She's looking straight ahead

Dear friends,

My friend T told me about this Apes and Androids show on Saturday. It was going to be at Studio B (still hadn't been) and at Midnight (Midnight? But...but I'm laaaazy!) I had heard some songs before (in fact, I had wanted to book them last year for a show) so I had an idea of what to expect. The Monkey hadn't heard anything except that they covered Death on Two Legs which meant he'd give it a try. So off we went. We arrived at Nassau along with a trio of gentlemen in extremely tight acid wash skinny jeans. They were chattering about the place being "HUGE!" and "in the middle of nowhere!" I turned to J and whispered, "We're going to the same place. Let's follow them."

I loved the venue. In fact, I wished I could have a dance party there. I had visions of 70's Stevie Nicks inspired twirling underneath the disco ball. We made some new friends, peered at a weird scrimmed off area and waited for the show.

Photo by Sean Donnola

If Apes and Androids have a visual aesthetic, it would be "Gay Neon Pirate Robots." Some people might have a problem with that. Not me, I'm down with foppery and velveteen women's pantsuits. Interestingly, their efforts to make it an exciting show on a purely visual level proved to be an unintentional red herring. The quality of the playing was fantastic and the singing more so. They all sang, Queen-stylee*, and the keyboard player (and owner of the aforementioned velveteen) added additional mellotron-sounding washes to the mix, creating this massive cathedral-like sound. I won't front, I think I may have laughed nervously at first but quickly found the multi-tracking effect thrilling. It's a rare treat to have an entire band harmonize with each other.

The standout song of the night for me was a number called Doyle. It wasn't quite like the other tunes in their repertoire which leaned towards dance-y, glammy post-punk. The crowd waved around glowsticks (?!) and second vocalist/guitarist Brian Androids sang slowly in a quivering falsetto over a building wall of sound. His voice seemed to fly over each sound scape in slo-motion; I kept waiting for the held notes to fall suddenly or stop but they kept floating on, dropping only slightly and rising again. The song is still in my head. If I had that one, it would be posted below.

I was hip to the scheme, I heard there would be a cover, so when a recognizable drum beat start creeping into one of the later songs, I thought nah, no way! Yes way, Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles! I geeked out big time and I wasn't alone.

Left on a high, The Monkey loved the show and we nabbed a yellow cab almost immediately. The cab driver had the radio tuned to some music from The People's Republic of Congo. He didn't know the name of what was playing but he told me about some other musicans to investigate. Back on our block, walking towards our house, J affectionately called me a chatty Kathy. That reminded me... I have this song.

Song to seek:

Hot Kathy/Apes and Androids (Demo) (mp3)**

Befriend Apes and Androids on My Space. And go see them live.

Love, D

* One of them was the Roger Taylor! I couldn't figure out which Ape or Android was responsible for the operatic quasi-Soprano vocal parts but I was super impressed. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Roger Taylor is the drummer in Queen and the operatic voice behind the "Galileo! Galileo!" line in Bohemian Rhapsody.

** I didn't even recognize this song at first when they played it. Then those harmony ooohs came in and I remembered.

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They wanna sing all night long

Dear friends,

1. I need to sell two Björk tickets for next Wednesday's Radio City Music Hall show. If any of you aren't totally broke in a "How am I ever gonna pay for a dentist?" sorta way, holla at me.

This was my favorite outfit from the last show I saw her play. Those red feathers seemed to move away from her as she swayed, moving her arms slowly, like a hula dancer.

2. I have this book; it's wrapped in brown paper. I can't open it because it is part of a limited series and unleashing it would mean decreasing its value. So it just sits there, all bundled up, with the number 25 written on it in black marker. I chose that number, it's been good to me. A friend curated it; it's an art piece of sorts, full of people's drawings, poems, and remembrances in celebration of their friend Allen Ginsburg. Lots of famous names, some new to me, talking about someone they loved. When I look at it now, sitting on the shelf, all I want to do is tear it open. Crease its edges, thumb-stain it with lead, put a coffee ring on it, the WORKS, as long as I get to see what's inside. I think that I'm going to go for it. I think this is the year.

Joe Strummer was one of the participants in said book. Here's a hushed little cover of a Clash number performed by Josh Rouse. It doesn't have the shimmering mamasan guitar-speak but it makes up for it by sounding tender and forgiving.

Song to seek:

Straight To Hell/Josh Rouse (mp3)

Love, D

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The world belongs to lovers

Dear friends,

For a man known for his droll, removed delivery, Jarvis Cocker is a straight sap. This is why I adore him. I may have others I favor over him but when it comes down to it, Cocker provides me with mini-movie pop songs and the experience of those songs are thrilling. My favorite tunes as films are the ones where the narrator coolly comments on misperceived injustices, romantic or otherwise. Eventually though, the song turns and he reveals himself to be way more invested in his hurt. He is Rick in Casablanca and Sidney Carton in Tale of Two Cities. Under all that world weary cynicism there is a wounded, romantic sensibility. It's those opposing forces that get me every time.

Like a friend/Pulp (video)

This was for Alfonso Cuaron's remake of Great Expectations*. I'm not sure if Cocker wrote those lyrics with Pip and Estella in mind but even if he didn't I doubt you could do better thematically. The vocal performance is master class acting; from the gentle intro to the litany of empty accusations at the end. Even though Cocker makes it clear from the beginning how it all ends: the person you not-so-secretly love abuses your love but you ain't going anywhere because you live in hope, the final "It's lucky for you that we're friends." is a throwaway joke that stings.

Cocker inspects the pleather.

Jarvis Cocker has a new album. I'm so glad, I missed him. This song should be in an imaginary re-make of Gigi directed by Olivier Assayas. Cocker would play the Maurice Chevalier part. Fiddling with his trouser buttons, playing the sleazy boulevardier, with a wink and a secret hurt.

Tonite/Jarvis Cocker

Purchase Jarvis

Love, D

PS Project Jenny Project Jan? Faboo. Saw 'em last night, want to crank their upcoming CD from my jeep and drive past the houses of my friends.

* I could do without all the shots of Gwyneth and Ethan but Cocker is just killing it performance-wise in this video. Boy ain't camera shy. He KNOWS how to work a visual. Why hasn't he been cast in a movie yet? What is wrong with the casting agents of this world?!?!?

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Just looking for a new direction

Dear friends,

1. A quick one: check out DZUSA tubthumper and Serious Biz honcho Travis H's new site, Shuffle Lovers. Ah sweet, sweet podcasting. T-Ha is a man of exquisite aural taste. Go listen!

2. A quick one: J and I were Slope-eating like a pair of dirty yuppies this weekend and this song came on in the restaurant. I started doing a modified chair bounce and mouthing the basso profundo "And so the conversation turned/Until the sun went DOWN." The Monkey thought I had a brain injury. Hardly! I ADORED this song when I was a kid. It's a tune that's vaguely about change*, is not dance-able in the traditional pelvic thrusting sense** and yet...it was a total SUMMER JAM! Brighton Beach! Someone walking by with it blaring out of their humongous radio! Moms fixing me a sandy snack! Ah, those where the days...

(Keep Feeling) Fascination/The Human League (video)

3. A quick one: Wish me luck!

Love, D

* Well, with multiple singers each singing a line it sounds like a group manifesto about what's to come after all the parties involved are forced to grow up. But honestly, who gives a crap? When you have a keyboard line that goes "tootly too roo roo roo roo!" you don't need to be deep.

** I don't see strippers dancing to this unless they're insane. It's more of a side to side, arm waving dance. A more muted version of the Molly Ringwald.

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So you wait and wait and wait

Dear friends,

Mi abuelita* would have adored American Idol, in fact, she pioneered a ghetto living room version of the show in the 50s. Every now and again, starting with her eight children and then later with their progeny, she'd stage talent shows in the living room and rate the performances. She wasn't a Simon or even a Paula; she blatantly played favorites and based her decisions on whimsy rather than talent. Which is why my hilarious but practically tone deaf cousin Alejandra usually won. I always weaseled out of participating**; I was a reader not a performer. It was more fun to watch.

One day, during one of my yearly childhood visits to Chile, we were alone at her house and she asked me to sing her a song. I chose a number from an import tape I'd bought from back home: a girl singer from swinging 60s England who teamed up with the Reid brothers and Morrissey/Marr for a late 80s comeback.

Sandie Shaw, attractively pensive

Song to seek:

Girl Don't Come/Sandie Shaw (mp3)

Buy The Very Best of Sandie Shaw by Sandie Shaw.

Girl Don't Come isn't the song I warbled*** but maybe I should have, it's my favorite of hers. Shaw's vocal manages to be both chiding AND sympathetic. It's almost as if that tsk tsk narrative tone comes from having been stood up herself many times before and being way past the experience, coolly observing the humiliation from a distance. Perhaps she's learned not to even bother trying anymore. A familiar sounding attitude, no?

* * *

Despite my best attempt at a heartbreak quaver, Grandma shrugged it off with a proto-"it was a'ight Dawg...not your best performance." She asked me if I wanted un tesito before her telenovela. I accepted and went back to my book.

Love, D

* Never met my paternal grandmother. She disappeared or was made to disappear. That's all I know.

** I found out that moms perfected the talent show slipperoo when she was an adolescent. Well played, mami, well played.

*** It was the Reid bros. number, Cool About You.

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Right here by my side

Dear friends,

1. Song dedication, part one

My friend Marta aka Marts is, to use her own words, a funny kid. She's perpetually amused by the antics of her friends. A chortler by nature; punching you lightly on the arm, rubbing the punch spot and saying "Aaaaw." She's also one of those people that gets lost in listening to others; she squints her eyes and nods slowly in time to some secret music she hears in what you're saying. This makes sense. She's a fine musician and part of her gifts is her ability to get lost in things but still follow. Yesterday was her birthday and while I know she didn't want no parade, I thought I'd throw out this song dedication to her since it is, in Marts-speak, "so EMO."

but first...

2. Song dedication, part two

Photo courtesy of Cracker-CAM

Justin of Crackers United fame and his lovely paramour Dana are taking off from NYC and retiring to the country. Okay, not really. Philadelphia. I hear there are trees there. The Monkey and I had almost arrived at their going-away party (we were at 6th Avenue and 14th to be exact) when my simian hit a wall and told me he needed to go home. I am sad I missed the chance to party with the Crackers crew but what can you do? I shrugged, gave the xylophone player in the subway a dollar and escorted my fellow back on the train. In dedication (and apologies) this song also goes out to another fabulous team D/J. Something to dance to perhaps? Eh no. Neo-shoegaze? Wrong again! Redhouse Painters covering Genesis, of course! Come on, what could be better than a sappy tale of l-u-v this rainy day?

So yeah, for Marts, Happy Birthday +1! and for Dana and Justin, Happy Moving! You are all lovely people.

Follow You, Follow Me/Red House Painters (mp3)

Mark Kozelek has a voice that is as plain as a brown paper bag but given the right setting, it works. The song's repetitiveness creates this lethargic, contented mood and when the muted caterwaul guitar enters the picture at the end, it doesn't seem out of place at all.

Buy Shanti Project Collection/Various Artists (Feat. Low, Redhouse Painters, Hayden).

Love, D

PS Justin and Marts, if either of you read this, you need to see this movie.

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as I venture in the slipstream

This is not breaking news, but if you haven't already heard the Secret Machines EP of covers I recommend checking it out (well it's actually 2 originals and 4 covers)

The Road Leads Where It's Led EP

I forgot how much I love their version of "Astral Weeks" until I stumbled upon the chords while aimlessly messing around on guitar a few nights ago. I'm not a Van Morrison fan, even though I always hear about "Astral Weeks" being a great album (maybe it's the peanut-butter coated vocals that always turn me off). Anyway, take Van's lyrics, add a Pete Townsend guitar riff and three parts Secret Machines and you've got a great song.

I saw them at Irving Plaza a while back at one of the last shows of that tour. They looked and sounded spent, playing all of these long lethargic but euphoric covers. They played "Money (That's What I Want)" and made it sound completely original. I didn't even recognize it until hearing the familiar lyric about "..the birds and bees."

"Girl From The North Country" is the Dylan cover they've been playing for a while. I immediately became obsessed with this band after seeing them play this at Sin-E.
"(De Luxe) Immer Wieder" also frequented their live sets for a while. I assumed it was a new song of their's. The harmonies are great, but I could never make out the lyrics. Then I finally realized why.... they're singing in German!

The Secret Machines - "Astral Weeks"(mp3)

Buy it here: TSM Store

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A mouthless face to talk to

Dear friends,

1. The Muggabears may not be doing a Pussycat Dolls cover any time soon (which is, quite frankly, a shame) but they are having TWO release parties for their marvelous new EP Night Choreography. The first one is tonight at Mercury with Soft Communication faves Enon and the other one is at Cake Shop on Saturday, April 21st with other Neon Lights presents... alumns, Please Dept. Go, go, go!

(Re-posted without permission from Bryan's site)

The Goth Tarts by The Muggabears is not only good to meow along to, it reminds me of The Afghan Whigs; it has a bite similar to the tracks off of Gentlemen. Le sigh. Love that record.

Song to seek:

The Goth Tarts/The Muggabears (mp3) (From their website)

Pre-order Night Choreography by The Muggabears.

2. You know I had to...

Beep/The Pussycat Dolls (video)

For extra fun, insert your own images/words to go with the beeps. "You got a real big heart but I'm looking at your (SHEEP)/You got real big brains but I'm looking at your (FIRST EDITION OF JOSEPH CONRAD'S NOSTROMO)" and so on, and so on. It's the small things in life that make a difference.

Love, D

PS Seriously, Muggas. Please consider it. I have a birthday coming in a few months. Make it happen.

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You should have told me yourself

Dear friends,

1. It's Wednesday which means videos!

I swear I really am working on an interminable piece about Amy Winehouse. Much like my interminable pieces on Thom Yorke (that one surfaced) and Boubacar Traore (did not) I am stuck between my own conflicting opinions on the artist, their pre-occupations and whether or not they mean it, man. I care very much about sincerity. I even like my insincerity to be sincere (see: "I fake it so real/I am beyond fake") this is a trait I can't explain. Grad Psych majors, hit me with your best shot.

She certainly captures the eye. Her camera stare in recent photos, ratty beehive, black eyeshadow tilting up at the corners in the shape of bat's wings, tattoo-ed pool hall broad from the 60's costume, ranges from defiant to awkward. Does she want to tell you she's loved you all this time or does she want to smash you on the head with a bottle? It's hard to say. So instead I focus on the sound, the aching vulnerability in her voice. Like an ashtray and booze sportin' Dinah Washington, forever staring out the window at the cars while the record skips in the background.

Heard It Through The Grapevine/Amy Winehouse and Paul Weller (video)

If she sang along to this song at home, I can't imagine that it would be much different than this performance. Despite the tabloid image trappings; the tottering heels, the pulling up the skimpy dress*, the boozy unfocused look in the eyes - it sounds real. I'm not saying I believe she heard about her man cheating her and now she's going to lose her mind. No. I mean that it sounds like she's lost in the song, like it's pleasure.

2. It's Wednesday which means MP3 Flashbacks!

Since I've been babbling on Soft Communication for a few years now about songs and artists that I never included mp3s or even weblinks for**, I thought I might include a feature now and again where I revisit old posts and let you hear the songs I was prattling on about then. Here is a holiday themed entry from '05, called Give a toast to now featuring tiny, unknown acts Radiohead and Queen.

Love, D

* Interestingly, as concerned as she is with keeping the dress from falling down, she spends a lot of time in this performance channeling Gypsy Rose Lee and flashing thigh. It's rather endearing.

** Uh, 'cause I didn't know how and I kinda still don't?

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Just like in the country

Dear friends,

I have been crippled cracked all week hence my general absence. Also, holidays! Don't cry for me though. I have love AND insurance. That's enough to make me feel safe in this big bad world.

Turkey, anyone?

I've been quietly stalking the The Jealous Girlfriends ever since I accidentally* caught them at Mercury Lounge last year. I'm a sucker for vocal twin-ning and singers Holly Miranda and Josh Abbott definitely have that golden hum sound down.

Song to Seek:

The Pink Wig to My Salieri/The Jealous Girlfriends (mp3)

Buy The Jealous Girlfriends self-titled CD.

I watched Marie Antoinette** this weekend and tried to imagine The Pink Wig To My Salieri inserted in the film, in one of the many scenes where Kirsten Dunst scampers down a hallway looking distressed in period finery. I blame the song's keyboard nod to the New Romantics sound and the titular allusion to Mozart***. Supposedly, little Wolfgang asked the Emperor of Austria for Maria Antonia's hand when they were children and that story, real or not, is sad and sweet.

An extra track from The Jealous Girlfriend for all ye Smiths cover hounds.

Song to seek:

Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want/The Jealous Girlfriends (mp3)

The Jealous Girlfriends play Union Hall on Wednesday, April 11th. Go see 'em.

Love, D

* I say accidentally because I confused their name with another band's and realized my mistake when they started their set.

** Loved the songs used in the film, especially the tiny piece of The Cure's Plainsong playing during the post-coronation sequence. However, I did think it was TOO music heavy at times and wished for silence so I could appreciate the imagery on its own.

*** Well, the allusion is to Salieri, Mozart's fictional nemesis in the play/movie, Amadeus. And while that would imply that this is a song about envy, I can barely hear it. To me, this is the sound of a warm breeze.

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I get high*

Dear friends,

1. As a member of the DraculaZombieUSA East Coast Annex, I get to prance like a pony in front of an audience every now and again. One of my favorite parts of the DZUSA experience is hearing the outro blaring out from Travis Business's iPod at the end of every set. It's a man singing, "Oooh yeah, aaaah-ah-I!" He does this a few times, and then he's sped up Alvin and The Chipmunks stylee; a bright chirping affirmation. It gets stuck in my head, that bit. I always mean to ask the man where it's from but forget. On Saturday, Travis and his lovely lady, Rebecca, jumped the broomstick. After their beautiful ceremony, after the kiss, after they clasped hands and started making their way out, the processional music kicked in. "Ooooh yeah, aaaah-ah-I! ...'ll tell you something! I think you'll understand." OH MY GOD. DUUUUUUH. Of course! I Want to Hold Your Hand! But done by...Al Green? What the? Anyway, I can't believe I didn't recognize those notes, those words, as recognizable as ABC if you grew up on The Beatles. I am slow.

Congratulations Travecca! It was a memorable evening truly befitting a wonderful pair.

Travis and Reverend Al, separated at birth?

Song to seek:

(Consider this a place saver for the Al Green mp3, which I will post tomorrow)
I Want To Hold Your Hand/Al Green (mp3)

Buy The Supreme Al Green: The Greatest Hits by Al Green.

2. Speaking of Beatles-related covers, I rather love this one even if it's a tad cracked. Claudine Longet whispers her way through Jealous Guy and generally sounds like fluffy kitten looking at you with sad, feeeed me eyes. It's almost cute that she's jealous. Of course, the knowledge that in real life this adorable creature took a gun and shot her lover in the back colors things a bit. Le scandale aside, when the song segues nicely into Don't Let Me Down, it makes complete sense. Both are songs of desperation and need, slightly off-putting in their emotional nakedness.

Claudine Longet, femme dangereuse

Song to seek:

Jealous Guy/Don't Let Me Down/Claudine Longet (mp3)

Buy We've Only Just Begun/Let's Spend The Night Together by Claudine Longet.

Love, D

* Yes, I know the lyric is "I can't hide" but Al Green opted for this line instead.

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