Know”).

Diehard Streets fans will certainly find some stuff here to like.  There are still clever turns of phrase and some nice beats to be found here and there.  Unfortunately the album is often too disjointed and stylistically dissonant to make for a very rewarding listen.  (E.g. the clash between the light, folksy piano lines and Skinner’s unmelodic, nasally, heavily accented voice on “The Strongest Person I Know” is almost cringe-inducing.)

Upcoming: If you like foppish Mope-Rock, there’s a new Keane album coming out.  If you like overwrought pop versions of Christmas songs, then Sixpence None the Richer has your covered.  If neither are really your thing, well, next week you can get new albums from Kenny Chesney, Electric Six, Brett Dennen, or Of Montreal.  There’s also an EP from Matisyahu due out.  And if none of that appeals to you, well, maybe new music just isn’t your thing?

And they just announced an album by some old timey rock back.  The band’s called Guns and something?  Roses, maybe?  Oh well, their album Chinese Democracy (which has been “in the works” for over a decade) is finally out in November.

Thinking: So all of you need to carve out 90 minutes of your day and listen to this twopart, 90-minute interview with Lester Bangs.  Bangs was THE rock critic 70s and early 80s.  If you want to understand the formation of modern rock music, listen to this interview and then go get a copy of Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader.

The interview is essentially 90 minutes of Bangs’ random musings on the state of the music industry at the turn of the 1980s.  He dwells quite a bit on what’s good and bad in punk/new wave and why they’re important.  It’s a must-listen for Stooges and Velvet Underground fans for that reason if for no other.

News: Björk, Yorke, and Pitchfork, Oh My!  Turns out that Nordic songstress (I use the term loosely) Björk is teaming up with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke on a new single.  The song, “Nattura” will be released next Monday and Pitchfork Media (who broke the story) are already creaming themselves over it.

Of course, they’ll have tough competition, from that 7-year-old who’s tearing up the charts in the Europe and Asia.

From the “It’s About Damned Time” file, the last venue played by Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valen’s is being declared a Rock and Roll landmark by the Rock and Roll hall of fame.

I think that’s about it.  Oh, save for the stunning news from the EU that loud music  still bad for your hearing.

Song of the Week: Well, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of John Lee Hooker.  I ran across this recording of him playing “Serves Me Right to Suffer” a few days ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.  The man was definitely one of the greats.