Sunday, January 30, 2005

More (and More) New Sounds...

January 29, 2005
Purchased:
1. MOJO magazine with “Roots of the Sex Pistols” free CD
An especially worthwhile example of the freebie CD as educational disc. Good selection of songs – “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone,” “Cherry Bomb,” “Roadrunner”- that illustrated the theme and fill some fearsome gaps in my collection. Good show, MOJO!

Sent:
2. Pepper’s Ghost – Shake the Hand that Shook the World (Hybrid Recordings)
Philly-based band that I wrote about ages ago when they were playing a restaurant/bar in Arlington. It’s good news, bad news for these guys.
Good: They’ve scored an opening slot on a major American tour.
Bad: the tour is Ashlee Simpson’s!
Here’s a group that earned their deal the hard way, with night after night of playing funky bars for tough audiences, they’re releasing a new CD produced by a rock legend, Andy Johns (he’s worked with the Stones, Television and Led Zeppelin, for gawd’s sake) and they’re opening for Ashlee freakin; Simpson? Feels like career suicide to me. The group’s pretty pop sound – a mix of Beatlesque melodies, Hollies-style harmonies and Bowie-style vocal affectations – could sit well with the teen girl crowd,and the parents who accompany them, but these guys deserve more than the boy-band type-casting they’re setting themselves up, opening for the Lip Synch Princess.
Hey, the press release quotes the Washington Post: “The group’s straight-ahead hard pop style echoes that era (60’s/70’s) of solid song craft and tasty harmonies.” I wrote that!

Among other discs from the past two weeks that I’m still catching up with:
3. Matt Wertz – Twenty Three Places (label NA)
Wetz is coming to town later this month, opening on two nights fro Steve Kellogg, so I’m checking them both out.
Point One in the guy’s favor – he’s got a song called “Marianne” (spelled the right way!), so I’m with him so far. And the girl in the song isn’t a bitch, so that’s good, too.
Point Two in the guy’s favor: he’s got a John Mayer kinda voice (and he isn’t singing a song as lame as “Daughters.” Seriously, John, such vaguely sexist sentimentality is beneath you). On first listen, no single tune jumps out to grab me, but I’ll be happy to revisit, which is itself a compliment.
4. The Loved Ones – eponymous (I love that word!) (Jade Tree)
Jade Tree is a very cool almost-local (Wilmington, DE) label that releases music by truly alternative heroes like Pedro the Lion. But this one, a Philly band led by vocalist Dave Hause, former tour manager for Sick Of it All and Bouncing Souls (can you tell I’m cribbing from the bio sheet?), doesn’t offer any variation on the fast-rhythm, churning guitar, distressed vocal style that marks boatloads of releases from the contemporary punk scene. (The drummer’s name – Michael Sneeringer – is the most interesting thing here.) “Heartfelt hometown singalongs don’t get any better than this,” the bio says. But heartfelt hometown singalongs don’t offer much to the people who don’t live there, either.
5. L’altra – Different Days (Hefty Records)
For a small, newish band, L’altra has a fairly thick press kit, including blurbs from Time Out New York and Entertainment Weekly. The Chicago-based duo just released its third CD, but this my introduction to them. “Perfect soundtrack for a late Sunday night,” says URB and, since it’s 10:30 pm as I finish off this round of rounding up, I’ll vouch for that. Also good for yoga practice, which was the first time I played this CD. The electronica beds and light female vocals put me in mind of Low and Portishead. The bio says that this male/female team was together as a couple for 7 years and broke up during the recording of the first CD, That makes subsequent releases, including this one, testament to a melancholy acceptance of love’s twisted paths. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!
6. The Merediths – A Closed Universe (Debauchery Records)
Five guys from Louisville, courtesy of the kind folks at Team Clermont, a small but dedicated publicity team in Georgia that hooks me up with a constant array of quirky little bands (including those dear boys in Troubled Hubble) that I love to write about when I can, since they all seem to be working so hard. The Merediths create just the kind of sweet, light pop rock that I enjoy – I hear traces of ELO and the Cure, too. While I can’t yet tell if it’s gonna stick to my ribs, I wish them the best.
7. Johnny Mathis – Isn’t It Romantic: The Standards Album (Columbia)
Sure it’s corny and old-fashioned, and Johnny couldn’t emo from nu-metal at gunpoint, but I’ve always liked his voice and taking my mom to his Radio City Music Hall show many moons ago was a bonding experience (my third row seats showed her that this music writing job had its benefits). And I love the old classics, too, tho’ I’d be hard-pressed to make a case for “There’s a Kind of Hush” (yes, the Hermits hit) as a classic, and “The Rainbow Connection” (it will be played at my funeral, but not this version) has way too many strings. Mathis rarely had an arranger who didn’t try to bury him in syrup, but if you can find the “Rhythms and Ballads of Broadway” CD from back when the man was in his prime, you’d be surprised and delighted at how randily he could swing when allowed to. But this one’s strictly for the moms and – at a meager 10 tracks, one of which was already released on the Ray Charles duets album – Columbia’s probably hoping the older folk don’t realize they’re being played.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Good News, Bad News

Good: After a slow start at the beginning of the month, I’ve acquired about three dozen new CDs since the last posting.

Bad: Having set myself up with the task of cataloging the music that comes into my home each day, I now feel compelled to resume the job, and feel guilty for neglecting it over the course of the last few weeks.

At present, this blog reminds me of the days, ages ago, when I was a DJ on my college radio station, at SUNY Stony Brook on Long Island. It was a carrier current station, meaning that only students in the dorms could even attempt to listen to it, and the chances that any bothered to do so were slim to none. But the competition to get some airtime was fierce and when I was finally awarded a half hour (!!) on Monday nights, I scrupulously prepared for each show as if it were a Clear Channel flagship outlet.

So here I am again, speaking into a void and somehow convincing myself that there’s a point to this enterprise, if only to entertain myself…

A rough summation of the flurry of new music, both sought-out and unsolicited:

On a visit to Borders…
1. Uncut magazine with compilation CD, Tracks Inspired by Bob Dylan
Another snarky two CD option, and you have to buy the same magazine twice to get both, The other CD, “Tracks that Inspired Bob Dylan,” features some great blues and folk artists, but I was enticed to get this one because I knew more of the songs and artists (cool cats like Josh Ritter, Warren Zevon, Steve Goodman, Robyn Hitchcock, etc). The completist/obsessive in me, however, will keep an eye open for the missing disc at the used CD store.

2. Mario Frangoulis – Follow Your Heart – free 2-track sampler
“Greek heartthrob superstar” sings “beautiful and romantic ballads with a classical influence.” Just noticed that one of the tunes (“Come What May”) was written by D. Baerwald and K. Gilbert, who made some cool music as solo artists, in bands like Toy Matinee, David + David and helped out Sheryl Crow, I do believe, on her “Tuesday Nigh Music Club” sessions. Even so, and even free, it’s not worth it. Into the giveaway pile, Mario!

Friday, Jan. 14
3. The Decemberists – Picaresque
An advance copy of the new CD, due in March, sent in conjunction with the preview I wrote for the Washington Post about Colin Meloy’s solo gig last week.
This band is quickly become a fave rave, and Meloy was wonderful in concert. Writing the story was an illustration of all the things that can go wrong in pulling together a rock-based article (the band’s line-up changes were announced the day we went to press, and the opening act cancelled, so I looked like a real bonehead in the printed piece) but I’m eternally grateful that my Post gig keeps turning me on great new music.
4. Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey
At the show, Colin was selling an independent CD he made of covers of Morrissey songs. Housed in a simple cardboard sleeve, it cost $10. I just saw one sell on ebay for over $125!

5. XYZ – Letter to God
A comeback album by an ‘80s era big-hair hard rock band. I wrote about them, and Every Mother’s Nightmare, in a recent Post preview, but it was one of those articles that don’t require an intimate knowledge of the music being discussed. I’ll listen out of a sense of duty, but don’t much care for the style myself. The publicist, however, was thrilled to get her band mentioned in the Washington Post, even if it’s just the regional edition.

Saturday, Jan. 15
Would a trip to NYC be complete without a visit to the Virgin megastore? I love Tower, but we have no Virgins here in DC (‘cept those abstinence types in the GOP). So, on Friday night, while Terry slipped back to the hotel, Grace and I went to the Unions Square store, where Friday night music/video shopping is as much a social event as bar hopping or hitting a movie. We came home with the following:

Grace bought:
6. Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway
I don’t watch “American Idol.” I don’t care. Clarkson may be the only person even remotely associated with the sad, sorry affair that doesn’t make me retch. And “Since You Been Gone” is downright catchy. So sue me.

7. Interpol – Antics
I missed this CD during 2004 and, after just one listen, I regret I hadn’t heard it sooner. Might well have made it to the year’s best (and for that matter, so would Decemberists…)

There are few things that bring out the crazy music collector faster than a rack of 99 cent CDs. Virgin had a short wall full of them. Cheaper than a cup of good coffee and you can always use the jewel case or recycle them at the used store if you don’t like ‘em,
Cheap CDs are a treasure hunter’s dream. I found:
8. Greg Kihn – Mutiny (Clean Cuts, 1994)
Where has Kihn been? Back in The Day, he was a San Francisco power pop hero, and he had the good taste to cover Springsteen’s “Rendezvous,” scoring a minor hit. This CD has some interesting covers (songs by Richard Farina, Elliot Murphy, Buddy Holly, Lou Reed) and Kihn’s own stuff, but I can’t tell if it’s some kind of compilation or an attempt at some kind of comeback that I’m catching 10 years late.
9. Odds – Nest (Elektra, 1996)
Sometimes I find an artist I really like in the cheapy section and it’s like finding an orphan child. I’ll buy the CD even if I may already have a copy, so I can pass it on to a good home. I was a big fan of the Odds first CD, “Neapolitan” and praised it in the very first print edition of Close Personal Friend, over 15 years ago. Somehow, the band caught wind of that and I came home one night to find a message on my phone machine in which they thanked me! Of course, that endeared the Odds to me even more (I don’t get that much feedback). Though I lost track of the band after the first few albums, I couldn’t leave this one stranded in a lonely discount rack. Maybe it’ll be the rekindling of a dormant romance!
10. Lester Lewitt EP (1998)
A total grab-bag wild-card why-not? purchase. I didn’t even know the title and artist until I got it home and stared at the fine print with a magnifying glass. But the cover, a simple fold-over in a plastic sleeve, is a pic of a public bus from a city I don’t know, and the song titles were intriguing, so what the hey…On first listen (now, as I type), there’s a beat-heavy farting synthesizer sound on “Mushy Pea,” a deranged carousel vibe to “South Pacifik” (sic). The last track of the seven, which appears to be titled “- - - -,” goes into clich├ęd rhythm frenzy before settling into an epilogue of strange crackling that sounds like Lester set his sampler on fire (to the 13-minute mark), followed by a brief manic riff in TV cop show theme mode. Such weirdness has its appeal, especially for 99cents.

And bonus! God bless Virgin; you never know what you’ll get at the checkout counter. Last time I was at the store, the cashier handed me a compilation of recommended new music (it included the Killers before they broke, among other nice freebies) and, when Grace and I said that was neat, the guy threw a handful of extras into the bag. We’re still handing them out to friends as birthday present extras (and the Killers track makes us look good!). This time, as the cashier totaled the bill, she said I could have my pick of a pile of samplers, since I’d spent over $50. Since I’d spent just over $100 – and I was a greedy girl who couldn’t make up my mind I asked if I could have two, and she said fine.
So I got:
11. Virgin MegaMusic – Los Angeles
A dozen tracks with a California there, including “Ca Dreaming,” “CA Girls,” “It Never Rains in So. CA” and – worth the price of admission all by themselves – Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” and the out-of-left-field “San Fernando Valley” by Johnny Mercer.
Plus
12. Virgin MegaMusic – Wham Glam Thank You Ma’am (a collection that makes men want to wear make-up)
Besides the fab sub-title, this disc offers a nifty collection of tracks I have scattered through individual artist CDs (“Bang a Gong,” “All the Young Dudes,” “School’s Out”) and even the odd vinyl single (“Hot Child in the City”). How nice of Virgin to put it all together for me.

Friday, Jan. 21
13. Jesse McCartney – Beautiful Soul
“This doesn’t leave the car, but I’m in love with Jesse McCartney.” So says Gracie, who also adores Johnny Depp, Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) and Orlando Bloom. Grace coined a phrase – “spaghetti punk” - for her particular taste in music, which is, she admits, way softer than hardcore. Though she’s currently most happy to hear the Killers, Franz Ferdinand or the aforementioned Green Day pop up on the radio, she has allowed herself the guilty pleasure of young Mr. McCartney, former member of the highly forgettable boy band Dreamstreet, and current WB series heartthrob for the seasonal show, “Summerland.”
Though my Ashlee Simpson acid reflux reflex is at a new, more extreme level of intolerance (the Cosmo cover put me over the edge) for the pretty pop tarts of the world, I confess, too, that Jesse has his appeal, with a smooth R&B pop style. Like a lot of other singers these days, he’s working the Michael Jackson dance groove thing and quite competently. And, while I don’t for a moment believe the looks-are-only-skin-deep assertions of the song (so why is the girl in the video hot? And why the hell aren’t those kids wearing seat belts?), it is damn catchy.
So Grace can have her pin-up boy. And, since it looks like I may get the chance to interview him – which is why the CD was sent to me in the first place – maybe she can get a little extra thrill – an autograph, a personal hello – that will make mom’s job more fun.

Heck, this is taking a LOOOOOONG time.
Short and sweet, then.

Sent by Publicists:
14. Tommy Castro – Soul Shaker
He’s coming to town and, if I hadn’t already made a case for another show, I could see doing a write-up. He’s got that Bob Seger heartland blues-rock thing down solid. But for me personally, one Bob Seger album, a greatest hits with “Hollywood Nights,” is the only artifact of this style I need.

Heck squared. I’ll resume tomorrow. (I feel you tremble with an…TI…cipation!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

WHFS, R.I.P.

Another one down.

This afternoon, after 20 years of playing alternative rock to the DC area, WHFS, 99.1-FM, played Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” and, with no further warning, switched over to a Spanish pop format. Pretty shocking.
I hadn’t listened to the station in ages. The morning show was dominated by sports talk, the drivetime playlist was tilted toward angry white boy rock, and on any evening in recent memory when I thought to call up 99.1, I got “Loveline” and/or musicians talking about their sex lives.
But when I first moved to the DC area 12 years ago, WHFS-FM was a kick-ass radio station. The DJs knew their stuff and played my type of classic rock – Costello, Talking Heads, the Clash. There was respect for the artists of the punk and grunge era, and an interest in a wide range of artists, all the way from Sarah McLachlan to Pearl Jam, before they became go-to tracks in the play-it-safe lists. The live sessions and Sunday night local music explorations never failed to offer intriguing new sounds.
And those concerts! The HFStival disintegrated in recent years to a “show us your tits” mentality, and I outgrew the 60,000 crowd scene just about the same time I stopped being offered press access. Bur when it was good, it was great – Pavement, Afghan Whigs, the Ramones, Green Day, Beck, the young and hungry Good Charlotte (not the MTV shills they’ve sadly become), Fountains of Wayne, No Doubt, even Tony Bennett!….the list of artists that played that communal summertime lovefest was pretty amazing.
This past December, I took Grace and her pal to the HFS Nutcracker and, even from the nosebleed seats, it was a gas. Franz Ferdinand and the Killers showed that guitar rock was alive and well, Jimmy Eat World showed that you could jump from indie emo darlings to the big time without losing your soul. Hell, even Velvet Revolver was fun in their ridiculously over-the-top cock-rock way (but the Darkness are better, ‘cause they’re in on the joke).
So, while I wasn’t a recent listener, I raise a toast to the WHFS I have preserved in hundreds of concert photos (thanks for the pit passes, guys!) and a dozen or so cassette tapes I made during the vintage years. (Gonna pull them out for the wake). Namaste WHFS. It’s all dead air now.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

And then I bought...

Slowly getting the hang of this. Found the way to change the time setting to my own EST. Pictures soon come, and links, too.

But for now, it's back to the sounds. Recent acquistions, for the OCD Year in Music list.

The kids (teenage girls, age 14 and 18) were asked by their uncle for a list of new CDs they would like for Christmas. And so, on Friday, the following came into the house:
1. Ryan Adams - Love is Hell
Immediately made a copy for my own use. Worth it if only for the cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall." Looking forward to hearing the rest.
2. Ashlee Simpson - Autobiography
It's too easy to mock the girl. If she hadn't blamed that SNL debacle on her band, I might have let the thing slide. It's been clear for a long while that SNL doesn't require Pop Tarts to sing live; she was just the poor kid who got caught. The booing incident almost made me feel sorry for her, but then the "La La" video is constantly being broadcast behind my back (I work in the same room where the younger watches MTV) and I want her Taken Down to Chinatown. I tell my sweet Grace that if she likes the CD, that's fine. I just want her to realize that her Ashlee is like my Monkees - a face on a sound that someone else deserves credit for. (And the Monkees were genuinely funny.) If only Ashlee's parents had let her pursue her dancing (supposedly she was good enough for a prestigious scholarship, which they rejected so they could concentrate on -gag- Jessica's career), we would all be spared this nonsense.
3. The Diary of Alicia Keyes
Gracie's other choice. Luckily, she has wider taste than just the latest TRL favorites. And five years from now, she may still be listening to this one.

Saturday brought one promotional delivery:
4. Aztec Two-Step - Days of Horses
I know them. In fact, saw them in concert ages ago, at a college show which, if I were to date myself (and I don't need to, I have a husband) was over 25 years back. I was quite fond of them then - "Faster Gun" remains a favorite love song (I haven't heard it in years, but I could sing the first verse and chorus for you now). Dimly remember a musician friend who played with them recently telling a story about one of them being a jerk, but I'd have to check the details and get back to you on that. I don't hold out high hopes for the album - folk-hippies don't age well - but the publicist is a sweetheart, and I'll give it a listen.

[Intermission. I go upstairs to make a cup of tea, and my husband is having trouble getting the Bose to play a Benny Goodman CD. I make it go (didn't fix it; it just worked) and we dance to the opening track. I said I was a lucky woman.]

Sunday. A mix of Click and Brick purchases.
5. The Arcade Fire - Funeral
Friday morning, Terry (the hubby) sends an email from his office: "Do we have the Arcade Fire? It sounds very me." I remember hearing about them after the fact, from the CMJ festival in NYC last fall - a big front page Arts section article in the NY Times about them being the It Band of that week (I hadn't heard them mentioned once while I was there.) Later on Friday, I catch an NPR segment on the band, and I hear what Terry was responding to. Literate material, Bjork-ish vocals, some Talking Heads, some Echo and the Bunnymen, some Jam in their R&B tribute mode. He picks up the album at Borders and immediately calls me on the cell phone to make sure I don't buy it while I'm out.
I'm scouting ideas for next week's preveiw column for the Washington Post and curious about the Decemberists, another CMJ buzz band (this one I've heard of; on my list to check out, but I didn't make it to the show). Terry knows there's a trip to a music store in my immediate future. But he has beaten me to this one.

6. The Decemberists - Her Majesty the Decemberists
Lucikly, before giving in to a Best Buy visit (alas, the closest music retailer in our town), I remember to check my emusic account, the online service at which I get 40 tracks each month for a mere $10. Before iTunes, Rhapsody and the legal version of Napster, there was emusic, which initially offered an insane unlimited grab-and-burn selection from mainly obscure and indie labels. I've kept my membership, but occasionally need to remind myself to get my money's worth before each billing cycle ends (there's no rollover, so Emma often jumps online the last day and clears out the credit). I have room for 9 tracks, so I grab that much of "Her Majesty.." and indulge in a "booster pack" of 50 more tracks for $14.95, to be used at any future time. So I can complete the 'brists CD and others (to follow). I'm glad to finally catch up with this charming band - Modern Victoriana folk/rock? A kinder, gentler, sober-er Pogues?
One unfortunate element of downloading music is the lack of liner notes, so I visit the Decemberists' website and find, along with lovely old-fashioned illustrations, photos of a band that dresses in vintage costumes and handle-bar mustaches, wwith links to McSweeneys, Orangina official drink!), Death Cab for Cutie and Russian Prison Tattoos (alas, that link doesn't work).
I love them already.

[intermission. I make changes, additions, edits, and then a computer glitch - plus some operator error - loses them all. Aargh. As best as I can recall..]

7. The Dears - Protest (EP)
One of the nice elements of emusic is that, at 25 cents per song, you can explore anything you're curious about. I plug into the search engine the name of this band, who've been aired on KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" (high recommendation) and out pops a 4-track EP, and one song is 12-minutes long. That's value!

8. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets
Leo (I feel like I can call him Ted) was a star at the CMJ daytime panel on Music and Politics. I have some earlier songs of his, and had him pegged as a bright popster, but now he appears to be concerned with some serious shit. This CD reportedly takes direct aim at Bush and co. The silver lining in the cloud of current political horror is that there's going to be some great art to come from the opposition.

keep your ears open.
thanks to anyone who made it this far with me!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Pazz and Jop and Rock and Roll

Here's what I submitted to the Village Voice annual Pazz and Jop Critics Poll.
Neither albums nor singles are in any particular order.

ALBUMS:
Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
Sam Phillips – A Boot and a Shoe (Nonesuch)
David Byrne – Grown Backwards (Nonesuch)
Wilco – A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch)
Green Day - American Idiot (Reprise)
Le Concorde – Universe and Villa (March Records)
Hope of the States – The Lost Riots (Epic)
Various Artists - Garden State soundtrack (Epic)
Magnetic Fields – i (Nonesuch)
Killers – Hot Fuss (Island)


SINGLES:
U2 – Vertigo (Interscope)
Modest Mouse – Float On (Epic)
The Darkness – I Believe in a Thing Called Love (East West Records)
Keane – Somewhere Only We Know (Universal)
Dashboard Confessional – Vindicated (Sony Music Soundtrax)
Troubled Hubble – A Happy Day Went Off the Cliff (Latest Flame EP)
Eminem – Mosh (Aftermath)
Gary Jules - Mad World (Universal)
Black Eyed Peas – Let’s Get It Started (Interscope)
Switchfoot - Meant to Live (Columbia)


and, for the comments area:

I'm a woman, over 40, living in the suburbs of Washington, DC, so I am an endangered species in the field, among the oldest persons at most shows I attend (but not the Pixies reunion!) and definitely not the audience most pop music wants. But then, I don't want most pop music either.

I am not on the Nonesuch payroll; not even on its mailing list! (I paid for all four of the label releases on my list this year), but that label's work is an example of why I still proudly follow contemporary music. There are still so many older artists I admire (shame about that last R.E.M. CD, however) and fine new discoveries to be made.

The radio is useless to me, and I won't pay (yet) for a satellite receiver, but I can hear what I need to know via internet streams from the likes of WFUV, KCRW and WXPN. My teenage daughters keep me informed of what's happing in high school and college. They give me Death Cab for Cutie and the Killers; I give them Magnetic Fields and Wilco. Everybody wins.

It's been a good year personally, and musically, I found a lot to love. But what a terrible year it was for the rest of the world. I live on a small blue island in a big red state, and November 2 would have been the most disasterous day of the year past if it weren't for December 26.

I have a family, a home, a job I love, a roomful of music and high-tech gadgets to play it on. There are people who ask only for clean drinking water and a blanket. If I complain about my life, slap me.

That's how we do it on the O.C.D.

I have often thought that it would be fun (for me, at least, if not for anyone else) to keep track, day-by-day, of the music that comes into my home. The glorious days of massive mailings from the big record companies are over, alas. There was a time that I could count on dozens of new LPs (way back when..) and later, CDs, arriving each week. Taking a vacation, I would come home to what looked like Christmas - stacks of boxes filled with free sounds.

Those days are gone. Through budget cuts at the labels and my own retreat to less frequent reviews, there isn't the quantity today of that delightful swag era. But now I tend to receive packages that are individually addressed to me, from smaller labels and publicists I know personally, which means I tend to get more music that is aimed directly at my interests and not just blanket mailings of everything being released that week. (Ah, but that was sometimes where the sweet surprises lay...)

And then there's all the music I buy. We'll save the discussions of downloading and borrowed-to-burn CDs for another time, but I still spend a large portion of all my available (and not-so) income on music. Just ask my accountant. Thank god it's deductable.

So, between what I actively choose and what comes, unbidden, over the transom, I've decided to track the CDs I acquire each day as part of this blog. As soon as I get a handle on the system, I'll give this data its own section. But for now...

TODAY's MUSIC. 1-2-05
It's a Sunday, remember, so there's no deliveries. But a visit to Barnes & Noble to indulge in 50% off (and 10% more with Member Card!) calendars brings me to the magazine rack, where I can also indulge my addiction to Magazines That Come With CDs. Uncut is my favorite, a British publication with very smart writing, an exhaustive review section, and a themed CD each month. This December, they pulled the snarky move of releasing two different CD editions - Best of 2004, new releases and Best of 2004, reissues - which requires buying the same magazine twice. Last week, I bought the one with new releases, but I've yet to commit to the other. Sometimes even addictions must bow to practicality. (There's always the possible delight of finding that missing CD in the Various Artists bin at the used CD store; the thrill of the hunt and all that.)

Tonight's purchases:
1. The Wire, with free 40-track double CD
This British publication deals in modern music of the obscure and experimental sort. As much as I try to stay abreast of what's happening in the various fields of music, there are only three artists out of these 40 that I recognize - art/punksters The Fall, indie/y'alternative Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and Gary Lucas, former Jeff Buckley collaborator. I'm playing the first disc as I type, and it's full of intriguing dance beats and instrumental bleeps. For less than $8, I've got more than 2 hours of intriguing new music and a magazine that might explain some of it to me. That's money well spent.

2. Harp, with 22-track sampler of music from the Bloodshot Records label
I know someone who works at this Maryland-based bi-monthly (that's the every-other-month bi-monthly, not the every-other week one; someone feel free to explain the word to me) and so I always buy it with the intention of checking what's being covered and pitching future stories. Until I actually get around to being that productive, I can listen to my fave boys Old 97s, catch up to an old Ryan Adams track, hear what Graham Parker's doing these days, and otherwise get wise to the label that authoress Sarah Vowell called her favorite when I asked her about her musical tastes at a book reading/signing last year.
The magazine champions the kind of literate singer/songwriters I prefer, too, so its 40 Best CDs of 2004 will make a nice crib sheet as I work on my own list (due tomorrow) for the Village Voice. And all this for under $5!

3. MOJO, with 15-track compilation of early rock hits
Another British publication, MOJO is much like Uncut, but it doesn't do the free CD thing every single month. (What the schedule is and why, I don't know.) Lately, they've been doing conceptual discs of musical styles - roots of hip-hop, reggae, etc. - and this one has a great collection of tracks that relate to the foundations of rock - Carl Perkins' "Honey Don't," Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man," "Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working," Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup's "My Baby Left Me" and more. Yes, I have some of them on other CDs, but the selection here, bundled with a well-written magazine again at the $8.oo mark is more time and cost-efficient than a trip to the i-tunes store. And the CD looks so nice, nestled next to its other MOJO kin.

Channel your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder toward harmless habits, I say.

Tomorrow we'll see what the first post delivery of the New Year will bring, and my listing of the Top Ten Albums and Singles of 2004 must be finished. Deadlines make things happen.

cheers

Saturday, January 01, 2005

And here we go....

Not unlike many (thousands of?) other people in the word facing a new year, it seemed to me a good time to get going on this New Type of Publishing Adventure (I'll try to avoid lots of cute Winnie-The-Pooh style capitalizations) (But I love paranthetical statements, so you have little hope of avoiding them).

Anyhoo, since I'm too technically inept to regularly update my website (www.closepersonalfriend.com), blogging's the best way to get my news, views and reviews out to the Big World (sorry) ASAP.

What can you expect? Mostly ruminations on the musical world. I write about music for the Washington Post (currently) and have done so in the past for the likes of Rolling Stone, CDnow, e!online and various publications. (Check the CPF archives for samples and a resume.) I've also written for TV and radio - and the shows have actually been aired. Not so yet for my screenplay work. It's a quest.

I'm also opinionated about a lot of other things, especially the politcal morass that America is in. I loathe Bush. I've said it and I stand by it, but I'm not going to engage in pissing matches with the other side, so please refrain from writing to engage in such. Dittohead types, you have plenty of other places to vent your spleen so go there. (Maybe that venting will let some clean air in to open your mind and freshen your heart. One can only hope.) So, besides linking to my reviews and music writing, there will be lots of links to Bush-bashing sites and fellow Blue State thinking.

Soon come....In the next few days I need to submit my year-end Top Ten to the annual Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll (their capitalizations), so that will appear here, too, and give you an idea of what rocks my socks. I attended the big CMJ music festival in New York City (I was born and raised there and love it dearly still) in October '04 and wrote a summary of same for the British magazine Dazed and Confused, so that will be archived here as well.

Along with anything else that crosses my mind. 'Cause that's the point, eh? (not Canadian, but considered moving there after the election)

okay then. Happy new year and thanks for visiting with your new Close Personal Friend.