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Showing posts from April, 2013

Wakin On A Pretty Day - Kurt Vile

from the album Wakin On A Pretty Daze (2013)

So, I'm driving thru somewhere deep in Appalacia, and wake up in a 1950's roadside motel.  I step out into a gloomy, spring morning, walk my dog down a wet gravel road, listen to the birds chatter, check out the dark clouds rolling across the sky, return to the room, have a smoke, skip the shower, brush my teeth, load up the car, and hit the road.  Three and a half hours to go.

I pop in the latest Kurt Vile CD.  Track One is Wakin On A Pretty Day.  I dig that this tune is over 9 minutes long and that it takes its time laying itself out there.  The Neil Young-inspired guitars over the rolling downtempo beat are perfect for this bending road.  I pass thick forests, dew soaked meadows, and briskly moving streams. The mist from an eighteen-wheeler covers the windshield.

I feel a little strung out on this road trip.  It's not a Sunday Morning Comin' Down kind of strung, more that wired and fuzzy, ramblin' along the byway stru…

Your Life Your Call - Junip

from the album Junip (2013)

I always enjoy when a song has a catchy lyric that is applies to my own world.  I particularly dig it when these lines offer guidance to the people in my life.  Earlier this year, the band Big Harp had a great song entitled "You Can't Save Them All" which I reveled in singing to my lady friend, in reference to her desire to bring home every stray animal she encounters.

So this week, the Swedish band Junip released the song Your Life Your Call with a lyric that resonates with a bunch of people I know. The chorus goes like this:

It's your life
It's your call
Stand up, or enjoy your fall

But my admiration for this tune goes way beyond the lyric.  The simple beat and chord progression are easy to fall into.  Coupled with the cool guitar and synthesizer tones this song creates a melodic, chill vibe that is suitable for any mindless activity.  The song also has a great aural presence.  I am cranking it out on my back deck as I type, and it just…

Metroland - Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark

from the album Electric English (2013)

Back in the 1980's, Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark created some of the most memorable melodies of the era.  Few bands of the time had the songwriting chops of this band.  That made all the difference.

I tend to cringe when new wave bands attempt to comeback.  Last year, I saw Adam Ant stuff himself into his pirates outfit and hyperventilate his way around the stage.  It only served to make me feel older than I care to.

In the case of OMD, I actually looked forward towards the new record.  These guys possess a talent and craftsmanship that only matures with age.  Released without the hype of the recent Depeche Mode album, this record does not disappoint.

My favorite track is Metroland.  The tempo, the melody, and the songwriting are all spot on.  I particularly dig how the song has an extended instrumental introduction, with the vocals entering at 1 minute 40 seconds into the song.  This gives you a chance to absorb the nostalgic tones and l…

Mosquito - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

from the album Mosquito (2013)

I dig Mosquito, the title track from Yeah Yeah Yeahs latest album.

The opening tribal drum beat lets you know the song is going to be good.  Enter singer Karen O. whispering "Mosquito, Mosquito, Mosquito" followed by a hard hi-hat beat and the full band and the speedometer on my car inches higher.  By the time the song is in full swing, with the anthemic chorus of "Suck your blood / I'll suck your blood / I'll suck your blood / Suck your, suck your, suck your blood", I'm buzzing in and out of lanes like a mosquito that's late for a picnic.

I really dig the guitar playing.  Tones and stylings are perfect for this song.  I also like how the song breaks down to a pulsing bass line only to build back up to the soaring chorus.  Siouxee and the Banshees and The Bush Tetras come to mind when I here this song.

I was very lucky to catch Yeah Yeah Yeahs at SXSW last month. They were part of a bill that included Nick Cave & T…

Pour A Little Poison - David Ford

from the album Charge (2013)

Once upon a time, I had a budding obsession with painting.  Eager to unlock the secrets to success, I consulted with my uncle, who is an artist in NYC.  Despite the decades that have past, I still remember every detail of that discussion.

He spoke about the beauty of imperfection.  He advised me not to try painting in any particular style, but to "paint it true", and that my style would emerge in my imperfection.  He was so right.  As I painted piece after piece, I found my voice in my imperfection.  I then learned how to exploit it and create works that were instantly recognizable as my own.

This lesson also applies to music and is most recognizable in vocalists.  For example, the reason I prefer Rod Stewart to Anne Murray is the imperfection in his tone.  Great artists find a deeper truth by exploiting their imperfections.  Johnny Cash found that his imperfection gave his lyrics authenticity.  Of all the versions of Ring Of Fire you will ever h…

Ganesha (Sound The Horn Instrumental) - MC Yogi

from the album Pilgrimage: Instrumentals (2013)

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Mumbai.  My favorite hobby was jumping into the front seat of a little, yellow taxi and shooting video of the ride.  I have over twelve hours of mad footage of cars, bicycles, oxen, and lots of people trying to get to Point B.  Along the way, I captured scenes that speak volumes to a time and place.

The other great thing about these taxi rides was getting the cabbies to share their favorite songs along the drive.  They would always start by playing tunes they thought I might like, but after urging them to "play the stuff you listen to when nobody else is in the car," they would get my drift.  It was during these drives that I was turned-on to a world of hip, young, exciting music that I never knew existed.

Soon after returning to my little corner of the world, there was a big party at my house.  Aside from the homemade Indian food, I played the video to a soundtrack…

Lazy Sunny Days - The Parlotones

from the EP Shake It Up (2013)

The Parlotones are an indie band from Johannesburg, South Africa. Over the past few years, they have released several memorable recordings, gaining them acclaim throughout their homeland.  A few months ago, they set sail for larger success and relocated to Los Angeles.

On their new EP, Shake It Up, I really dig the song Lazy Sunny Days.  The song catches a late '80's / early '90's alternative radio vibe that I quite enjoy.

The steady beat and sustained synthesizer introduction instantly lock you into the vibe.  This sets the stage for the vocals of Kahn Morbee.  His voice has the ability to deliver soaring anthems, making it perfect for this song.  The guitar playing also stands out and does the tightness of the band and the production.  But for me, this song is all about the vocals and vibe.

One of my funky friends will be catching an early evening acoustic show they are putting on for Play Networks in The Foundation Room at the House o…

Lightning Bolt - Jake Bugg

from the album Jake Bugg (2013)

I have always paid attention to how the first sentence of a great novel is often great.  It is also true that the first track on a great band's first record is often great.  These songs tend to make definitive opening statements, saying to the world: "Here we are. Take Notice."  Some of my favorite examples include:

Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones
Break On Thru - The Doors
Running With The Devil - Van Halen
Janie Jones - The Clash
Communication Breakdown - Led Zeppelin

So when I heard Lightning Bolt, the lead song off this nineteen year-old Brit's debut album, I took notice.  It has a fresh, raw, folked-up rockabilly vibe.  I dig how the song captures a sound that you might classify as "Eddie Cochran meets a young Bob Dylan."

I dig the declaratively strummed guitar chords introducing the artist. Enter his voice with:

Morning.  It's another pure grey morning
Don't know what today is holding
And I get uptight
When I walk right into…

Too High For The Love-In - Camper Van Beethoven

from the album La Costa Perdida (2013)

Nothing like a trip to Vegas to disconnect you from current events. The only news from the outside world that caught my ear this week was that Louisville won the NCAA Championship and "Little Kim" is threatening to nuke his neighbors.  A cab driver was talkin' Obama one night, but I was pretty zoned out.

So, I board a cross-country flight tonight, strap on the noise canceling coconut shells, put on a jamming playlist of new tunes, and lose myself in a book about some Silicon Valley dudes who sleep less than I do.

Eighty pages later, the flight attendants are prepping the cabin for landing.  I check out the time and they seem to be premature.  A voice from the cockpit is addressing the passengers, but the tunes are too good for me to turn it down and listen.  Soon after, we hit some stiff turbulence.

With the plane rocking, the song Too High For The Love-In comes on.  I put the iPad on eleven.  The intro guitar is well suited for the…

Baby Doe - The Black Lillies

from the album Runaway Freeway Blues (2013)

I am always cautious when comparing a newer artist to a former legend.  It is unfair to place too high an expectation on emerging talent.  In baseball, the past fifty years are littered with players who were labeled "the next Mickey Mantle."  In reality, there was only one Mickey Mantle and those comparisons were a disservice to some really good ballplayers.

However, when I came across the song Baby Doe by The Black Lillies, I was struck by just how good the song and band are and have decided to throw caution to the wind.

The introduction to this song, with its country beat and rag-tag horn arrangement, evokes the spirit of The Band.  When the lead vocals enter, echos of Elton John fill my mind.  Elton John singing for The Band?  How crazy is that?

When I listen to this song, I crank up the volume and try to sing along.  It fills me with the same joy that I get when Elton sings Elderberry Wine or The Band play Ophelia.  The songwri…

Plastic Cup - Low

from the album The Invisible Way (2013)

If you enjoy intelligent music with original themes not commonly found in song, then you will really dig Plastic Cup by Low.

This slowcore gem leads off their latest album with a tale of a guy with dependancy issues being mandated to provide urine samples. We follow the plastic cup to a date in the very distant future, where it is unearthed by anthropologists who speculate on its significance. I find lines like "This must be the cup the king held every night" to be hilarious.

This theme is well suited to slowcore and the postulate that downtempo, minimal music can be as intense as punk rock.  Pulling this off requires talented songwriting, musicianship, and production. Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker deliver the first two in spades. Same goes for the producer of this record, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.

My respect for Jeff Tweedy as a producer deepens with each new release.  His 2011 production of Mavis Staples' You Are Not Alone is one …

Alice - Dick Diver

from the album Calendar Days (2013)

Dick Diver are a four-piece band from Melbourne, Australia.  Their new album, Calendar Days, is my favorite record of 2013, so far.  I was curious about the origin of the band's name and did a little research.  I came up with two plausible answers:

1.  Dick Diver was the tragic hero in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel Tender Is The Night.

2.  Dick Diving is a slang term for a person who passes out in a chair with their chin falling forward into their chest.

If anyone knows the actual origins, please share.

I really like the song Alice off of Calendar Days.  It has a beautiful, raw vibe wrapped a sensible and intelligent indie package.  The guitars, bass, and drums are played with a looseness and familiarity that makes you feel like your hangin' out in their rehearsal space.  I dig how the rhythm guitar is so locked into the drumming and bass groove.  Listen to how the strum of the guitar lands so perfectly with the snare.

I also dig the vocal…

Hurricane - Charles Bradley

released as a single in advance of the album Victim Of Love (2013)

I really dig the story of Charles Bradley.  Born in Florida, he was raised in Brooklyn, New York.  After seeing James Brown perform at the Apollo Theatre at an early age, he became hooked on soul and knew he was destined to perform this special brand of music.  But life doesn't always work out according to plan.

His hardscrabble life removed him from NYC, and put him on a journey that included stops in Maine, Alaska, and California. Approaching 60 years-old, he returned to Brooklyn and began performing a James Brown revue under the name "Black Velvet." One night, he was playing at the Tarheel Lounge in Bedford Stuyvesant.  In the audience was Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records. He has been making records for Daptone ever since.

Hurricane is a horn-drenched soul bomb that captures a '70's vibe that instantly puts you in the inner city. Imagine Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, NYC, or anywhere else with …

Hate The Taste - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

from the album Specter At The Feast (2013)

Spring.  When a young man's fancy turns towards rock and roll.

I dig those first warm days of spring, when you roll down the windows and crank out the tunes.  For me, these are the times when nothing beats a hard-rockin' band.  So when warm sunshine invaded my little corner of the world this week, I listened to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club... really loud.

Hate The Taste is a song from their new album - Specter At The Feast - that causes me to continually hit the back button.  The opening guitar riff sounds real good on my stereo, as do the clicking drumsticks.  I turn it up.  Enter the vocals, with a lyrical line closely following the riff.  After a verse and chorus, wham, here come the bass, drums, and fuzzed-out guitar playing full-tilt.

Late in the song, the band delivers the mantra "I want to ride with you."  With each repetition of the line, the speedometer inches higher.  Before I know it, I miss my exit and am barreling…