Mar 052009

Intro: Sorry for missing last week and being late this week.  Blame me if you must, but I blame a particular East-Coast customer (which shall remain nameless) which spent a couple weeks waking me up early and keeping me at the office late. . . . Also Guitar Hero III, to which I’ve recently become fiercly re-addicted.

Listening: So the new M. Ward album is crazy good.  Especially “Epistemology” and “Stars of Leo”, which have been on permanent repeat (from here forward to be termed “permapeat” because it amuses me) for the better part of a week.  It’s the same sort of understated, bluesy folk that I loved on Transfiguration of Vincent.  I would say that this latest album, Hold Time, plays up the religious things and takes a corresponding musical swing towards a vaguely gospel sound, which actually work quite well.  (For this, see especially “Epistemology”.)

Other than that, I’ve been listening to my Dropkick Murphys albums.  The show I went to Saturday kick-started my old love of the Murphys something fierce, and Sing Loud, Sing Proud! and The Meanest of Times have spent quite a bit of time in my CD player since then.  I will say, I think Sing Loud… is by far my favorite of their albums.  It’s consistent without being homogenous and it’s unrelentingly energetic and fun.

Upcoming: New Neko Case album out today, which I’ve just now purchased.  I’m pretty stoked about it.  I’m a huge fan of Neko Case, and I’m excited to see how Middle Cyclone lives up to the awesome precendent set by Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.

Next week must be “Talent Deficiency Awareness Week”, as there are new releases from Kelly Clarkson, Chris Cornell, and New Found Glory.

Thinking: 1.) It occurs to me that the New Pornographers are probably the best modern example of a Reverse Supergroup.  They’re basically a musical pipebomb of awesome that’s given us solo work from Neko Case, AC Newman, and Dan Bejar.  Not to mention the various collaborations its members have been involved in.

2.) Oh man the Dropkick Murphys show was so good!  Those guys really know how to work a crowd.  They had amazing energy and charisma and were musically brilliant.  They played a good selection of newer and older material, with a few covers thrown in for good measure.  (Of special note was their awesome version of the Kingston Trio’s “MTA”.)

I will say, though, that the highlight of the show was Ken Casey singing “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” while trying to navigate a huge throng of adoring female fans that had been brought up on stage.  To his credit he did a great job with it despite (because of?) getting jumped several times during the tune.

The openers I was less impressed with.  The first opener, Civet, were a competent hardcore band, but technical difficulties, lack of stage presence, and fairly unimaginative tunes made their 40-minute set feel like it was about 20-minutes too long.

H2O had more going for them.  They owned the stage a lot more, were more energetic and actually had a sound that was distinguishably their own.

3.) The new Showbox venue is really nice.  Plenty of space, good acoustics, and a well-positioned stage.  The bar (to which I retired a few times to rehydrate) has a limited view and muffled accoustics due to a separating wall, but the main floor is awesome.

News: Comb your mullet and wax your Camaro, Faith No More are getting back together!  Win Butler of Arcade Fire and Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips are having a bit of a pissing match.  I’d go on, but I think that last sentence just ODed me on ego for the week.

Song of the Week: Here’s the title track and debut single off Hold Time, by M. Ward:

Not my favorite track off the album, but still pretty damned awesome.  Also, kudos to Merge Records for allowing embedding on their official YouTube channel!

Feb 172009

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.2.17

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Intro: This week’s column may be a bit monotonic since the music part of my brain is completely stuffed full of a potent combination of Power+Light and Sasquatch! Festival excitement.  That being said, I’ll probably also mention the new Morrissey album, though only in passing.

But enough of the preview…

Listening: So, I got the new Morrissey album, Years of Refusal in .mp3 download format.  (Which, BTW, is on sale today at Amazon.com for just $4.  Helluva deal, that.)  It came out a day later than the CD, so I only just got it today and haven’t had much of a chance to listen to it yet.  What I’ve heard, though, I like a great deal.

Other than that, I’ve still been totally digging on Power+Light.  It’s embarrassing how addicted I am to it.  I listen to music about eight to ten hours a day, and for the past two weeks not a day has gone by where half of that time or more is devoted to that EP.  It’s crazy good.  If you haven’t heard it yet, PLEASE go give it a listen.

Oh, and I also grabbed the new M. Ward album today, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet.

Upcoming: As mentioned above, Morrissey and M Ward have new albums out today.  In the next few weeks, look forward to new material from JJ Cale, Hatebreed, U2, and Neko Case.  (Random aside: the Neko Case, Middle Cyclone, sports some of my favorite album art in a long time.)

Thinking: 1.) In bands whose name is [Definite Article] [Noun], should the definite article be capitalized?  Should it be (e.g.) the Rakes or The Rakes?

2.) Sasquatch Festival!  As I’ll expound below, the lineup’s been announced and I am crazy stoked.  I’ve already started plotting with my good friend and long-time Sasquatch ally Mike, and the concensus is that this year’s festival is going to be a month’s worth of awesome crammed into a 3-day weekend.

News: The Sasquatch! Festival lineup has been announced!  Or at least according to the super-awesome unofficial Sasquatch Festival blog.  The main Sasquatch site for 2009 isn’t up yet, but I imagine it will be within the next day or two.  I’m extremely stoked about the fact that this year will see the return of Nine Inch Nails, The Decemberists, TV on the Radio, Calexico, and others.  Among the fresh new faces that I’m happy to see are A. A. Bondy, Silversun Pickups, Gogol Bordello, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

It should be noted that every place carrying the lineup also carries the wording “…and more to come” or equivalent, so there’s strong potential for even more awesome.  (Rumors abound that Sasquatch veterans Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins might added to the lineup.)

Tickets will be sold in the tiered pricing scheme of previous years, with cheap (~$155) 3-day passes going on sale the weekend of the 28th and prices going up from there.  It should be noted that these cheapest tickets will be on sale for ONE WEEKEND ONLY.  So if you want to save at least $40 on three days of Sasquatch awesomeness, then I strongly encourage you to get them then.

If anyone’s planning to attend and wants to meet up, drop me a line in comments.

Song of the Week: One of the many Josh Ritter songs I discovered a few weeks ago during my binge was this off of his album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter.  It’s called “Mind’s Eye” and I think it’s crazy awesome.

Feb 102009

Tuesday Playlist for 2009.2.10

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Intro: I have a lot of fawning and squeeing to do this week, so let’s just get right to it.

Listening: So my entire playlist for the past week has pretty much been 50 Foot Wave’s Power+Light EP and the new Franz Ferdinand album.  The Franz Ferdinand album, well, I want to love it, but so far it’s felt like listening to either of the Scottish rockers’ first two albums: really good at times, yes.  And even what’s not excellent is at least fun, well-crafted, twee-ish rock.  But, see, I’m having a hard time really falling in love with it, because I have a hard time listening to it all the way through at the moment.

That’s largely because I have a hard time going an hour without listening to Power+Light.  I seriously think I need an intervention.  It’s brilliant.  I think it’s the best thing that 50 Foot Wave have done.  It’s grunge-y, noisy rock music not just done right, but done sublimely.  It’s 26 minutes of well-structured, energetic cacophony.

And the icy on this dark, fuzzy cake of rock awesome?  The band is streaming the whole thing right now, for free.  Go click on that link.  Now.  Go do it.  Listen.  This is what Noise Rock should sound like.  Kristin Hersh’s caterwaul vocals, Victor Laurence’s haunting cello, Bernard Georges’ thundering bass, and Rob Ahlers’ drum work (at times clockwork-precise and at others blistering and messy) combine to make a truly epic and truly genius piece of work.  It’s music like this that made me stop rating things on a zero-to-ten scale.  Because this is an eleven with a bullet and a bag of broken glass and a guitar cabinet with pencils jammed in it, Link-Wray-style.  Which I guess is my way of saying that it defies rating, but suffice it to say: it’s good.

Seriously, folks: Go. Listen.

I may have more thoughts about Franz Ferdinand next week, if Power+Light sees fit to release me for long enough to listen to it.  We’ll see.

Upcoming: Well, there’s that new Moz album coming out next week, which is cool.  For those of you who like your band names unecessarily long and emo, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead are coming out with a new album next week.  M. Ward and Architecture in Helsinki will also be coming out with albums next Tuesday, which excites me.

Beyond that, it looks like it’ll be March before anything else intriguing comes out.  The first week in March will see new material from Neko Case and U2.

Thinking: So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the CDs lately.  I almost never buy CDs anymore.  Only if an album really grabs me or I want to give one as a gift do I buy a CD.  Instead, all my music gets purchased through various digital music retailers (mostly Amazon.)  And until recently, I’ve been pretty sure that CDs would go the way of casettes (as opposed to the way of LPs, which are still around and still being pressed by contemporary artists.)  But it occurs to me that there will probably always be SOME market for nicely-packaged, physical instantiations of a particular album.

One reason for this is one I mentioned above: gifts.  While it’s all good and well to give a person an iTunes gift card, but it’s a more powerful gesture to lay in their hands an album that you want them to hear and to have.  And let’s face it, my hand-writing sucks and my home-made copies of albums always look tacky (even when I try to do them up fancy, which is rare.)  I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Another reason is an analogous one to what’s kept LPs around so long: collectors.  Many people like having a physical record of their music collection.  True-fans will definitely pay more for limited-run tokens of their favorite band, and will shell out extra money for well-designed, well-made physical media.  A perfect example of this is Trent Reznor’s success with Ghosts I-IV.  Some of it was available for free (9 of 36 tracks) by digital download.  The whole album was available for download cheap ($5).  On CDs for a little more ($10).  A deluxe edition with a DVD, CDs, downloads, and some other extras was available for about what a good box set costs ($75).  And then there was the limited run of 2500 Ultra-Deluxe edition packages which sold for $300 each.  Those Ultra-Deluxe editions sold out.  $300 x 2500 = $750,000.

Collectors will pay more for nice physical goods.

So now that I’ve done some thinking, I think it will, at the very least, be a long while before we see the end of CDs.  And when we do it won’t be because the Internet music revolution killed them, but because we’ve found a better form of physical music media.

News: Right, well no lineup yet, but at least we have a date for the lineup announcement.  Courtesy of the Sasquatch Music Festival blog:

“Memorial Day Weekend | May 23, 24, 25, 2009
The Gorge | Quincy, WA

Line-up to be announced Tuesday, February 17”

So, you can probably guess what next week’s column will be all about: squeeing over the Sasquatch lineup.

In other news there, uh, really wasn’t much other news, other than the Rihanna allegedly getting abused by her thug of a boyfriend.  Not a fan of her music, but still, here’s wishing her a speedy recovery.

Song of the Week: At the risk of sounding sycophantic or redundant, 50 Foot Wave, Power+LightGo Listen.