3.31.2005

But you're too young...TOO YOUNG

Tina (who also embroiders a mean gnome) used to have this effects pedal for vocals. It has since died or moved to Taiwan, but while it was in operation, she let me use it for two seconds. I used that time to re-enact my favorite part of New Order's Fine Time when Bernard does a spoken interlude in this electronically altered basso profundo. He says, "You know I've met a lot of cool chicks...but you got...STYLE and you've got...CLASS but most of all (PAUSE) you've got LOOOOOVE technique."

Find the song and lip synch to it in front of the mirror, you'll either say "what is this crap?" then laugh or feel oddly at peace with the world.

New Order was my first ever rock concert (Jones Beach with the Sugarcubes and Public Image LTD! like OMG!) and it was funfreakin'tastic. And guess what? New Order is playing Hammerstein Ballroom on May 5 and tickets go on sale tomorrow at 11. Whoever is interested in getting their Blue Monday on, let me know...

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Take advantage of the WFMU archives!

Hey,
There was some talk about FMU a while back and, lucky for us, they are back in business for another year, after raising over $800,000 in 2 weeks!
Not only is WFMU, by far, the BEST radio station that has ever existed that will play anything (well that the FCC doesn't fine, but we can't really control that) at anytime, they have, for at least 4 or 5 years ARCHIVED almost EVERY show that has aired! BUT WAIT! Most of the DJs are good about keeping playlists of their shows so you can see what was played. BUT THERE'S MORE! You can not only listen to shows, you can search bands that have been played since they've been archived! ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?!! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS? You can think of any band mentioned thusfar in any of these posts or that you want to hear and search them and chances are some DJ, most likely, a FEW DJs have played a song by that band. And you can go right to that playlist, hear the show and fast forward to the song you want to hear. And sometimes, you can click right on the song on the playlist and your Real Audio Player (or whatever you use) will go right to it!
Here's how to do this..
First go to
http://wfmu.org/searchcentral.html
Than go to the Artist/Band Browser option and just type in what band you are curious about.
The results will show what songs have been played by who and when and give you a link to them!
Never leave your home ever again!
Happy Hunting!

I Want Your Skull...

Okay, perhaps I'm the only person in this tight-knit little community who remotely gives a damn, but coming up at the end of April (in Worcester, MA, appropriately enough) Glenn Danzig and Doyle von Frankenstein will reunite during a Danzig performance to do a Misfits mini-set, being as they are a Misfits mini-original-lineup. I'm excited. Though, of course, I won't be there. Still, it does seem like reunion fever these days as our young turks become old farts and every meaningful punk and post-punk act decides to stand each other's company once again and take it on the road.

Sorry for the brevity of my cherry-pop blog, but will post more soon on naughty Scottish folksinging... if you're lucky.

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My Space and Music...

hi folks,

Do any of you guys (fellow musicians and listeners) use MySpace at all to listen to new music? Are there advantages putting up music on your own page on MySpace as opposed to just having a webpage?

curious,
pete

ps Inspired by soft communication, I started a blog called "The Tip Jar" - mainly music related rantings an ravings. Visit it at http://thetipjar.blogspot.com

3.30.2005

Musical T.S. Elliot references that don't involve cats

A friend of mine introduced me to the Loud Family's Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things a few years ago through a live recording of her singing the song "Inverness" with its writer, Scott Miller. I immediately wanted more, and found the album, which has since become one of my favourites.

I couldn't tell you much about them-- California-based, I assume, from their website and lyrical references-- but all I know is that each song on Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things, their 1993 debut album, grabbed me in turn. Scott Miller just has this way with melodies. I like his bitterness, especially when it's laid across the bouncier tunes. I like his literary references, when I finally catch them. I even like the cheesy use of thunderstorm sound effects on the studio version of "Inverness".

I really, really like 'im. And that's pretty good for one of my rare forays away from the world of musical theatre...

(So rare are these forays that I didn't realize until later that the name of that debut album was taken from that America song. You know the one, don't make me say it. Why didn't they name the horse?)

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3.29.2005

I know, I know you try to change things

Dear friends,

Here's girls sing pretty, part deux...

1. I found Laura Veirsas a listenener of Nic Harcourt's Morning Becomes Eclectic program on KCRW. She looks like she could be your science teacher and sounds like someone who has been swimming in pure mountain waters her entire life. Her songs reflect this inner dialogue of "come to this place, you'll breathe much easier and you can see stars up close", then she extends a hand that's got an icy grip. Think of a bracingly intimate, but no-nonsense American folk shoegaze. Sounds good, doesn't it?

the song ether springs from the album carbon glacier is full of detailed images ("a tiny little girl ties flowers around her wrist & the bees come down to adorn her") delivered by veirs in a hypnotic narration-sing. the arrangement is delicate & lovely & by the time the double-tracked vocal comes in with the "a-ha" refrain at the end, you're ready to travel wherever she wants to take you.

2. when I wandered into the dears show on saturday at bowery ballroom (yes, I will write about it, I am writing about it, but it needs tending to, right now it sounds ass-crazy), liz durrett was on stage. she was singing lou reed's perfect day & her perfomance of that cover had the same stunned stupid effect on me that I had when I first saw chan marshall singing behind her then "scout from to kill a mockingbird" haircut at the middle east in boston. she was singing dolly parton's 9 to 5 like it was a funeral march. (wipes a tear) it wuz purty.

I have no doubt that durrett will be compared to marshall. they share a haunting woodwind-like tone to their voices & also the satisfying knowledge that they can enrapture an audience with those tones alone. but from what I heard at the show, durrett has no interest in hiding herself or creating inner cities full of nightmares in her head that she may or may not be able to sing to her spectators. durrett wants to tell you a simple tale & bring you in closer, around the fire or in your kitchen or on the train ride to work. no disrespect meant to marshall, I have loved her muted terrorscapes for years but surely there's room for more southern angels. you can hear perfect day here.

3. I was looking for can & wound up with midnight movies (long story). I know I wasn't grabbed by most of the songs I've heard from this group, too play actingly delivered. too cold to the touch. nevertheless, I was intrigued by the imitations on persimmon tree. gena olivier, the singer/drummer from midnight movies sounds like nico with a more impressive range & less accent. so far, so gut. combine that with someone playing lead guitar the way peter hook plays his bass lines & you got a pretty fair picture of this tune's derivative space rock charms.

4. I've been trying to solve, what I like to call, the mystery of the girl who sings almost crimes by broken social scene ever since I saw them with contributor therese at one of those free pier shows a couple years ago. the girl onstage had brown bangs & long straight hair the flew all over the place. she sang with a big goofy grin & danced the 80's side to side shuffle as she did so. I fell in audience-love. but who was it? contributor cheez suggested that maybe it was bss collaborator emily haines from metric, but upon repeated listenings, I don't think it's her. I'm glad I checked them out though, because I thoroughly enjoy to get down & groove it to dead disco, the sweetest dance put down of style clowns you'll ever shake your hips to (for maximum damage have it follow soft cell's sex dwarf on the friday night playlist). the music sounds like a speedy mash-up of the cure's a forest crossed with the cardigans' my favorite game & haines sings her edict in a bratty girlish voice. it doesn't irritate however 'cause just when you think you've pegged her she goes "la la la LA LA" in a way that recalls adam sandler's opera man & that's fabulous! because remember, in today's musical climate, when you sound pleasantly pretty, you never have any need to sound interesting. so god bless the ones that go astray.

now, the other possible solution to the mystery of the girl of almost crimes is leslie feist aka feist. long brown hair? check. new york denizen? check. electro soul singer? eh... if it is her, then she comes to play 'cause if she's responsible for almost crimes as well as a deeply heartfelt cover of the bee gee's inside and out, then what can I do? I must propose immediately. go to her maddening website & try to maneouvre your way around to the song area (I couldn't figure it out). if you don't like disco & feel uncomfortable with lines about kisses tasting like honey & keyboards that emit high pitched WEE! noises then skip that one & try to find mushaboom instead. also very nice. plus I hear that indie rock pin-up oberst covers it. does that supply insta-cachet or insta-eh? I don't know...I still haven't made it through his 800 + song catalog just yet, bob pollard has dibs on my memory.

5. stina nordenstam has a song called parliament square. nasally singing. stop & start delivery. guitar, piano. some brass. it's simple & repetitive & the lyrics are questionable (I think that anyone using the phrase "final solution" in any other context really needs to think their choice through) but I like the thing, can't say why. I have no idea who she is & from which scandinavian locale she sprung from but I enjoy this ditty. it's perfect for a cold walk home.

6. if neko case wanted to, I'm sure she could take over country music & then, the world. the owner of a big ass MANSION of country voice as in you can hear the holler down in them hills, the many rooms & the bell clanging for supper. plus she's a good lookin' red headed firecracker. stick her in a hat, put her in a pick up truck singing about being a white trash woman & it would be OVAH. all them country bitchaz would have to pack up their bags & move back to canada or wherever they package 'em. they're safe for now though because, unluckily for her managers, case has decided to persevere in alt-country as a solo act & be a member of the new pornographers (that's her in the laws have changed, disguising the yodel) on the side. I heard furnace room lullabye on the extras for the dvd of the gift, of all freakin places & I was lasso'ed. plaintive spookiness in the blue misty mountains. lock the doors.

7. feel like being very silly & pretending that square pegs is still on? go hunt down the pipettes, three girls from blighty with varying degrees of singing ability trying to bring back the girl group sound & succeeding in sounding tinny & slightly deranged & very 80's. simon says, however is not without a certain cracked charm. I can see them becoming better as their confidence grows, for now enjoy the gimmick & remember sjp when she was cool.

love, d

songs to seek: ether sings/laura veirs, perfect day/liz durrett, persimmon tree/midnight movies, dead disco/metric, inside and out/feist, mushaboom/feist, parliament square/stina nordenstam, furnace room lullabye/neko case, simon says/the pipettes

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3.28.2005

this is to talk about new music and stuff?

I dunno, I signed up because I have a song stuck in my head and I want to stick it in yours. She's actually from Brooklyn I think, Diane Cluck. I heard her on the Emerson College station (old school left of the dial shit son) the other day on the way to work (I am actually semi-gainfully employed and it is weird).

Download this song

bye

-dan

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Paul Hester, RIP

Paul Hester, drummer for Split Enz and Crowded House, hanged himself on Saturday in a park in Melbourne.
I was sad to hear this..

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3.27.2005

Dears at Bowery Ballroom

The Dears... fucking amazing.

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3.26.2005

slint was the name of his fish

The first Slint album I bought was Spiderlands, said to be their best out of 3 (well, 2 really, for the last album released was only a 2-song ep, self-titled, that only has one previously unreleased song, the other being an alternate version of 'Rhoda' from Tweez) , was actually the last album they made, showing what potential they had as a still-evolving band. I was instantly mesmerized by it, with it's moody, interlocking melodies, and the rise and fall of emotions shown through both the sparce/screamy vocals and delicate/jarring guitars. One song in particular, 'Washer' is incredible, and I was in love immediately. The album cover itself is haunting, all of their covers are, with the 4 members neck-deep in a pool of water, their faces staring out at you in black and white. Of course I bought the 2 others and I could see how they evolved from their first album, 1989's Tweez, named after drummer Britt Walford's tweezer collection. Steve Albini produced it, but to this day he says Spiderlands shows their true potential and is a better album.
Always a sucker for the quiet, mysterious types, I think I became even more intrigued by the guys because Slint has remained a hidden, dark gem: Their sleeves don't have lyrics, they don't do interviews often, and have been 'missing' for 15 years after their demise. No, they didn't hide out in bomb shelters all these years, but it feels that way. Actually, all 3 of the main players in the group have been playing around in various projects, even sometimes under alias' (Britt was playing with the Breeders under the name Shannon Doughton), from guitarist Dave Pajo in Tortoise and Zwan to singer/guitarist Brian McMahan playing with The For Carnation and Jimmy Eat World. They've had many bassists during their time, but the 3 are really the foundation for the sound that is Slint. You've got to read a recent article about them with an interview with Pajo in the March/April issue of Punk Planet....it was one of only 2 interviews they did since they hooked up for this past tour.
They had been asked many times to play and get back together, but always declined until recently when asked to play and curated the All Tomorrow's Parties fest in England. Who knows what made them decide to do it, maybe it was just the right time for the 3 of them. Luckily they realized that only one show wouldn't be practical, so 1 show became 2 became a full-fledged tour, complete with 2 sold-out nights at Irving Plaza that was so in demand that they agreed to do a third night. I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd show, and believe me when I tell you it was a moment in time that I won't forget. Always the perfectionists, Slint were meticulous with the task of recreating their old sound, a sound that they got from crappy old gear from the late '80's. I know, some of you might say, 'why would you want their live show to sound just like the album?' Well, I think it was a perfect display of who they are as people, as a band, and as a myth. They played maybe 30 shows when they were together but rehearsed insessantly, shows or not. They're men of few, thoughful words, and I respect that. To play a show like the rest of us would break the spell that is Slint. When they got back together to rehearse, they actually began writing new songs, and were itching to renew their old songs. But I think they made the right decision to stick to the old material, for now, anyway. In a perfect world they'll get back together and write and create more beautiful music. But, forever the romantic, I'm relieved at what they have given me.

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3.24.2005

You said it, Isaac.

Okay, guess I'm going to do this. Let's mix it up a bit now, kids.

I'm going to talk to you today about showtunes. Specifically, we're going to discuss The Hoedown.

As ex-Wall of Voodoo frontman Andy Prieboy explained in his brilliant, hysterical White Trash Wins Lotto*, every musical has that one song, that one musical number that justifies the genre’s reputation for hokeyness, best exemplified by the song “Shapoopie” Shipoopi in The Music Man. Apparently, everything was going along fine, and then BAM! We're forced to endure the horror that is "Shipoopi", because every musical has a hoedown.

In an episode of Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin furthers this idea:

Dana:  (tries to hand tickets back)  These are wasted on me, Isaac.  You should give these to a theatre lover.
Isaac:  You should become a theatre lover.
Dana:  Oh, I've tried, I've really tried.  But the singing and the dancing and there is oftentimes a hoe-down --
Isaac:  There's no hoe-down.
Dana:  Don't tell me there's no hoe-down, mister, I've been there.
Isaac:  Enjoy the show.
Dana: (starting to leave)  I'll enjoy it for my niece.
Isaac: Enjoy it for yourself.
Dana:  I appreciate the tickets.  I'll be back at seven. (leaves)
Isaac: (to self) Nothing wrong with a good hoe-down.


At first I thought that this hoedown thing was a myth perpetuated by the very existence of Oklahoma, which, if I’m not mistaken, consists of almost nothing BUT hoedowns. (I don’t really know, as I’ve never been able to sit through it; Rodgers and Hammerstein ain't my bag.) After a little thought, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s basically right. Not every musical has an out-and-out hoedown, to be sure, but most musicals contain a hoedown-esque number, a raucous, celebratory romp involving most of the cast.

Most composers and lyricists attempt to hide the nature of their hoedown, twisting it darkly as Jason Robert Brown does with "Where Will You Stand Where the Flood Comes?" in Parade, or turning it into a '60's rock-and-roll danceathon as Marc Shaiman does in "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray, but a couple of my favourite hoedowns don't attempt to disguise their hoedowniness. Therefore, I'm going to dare you to stretch your patience a little and try out The Ballad of Czolgosz, Stephen Sondheim's hoedown number about the assassination of President McKinley from his brilliant, underappreciated Assassins, and Stephen Trask's Sugar Daddy from Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Ain't nothing wrong with a good hoe-down. (And, yes, that's Doogie Howser, M.D. singing the Assassins song; you can't appreciate musicals if you don't have a healthy appetite for camp.)

*based on the life of Axl Rose, one of the funniest theatrical experiences of my life; I can still see Patton Oswalt stumbling across the stage in his cameo as Slash, clutching a bottle of booze during the song “A Mansion Full of Pussy and Drugs”; it is one of musical theatre’s greatest losses that a cast album of this was never made.

Applesauce

One day sitting in my college haunt of Village Yokocho slurping ramen noodles I heard the spastic intro to Stoicism play over the loudspeaker.

HOLY SHITE!!!

Making sounds like a 9 year old, I grabbed onto Paris (waiter du jour) and squealed one name:

SHIINA RINGO!!!

"Uh, yeah I like her. (Un. Suki.)" He said, wiping drops of broth off his face before scuttling back to the kitchen. Before Shou Shou Strip, no one (the Japanese included) seemed to know who she was. It was the year 2000. The most popular group in Japan was L’Arc en Ciel and the number one female singer was Namie Amuro.

To which I said CRAP CRAP CRAPPITY CRAP CRAP CRAP!!!

I will normally leap onto anything even remotely Japanese. However there is only so much twirly techno love mash I can tolerate. As for L’Arc En Ciel, I just don’t like the way most Japanese men sing. Can’t explain it, don’t want to.

I bit the apple in the Bowery 1998 at some bar I can't recall. I liked the fact that she sang only in Japanese. Maybe that is the snob in me but I can’t stand hearing words like "ANGERU" or "LABU POWAH" when I’m trying to decipher already perfectly lame lyrics. Besides I want new words, not mangled English. Japanese can express things in ways English can’t attempt and it’s also fairly malleable. Ringo likes to combine kanji so that when they are pronounced together, they make practically no contextual sense in Japanese but in English sound just like this: Bo Jackson.

Fucking tease.

She was the first time I ever heard a Japanese artist be bold, offensive and cool. While most Japanese bands were worshiping Prince, Janet Jackson and Metallica here was an artist who listed among her obsessions Janis Ian and Claud Debussy.

She had a voice like a smoker and even if it was nasally, it was also unsettling. The way she rolled her R’s made her sexy in a gangster, dare I say boyish sort of way? Of course, like her Judy and Mary predecessors, she screeched like a banshee. Her album release of Kofukuron (Happiness Theory) made noises that could turn a modem green.

Now Shonen Knife does rock. They are great. Hooray. But that last statement could be one of their songs. All I wanted was a Japanese girl who did NOT sing about love or candy.

Ringo does sing about love. But at least she’s giving a personal account.

Oh yeah, background. Shiina Ringo was born Shiina Yumiko (Shiina is her last name. Ringo is her nickname) in Saitama prefecture but grew up in Fukuoka, largest city in Kyushu. On occasion, she even sings in her dialect Hakata-ben. As in Fukou Jiman she sings at the end "Maa eetai" or "That’s fine." which is usually pronounced "Mou ii".

I can’t recommend any one album. They are all good. Her debut, Muzai Moratorium, has been described as a hybrid between Alanis Morisette and Stevie Wonder. Shou Shou Strip is where all the hit singles reside. That was during her ripped fishnets and nurse fetish days. Then the live album Zecchoushuu which is my personal fave. Mayonaka wa Junketsu is her collaboration with Tokyo Ska Paradise. I really love her jazzy homage to Sid Vicious, Sid and the Daydream (Shido to Hakuchumu) Then there was the cover album Utaite Myouri. Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana seems to be the music snob darling.

Now I will end this rave with my favorite verse from STEM:

There's a door here, but it will not break
There's a stone there, but it won't remain
Up there a heaven now, but it will not wait
And the lies there, the scent of it, just too much

For more lyrics/translations go here: Centigrade

And this is where I shut the F up about Shiina Ringo.

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3.23.2005

Such Great Heights

So, I know all you kids are into The Postal Service these days but I'll risk you throwing vegetables at me and tell you that I'm not into them at all. But you should all check out Iron & Wine's cover of their song "Such Great Heights", which is best enjoyed right after you brush your teeth and set your alarm and are ready to drift off to sleep.

D played this for me (of course)* and I know nothing about Iron & Wine but I really don't need to; I just really like the sound. There's the Nick Drake fragile vocals without the tragic element and the harmonies on their album are so nice, they just make you sigh... The music has an element of Atom Heart Mother-era Floyd in it which I always enjoy too.

So... go listen to Iron & Wine and they'll quench your thirst for mellow music after you're tired of all your Nick Drake records.

*editor's note: he may be all monkey, but sometimes j is my musical guinea pig. he seems fine with that.

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The greatest gift they'll get this year is life

As most of you are probably aware, Live Aid, the cyclopean July 1985 benefit concert, featured hundreds of musicians from the UK and the US performing concurrently on the stages of Wembley Stadium in London and Vet's Stadium in Philadelphia to raise money towards famine in Africa.

At the risk of bumping up Soft Communication's word count to a billion and a half characters, I would like to post a link to a recent post on my own site: my long-winded but loving, nonetheless, and descriptive, I hope, Highlights of the Live Aid DVD rundown. If the thought of screening the four lengthy discs of the DVD turns your stomach, I recommend at least checking out the Live Aid site, or clicking through the images linked in my post.

I look forward to reading about everyone else's thoughts on Bob Geldof and Live Aid. And remember: There's a world outside your window / and it's a world of dread and fear / where the only water flowing / is the bitter sting of tears (you can sing along to a horribly charming midi version of the song here).

3.22.2005

Apple Soda

I am a fiend.

I pursue Shiina Ringo with the tenacity of a four year old to a scratch n sniff.

OH I WANT THAT STICKER SO BAD!!!!

I will take the high road, the back street, rusty grate through the door. Every A, B and C side. Every demo. Every second. Positively ravenous, m'friends.

After outplaying Ringo’s tinny live cover of Private (actually her own song), I got curious about Ryoko Hirouse’s version. Early in her career, Ringo wrote songs for pop stars to pay the rent. Tokyo ain’t as cheap as Fukuoka.

Not that I have much interest in idol pop though I understand its appeal as guilty pleasure. Morning Musume has persevered for a reason. Then again, a majority of musicians in Japan should be seen and not heard. (See: visual kei) Nonetheless, it is the apple* which governs my loyalties, not rationality.

Private is a B-side on a single that has been out of print for 7 years.

Undeterred, I dig up my tattered kanji dictionary, attack Yahoo-J with determination and beg humbly for overseas shipping. Okay, okay fine. I will buy more than one single. Yes, I will pay more for shipping than the actual cost of the damn thing. Just GIMME!!!

Two weeks later and 1575 yen poorer, Hirouse's version is in my hot little hands.

It's a silly song. Childish and simple which is how I feel each time it begins. Like the juvenile I am, it gets played over and over and over again. There is nothing I don’t expect. Digital strings, a piano, the standard baby voice. Ryoko sounds like a Chipette with a cold. Not that Ringo doesn’t? But at least she’s a squirrel in heat. Oh, she is capable of horrendous noises. Examples to come.

Oh and lyrics? Nothing spectacular. If this song were in English, I wouldn't give a whit.

Kore kara zutto soba ni ittemo Even if we end up together
Otona ni natte fuyu ga kittemo Even if Winter comes I'll still grow
Atashi o shiritai to omou kimochi This feeling that I want to know
Kourasenai you ni ki o tsukete Seems unbearable so I better take care
Sukoshi wa anshin shite mitai I just want a little peace of mind

Ok, my translation blows but I find the deconstruction of my lazy attempt more bearable than what she's actually saying. She even uses the cutesy "atashi" to refer to herself. The sap never runs dry in the world of Jpop.

I hope the links work? I’m not smart or anything.

I am just a fiend.

* Ringo = Apple

Thanks for the invite, D!

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I took out the trash today & I'm on fire!

Dear friends,

This all falls under the simplistic tag line of "Girls Sing Pretty"...

1. liela moss from the duke spirit sounds like she was a clarion soprano who gargled drano by accident when she ran out of hooch. she has more than a passing vocal resemblance to welsh alterna songstress cerys matthews (formerly of catatonia) but seems far less convivial & more inclined to kick someone in the balls & not laugh afterwards, the way cerys surely would if she was still on the sauce. the track cuts across the land falls neatly in that area of mid-90's catchy driving rock music where a woman is singing in her clothes!, sounding bad-ass & you're in your bedroom wearing braces & freakin' out 'cause that's SO cool! that wasn't me though, mom couldn't afford braces. but that's ok. I like this song, I do. because it's good for getting ready to go out & possibly kicking a few balls. for the flip side, check out the slow building, simple dirge, drinking you in, where that straight ahead rock sound is simplified into a guitar meets banshee howl crawl. as moss & the guitar vie for position by mirroring one another, all my easy vocal comparisons are off, she comes into her own.

2. SO, the dresden dolls, which I know nothing about, but judging from a press photo, look like the incestous, immoral spawn of joel gray as the mc in cabaret if he'd somehow managed to impregnate himself & had girl/boy fraternal twins. ya with me?

now, if the woman singing good day is ALSO the one playing the piano on that track & she does this WHILST looking like a mime then I think I may need to send them a love letter. a braying, deep voiced & startlingly passionate paean about playa haters (that's the way I've decided to take it, like the caucasian version of monica's pms anthem, don't take it personal (just one of dem days) but one that isn't wretchedly bad) it's the kind of song you feel a little embarrassed to be listening to in public but who cares, just crank the fucker. whiteface optional.

3. regina spektor hangs out with the strokes*. much as I enjoyed their first album, anyone that hangs out with those guys is immediately suspect. I don't even need to explain my logic. you feel exactly the same way. nevertheless, I decided I can't hold it against her because anyone that sings a piano ballad about suicide plans (carbon monoxide) that idly asks, "do you want in?" does not deserve to be judged so harshly. especially since every time spektor hits a word like "off", "street", "feet", "socks" & most emphatically, "walk", this WHALE of a noo yawk accent comes out. it's like when cyndi lauper used to be interviewed on mtv in the 80's & made your ears burn with her shrill brooklynese. & like lauper, bitch can SAAAAH-ING. she peppers her mordant death song with a trilling little "come on, daddy" refrain that would put the jealous in all them piano chanteuses...

4. ...'cept maybe nellie mckay who has the jazz voice I've been waiting for all these years. free of vibrato, conspiratorial, both world-weary yet hopeful with one more ingredient. plain ole c-c-c-crazy! YEAH! mckay clearly had a lot of solo time on her hands as a child & she channeled it into turning into a one woman jazz mistress. she can sing! play piano! vibes! horns?!? write lyrics about how her one true love is her clone i.e. clonie? you got it! my fave is david, about being alone in your apartment, daytime drunk, not being able to stomach listening to our president talk on tv, pining for some guy who never calls. but whyyyyyy?!?, she asks. I can rap! something like that. the monkey tells me that it's "like a musical but good", which is high words of praise indeed. ignore the smiling sony promo pictures on her "official" website & try to find the one where she looks like a boozy 60's bottle blonde in a pucci printed blouse & false eyelashes having a smiley chat with dizzee rascal at the mercury prize shebang. that's more like it.

5. in other jazz news, madeleine peyroux sounds just like billie holiday. so what? so this. she covers elliott smith's between the bars. stop a moment. think about that combo. I don't need to say anything about it except that it's beautiful & peyroux's excellent jacking of holiday's signature slightly behind the beat delivery makes the moment that this song is playing the living embodiment of its story.

more to come...

love, d

songs to seek: cuts across the land/the duke spirit, drinking you in/the duke spirit, good day/the dresden dolls, carbon monoxide/regina spektor, modern girls, old fashioned gentlemen/the strokes (with regina spektor)*, david/nellie mckay, clonie/nellie mckay, between the bars/madeleine peyroux, I'll look around/madeleine peyroux

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3.20.2005

the mystery of jacob e.

I was checking out The Fire Theft website a couple years ago when they first became a band (they are formerly known as Sunny Day Real Estate, sans Daniel J. Hoerner, who decided to become a farmer and raise a family instead of play hypnotic guitar), perusing the message boards, when someone replied to one of my posts about Jeremy and gang. His name was jacob e. from canada, and we became good e-friends, sharing favorite bands through messages and making mixes for each other through the mail. He introduced me to so many great bands, including Karate, Mission Of Burma, and Slint. Then he disappeared. I was actually worried about him, thinking something horrible must have happened for him to have just dropped off the planet like he did and never contact me again. It may have been something as simple as him changing his email address, or becoming too busy with school, or his girlfriend becoming jealous of our platonic friendship...whatever it was, I'm baffled to this day. He was in a band whose name I now cannot recall....their website has since disappeared just like jacob.
At least I have the bands he left behind for me to absorb and love. Which leaves me to my next posting.....

3.19.2005

Live Video of Tired Musicians

I just wanted to tell you all that you should check out the archives
at KCRW.com - they have tons of live performances from a lot
of great bands that have been on their "morning becomes eclectic" show.
(Zutons, Gomez, The Dears, Interpol, just to name a few).
Check it out!
That's all for now...

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3.17.2005

words and expressions

There are two kinds of people in this world: them what cares about the words in the songs, and them what don't. Me, I care. A particularly incisive couplet can compensate for five minutes of rehashed G-C-D-twiddly part-C-D-Ging, and one unfortunate "oh baby please be mine/until the end of time" can turn me off for good. So, for my next few posts on this here fine piece of internet, I will be calling your attention to songwriters whose lyrics are particularly worthy of attention.

I thought I'd start someplace fairly obvious, and when it comes to "wordsmithing," "music," and "obvious," my brain comes up with one name: John Darnielle. However, every time I try to talk about the Mountain Goats I either get looks of pity or the sound of crickets, so fine, I'll go geek out to All Hail West Texas by my lonesome. Stephin Merritt we all know about, Bob Dylan I already wrote about, and maybe I don't want to be too obvious, okay, so let me tell you about Franklin Bruno.

Franklin has a Ph.D in philosophy (no, keep reading) and for most of the nineties was a principal player in the Inland Empire scene that centered on Upland, CA-based Shrimper Records. A Shrimper compilation fell into my greedy paws one day, thus introducing me to bands like Refrigerator, Diskothi-Q, Nothing Painted Blue, and, well, the Mountain Goats. As far as I could tell it was an incestuous little Empire, with Shrimper head Dennis Callaci, his brother Allan, John Darnielle, Kyle Brodie, a Peter guy whose last name I forget, and Franklin Bruno playing in semi-related bands and side projects of side projects. I was immediately smitten with Nothing Painted Blue, which featured Franklin singing and guitaring and Kyle on drums. Their semi-mathy guitar-rock meshed nicely with the Superchunk cravings I'd developed, but the best and most unusual part was Franklin's semi-snarky uber-nerd lyrics, all delivered crisply and clearly so you can make out everything he says. Someone who will think to put the word 'antihistamine' in the verse, someone who will title a song "Can't f(x)," that someone is all right by me.

Eventually NPB released some full-lengths, first on Kokopop and then on Scat, they're probably out there somewhere. Franklin has done a lot of solo work, and has played with John Darnielle (I must mention him! I cannot resist!) as the Extra Glenns. Recently he composed an entire album of songs for the amazing Jenny Toomey to sing; click that link to visit her website for more information - Jenny probably deserves a post all to herself, but this will do for now.

Franklin's blog is here.
Epitonic page (with two solo mp3s) is here.
Trouser Press article on Nothing Painted Blue is here.

My favorite NPB songs: "Big Pink Heart," "Drinking Game"
Favorite Franklin solo effort: The Irony Engine 7", featuring "Sleeping Through the Jane Pratt Show" and "Medium of Exchange." It was on Walt Records and is probably very out of print now, but those of you who know how to find things on the internet might be able to dig it up (let me know if you do).

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3.16.2005

Five From iTunes

In which I write about the next five songs that play in iTunes. My, how clever...

"What Used To Be French" by Secret Machines
I first heard this track on the Yes New York compilation a couple of years ago. The opening bass line sets you up for a big sound built on a simple layered instrumentation more effective than most complex arrangements. The guitar comes in after about thirty seconds, then the drums about fifteen seconds later with a "starting up the reel-to-reel tape" effect that I like so much I was very tempted to rip it off when Man In Gray was mixing "Neighbors" (in the end, we chose not to). That constant bass thump and the basic rock beat that, together, just keep moving forward nearly unchanged, are what hold the song together and almost always get my head slightly bobbing. After Yes New York, I soon got my hands on the Secret Machines' September 000 EP (which also features "What Used To Be French"), which blew me away; "Marconi's Radio," the first track on that EP, is perhaps one of the best opening tracks I've ever heard.

"The Blizzard Of '93" by The Recoys
The song is from Rekoys EP (+3) which, if I remember correctly, wasn't actually released until after The Recoys (yes, the spelling of the band name and the EP name is inconsistent) split up and at least a couple of members went on to bigger and better things... Namely, The Walkmen, which features Recoys singer Hamilton Leithauser and bassist Peter Bauer (I think one of The French Kicks was also a member, but I'm not entirely sure). The Recoys tended to be a little poppier than The Walkmen, but more in an old-fashioned, stripped-down-rock kind of way than the word "pop" usually denotes. This song bounces along wih playful drums and bass and guitar lines that can easily get you moving. The production, like most of the album, is somewhat crude, but it lends a nice casualness that suits the tracks well. You can clearly hear part of the future Walkmen sound in there, and you'll probably recognize a couple of songs that eventually turned up on Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone.

"Street Fighting Man" by The Rolling Stones
The opening guitar riff is classic. The whole track is. Anyone remember that VH1 show that featured minor celebrities listing their favorite [insert theme here] songs (it was probably just called "The List," but I don't feel like looking it up)? I remember one show about protest songs, and someone listed this. I can live with that.

"Hang On To Your Ego" by Frank Black
Señor Black liked the Beach Boys so much, he covered them on his self-titled solo debut. With the four-on-the-floor disco beat and synthesizer floating there in the back, it's quite different than what you'll hear on Pet Sounds, but it's a good listen and a more-than-worthy effort from a disciple of Brian Wilson.

"Noisy Summer" by The Raveonettes
Basically sounds like someone found a lost single from an early sixties pop group and decided it needed some Death By Audio noise action. Fine by me. I like it.

Your eyes are laughing as they glance

Dear friends,

One of the repercussions of guitarded was that I fell madly in love with Bossa Nova. I mean I'd always liked it but now my eyes turned into multi-colored pinwheels, the front yard doves would flutter and flap as I'd try and sing to them as effortlessly as those laid back Brazilian vocalists do. In other words, I was ridiculous. I thought nothing of amassing an arsenal of Latin percussion so that I could rock a guiro after dinner, if, you know, I felt like it. I also thought that doing an entire album of covers of songs re-interpreted Bossa Nova or Tropicalia style was an EXCELLENT, GENIUS idea and was dutifully compiling a list of worthwhile obscurities to destroy. As per usual, I was been beaten to it. Damn it, I'm slow. But damn it, if it ain't good.

Nouvelle Vague is a group of Frenchies who've taken a handful of new wave classics and revisited them Bossa Nova (which interestingly, means new wave as does...oh, you're not stupid) stylee. And when I say, stylee, I mean they BRING it, they've got egg shakers, random whistles, cabasas, guiros, cuicas, marimbas, FREAKIN' BIRDS and OCEAN NOISE! Why didn't they caaaaaall meeeeee?

Some of their covers don't quite work (such as their take on Too Drunk to Fuck by The Dead Kennedys; the singer sounds way too cute and flirty to be uttering those words with any kind of conviction. Too Tipsy to Make Out maybe?) But some songs are gossamer fine and have a poignancy that seems accidental and therefore, unforced. Their cover of Flock of Seagulls' Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You) makes me stupidly happy. I want to listen to it and twirl in circles until I fall down on a grassy meadow and ache with melancholic love the way pre-teens do. Something both painful and sublime. Sadly, this tune isn't listed on their website or on the album but shouldn't be too difficult to find, if you're tenacious in your pursuit of fine music to listen to.

If you don't like your favorite 80's hits defiled or women with accented breathy voices, don't bother. If you do, meet me at my house for Caipirinhas on Saturday evening. By the end of the night, we should be doing a bang up job on This Charming Man by The Smiths. I sense a Brooklyn sequel.

Love, D

Songs to seek: Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You), Love Will Tear Us Apart, Making Plans For Nigel

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3.15.2005

Is history recorded?

Dear friends,

Now when JLM asked me for my list of favorite albums of 2004 for his critical round-up, I almost gave him a list of my top 25 favorite SONGS of the past year instead because when it comes down to it, asking me for my FAVORITE RECORDS of the year is what drives some people to the monastery or straight into the arms of unsuitable lovers from France. I get too stuck in thinking it has to be a record experience so if you have an album with ho-hum sequencing but one beautiful song, what do you do? Shouldn't it be recognized as well?

One such song is called Know How by a Norwegian duo called Kings of Convenience. A song so Crate & Barrel cranberry velvet couch that it's almost shameful to listen to. As is any song that keeps reminding you of yuppie furniture. But seriously, this song makes me want to be really, really wealthy and living in a fabulous home with colonial accents and a view to turquoise waters. Listening to it practically takes me there.

First there's a Scandinavian approximation of Bossa Nova-esque strumming on acoustic guitars (often approximation and not drop dead arrival is what makes songs shimmer) providing a cool, sitting-on-a-veranda-somewhere-balmy type feel. Add to this a breathy yet collected male vocal about not much or possibly, 'TOEFL?' Though towards the end, when a second vocal kicks in, things clarify, and it appears to be about happy domesticity. Ok, so far, so Ikea. Ah...but the second vocal part, it's sublime. The two voices repeat lines back and forth, together and to one another. The music gurgles happily to a close. Sunset fade-out.

For the longest time, I thought the second voice was a guy crooning in falsetto and it made it that much more tender; a breezy man to man love song. But now it appears that the singer may be a woman...with a male falsetto voice? Yeah. I was disappointed. But you know what? It still sounds lovely. Like a beautiful consummation. Just hetero. Pass the thrice yearly Nat Sherman and fix me a mimosa.

I've heard this track over and over again, trying to figure out why something so classy casual and summer cashmere has hooked me. Especially since I am definitely autumn sloppy who likes things torn at the seams. I may never know. but now you know my dirty little secret. Don't hold the rattan against me.

Love, D

Song to seek: Know How

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3.11.2005

Finding out originality is dead, but that's ok.

As requested by the almighty queen D, here's a bit about Louis XIV, the latest in buzzy mc buzzenstein bands of the "rock" persuasion to hit my earholes (original post here but I'm adding a bit to it here).

Louis XIV can be pretty awesome when they want to - and for my money, they do a wonderful impersonation of the Fall at times. For one thing, their album artwork (for the Illegal Tender EP) is so hot. As for the songs - the first track and the last one (a folky/country/what-the-hell-are-they-doing reprise of the first) are throwaways. Track 2 is the big winner - "Finding Out True Love is Blind" is a killer dancey rock song with a perfect groove and the best non-Postal Service twinkley mellow breakdown ever. The lyrics leave a bit to be desired, but I don't care, this song leaves me with the refrain stuck in my head all day. And check out that sexy breathing in the beginning! Don't even pretend that it doesn't make you hot. The title track is a good bluesy sort of rocker, and even though it sounds just a little too much like "Sweet Transvestite" the hand claps make me love it anyway. Finally, "Narc" isn't a bad song, really it's quite pretty and catchy, but the fact that it manages to rip off the Flaming Lips, the Beatles, Queen, and the Polyphonic Spree in the first minute sort of kills it for me (plus using the same trick as in "FOTLIB" is a cop out).

Don't get me wrong though, by no means am I trying to say that this band is crap. Judging by the tracklisting for their upcoming full length, THE BEST LITTLE SECRETS ARE KEPT - out March 22nd, it looks like they know what they're doing... despite starting with "Louis XIV" (the snoozer that kicks off the EP as well), I'm glad to see they left the god-awful reprise off, as well as "Marc." "God Killed the Queen" is on there, and it's a damn good (if a bit Stones-y) song.

It would be easy to call these ugly fellas (and yeah, they're not too easy on the eyes from what I've seen) just another bunch of retro garage humping rockadoof bulldinkles... but hold up there sparky, I think we might actually have something here. Forget their duds, give them credit for the real hit they've managed to pump out and the potential they actually have. Look past the obvious Fall and Stones influence, keep looking at the pretty naked ladies on their artwork, and just enjoy their good songs.

Minus 5 points for having toured with the Killers. Plus 1 point for touring with Hot Hot Heat. Minus 2 points for ripping off too many bands. Plus 5 points for ripping off a song from the best cult movie ever. Minus 3 points for wearing tight pants. Plus 10 points for being butt-ugly. Plus 5 points for starting your own record label to put out your cd. Minus 2 points for naming it Pineapple Records because that sounds silly. Plus 5 points for being a concept band. Minus 6 points for not ACTUALLY coming through with the concept, you dirty royal teases.

Total - 8 points for Louis XIV.

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Let's Go Swimming

It was about 2 months ago. I had stopped into Earwax, the little record store on Bedford Ave. to see if they had any random vinyl I couldn't get at my record store. (Yes, I know, I have a problem.) While browsing through the Dub section I started to tune in to what they were spinning in the store. I was charmed by this wave of layered vocals and echo-drenched cello. At first listen it appeared to be some sort of minimalist dub, but typically dub is simply a groove with tweaked out stuff(vocals, percussion) on top- this was different. This was a song. A wonderfully delicate song with a melody that floated around the room. I realized I was running late for rehearsal and had to split. On the way out I asked them what was playing and was told Arthur Russell's "World of Echo". Aha!

I had heard of Arthur Russell while working at my record store. I had seen his "Calling Out of Context" album get reissued earlier in the year. Apparently, he was a downtown NYC music scene legend from the 70's and 80's who had died in the early 90's of Aids. I ususally found that whole downtown scene a little too avant garde for my tastes so I wasn't that interested in checking him out. Don't get me wrong, I think John Zorn and Glenn Branca do some pretty intense shit, but it's not something I find myself pulling out to listen to time and time again. It's more interesting to me conceptually than as music to listen to. So I pretty much chalked up Artur Russell as one of those guys. I was wrong.

Arthur Russell was completely unique. He was a classically trained cellist who had played Indian Classical music, worked with Phillip Glass, as well as accomponied Allen Ginsberg when he would do poetry readings. But what I found most interesting about Arthur Russell was that he also wrote and produced disco music. Really wild disco music that you definitely won't hear on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The fact that he could coexist in these two opposing musical worlds is why he is my latest musical obsession.

A few days after hearing him in Earwax I picked up "World of Echo". This album could be the most bizarre of his catalog. It is simply his voice and cello performed live through a personally designed echo effect unit. It has a completely improvisational feel, though occasionally you hear fragments of songs he had recorded on other albums. The style of his singing and playing is so fluid it feels as though the music is warm water pouring out of my headphones and into my earholes(as they say). And his voice, oh, his voice. It's so majestic and beautiful and intimate, but kind of strange. In fact, Jessica Jezel doesn't like his voice at all so it might not affect everyone like it did me. But I do love it and what it sings about. His lyrics always seem to be deeply personal and shyly romantic. I adore the longing in his voice when he sings "Her love is her gift/but she thinks of us as friends". Yeah, I'm a big softie.

Anyways, since I discovered "World of Echo" I've picked up the other two colllections of his music that include more of his disco based work. This stuff might deserve a post all it's own, because I feel I've already blubbered on enough about "World of Echo". In the meantime, if you're interested in hearing some of his stuff let me know and I'll gladly make you a mix. That's what good friends do. And lastly, I raise my cup of coffee to Arthur. If there is a heaven, you are surely there entertaining the angels.

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Hey hey mama, what are you sayin' to me

Dear friends,

Robert Wyatt sings like the holy ghost. He has a high, fragile voice that ties ribbons around your heart with its plaintiveness. So beautiful, so spectral and so fucking strange. I've been putting this song of his that I labeled "Mystery Item"* on several mixes this past year. It's labeled as such 'cause I downloaded it on my mom's computer when I was going through paroxysms of Wyatt one winter and I failed to write down the title and then her computer died. No matter, the song lives on. It's got what sounds like the crappiest underwater guitar over underwater guitar strumming with Wyatt going on and on in his haunted trumpet-like tenor about birds leaving the nest and bleeding hearts. Wyatt (this is the part with the big disclaimer because guaranteed 82% percent of what I write about bands/musicians will be nothing but FICTION) was the vocalist/drummer in Soft Machine, one of those seminal 60's jazz prog bands that some know-it-all like me always brings up when he/she wants to prove just how much more he knows about music than you. It happens. Big dick contests abound in all walks of life.

Prior to Soft Machine, Wyatt was in the ridiculously named group, The Wilde Flowers (featuring a young singer named Kevin Ayers). After they disbanded and/or morphed into Soft Mmachine (depending on which rock historian you trust - I don't), they toured for a bit then went on hiatus long enough for Wyatt to record a solo demo. This demo includes a song called Slow Walkin' Talk that features Jimi Hendrix on bass. Wait. Let me type that again. Jimi Hendrix on bass?!?!?!? This brought confusion to Longcomings Aerie. "Why isn't Jimi Hendrix playing guitar?" The Monkey opined archly. To which I replied, "Eh, I don't hear any guitar at all on this track. It's just bass, drum, crazy organ and vocal. Which, you know, seems fair...?" Fair or unfair, Slow Walkin' Talk is a sly blues shuffle that combines Hendrix's bass rip-age and Wyatt's hilariously diffident vocal to suuu-weet effect. "Who, me? Amazing? (yawn) Well. Yes." That kinda vocal. Despite this dizzying solo development, Soft Machine reformed and made another million albums, even after Wyatt left the group. Personally, I approach Soft Machine with much trepidation because the words "jazz fusion rock" kinda make me squirrrm. Nevertheless, I'm still trying to find my way in. When I do, when I find the right song, I'll have something to say about them.

Shortly after leaving Soft Machine and on the brink of recording a solo album, Wyatt fell out of a window at a party and was paralyzed from the waist down. A few months after he got out of the hospital, he recorded and released an unusual but compelling album called Rock Bottom that after a few late night listens lodges itself in your head like dream fragments suddenly remembered. He's been making albums consistently since then, touching mostly political subjects, doing amazing re-interpretations of other people's songs (Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding, Peter Gabriel's Biko, The Monkees' I'm a Believer and my personal fave, Chic's At Last I Am Free) and generally, playing well with others (Submarine off of Bjork's Medulla).

I think that it's safe to say that Wyatt will be a polarizing person to investigate. His songs are so barren that you may have difficulty adjusting. Where's the guitarmies, the mega percussion, the band blanket? You may find it boring and dated and vaguely disconcerting and yes, spooky. I will not mislead you or tell you lies. All those things are true.

I like to listen to Wyatt as I lie in bed, in the dark, so that all his songs can sound like whispered prayers. In the music as church way of life, this is my midnight mass. Where I'm not alone in wonder. Where I can almost feel grace.

Love, D

Songs to Seek: Slow Walkin' Talk, Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road, Shipbuilding, Submarine (Medulla/Bjork), Slipping Slowly* (North Marine Drive/Ben Watt & Robert Wyatt)

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3.10.2005

infinity goes up on trial

I resisted Bob Dylan for a long time. For one thing, that was my mom's music, and moms, you know, they just don't understand. During my junior high years old Dylan and Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie LPs spun on the turntable downstairs, while I lurked in my room blasting Bikini Kill and Jane's Addiction cassettes and trying to make skirts out of old men's dress shirts (thanks a lot, Sassy). I scoffed at the "folkies," as I called them, those Sensitive Earnest People with acoustic guitars, and soon thereafter a friend of mine gave me one of those seminal mixtapes that had everything I needed on it - the Velvets, the Pixies, and, well, Ned's Atomic Dustbin. I fell hard for Lou Reed and began reading everything that had ever been written about him, even when it was written by Victor Bockris, and anyone who's read Transformer knows that Bob and Lou weren't too friendly. Lou believed that Bob was ripping him off, and blamed him for getting Edie Sedgwick hooked on drugs, and that was really all it took for me to dismiss Dylan completely and forever.

But I have to back up now and tell you that the girl who gave me that tape was named Johanna, and she lived with her family in a huge creaky wooden house in the middle of the farmland outside town, and inside the house it was warm and yellow and smelled like soup, and she wore long skirts and sandals and Greenpeace t-shirts with no bra underneath. She played the viola and didn't care when the cheerleaders gossiped about her ("ohmigod! she totally doesn't shave her legs!") and I was a little bit awed by her and very impressed by the things she talked about and the way she dodged the edges of high school lunacy. One day I asked Johanna where her name came from, because I'd known Joannas but never JoHannas, and she often had to correct substitute teachers. "It's from a song," she said, and I perked up, hoping she'd drop something as good as "Wave of Mutilation" on me. "It's from a Bob Dylan song," she said, and then she laughed. "Guess which one."

I had no idea. I couldn't name a single Bob Dylan song. She could tell I didn't know what she was talking about. "Are you kidding?" she squawked. "Wow. Okay. I'm making you another mixtape."

And so she did, and that was how I heard "Visions of Johanna," and I listened to it a few times and then put it away and forgot about it, but every now and then I'd remember and play it again, and the more I listened the more I had to admit it was a good song. For that matter, "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was a good song, and so was "Just Like a Woman," and "Lay Lady Lay," and... goddamn. One day my mom found me sitting on the living room floor, cross-legged on the ratty brown shag rug, listening to Highway 61 Revisited. She had the good grace not to say "I told you so."

Flash forward to the present tense, please, and your humble narrator finds herself far from farmlands and drafty wooden houses and people who wear loose skirts and sandals, and last week I realized that the only sound that would shorten the distance from city to home was that song. Unfortunately, the tapes Johanna made me died long ago from overuse, but thanks to the magic of the internet I was able to get "Visions of Johanna" on the mpspod within seconds. It's a song that holds up to any environment, be it lonely Maine fields or dark Park Slope streets; I know long ago certain lines seemed Very Important to me, and now I find myself thinking about some of the 26-year-old memoirists I'm in class with ("Little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously/He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously"). The song adapts well, the words are flexible, and yet it is ultimately a constant, reassuring presence in my ears.

So that's my pick of the week: "Visions of Johanna," and thanks for a little lesson learned.

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Big Name

I was thinking of writing something about the new Black Mountain album (s/t), but couldn't think of anything insightful to say (just go read the Pitchfork review, they're always full of usefull information and hot air). Then, when I went to find out who put out the album, I realized that Black Mountain is on Jagjaguwar, which is such a good label that I might as well just post about the label.

Besides putting out Black Mountain, they've also handled all of Julie Doiron's albums. Doiron was the bassist for Eric's Trip (I strongly suggest picking up their live album, The Eric's Trip Show) before starting to put out solo records full of the beautiful, heart-wrenching singer-songwriter music I've ever heard. Pretty much every track off of Heart and Crime could make a person cry - sometimes in a sad way, sometimes in a happy way (Pulitzer Prize, here I come).

The album she put out with The Wooden Stars is also great - it has a really distincitive, quirky poppish sound. And if you're a total fuckin' America-hating traitor terrorist then you should be sure to pick up Desormais, an album almost entirely in French.

Jagjaguwar also put out Oh Fantastica by Aspera. Not to bring out the old chestnut about how one band sounds like another band if they were taking this or that drug, but... Aspera makes the kind of music that I expect you'd get from David Gahan if you slipped him some ecstacy and a bunch of Aphex Twin albums. Have a listen to the "Mountains Will Give" MP3 off the Jagjagwar site.

Finally, you have Minus Story, which is a good ol' fashioned sensitive indie band with some seriously tight hooks. You can also find some MP3s for them I'm sure.

In conclusion, Jagjaguwar is good. They have good music. They are good people. They one saved my dog from getting hit by a car and invented the emotion known now as "wistful".

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I walk on water when it freezes but that don't make me jesus

Holy frosty ding dong, Batman! Why am I only discovering NOW that Smart Went Crazy was so awesome? I can't understand why they seem to get less love than the rest of the Dischord catalogue. Sure they broke up a while back, but still, even at the time I never heard anything about them. Anyway, recommended for fans of the Dismemberment Plan, Faraquet, and Beauty Pill (the last two include members of Smart Went Crazy).

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The Slow Shuffle

I recently sent my ipod back (Vanilla Leather) to that place in California where little men in white suits with clickwheels on their bellies (to stop the music) looked at my old 3rd generation and said "send this girl a new one." They did and today was the first day in about a week that I was able to listen to music on the subway. I put it on shuffle, scrolled randomly and "Clara Bow" by 50 Foot Wave came on. I found this track on the great Epitonic site a few months back and forgot how awesome it was. In case you didn't know, 50 Foot Wave is the project of Kristen Hersh and Bernard Georges of Throwing Muses fame and the few songs I have heard seems to depart from earlier Throwing Muses stuff ( I haven't listened to their 2003 self-titled) and her solo work. Whereas, I think her solo album Hips & Makers definitely has a Mary Timony in it, soft - but not too soft vocals of the confessional type, this song coming from 50 Foot Wave is NOT like that. It starts off with some nice fuzzy guitars low in the mix and the drums come in super strong followed by a good-n-loud bass line and hervocals. What is not to like? And then the guitar does this funny wheeeer-wheeeer-wheeeer-whee--eer-wheeeer-wheeeer. I think that's the part that killed me. And then the start and stop chorus. I really love those. Normally, I listen to quieter music in the morning, but this was perfect for a Thursday morning. I think I may want to check or at least download some songs off of their CD. Originally, this post was going to be about Hole because "Violet" came on after that, but I need to eat breakfast. All I will write now is that Hole was a fucking brilliant band with Live Through This. Courtney...why?

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3.09.2005

Purchase-Proof



Even if you don't listen to much hip-hop, you might have heard about the Coup after an unfortunate coincidence involving the cover art of their 2001 album, Party Music. While that's a pretty rough situation, it does sort of give you an idea of where the Coup is coming from. You don't get a whole lot more militant than this.

Now I know some people have a get kinda antsy when music gets too political. They don't like to feel like they're being preached at. Plus, pop songs often have a way of oversimplifying political issues in a way that makes the artist look dumb. But Boots Riley, the Coup's MC, is incisive and funny - not just angry. He talks about concrete issues for race and class (gentrification, police brutality) that open up onto larger problems with "the system". And if you want to find somebody who can tear pop-gangsta culture a new one, look no further.

But even if you don't want to hear about that kind of subject matter for your leisure listening, you can still appreciate Boots' artistry as a lyricist. On top of that Pam the Funkstress spins the smoothest, creamiest beats that manage to take the edge off.

You can listen to a fairly recent KPFA interview with Boots here. The anecdote about Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" is pretty great, and you get to hear a bunch of great Coup songs...um...to boot. Sorry.

It's not entirely clear if the Coup is still making music. Their website seems to be out of commission, and the Tommy Boy site isn't exactly a treasure trove of artist information (though if you're looking for pictures of thongs, be sure to stop by).

Most Recommended Tracks: Dig It, Hip 2 Tha Skeme, Fat Cats Bigger Fishes, Repo Man

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1, 2, 3, 4

Dear friends,

Sitting at my desk at work last year, surrounded by piles of checks and invoices, I heard a song on Uncle Peel's show the day after he passed. That song was called Chargr. 1 minute and 44 seconds of what sounded like the overture to a chaotic twee punk musical. After it was over, I stared out the window in a confused state. The song made me feel flushed and slightly panicked, like I didn't have the answers to anything but maybe if I ran outside, something might be clearer. So I did. Run outside. I felt better. Then I went back inside, did some more work, and surreptitiously googled the band responsible for this rush and push slice of hyperventilation.

Their name is Bearsuit and they are a multi-piece ensemble from Norwich, England. The most perfunctory research - 'cause nowadays I find the less I know about a band personally the happier I am, revealed that their other musical efforts also walk the same fine line betwixt preciousness and genuine ferocity that Chargr does. What impresses me about their music and what I think grabbed me about that particular single is that I've heard some elements of their sound (child-like girl/boy vocals, experimental freak-outs BUT NOT recorders and cash registers as essential song elements, for example) in other bands but have not felt the pull because it sounds like full PUT-ON, like the calculation of cool. You sense those bands are doing amazing art projects but wouldn't talk to you at the gallery unless you came dressed for the event. Bearsuit, on the other hand, SOUND like people rehearsing in a cold room, fingerless gloves on, visible breath, everything, making music 'cause they have to PLAY in all senses of the word and it makes everything brighter and warmer, for them and for you. There's no sense of hip at all, just joy. I miss that in my music. The sense of the possible, that enthusiasm and that come in, have a drink, put your feet up and check out the latest insanity we've created! Yay! Let's get drunk, start a gang and run real fast in the street!

Ok. Maybe not the last part. I'm a'rambling so I must stop typing. If I haven't put Chargr on a mix for you yet, go to their site, they happily provide you with some free downloads, give it a go. I have heard most of their new album, Cat Spectacular! (Is it any wonder I love them? I mean, come on!) If you like their singles, their album is a worthwhile investment. And after you get the album and love it, you can take it that one insano step further and make your own bearhead to wear on those special freezing winter nights you sit at home and enjoy America's Next Top Model marathons on the tube. Who's to know?

Love, D

Song to Seek: Chargr, Itsuko Got Married, Snowshoe, Cherryade

Album to Seek: Cat Spectacular!

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Let us rejoice & let us sing & dance & ring in the new, hail Atlantis!

One of my favorite parts of Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" (1990) is the barroom scene in which Tommy (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy (Robert DeNiro) pummel Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) while Henry (Ray Liotta) looks on. As strange as it sounds, I think the scene is handled with a lot of sensitivity -- I mean, check out Henry's expression of angst as he rushes to lock the front door, and the way the three goodfellas, later in the scene, gingerly wrap Billy's twitching body in tablecloths.

But you know what really makes the scene come together for me? The music.

The song playing in the bar is "Atlantis" by Donovan, which is already great song by a great artist, but coupled with the onscreen action takes on a whole new meaning. The song is a psychedelic celebration of the once-bustling island which, after the flood, became submerged "way down below" the Atlantic Ocean. There's something about the way the song's volume increases at Donovan reaches the song's repetitive, but dramatic, climax, "Way down below the ocean, where I want to be, she may be, way down below the ocean, where I want to be, she may be..." that really makes this a really memorable film moment for me, a real classic.

It is strangely satisfying, ultimately, for such a delicate, contemplative song to be constrasted with such graphic, spontaneous, messy onscreen violence (the end of this scene is actually the first scene of the film, which accommodates a tantamount level of violence). The song's slow and dramatic build-up complements Billy's "Go home and get your shinebox" egging-on of Tommy, which is the spark that sets the wheels of violence in motion.

It was also Martin Scorsese's idea to use The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" in the opening scene of "Mean Streets." That genius!

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3.08.2005

teenage dreams so hard to beat

Dear friends,

I love music. So do you. While I try to keep up with the Joneses with my music mag hoarding and internet radio prowling, after the death of my own personal saint, John Peel, I wondered where would I turn to now to hear about completely random material? Where o where, will my new aural obsessions come from?

Anywho, I thought it might be a good idea if I set up a place where everyone can come to recommend or opine about what's out there. And I don't care what. If you wanna talk about how death metal has turned a new corner, go for it. How African music has restored your faith in mankind, fantastic! I want to hear what you're feelin' so let everybody know.

I await you eagerly. sweatily. With a humming glow. etc...

Love, D

ps to all you pro-bloggers & interneters, please 'scuse the barren look of this page. I have been promised a tutorial in "making things pretty" so it will get better.

pps I'm not very clear on things am I? being a team member means you can post whenever you'd like...so let the taste making begin!