Mar 172009

Intro: So I upgraded to the latest WordPress and forgot that, every time I do, it totally borks my sidebar.  It’s fixed, so the Meta menu is back above the catagories where it belongs.  No long, annoying scrolling to get down there to find it.

Listening: This past week I’ve been listening to a random assortment of stuff I picked up but didn’t have the chance to listen to, Pandora, and the radio.  (Did you know they’re still transmitting MUSIC on FM?  ‘Cause it came as a bit of a shock to me.)  The latest A. C. Newman album (Get Guilty) is good, but it’s not as interesting or as consistently brilliant as The Slow Wonder.  It’s a bit more conservative and, while fun, I think it suffers for that by feeling a bit homogeneous.  If you’re already an A. C. Newman fan, then by all means grab a copy.  If you’re not, then start on The Slow Wonder.

Pandora’s recently introduced me to a few new artists that I’m kind of stoked about, including Magneta Lane.  I’ve only heard a few of their tunes, so I can’t really say anything about their work as a whole, but just listen to this song “Broken Plates”.

Is that not incredibly groovy?

Upcoming: Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Satic-X this week. The Rakes, The Decemberists, Pete Doherty, and KMFDM next week.  I take back what I said last week, March has redeemed itself.

Thinking: So this whole “American Idol” thing is happening again.  I have to admit, I’ve never really watched much of it, mainly because I don’t watch a whole lot of TV.  My roommate’s into it, though, and I just tonight watched the first few minutes of it.  A beautiful blonde did a very decent rendition of “I Go Walking After Midnight”.  Perhaps I should check out more of it?  Are the contestants usually pretty talented, or did I just get lucky and see the one who was?

This article pissed me right the hell off.  Not because of who it included, but because of who it left out: Stiff Little Fingers.  They didn’t have much of the Celtic vibe to them, but they were punk as fuck and, unlike many of the bands on that list, SLF were actually, you know, Irish.

News: It’s official – the Stone Roses will be reuniting for a tour!  Tom Waits to appear in post-apocalyptic Western!  Jack White’s in yet another band!  Billy Corgan is still a pompous douchebag!  All is right in the music world.

(In all seriousness, though, go to that link to Jack White’s new band, The Dead Weather.  Now listen to “Hang You From the Heavens”.  That, my friends, is some damned fine rock and roll.)

Song of the Week: To make up for their slight in the above-linked list, here are Stiff Little Fingers circa-1978, playing “Suspect Device” live on Ulster TV.

Mar 112009

Intro: I really don’t have anything to say here, other than that I came home today to find my cat cuddled up to my headphones, which were blaring Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia on repeat.

Listening: So if you haven’t already gotten it, go grab the new Neko Case album, Middle Cyclone.  Now it may take you several hours to get that first song of repeat (lord knows it took me at least that long), but the whole album is downright phenomenal.  Take for, instance, “People Got A Lot of Nerve”, which lurches into motion and then gallops along with catchy guitar licks and cathartic lyrics.

And then there’s that brilliant opening track, “This Tornado Loves You”.  Catchy vocal hooks and incisive, powerful lyrics (“Their broken necks will line this ditch until you stop it.”) form a strong core to the tune. Galloping drum beats and soaring melodies polish it off into a truly brilliant track.

And it’s a perfect opener, since the whole album is full of exactly this sort of rolling, pacey drum lines supporting catchy melodies.  “This Tornado Loves You” sets the musical paces for the whole album.  Of course, as with previous albums, the aesthetic focuses mostly on Case’s expressive voice which ranges broadly from pensive to roaring, and the album profits greatly from that.

Truly a great album which further establishes Neko Case as one of the best vocalists and songwriters in music today.

Upcoming: So the rest of this month doesn’t look too impressive release-wise from where I’m sitting.  I’m really excited about the new Decemberists album (I’m a bit behind on their singles series, but am stoked about their new LP).  And new Rakes and KMFDM albums, which is kind of cool.  Other than that, well, you tell me.  Is there anything else in March to get excited about?

Thinking: 1.) So I’ve been thinking lately of getting another record player to replace my old one that gave up the ghost last year.  I’ve got some LPs already and am inordinately fond of vinyl as a musical medium.  Any suggestions from the audience for a simple, no-frills record player that I could run through a stereo amp?

2.) So since I got addicted to Power+Light (which I’m still listening to at least once a day) I’ve been interested in Kristin Hersh’s CASH Music project.  These days it’s rare to see the words “music” and “non-profit” used in the same breath, and it’s almost a bit suspicious when you do see them.  It’s hard not to look at a project like CASH and think “huh, okay, so what’s in it for YOU?”

But CASH seems to be genuine in their simple desire to, as their website says, “[improve] the music experience for artists and listeners alike.”  And that’s pretty cool.  It’s rare these days that musicians take time to simply work on the craft and artistry of making music instead of on the craft of selling music.  I have to say: I’m very much a fan.

News: There’s no part of this All Tomorrow’s Parties concert film idea that I don’t like.  M.I.A may or may not have named her child “Ickitt”.  Apparently Tom Morrello has started yet another band.

Song of the Week: Here’s Neko Case’s “This Tornado Loves You”, off of Middle Cyclone.  Ha!  Now I won’t be the only person with this tune on permapeat!

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.

Aug 062008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.8.5

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Intro: Okay, well, I’m a little late starting this one (11:53pm), but it’s still Tuesday, so I declare that this still counts as on-time. I’ve got a lot to get through, so I’m just gonna jump right in.

Listening: Well, my progress up through recent musical history’s brought me more or less up to the present. Been listening to some of my favorite 2007/2008 releases (Our Love To Admire FTW!) and even getting around to checking out some new albums and bands to which I’d been meaning to listen.

Speaking of which: why did no one tell me about the Rakes before? Their song “Binary Love” popped up a few times on one of my Pandora stations, so I added it with the hopes of hearing more of their stuff. Well, as so often happens, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, I’d bought Capture / Release and was using it to soundtrack my drive to Helena this last weekend. Honestly, the album isn’t quite as brilliant as I was hoping, but it’s still pretty strong. “Strasbourg”, “22 Grand Job”, and “Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)” are all fun. Also I’m enough of a geek that I’m pretty sure I want “Binary Love” played at my wedding.

I also grabbed The Last Shadow Puppets debut, The Age of the Understatement. It’s more introspective and complex than either Alex Turner or Miles Kane’s previous work. From the lush string parts on “My Mistakes Were Made For You” to the oddly cacophonous vocal counterpoints on “Separate and Ever Deadly” the album’s full of pleasant little aural surprises. I’m not sure what I think of it as a whole quite yet, but I do like it. If you like either complex, novel rock music or are a fan of either Arctic Monkeys or the Rascals, it’s well worth a listen.

I also just picked Conor Oberst’s new self-titled which just came out today. If you haven’t heard the single off it (“Danny Callahan”), it’s available for download here. If you’d prefer to just stream it:

Warning: it’s not exactly a happy tune. It is, however, beautiful and moving. Speaking of the album…

Upcoming: Wow, how did I not know that Oberst’s new release was due out today until I saw it on Amazon’s frontpage? I seriously need some new sources for upcoming release dates. Metacritic is accurate, but woefully incomplete. The Billboard lists are so noisy as to be practically unusable. News sites are, of course, hit or miss, since they all differ in what releases they deem mention-worthy. Where do you folks hear about new releases?

In concert news, Puddle of Mudd are playing Spokane tomorrow (2008.8.6) night, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, I learn by way of a comment here at the blog that The Shondes are touring this Fall. They’ll be playing several shows over on the coast. (Alas, none here in the Inland Northwest, but that’s nothing new.) If anyone’s interested, I’m seriously considering heading over to catch the Seattle show. Finally, Alt-Country masters Wilco will be playing Spokane on the 21st of this month. They give a GREAT live show, and if I can scrape together the funds, then I’ll definitely be hitting it up.

News: Did you know that Lee Perry is a dirty old man? Neither did I, but his new single “Pum Pum” is pretty much a stoned, dirty old man’s ode to cruising for sex in nightclubs. Wait, why do I say “pretty much”? That’s EXACTLY what it is. It’s also crazy-groovy. The man has a masterful command of the Dub/Raggae side of things.

(Warning: lyrics are not safe for work, beats are not safe for staying still in one’s seat. Download Link. Hat Tip to 3Hive.)

Also, those perpetually catty folks over at PopJustice are right: the new Streets single is pretty disappointing. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s “shite”, as they so eloquently put it, but it’s definitely no “Stay Positive”.

Thinking: So I’m a huge sucker for unique voices. Voices that, after a few listens, anyone could pick out of a audio lineup. Louise Wener, Tom Waites, Robert Smith. I love artists whose voice is entirely their own. It’s a little like hearing an instrument that no one else in the world can play. Paired with a good writing talent (either their own or a partner’s) and the possesors of such voices can turn out some truly brilliant music. (Louise Wener is a great example of that: a fantastic songwriter with the unique voice necessary to really make her songs her own.)

What I think is really interesting is how often these voices wind up either spawning genres or, at least, defying being placed into them. I think that part of the reason that Alt-Country became a big thing is that Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy have such unique voices and musical visions to accompany them. Similarly, I think that the current wave of singer-songwriters is thanks in large part to the unique voices of people like Conor Oberst and Ben Gibbard.

I think that the vocal qualities are one of the key things that shapes a new musical movement or genre. It’s why so many singers in the late 90s sounded like bad Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder impersonators. In a way, their voices were distillations of what the genre was meant to sound like.

Just a thought that’s been rattling around in my brain of late.

Song of the Week: I’ve been going back to this tune over and over again ever since I got the album. This is “Orphans”, by Beck, off of Modern Guilt:

Jul 302008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.7.29

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Intro: Probably another short one this week. Work continues to be mad-crazy, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it’s the other end or a train is both undetermined and largely immaterial; either way, it means not having to debug serial communications code anymore.

Listening: This week’s been work-intensive, which means that I’ve spent most of my concious hours tuned in to Pandora. The three stations that have been getting the most airtime this week have been my California Punk station (Bad Religion + The Dead Kennedys + The Vandals + Social Distortion + Black Flag), my Industrial station (Nine Inch Nails + Orgy), and a random station I put together out of bands that I just had a hankering to listen to. (The Raconteurs, The Rakes, The Flaming Lips, and Echo & the Bunnymen). Needless to say, that last station’s a bit of a head trip.

Upcoming: Wait, you mean they’re STILL making MORE music? I can barely keep up with the stuff that was new a month ago much less anything that’s still coming out. Only thing I’m looking forward to music-wise at the moment is hitting up the Ryan Adams/Oasis show later this month with my buddy Trevor.

News: Well, the news from the UK is that the Mercury Award Nominees have been announced. No surprises there except that…wait. Wait a minute. There’s been a mistake. The new Portishead album isn’t on the list. That has to have been an oversight. I mean, admittedly, I haven’t heard all the albums on the list, (though there are one or two on there that I’ve been meaning to grab), but how can Third not be among the nominees. It’s BRILLIANCE! Dark, groovy, barely-sensical brilliance!

I expect this heinous act of nominatory (it’s a word now!) incompetence to be rectified shortly.

Thinking: I sure do blog a lot about British music, don’t I? I mean, maybe there are certain elements of the British musical aesthetic that just mesh nicely with my own, but if you figure out “FTT blog space per capita”, I’m pretty sure it’s probably way skewed towards stuff from the UK. Interesting, that. I mean, I’m a fairly unapologetic Anglophile in a lot of ways, but it never occurred to me that my ear might be biased in that direction. Definitely something that bears further consideration.

Song of the Week: Apologies for the short columns two weeks running. The work craziness will be sorted out soon. In the meantime, here are the Raconteurs doing “Steady As She Goes” off Broken Boy Soldiers: