Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve tunes!

I'm doing nothing, hope you have a more exciting evening planned. In any case here's three appropriate songs.
MP3 The Walkmen - In the New Year (from 2008's You and Me)
MP3 Death Cab for Cutie - The New Year (from 2003's Transatlantacism)
MP3 Nina Gordon - New Year's Eve (from 2000's Tonight and the Rest of My Life)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue

Jenny Lewis is the frontwoman in Rilo Kiley and she's also quite good on her own. She writes songs filled with hooks and she's got one of the best voices in rock. Hers is the female voice you hear on the Postal Service's only record, 2003's Give Up.

MP3 Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue(from 2008's Acid Tongue)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Silver Jews - Suffering Jukebox

David Berman of NY's Silver Jews

Silver Jews have been around for almost 20 years, a bit under the radar. Based in NYC, the band was formed by David Berman (the only permanent member) with Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich (both later of Pavement). After rotating through no less then 24 members if Wikipedia is to be believed (including Will Oldham), it's now just Berman and his wife, Cassie (who sounds an awful lot like Lucinda Williams to these ears, not that that's a bad thing!) This is a lovely alt-country song off their latest.

MP3 Silver Jews - Suffering Jukebox (from 2008's Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Black Ghosts - Full Moon

In honor of last night's moon, here's a great song by the UK-based electronica duo The Black Ghosts, aka Theo Keating and Simon Lord. I get that this track is danceable, but it's also melodic and features beautiful singing, two things you don't usually get with a dance track.

MP3 The Black Ghosts - Full Moon (from 2008's The Black Ghosts)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Great Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa covers

Easu with Ezra of Vampire Weekend (and his ubiquitous boat shoes!)

This is SO GOOD. Londoner Esau Mwamwaya (from Mali) has teamed up with Johan Karlberg (Sweden) and Etienne Tron (France) of Radioclit to produce a spectacular album that eases Westerners into African music, not least by including covers of artists like the Beatles, Architecture in Helsinki and the Ruby Suns. Pitchfork gave it an 8.6, and you know how THEY are. Here's the most high-profile cover off the record, which just proves that the VW boys are NOT making African music, in case you were mistaken.

Also don't miss Hot Chip covering the same song with Peter Gabriel name-dropping himself on vocals (he changes the lyrics to acknowledge the weirdness). I guess this was inevitable; it's very nice to have. Thing is it's just a very good song from a very good album and you can do a lot of things with it.

MP3 The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit) - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
(Vampire Weekend cover from 2008's "The Very Best Mixtape")

If you like this, you can download the whole album for FREE here!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crystal Stilts - Shattered Shine

This Brooklyn-based band makes muddy reverb-heavy garage rock. Melodies tend to one or two notes, the singer will remind you of Ian Curtis, and occasionally they throw some retro harmonica or tambourine on top. This is probably my second-favorite debut of the year, after Vampire Weekend. Go New York! So many great bands in the city these days.

MP3 Crystal Stilts - Shattered Shine (from 2008's Crystal Stilts)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election songs!

For Barack, for our children, for the country, for the world. Congratulations, we did it. An unbelievable night. My daughter and I are going to the inauguration.

MP3 PJ Harvey - Victory (from 1997's Dry)

MP3 The National - Mr. November (from 2005's Alligator)

MP3 Wilco and Fleet Foxes - I Shall be Released (live 2008 cover of Bob Dylan's 1967 classic)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A.C. Newman - There are Maybe Ten or Twelve

Finally! Carl (aka A.C.) Newman of the New Pornographers is about to release his second solo album, the follow-up to 2004's excellent The Slow Wonder. Due January 20, it's called Get Guilty and here's a delightful preview. I really really like it.

MP3 A.C. Newman - There are Maybe Ten or Twelve
(from 2009's Get Guilty)

Divorce songs

In light of this week's events in a Trenton courtroom, I present two songs that sum up my feelings.

MP3 Elbow - Grounds for Divorce
(from 2008's The Seldom Seen Kid)

MP3 Magnetic Fields - I Don't Believe You (from 2004's I)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Land of Talk - Some Are Lakes

Yeah, I know, just what we need--another band from Montreal! When I first heard Land of Talk last year, I wasn't too keen on them. But this new song has me won over. Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell's got a lovely, lilting voice and this is really sticking in my head.

MP3 Land of Talk - Some Are Lakes
(from 2008's Some Are Lakes)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Arlo Guthrie - I'm Changing My Name to Fannie Mae

Arlo updates his "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler" for our new era of poor, poor billionaire bailouts.
I'm changing my name to Fannie Mae
And I'm heading for that great receiving line
So when they hand a trillion grand out
I'll be standing with my hand out!

When my creditors are screaming for their dough
I'll be proud to tell them all where they can go!
Sing it Arlo.

MP3 Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant (HUGE file--18 minutes long and totally worth it! anti-Vietnam masterpiece from 1967's Alice's Restaurant)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel SINGS in NYC

Jeff Mangum joins Elephant 6 pals Elf Power on the beautiful The Arrow Flies Close from their 1997 album When the Red King Comes (he walks onstage at the 2:00 mark to cheers and whoops).

Oh man, I just KNEW this was gonna happen at this Knitting Factory show, I shoulda been there. Maybe Mangum is finally coming out of his self-imposed exile from public view and maybe one day he'll even sing a NMH song again, wouldn't that be something? Here's how one fan in attendance described it (courtesy of brooklynvegan):
Jeff Mangum walked onstage 3 times last night at the amazing Elephant 6 collective show -- first just for the chorus of a song, about halfway through, then again for just a chorus, and finally at the last song ("The Opera House" by Olivia Tremor Control, before the encores) when he went NUTS and sang for the whole song. He was jumping around and sort of tackled Scott Spillane halfway through and put him in a headlock. He had the most intense look in his eyes the whole time he was on stage. Everyone chanted "Jeff Jeff Jeff", and someone was yelling for songs from Aeroplane ("anything from that album!!! you have to!!") but all we got from that album was Julian Koster and Scott Spillane doing a stripped-down, unpracticed version of The Fool, "dedicated to a friend", which Julian said they hadn't practiced in years. I'm sure you'll get more emails about it -- it was incredible.
I'm very encouraged by this! C'mon Jeff, ten years is long enough, please come back.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Springsteen plays for Obama in Philadelphia

It was a beautiful day in Philly as local hero Bruce Springsteen performed a 45-minute acoustic set for the Obama campaign. The crowd filled the Ben Franklin Parkway for five city blocks as the Boss played songs that sounded like prayers, accompanied only by his own guitar and harmonica. Fantastic!

The setlist:

The Promised Land
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Thunder Road
No Surrender
Does this Bus Stop at 82nd St? (with its line "the dope is that there's still hope")
The Rising
This Land is Your Land (Woody Guthrie, 1940)

Listen to Bruce address the crowd just before he played The Rising (my own upload to youtube!):

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Springsteen to play free acoustic show for Obama in Philly

They don't call him The Boss for nothing.

Of course I'm going! There's not much could keep me away from free Bruce 35 miles from my house. All you have to do is sign up and they send you an email that serves as your ticket. If you volunteer to work the event (I can't get over to one of the PA offices before Saturday or I'd have done that), you get to stand in the VIP section up close, which will be nice cuz it's gonna be HUGE, something like this:

crowd on Ben Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

MP3 Bruce Springsteen - My City of Ruins (from 2002's The Rising)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Martha Wainwright - So Many Friends

Lovely song with exquisite vocals off the best-titled album of the year from Martha Wainwright, Rufus' little sister.

MP3 Martha Wainwright - So Many Friends
(from 2008's I Know You're Married But I Have Feelings Too)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP Paul Newman

Nothing to do with music, but I couldn't let Paul Newman's death go unmentioned. He was my mother's crush for more than 50 years. A fine actor and a beautiful person in many ways. Through the Newman's Own line of delicious, healthy foods he has donated over $250 million to various worthy causes. A tremendous humanitarian, and extremely humble about it. One of the greats. NYT obit here. Never have I seen such an outpouring of positive comments about ANYBODY on the Internet, either. Well deserved. Give something to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps in his memory. Or just buy some salad dressing or spaghetti sauce.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sigur Rós - Untitled 8 and Glósóli (live, Quai Jacques Cartier, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

aka Popplagið (Pop Song)...they rarely play this last song from 2002's (), this set-closing version's almost 14 min long, real top 40 stuff

always-lovely Glósóli ("Glowing Sole") from 2005's Taak...the crowd goes nuts when they start to rock out at the 5-min mark

What a thrill to see this magical band with my sister, my son and his girlfriend on a beautiful last-night-of-summer in the old port of Montreal. Gorgeous pictures by aurora jayne here, including this one of Goggi (Georg, the mad sexy bass player), dashing in top hat and morning jacket.

For the first time since 2001, the band is playing this tour as a four-piece. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the Amiina girls on the more orchestral numbers as well as the brass section on the new material, but still they made a ton of noise as the original unit. It's hard to believe there's only one guitarist on stage; Jonsi gets so much mileage outta that cello bow and the massive overtones it produces. Kjartan makes his keyboards sound like a symphony, too.

To close with Gobbledigook they engaged the services of opening band Parachutes (fronted by Jonsi's BF) to bang the extra drums. (We missed their set because we were busy having a phenomenal meal here.)

The Montreal crowd was refreshingly respectful. I didn't see anyone talking on a cell phone for two hours, and there was even minimal photo taking and video recording (which explains why none of the new songs have been posted anywhere with decent sound quality--I should have taped one! my digital camera has great sound.) People actually came to see the show! (hint hint New Yorkers...) Some comments here and on the SR message boards.


Ni batterí
Við Spilum Endalaust
Með Blóðnasir
Viðrar vel til loftárása
Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur
Popplagið (Untitled 8)

MP3 Sigur Rós - Við spilum endalaust (from 2008's Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, or "With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly")

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wolf Parade - Language City

Here's a song that's been stuck in my head intermittently over the last few weeks (it's in heavy rotation on Sirius 26). Yet another great band from Montreal, where I will be in just three days to see Sigur Rós! Fun fact about these guys: they were signed to Sub Pop by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse.

In keeping with the modern inclination to belong to many bands in a short lifetime, WP frontman Spencer Krug is also in Sunset Rubdown and used to be in Frog Eyes and Swan Lake, and another guy in the band is also in Handsome Furs. These are all good bands!

MP3 Wolf Parade - Language City
(from 2008's At Mount Zoomer)

***three days till Sigur Rós in Montreal!***

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Elbow - The Bones of You

Even though they've been around for seven years, I never thought to check out Elbow till I read they were opening some of REM's European dates this tour. Then they won this year's Mercury Prize, beating out incredible records by Burial and Radiohead, whose Colin Greenwood said Elbow deserved it. That was quite enough for me, so I promptly gave the album a listen and I gotta say, I was not prepared for how good it was. Incredibly mature, complex and compelling. Has bumped Okkervil out of the CD player and is now on permanent repeat. And I have to get their other three albums.

Again, it's a whole album that begs to be listened to in its entirety, so hard to choose a single track, but here's the song that most resembles Radiohead, and I've never thought anybody resembled Radiohead. They come from Manchester, that perenially economically depressed region of England that has given us so much music from the Bee Gees and Herman's Hermits to the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, the Smiths, Oasis, the Verve, Badly Drawn Boy, Autechre and the list goes on.

If you've heard these guys compared to Coldplay or Keane, I gotta say NO WAY to that. OK, they are not as weird as Radiohead; they are playing in normal time signatures and using normal instruments and the song structures as well as the singer's voice are more conventional than Thom & Co's. but Coldplay and Keane are the Archies compared to these guys.

MP3 Elbow - The Bones of You (from 2008's Mercury Prize-winning The Seldom Seen Kid)

MP3 The Archies - Sugar, Sugar (from 1969's Everything's Archie)

***Four days till Sigur Rós in Montreal***

Monday, September 15, 2008

Janis Joplin - Me and Bobby McGee

Today's is an oldies track in "honor" of Lehman Brothers going down and Merrill being "sold" to B of A for pennies on the dollar (Colbert said tonight it was for "two goats and a bushel of oranges"). I told my sisters this is a great time to have nothing left to lose, because those who "have" are going to lose a lot. Except for those at the very top, they're not going to lose anything cuz it's all in gold in the Caymans.

Song was written by Fred Foster and superbadass Kris Kristofferson, one of the greats. Janis recorded it days before she died and it is one of only two posthumous #1 singles ever, the other being Otis Redding's (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay.

MP3 Janis Joplin - Me and Bobby McGee
(from 1971's Pearl)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Okkervil River - On Tour with Zykos

Sometimes there's a record you have to have IMMEDIATELY as soon as it's available, and you play over and over until you know it inside-out and are almost sick of it. The new Okkervil River certainly fits that bill for me. I've played it all the way through four or five times in the last two days (and nothing else).

Will Sheff continues his reign as the best lyricist in rock, and though I don't NEED compelling lyrics (Radiohead's are mostly fragmentary, and Sigur Rós's are completely incomprehensible), I do appreciate them. I also just love how Okkervil's albums are truly ALBUMS, always built around a concept. They're musical novels penned by one of the most literate guys ever to pick up a guitar.

The Stand Ins can really be considered the second disc of a double album, the first half of which we got last year with The Stage Names. I love the whole thing, and it was hard to pick a cut to post here, but I'm going with On Tour with Zykos, the follow-up to the lovely A Girl in Port. Here the groupie in question wants her rock star one-night stand to get lost once she's had him.
He gets close, but I choke
take your shit
take your clothes and get out of my home
well I want you to love me, or I want you long gone
you say your real name is John

Hey thanks John, go sing songs
go rock on
roll your crew on down the road to the next sold out show

MP3 Okkervil River - On Tour with Zykos (from 2008's The Stand Ins)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Calexico - Two Silver Trees

Oh, this is just delicious. Super seductive whispered vocals over enchanting instrumentation. WOW.

MP3 Calexico - Two Silver Trees (from 2008's Carried to Dust)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Joy Division - She's Lost Control

Ian Curtis, far left
lots more excellent Joy Division pix by same photog here

Just saw the Joy Division movie, Control, the first feature film by Dutch photographer (U2, Bowie, REM, Kurt Cobain, David Byrne) and video director (Echo and the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, U2, Nick Cave, Mercury Rev, At the Drive-In, Travis, Coldplay--the list is LONG) Anton Corbijn, who also shot Joy Division back in the day (1976-1980).

JD frontman Ian Curtis makes a fascinating subject and the movie's quite well done in gritty black and white to match the bleak Manchester backdrop. The four actors playing the band actually perform the songs and they sound almost exactly like the real versions.

We really do like to destroy our most sensitive artists, don't we. Curtis, an epileptic who suffered from grand mal seizures off and onstage, was only 23 when he hanged himself the night before the band was to leave on their first American tour. Joy Division and its successor, New Order, continue to be immensely influential 30 years later (see Interpol. Editors).

Below, the song that gave the film its title. It's about a girl having an epileptic seizure.

MP3 Joy Division - She's Lost Control
(from 1979's Unknown Pleasures)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blitzen Trapper - Furr

My son Tim's now talking about moving to Portland, Oregon when he graduates from the University of Vermont next year. So with that in mind, here's the melodic title track from the upcoming fourth album by Portland's Blitzen Trapper, their first on Sub Pop.

MP3 Blitzen Trapper - Furr (from 2008's Furr)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Radiohead does Neil Young at the Hollywood Bowl

And it's so pretty. Thanks Gorilla vs. Bear. Thanks ThomandJonny.

MP3 Neil Young - Tell me Why (original version from 1970's After the Gold Rush; this is live in Chicago, 1976)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How great is John Doe?

Very great. Just back from seeing him with only fifty other people at a house concert in Freehold hosted by the extraordinarily gracious Mark and Elaine Costanzo at their lovely home near Bruce Springsteen's high school. The show itself took place in Mark's photography studio (a converted detached garage), and afterward everyone ate, drank and mingled most sociably in their backyard.

What a contrast from All Points West two weeks ago! I wasn't frisked, I didn't have to open my bag, I wasn't carded (yes, I'm carded EVERYWHERE even though I was born in the 50s, because this country is insane). Instead of waiting in long lines to buy $10 burgers and $7 beers, people brought their own food and drink and SHARED, can you imagine? John enjoyed what appeared to be his first Yuengling, which someone in the audience gave him. At least, he looked at it quizzically and tried to pronounce it (not easy).

the studio during a previous concert (excellent photo taken by this guy)

There was a rudimentary setlist but mostly folks just shouted titles out and he played them. Lots of beautiful stuff from his solo albums, including Twin Brother, She's Not, 7 Holes, Mama Don't, The Golden State, Unforgiven, Highway 5, and even I Dreamed of St. Augustine from the I'm Not There soundtrack. He also did Burning House of Love, an old X song he often plays with the Knitters and solo.

Below another song he did tonight, a lovely ode to wanting more time with your children before they're gone (John has three teenage daughters with his second wife).

Tonight some guy's backyard, tomorrow Lincoln Center. The music business.

Sidebar: If I could have been anyone in the world, I probably would have been Exene Cervenka. I can't think of anyone cooler. Besides being a great poet, songwriter and artist and an absolutely unique performer, she's got no looks at all and yet she married two of the foxiest men on the planet--Doe and Viggo Mortenson, with whom she has a 20-year-old son. Recently she was married for the third time to Jason Edge, her guitarist in the Original Sinners. Good 2002 interview with the two of them by Stanford U's KZSU here.

MP3 John Doe - A Little More Time (from 2007's A Year in the Wilderness)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ra Ra Riot - Can You Tell

Finally a great band from Syracuse, it's about time! Debut LP came out Tuesday and it is mighty fine. Girls on cello and violin are not used for embellishment but take the place of rhythm guitars. Band has already survived the death of its drummer (and principal songwriter). Go 'Cuse!

MP3 Ra Ra Riot - Can You Tell (from 2008's The Rhumb Line)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sigur Rós - Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

I was hoping some of this video would eventually surface. This is from the free outdoor concert Björk and Sigur Rós did in Reykjavik in June, the one that was webcast by National Geographic and attended by ten percent of Iceland's population. One of the best tracks off Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust and a perfect example of SR's "build it up/tear it down" song structure. Band is all costumed out (the Amiina girls look like goddesses) and it's a beautiful day in Iceland, albeit only about 50 degrees! (Note: audio is not live, it's the album cut.)

MP3 Sigur Rós - Inní mér syngur vitleysingur (from 2008's Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paul Westerberg - Who You Gonna Marry?

This is easily the best 49 cents you can spend on music this year. Replacements frontman Westerberg's (b. 1959) awesome songwriting skills are front and center on this stream-of-consciousness recording released as one 43- (not 49) minute MP3 sold briefly by Amazon for 49 cents. Apparently it's been taken down now for some legal reason which is a crying shame.

The record just bursts with great songs, some of which you hear for only a few seconds; others are played on top of each other in the manner of interfering radio stations. Almost all are instantly catchy and memorable. The one about his father's death is heartbreaking (there are no song titles given). This record will blow you away.

However you can find this, HIGHLY recommended. Definitely gonna be in my 2008 Top Ten.

MP3 Paul Westerberg - Who You Gonna Marry (from 2008's 49:00 of Your Life)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Carl Newman and Will Sheff - Lost Coastlines

Speaking of the New Pornographers, wow, this is really great. Carl "stands in" for the rest of Okkervil River as he and Will Sheff do the beautiful Lost Coastlines from the upcoming OR record, The Stand-Ins, a companion to last year's excellent The Stage Names. Sheff, the best rocker ever from New Hampshire, is one of those guys who's always got the next few records already written. Newman sings like a blind man with his eyes closed. They sound fantastic harmonizing together at the end.

MP3 Okkervil River - Plus Ones (from 2007's The Stage Names)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Pornographers - The Bleeding Heart Show

I also got to see the New Pornographers for the first time at APW, though I'm not sure it really "counted" as neither Neko nor Dan Bejar were present. Still Uncle Carl Newman and his hard-working niece Kathryn Calder (in her early 20s and up there onstage with a bunch of folks pushing 40) put on a nice show, opening with the divorce ditty My Rights vs Yours which segued into Use It. Myriad Harbor would have been appropriate considering the setting but without Dan, not possible. My girlfriend Pam had not been familiar with them but ended up liking them a lot.

Below, the Pornos' best song ever. Here Carl explain how its singalong coda came to be the theme song of the sketchy online University of Phoenix.
We're just trying to get by in this world. When you play music for so long and don't make any money, and people start offering you money for things that involve no effort on your part, you start going, "I'll do that."
At APW they also did a cool cover of ELO's Don't Bring Me Down (Pam and I were going crazy trying to remember whose song it was); you can see it here.

MP3 The New Pornographers - The Bleeding Heart Show
(from 2005's Twin Cinema)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kings of Leon - On Call

I saw Kings of Leon for the first time just before Radiohead on day two of All Points West. Their propulsive and retro (interesting, because they were exposed to very little rock music growing up on the itinerant Pentecostal circuit) Southern sound drew a respectable daylight crowd (though many were just staking out a position for the headliners).

Now I know why Jenny Eliscu is so into them--they are indeed sexy rock-and-roll beasts in their long hair and very tight jeans. Thom Yorke, in thanking the band for opening for them (he pronounced Leon like it's French), dedicated Airbag to the homeschooled Followill brothers-and-cousin from Tennessee and cracked "If we were that good looking we'd be famous."

Radiohead guitarist (and excellent dancer) Ed O'Brien is also a known KoL fan. He played My Party on his portion of the Thumbs Down webcast last fall, and was quoted in the NME saying:
I don't get jealous when I see other bands, but when I see them I think, 'Man, I'd love to be in that band'. They're young...they remind me of... the Bunnymen or something like that. They're growing, they're evolving...They're amazing players, the drummer, he's amazing. They're all great but he's really special.
Nice to have fans like that!

Watch them play new song Sex on Fire for the first time ever at All Points West, Jersey City, NJ, 8/9/200

MP3 Kings of Leon - On Call (from 2007's Because of the Times)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Radiohead - Reckoner and No Surprises live at All Points West

This is great because it's the opening number so you can hear the tension in the crowd before they come on.

Night two was even better. I can hardly believe I'm saying that as we got How to Disappear, Climbing up the Walls, Lucky and Street Spirit the first night, but the second night we got Fake Plastic Trees, The Bends, Exit Music and No Surprises. I'm so glad I saw both shows (full setlists for both nights here).

The funny list of things you couldn't bring into the festival:

NO Instruments
NO Knives / Weapons Etc.
NO Chains / Chain Wallets
NO Blankets
NO Outside Food & Bev
NO Camelpacks
NO Tents
NO Fireworks
NO Flags
NO Refunds Or Exchanges
NO Chairs
NO Video Cameras
NO Audio Recording Devices
NO Bota Bags
NO Professional Cameras
NO Stuffed Animals (???)
NO Pets
NO Drugs & Drug Paraphernalia (people must have had all the weed in their shoes, because it was very 420-friendly inside)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Radiohead - Paranoid Android live at All Points West

Well what can you say. I mean, they just KILL. Great setlist, and I imagine we'll get Karma Police and Fake Plastic Trees tonight. Main set ended with How to Disappear Completely, my fav Radiohead song of all time. Excellent versions of Jigsaw and Bodysnatchers (I was actually afraid for Jonny, he didn't seem to be wearing his customary brace on his right arm and he was BRUTALIZING his guitar). Here's Paranoid Android which gives you a good taste of the well-deserved hysteria.

We're off in 45 minutes to do it again!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees live in Montreal

They're HERE!!! We leave for Jersey City in ONE HOUR!!! Here they are doing a golden oldie (1995) in Montreal two nights ago. SO EXCITED!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sigur Rós Live at MOMA

I told myself I wasn't going to cry but in fact I didn't make it past the first few notes of Svefn-g-englar (the opening song) without tearing up. What IS IT about this band? Absolutely phenomenal. Cool poster for the event, too. They basically did a "greatest hits" set (with the exception of Vaka), sharing the makeshift stage with Auguste Rodin's Honoré de Balzac. Amazing. (Video contains some cool backstage footage but not all the songs played).

se lest
ny batteri
vid spilum endalaust
med blodnasir
vidrar vel til loftarasa
inni mer syngur vitleysingur
olsen olsen
iceland's national anthem (it was Iceland's independence day)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ratatat - Shiller

This Brooklyn-based duo makes moody instrumentals you can dance to. When Drowned in Sound asked why they didn't give their third album a more creative name, they responded "Would you prefer something like Viva La Vida? In Rainbows? Personally, I think we nailed it. ."

MP3 Ratatat - Shiller (from 2008's LP3)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lykke Li - Little Bit

Here's a cute song and current favorite of both my kids, 22-year-old Lykke Li from Sweden (according to Wikipedia she's also lived in Portugal, Morocco, Nepal, India and New York City). Her debut album, Youth Novels, was co-produced by the Björn of Peter Björn and John. Like all the Swedish artists I can think of, she sings in English. I think I'm a little bit in love with you...but only if you're a little bit in love with me...

MP3 Lykke Li - Little Bit (from 2008's Youth Novels)

Friday, July 25, 2008

John Doe - Pressing On (Bob Dylan cover)

then and now

Oh, I do LOVE John Doe. He's been one of my biggest crushes since 1980 when I moved to Los Angeles and he and Exene were fronting X, the greatest of the LA punk bands. I was waitressing at the now long defunct Starwood, seeing bands like Fear, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, the Blasters, the Gun Club and the Minutemen all the time, but X were always in a league of their own.

Now of course Doe is one of our best contemporary folk singers (not to mention a fine actor). I am excited to be seeing him in August at a VERY intimate show in Freehold (capacity 55). The next afternoon he will be playing a free gig with the Knitters (most of X and some of the Blasters playing acoustic folk/alt-country) at Damrosch Park, NYC, as part of Lincoln's Center's Roots of American Music series. Patti Smith will also be appearing.

While watching I'm Not There I was thrilled to hear Doe doing the singing for the Christian Bale character (Dylan in his evangelical phase). Doe mentioned in a recent interview that covering the song required some acting on his part, since he is not a believer.

MP3 John Doe - Pressing On
(from the original soundtrack to I'm Not There, original released by Bob Dylan on 1980's Saved)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sebadoh - Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)

Here's the great Lou Barlow of Sebadoh (and Dinosaur Jr and Folk Implosion) doing a lovely solo version of Think during Pitchfork's Music Festival in Chicago this week. When he's finished playing this very quiet song all by himself the bassist for what some call the loudest indie band ever (Dinosaur) says "That was scary."

MP3 Sebadoh - Think (Let Tomorrow Bee) from 1993's Bubble and Scrape (band did the whole album at Pitchfork)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Congratulations to Björk

for getting herself and many others banned in China, well done! Nice to know SOMEBODY in this world has the balls not to suck up to the Chinese government, even if it's an eccentric 42-year-old rock star from Iceland.

Much respect to Björk who is a gigantic institution in her home country and now lives most of the time in Westchester County NY with her American avant garde artist boyfriend Matthew Barney. Björk is what the British call a "gap mother," with a 22-year-old son from her early relationship with the Sugarcubes' guitar player (who'd been her boyfriend since she was 15) and a five-year-old daughter with Barney.

Here's the song she was banned for (she started chanting Tibet Tibet! at the end of it during a recent show in Shanghai), as well as one of my favorite Björk songs ever.

MP3 Björk - Declare Independence
(from 2007's Volta)
MP3 Björk - Hyper-ballad (from 1995's Post)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beck - Gamma Ray

the original hippie cowboy from outer space, Mr. Beck Hansen

Beck is one of those artists who can do no wrong. Sure he's got his better and his lesser albums, but that's the fate of anyone whose musical career lasts more than a few years. Beck has done enough fantastic stuff that I will always consider him a major figure and I'm always interested in what he's doing now.

That said, the new record is way better than The Information, about on the same level as Guero. I absolutely love Joey Waronker's drumming on Chemtrails, but here's one you may not have heard yet, Gamma Ray, a fun summer song.

MP3 Beck - Gamma Ray
(from 2008's Modern Guilt)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds -
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

This is not exactly background music. Actually it kind of takes over the room--just see if you can ignore this boffo opening number from one of the best-reviewed records of the year. Australian Nick Cave, born 1957, gets props from me for being PJ Harvey's ex-boyfriend (that can't be an easy job, and in fact he wrote a whole album about it when it was over).

MP3 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! from (2008's Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Born Ruffians - Hummingbird

Born Ruffians in their natural habitat of Toronto

Charming retro sound on this track by Canadian youngsters Born Ruffians (nice album title too). As one reviewer wrote, only party-poopers wouldn't like this.

MP3 Born Ruffians - Hummingbird
(from 2008's Red, Yellow and Blue)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Foals - Balloons

Foals are a very young (as in, they could be my children) band from Oxford; a couple of them even went to the same 800-year-old prep school as all five members of that other Oxford band. This is from their strong debut album Antidotes. They're opening for bands like REM and Bloc Party on the other side of the Atlantic. People always ask me how I find out about new bands. Watching who your favorites pick for opening acts is an excellent method!

MP3 Foals - Balloons (from 2008's Antidotes)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Morning Jacket - Librarian

Their new album is not getting the rave reviews they're used to, but still a tonna people are downloading it off eMusic, and I think this is my favorite song ever by the Louisville, Kentucky band. Less reverby than usual. Syntax of Things has the lyrics and a live version from Bonnaroo. When God gave us mirrors, he had no idea...

I recently saw the Bob Dylan flick I'm Not There for the first time and had to Google it to find out who that was backing up Jim James cuz it didn't look my MMJ, and turns out it was Calexico, sweet. I gotta get me that soundtrack, I had no idea it was that great.

MP3 My Morning Jacket - Librarian (from 2008's Evil Urges)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Liz Phair - Soap Star Joe

It was certainly odd to be listening to Jake Vogelnest count down the Top Ten on Left of Center this week and hear Liz Phair (b. 1967) at #5, albeit with the reissue of her debut, the classic Exile in Guyville from 1993. In recent years Liz has taken quite a beating from the hipster music press for turning pop and trying to make some money.

But this year it's back to Liz-worship in connection with the 15th anniversary of Guyville. Reviews of her recent acoustic performances of the album in its entirety indicate she's still the lousy live act she's always been, but the debut holds up as a masterpiece of writing, no doubt.

MP3 Liz Phair - Soap Star Joe
(from 1993's Exile in Guyville, reissued 2008)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal

Shoring up my theory that an astounding amount of the best indie rock comes from just a handful of places--Brooklyn, Canada (Montreal/Toronto/Vancouver), Seattle, Minneapolis, Athens (GA), London, Glasgow, Sweden and Iceland--Seattle's Fleet Foxes give Vampire Weekend (who seem played out just six months after they were the next big thing) a run for their money in the debut-of-the-year category. Their sound is characterized by gorgeous three- and four-part harmonies and they sing a lot about nature, but they want you to know they're not hippies. This album will be on everybody's Top 10 list for sure.

MP3 Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (from 2008's Fleet Foxes)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Duke Spirit - The Step and the Walk

Nice retro early 90s sound on this song, now in high rotation on Sirius 26 Left of Center, one of my main sources of new music. This is a young band from London. I'll see them at All Points West if I get there early enough!

MP3 The Duke Spirit - The Step and the Walk (from 2008's Neptune)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hot Hot Heat - Bandages

This song by the British Columbia band Hot Hot Heat is five years old but I just heard it for the first time. Incredibly, it was actually banned by the BBC because it was felt the repetition of the word "bandages" might be offensive in light of the war. (Note to the BBC and the rest of the dominant media--it's the WAR that's offensive, not rock songs.)

Check the lyrics and see if you think this song could possibly be construed as having anything to do with the war. It's a breakup song, for crying out loud. The stupidity would be amazing, if it weren't so common.

MP3 Hot Hot Heat - Bandages (from 2003's Make Up the Breakdown)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Baseball Project - Past Time

Now here's something completely different--apparently Scott McCaughey (of Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5, Tuatara, REM, The Venus 3 and God knows how many other bands), and Scott Wynn (frontman of the excellent 80s band The Dream Syndicate, who I saw open for REM in 1984) got ripped together at REM's Hall of Fame induction last year and talked baseball all night. Here's how Wynn remembers it, from the band's myspace page:
Everyone was happy. The wine was flowing, the food was incredible and spring training had just started. Scott and I talked baseball until most of the party guests had cleared out. And we actually remembered it the next day.
That drunken convo turned into The Baseball Project, which also features REM's Peter Buck (who's in at least six bands I can think of) and Wynn's drummer of ten years (and recent wife) Linda Pitmon.

This is a delightful song for anyone with a love of baseball. They name check a ton of players from the 60s and 70s. Whole album of this stuff out on Chapel Hill's great Yeproc label July 8th. Watch them do the song the other night on Letterman (one night after REM destroyed at a sold-out MSG) here.

MP3 The Baseball Project - Past Time (from 2008's Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sigur Rós - Gobbledigook

The new Sigur Rós will be out in a couple weeks (it's streaming at the official site here). Check out all the different ways they are selling the record--everything from a $100 deluxe edition filled with photographs and videos to $8 for a high-quality MP3 digital download of the 11 tracks. This is the way to go people!

"Buzz" (that's what I'm calling it) will certainly be among my favorite records of the year. On several tracks they try to rock out but by the end of the song, they just can't help it, they're sounding like tears-in-your-eyes, lump-in-your-throat Sigur Rós again.

For the first time ever Jónsi supposedly sings one song in English, though after three listens to the whole album neither Liese nor I can tell which one that might be, so he's apparently just as incomprehensible in English as he is in Icelandic and Vonlenska. Good.

One of the most original bands ever. And check out the album cover! (NSFW)

MP3 Sigur Rós - Gobbledigook (from 2008's Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, which translates as "With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly")

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Johnny Marr joins REM for Fall on Me in Chicago

This is just too cool. Peter Buck (b. 1956) and Johnny Marr (b. 1963), the guitarists for the best American and best British bands of the 80s, sharing a side of the stage in Chicago and playing dueling Rickenbackers. It is impossible to overstate the brilliance of both REM and The Smiths, and the instantly recognizable (and similar) playing styles of Buck and Marr are a big part of that brilliance (ok, also, the two bands have wildly charismatic lead singers and insanely good songwriting). Funny how both these guys ended up in Seattle, Buck relocating from Athens during the Nirvana era and Marr of course moving over when he joined Modest Mouse in 2006.

On yet another REM note, I recently heard this song for the first time and found it utterly charming. This is the band Pavement's tribute to REM, a 1994 song that references every track on Reckoning as well as Sherman marching through Georgia (lyrics here). Malkmus adores REM and here's the proof (as well as this).

MP3 Pavement - The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence
(recorded c. 1994, released on 2004's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: LA's Desert Origins)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

REM - I've Been High (live @ the Hollywood Bowl)

Gorgeous acoustic version of this criminally underrated song from Reveal. One reviewer rightly called I've Been High "as close to a standard" as REM has ever written. The melody is breathtakingly beautiful.

The original version is semi-electronic but what's wrong with that? Get over it folks!

MP3 REM - I've been high (from 2001's Reveal)

Friday, May 30, 2008

B-52's - Love Shack in NYC

If this isn't fun I don't know what is. What a hoot. They also did Rock Lobster and the hilarious new single, Funplex. See 'em here courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Prince covers Radiohead at Coachella

Quite amazing seven-minute cover of Creep in which Prince plays both Thom AND Jonny...he followed this with, of course, a Sarah McLachlan cover. I still remember seeing him booed off the stage after 10 minutes opening for the Rolling Stones at the LA Coliseum in the early 80s, before Purple Rain. People were not ready for him at that time.

NOTE: Prince and his mad legal team ordered this video pulled from youtube even though RADIOHEAD obviously owns the copyright to the song and THEY thought it was funny and wanted it to stay up! How does this happen?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Radiohead - All I Need video

The great and powerful Radiohead have put out a new video for one of the best songs off In Rainbows, the stellar All I Need. It's an anti-slavery video. Using a split screen the band show a young Western boy going through his fun day of school, sports and art, while the young Asian boy who makes his shoes toils in misery on the other side of the world. The tag line: Some things cost more than you realise.

Friday, April 18, 2008

RIP Danny Federici of the E-Street Band

I join Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan (my two daily MUST READ music sites) in noting the death of Bruce's keyboard player of 40 years (ages 18-58) Danny Federici of Flemington, New Jersey. You can't think about Bruce's music without the keyboards. RIP Danny, thanks. More on Bruce's official site.

Friday, April 4, 2008

REM on the Colbert Report -
Supernatural Superserious

On Wednesday night, for the first time ever, Stephen Colbert had a band on the show, and he started right at the top with my beloved REM. Above, watch them tear through the lead single off Accelerate, Supernatural Superserious, the one that "sounds like REM" complete with jangly guitars, Mike Mills' sweet backing vocals, and muscular drumming for the first time since Bill left, courtesy of Bill Rieflin from industrial metal band Ministry (superseriously). Sure, Pitchfork will smirk "REM can write a song (like this) in their collective sleep" (instantly catchy, viscerally empathic--"now there's nothing
dark and there's nothing weird/don't be afraid i will hold you near"--, unmistakably REM) but that doesn't make it any less great.

Also check out Stephen's interview, it's hilarious (Colbert asking Peter "How much mandolin is on this record?"). I'm so happy for REM everybody's liking Accelerate. As Colbert asked, "People are calling this your ‘comeback’ album. When you hear people say that, do you want to tell those people to go fuck themselves?" (yep, Stipe says, he does) Nice numbers on Amazon boys, by the way:
#1 in Music > Alternative Rock
#1 in Music > Rock
#1 in Music > Pop
#! in Music
and on iTunes:

It's amazing to contrast the performance video above, which features a bunch of 50ish rock veterans whose place in music history is assured, with the performance below. This is their television debut on Letterman in 1983, playing Radio Free Europe off Murmur. Peter and Mike did a LOT more jerking and jumping around back then, they're absolutely frenetic, and MIchael was so shy and enigmatic. Watch, he can't even look Letterman in the eye at the end, and quickly puts his hands behind his back while Mills has to step up and be normal with Dave.

I saw them four times in 1983-4 before they were famous; they were so obviously great. The song itself is of course phenomenal and sounds fresh as a daisy. Interestingly, all the youngsters posting comments on youtube are amazed to see how punk REM was back in the day.

Also check out an acoustic version of Supernatural Superserious live on the BBC here, along with an acoustic cover of Editors' Munich. Good as well were the boys' live performances of Supernatural Superserious and the outstanding Hollow Man on the Today Show. And don't miss Vincent Moon's Takeaway Show featuring the band doing acoustic versions of five new songs (including the gorgeous On the Fly, left off the album) in random locations around Athens.

The new album is phenomenal. It's a concise distillation of all their sounds since 1981. Very enjoyable, thank you guys. Truly one of the greatest bands of all time. The week is better because of this album.

MP3 REM - Supernatural Superserious (from 2008's Accelerate )

Friday, March 28, 2008

Shearwater- Leviathan, Bound

Shearwater is the side project of Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff of Okkervil River. In Shearwater the songs are quieter and mostly piano-based, and Meiburg handles the vocals. The sound is completely different from OR, you would never know it was the same two guys at the helm. Meiburg is overeducated like Sheff with a master's in geography. He's a bird freak thus the name of the band.

This is from Shearwater's upcoming album Rook, to be released this June (and leaked well before, I guess I don't have to keep repeating that...)

MP3 Shearwater - Leviathan, Bound (from 2008's Rook)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter songs

How about some rabbit and bunny tunes for Easter?

MP3 Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins - Rabbit fur coat (From 2005's Rabbit Fur Coat)
MP3 Magnetic Fields - Let's pretend we're bunny rabbits - (from 1999's 69 Love Songs)
MP3 Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit (from 1967's Surrealistic Pillow)
MP3 Of Montreal - Bunny ain't no kind of rider (from 2007's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?)
MP3 Echo & the Bunnymen - Lips like sugar (from 1983's Echo & the Bunnymen) When we saw Coldplay in Paris in 2002, they covered this song as an encore and Chris Martin said it was his favorite song ever.