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Showing posts from July, 2014

San Francisco - Stu Larsen

from the album Vagabond (2014)

Twice in by life, I had a dear friend move to San Francisco.  Both times it left me feeling empty.  These occurrences were over a decade apart and involved people from completely different universes.  Each ultimately left that magnificent city, bouncing around America, before settling far away from where either started or San Francisco.

That today they live in the same city and have become friends is nothing less than cosmic.  What type of forces drive such happenstance?

When I listen to the song San Francisco by Stu Larsen, I can't help but think of these two wonderful people.  I think about their personal journeys and how grateful I am to be a part of their lives.

The tender acoustic guitar, easy melody, and piano accents make reminiscing easy.  Check Stu Larsen out.  He is a gifted songwriter with a beautiful voice.

Click Here to watch Stu Larsen acoustically perform San Francisco for The Between Shows.

Click Here to listen to the album version of

Grizzly Bear - Angus & Julia Stone

from the forthcoming album Angus & Julia Stone (2014)

It seems that every few months, Angus and/or Julia Stone captivate me with a great new recording.  Surely this comes from the Australian sibling duo's considerable songwriting and musical talents, but it is also a credit to a product strategy that works.

For nearly fifty years, the accepted strategy has been for a performer to release an album every 12-18 months and tour relentlessly to squeeze every dollar in return of the investment.  This strategy greatly benefits larger, established acts but does not work in today's paradigm.

For new and rising bands, touring is expensive and the finances of being a small club troubadour allow only the youngest and most devoted musicians to participate.  However, the Internet allows bands to self promote at relatively low cost provided you have product.

Angus & Julia Stone release music as both a duo and individually.  This creates three interrelated entities to market and promo…

Where I'm From - Eels

from the album The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett (2014)

The other night I was sleepless.  I left my hotel and drove thru my ancestral hometown.  I past the old house, the houses of some friends, and Main Street.  Then I headed down a long, bumpy road with wetlands on either side until the road met the sea.

Once upon a time, there was a wall at this dead end.  People called it "The Wall", although it actually wasn't much of one.  In those days, there would be a half dozen cars parked on a summer night, partying and such.  But, on this night, I was alone.

The Wall once stood as a metaphor for me.  I always knew I would travel far away from this place and see the lights of Nairobi.  Sitting there, I could also see a distant lighthouse that forever symbolizes my father in my mind.  Metaphors were everywhere, but not a simile to be found.

As I turned around to head back, Eels came up on the new tune mix.  The song Where I'm From is quiet, melodic, and nostalgic.…

Here It Comes Again - The Amazing Snakeheads

from the album Amphetamine Ballads (2014)

Although we are never told what it is ... Here It Comes Again !!!

I dig how this tune by The Amazing Snakeheads simply repeats the title throughout, offering clues as to what it might be only in their musical treatment of the song.

It must be intense.  You can tell by the driving bass line that pulses mightily on each chord's root.  You can tell by the emphatic drumming and how the cymbals have a kind of dead ring to them.  You can tell by the way the guitar enters with chords announcing something special before ripping accents to compliment the vocals that are delivered with great rock dynamics.  You can tell by the synthesizer that sounds like Dr Frankenstein turning up the voltage to animate his monster.

I really wish I new what it was.  I keep hitting repeat but still can't tell.

Click Here to watch the official music video to Here It Comes Again.

Telefunken - Cosmic Gate & Jerome Isma-Ae

from the single Telefunken (2014)

Yesterday, I got back to my NY hotel room after yet another frustrating day.  I was scheduled to be in Denver this week, but was summoned here to deal with some unpleasantries.  Looking for a way to get numb, I put on a mix of new electronic releases.  Soon I was captivated by the hard trance of Cosmic Gate & Jerome Isma-Ae.

The song Telefunken has a driving edge that I really dig.  It is in the attack of the synthesizers and the ferocity of the beat.

As I listened, my mind turned to the name Cosmic Gate.  This stood as a metaphor for where I find myself these daze, dancing on the head of a pin waiting for the madness to slow down.  Robert Johnson found himself standing at the crossroads with a couple of clear options.  Mine are limited only by my imagination and values.

I am certain that I am not alone.  Speaking with my friends and such, many find themselves at the cosmic gate confronting nearly identical dilemmas.  I am one of many pin dancers …

Disco Fidel - Timothy Brownie

from the EP Buffalo Beat (2014)

I really dig the title to this electronic whammer jammer.  The visual image of Fidel Castro under the mirrorball - doing his best Tony Manero moves - makes me smile.  I just can't decide if he would look better in a white polyester suit or his best pressed uniform.  Either way for me.

This song is a serious jam.  Classified as electronic, this tune feats powerhouse horn arrangements and funked up bass that are not common in this genre.

The song is the masterwork of Timothy Brownie of Mexico.

Click Here to listen to the EP version of Disco Fidel.

8 Dogs 8 Banjos - Old Crow Medicine Show

from the album Remedy (2014)

Today I am venturing deeper into the deep south than anyone with my background should ever attempt.  This is going to require some acclimating.

Part of that process has me listening to some real shit kicking tunes.  Top of my list is 8 Dogs 8 Banjos by Old Crow Medicine Show.

This song is a hard romp of fiddles, banjos, guitars, and such.  The lyrics consist of repetitive calls and responses that ring like mantras.  Lines like "Eight Dogs, Eight Banjos", "Hot Coffee, Sweet Tea", "Good Lovin', Hard Times", "Green Rivers, Tall Trees", and "Corn Whiskey, Dirt Weed" tell me everything I need to know for this adventure.

Check this song out.  It earns its place with other great songs by Old Crow Medicine Show, like Wagon Wheel, Methamphetamine, and Caroline.

Click Here to listen to the album version of 8 Dogs 8 Banjos.

Click Here to watch Ketch & Critter from the band performing 8 Dogs 8 Banjos live.

Sing, Flip, & Twist - Smooth Beans

from the single Sing, Flip, & Twist (2014)

I really dig the song Sing, Flip, & Twist by the Spanish reggae band Smooth Beans.

This song has a great retro-Jamanian feel straight from the 1960's.  The call and response vocals are splendid.  So are the easy rhythm and keyboards.

This song puts a smile on my face and serves as a reminder to relax, take it easy, and not let other people drag you down.  This is particularly valuable on a Monday morning.

Click Here to watch the music video for Sing, Flip, & Twist.

Smalltown Boy Reprise - Jimmy Somerville

from the single Smalltown Boy (2014)

Jimmy Somerville is the former lead singer of the 80's band Bronski Beat.  Celebrating the song's 30th anniversary, he has released a new, stripped down, live version of this classic tune.  His website states:

"June 2014 marks a very special anniversary - 30 years since the release of Smalltown Boy.  Originally released in 1984, the song addressed key issues in the 1980's LGBT culture, and brought homosexuality and homophobia into the pop mainstream.  The song deals with loneliness, rejection by family and society and also being bullied because of supposed differences.  The song has been and continues to be an inspiration to many people."

On this new version, Jimmy Somerville's voice is incredible.  I really dig listening to him hit those crazy high notes over a simple piano accompaniment.  It gives me chills.

Thanks to my friend Theresa for bringing this song to my attention.

Click Here to watch Jimmy Somerville perform Sma…

Dbf - Eno • Hyde

from the album High Life (2014)

Remain In Light by Talking Heads is one of my favorite end-to-end albums of all time.  When you put it up against the other great records of 1980 - like The Clash's London Calling or Bruce Springsteen's The River - it stands apart in its ambition and impact.

The melding of African Polyrhythms, New Wave Instrumentation, and an impeccable sense of groove introduced westerners to the contagious meter of the Afrobeat stylings of legends like Fela Kuti.  This  was six years before Paul Simon recorded Graceland.

The producer of Remain In Light was Brian Eno.  Earlier this month, he released the album High Life with Karl Hyde from the British electronic group Underground.  The album's title is a reference to the Western African fusion of jazz laced pop genre commonly called "highlife".

My favorite track is Dbf.  This is most likely because the guitars, percussion, and groove remind me so much of Remain In Light.  Take a listen.  You'll…

Time Longer Than Rope - Neville Staple

from the album Ska Crazy! (2014)

No other music has the effect on me that Ska does.  Simply put, it makes me happy.

Neville Staple is one of Ska's most beloved characters.  The former toastmaster for The Specials and essential member of The Fun Boy Three is nothing less than a legend.  When I see him, I smile.  When I hear him, I dance.

Now at 59, he has had a series of strokes resulting from a nasty car accident.  But that hasn't stopped him from releasing a great new album.  My favorite tune is Track One, a cover of Prince Buster's Time Longer Than Rope.  The beat.  The guitar strum.  The piano accents.  The horns.  The bass line.  All splendid.

But this song is really all about Neville Staple.  His voice brings me back to a time and place that was carefree and wild.  I wish Neville Staple well and hope he continues to recover.  I also thank him for being part of the soundtrack to my life.

Click Here to listen to a preview of Time Longer Than Rope on iTunes.

Never Been Properly Loved - Chain & The Gang

from the album Minimal Rock N Roll (2014)

Bands rehearse.  Hours and hours.  Week after week.  Year after year.

This is particularly painful for the bass player.  His job is to establish and maintain the groove.  During rehearsals, the bass player will play the same line for 45 minutes at a time while guitarists, drummers, and vocalists experiment.  This is not fair.

When the groove is challenging, as in funk or disco, the bass players left hand begins to cramp.  Laying a pinkie on a fret becomes a herculean task.  Bass players suffer their art.

As I listen to Chain & The Gang play Never Been Properly Loved, I think of the bass player laying down his line.  How many times did they rehearse this song?  How many times did the bass player repeat the line.

Fortunately, it produced great results.  The drumming fully integrates with the groove to form an excellent rhythm section.  The tone of the guitar - particularly the lead - is inspired.  The harmonies - or are they dual vocals? - a…

All Over Me - The Rich Hands

from the album Out Of My Head (2014)

The Rich Hands are a rock and roll band from San Antonio, Texas.  Their latest album - Out Of My Head - is one of this year's most pleasant surprises with a vibe that conjure up blasts from the past like The Del Fuegos and Scruffy The Cat while also carrying a T. Rex and Replacements vibe.  One song - No Harm Blues - even has a keyboard intro reminiscent of Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone.

My favorite track is the opener, All Over Me.  The fuzzed out, overdriven guitars.  The emphatic drumming.  The booming bass.  This is three-piece power pop heaven with a keyboard track thrown in.

The songwriting is sharp and the vocals are euphemistic.  It is hard not to drive the car a little faster or turn the stereo a little louder when listening to this tune.

This is a great tune to cleanse your musical pallet.

Click Here to preview All Over Me on iTunes.

Early In The Morning - Idiot Glee

from the album Four (2014)

Did you party too hard last night?  Looking to find yourself the hair of the dog and a few eggs before hitting the beach and blender for Day Three of your holiday death march?  Would any album sound better than Nilsson Schmilsson right about now?

If so, you need to check out great cover of Early In The Morning by Idiot Glee.  This Lexington, Kentucky band captures the burnt out vibe of Harry Nilsson's classic while adding a trippy garage edge that is modern and hip.

For any vocalist to take on Harry, you must have supreme confidence.  Think of Mariah Carey tackling Without You.  James Friley pulls it off.  He fearlessly displays his vocal range taking Harry on straight.  That takes balls.

Behind him the band sounds fantastic, giving off something of a Velvet Underground stank.  The bass, guitar, and drums all make it sound loose while actually playing quite tight.  I particularly dig the way they sound after the breakdown.  Makes me want to jam.

Click Her…

Love This Time - Guantanamo Baywatch

from the single Surf 'n' Turf (2014)

Roll into the fifth with a marvelous little surf number from the splendidly named Guantanamo Baywatch.

Vintage sound abounds on the tune Love This Time.  Crunchy rhythm and maximum reverb lead guitar.  A bass line that would compel Frankie and Annette to shake it.  A drummer surfing the hi-hat and ride.  This is fun stuff.  Summertime in America.

So, let it all go and get your summer groove on with Guantanamo Baywatch.

Click Here to watch the official music video to Love This Time.

Gimme Something Good - Ryan Adams

from the forthcoming album Ryan Adams (2014)

Americans want the same two things as everyone else:  to be loved and to feel secure.  Our pursuit of these comforts is colored by our idealistic naivety, sense of justice, and belief that hard work is ultimately rewarded.  We are fragile and we are strong.  We are optimists and dreamers, even when we suffer.

When I listen to Ryan Adams sing, I hear all these qualities emanating from the soulful tone of his glorious voice.  Songs like When The Stars Go Blue and his cover of Oasis' Wonderwall give me chills.  There are inner secrets in his tone and vibrato that are revealed with every listen.  To me, the American Spirit can be found in Ryan Adams' voice.

So how fitting that he close this week to release a teaser track from his forthcoming, self-titled album?

The song Gimme Something Good is something of a sun-drenched rocker that Don Henley might have released one summer long ago.  You hear it in the guitars, the keyboards, and the d…

Reload - Stéphane Pompougnac

from the album Bloody French (2014)

The Hôtel Costes is a Paris hotel with rooms starting at a lofty €500 per night.  It is a trendy spot best known for its bar and courtyard café.  In 1997, Stéphane Pompougnac became the hotel's resident DJ after establishing a fine reputation for himself in the city's discothèques.  Two years later he began releasing mix CDs of the music he played at the hotel.  Over the next twelve years, he released 15 Hôtel Costes discs.

These collections represent a treasure trove of incredible music.  Thanks to Stéphane Pompougnac I have been introduced to dozens of artists I may have never have otherwise discovered.  His aesthetic and song selections have inspired me.  Without him, I doubt this blog would exist.

Earlier this year, he released the album Bloody French, featuring the song Reload.  I can't get enough of this tune.  Each sound is perfect.  The drum beat.  The synthesizers.  The bass.

Above this Raphaëlle Audin sings with her magnificent…

Crucial Stepper - Digid

from the EP Crucial Stepper (2014)

When was the last time you cranked your stereo to some cosmic dub stepper music?  You know, when the music is so loud that the the groove rattles your bones.  Well, if it has been awhile, here is your chance.

Digid is a young dub stepper from Belgium who records for the excellent Portuguese label Cubiculo Records.  The song Crucial Stepper really resonates with me.  I dig the slower than expected tempo that creates space to appreciate the individual tracks in their full glory.  Each of these tracks marries tone and restrained performance.  Collectively, it allows the song to hook you on many levels.  Particularly when played loud.

I am most fond of the instrumental "raw version".  But do yourself a favor and check out the vocal version featuring Brazilian Junior Dread.  Also check out the Alpha Steppa remix.

Sometimes when I listen to this song I am reminded of some of the lesser played dubs on Sandinista! That is a very good thing.

Click He…