Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Send More Bubble Wrap!

Most of the music that's come into my home lately as been mailed in cardboard packages. I am suffering from bubble wrap withdrawal. This is fine by my husband, who can hear the pop, pop, pop, from two floors away (we're in a townhouse) as I methodically squeeze the air out of the torn sheets of plastic wrap. But it's not just a good cigarette substitute - if I can't recycle all these puffy bags, I can at least make them a teeny bit smaller before they go into the landfill.
It's all good - so give me the damn bubble wrap and no one gets hurt!

Wednesday, March 30
1. ANOINTED - Now is the Time (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
Fresh-faced black couple on the cover, titles like "Gonna Lift Your Name," "Eternal Life" and "Jesus is Lord," the latter featuring a guest appearance by Andrae Crouch. It's Jesus Music, the good kind (I hope) as compared to John Ashcroft and the Religious Right(eous) singing "Let the Eagle Soar."
2. A STATIC LULLABY Faso Latido (Columbia)
Musical whiplash from its companion, above, in the Columbia press package. Knowing absolutely nothing about the band, I threw this one in the player while I ate lunch. Within moments I knew I was back in Angry White Boy Hell, where screaming about the unfair world to the sound of loud guitars is the rule. I was too lazy to get up and change it and when Grace, who likes My Chemical Romance and Unwritten Law and other AWBH music came in, she asked "who is this?" in a way that indicated she wanted to know so that she could avoid them in future. Faso Latido = fast into the latrine.

Tuesday, March 29
3. ELVIS COSTELLO - Artist's Choice (HEAR/Universal)
If Starbucks sold their compilation CDs for less than $10 each, I would snap them up in an instant as a quick and easy investment in hearing new sounds, or well-packaged reissues. But the $13 and $15 they charge for what are basically promotional tools is a rip-off.
Still, Terry was gonna put this one in my Easter basket, hesitating only because, knowing my great love for EC, he was afraid I might already have it. So he says he owed it to me, damn the price. And it *is* a great collection, which starts with another idol of mine, Louis Armstrong, and ends with an anti-war song from the 70s which is, sadly, as relevant as ever.

4. DE NOVO DAHL - Cats & Kittens (Theory 8)
Gotta love the record label's motto: "Theory 8 records - we don't know who you are either."
And spiffy packaging! I'm a sucker for letterpress printing, and this one is a double CD, with 32 tracks and many goofy titles ("Wanna Beer Man?" "Little Conquest on the Prairie," "I Broke a Plate," "Doody-ball Upside Down") and six players, all of whom write songs (it says here) and one of whom is a woman, so I'm hopeful the funny stuff isn't just frat-boy funny. Will let you know.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Take the Call, Win an iPod!

While I was working on this blog entry, I got a phone call from my ever-so-connected and always-into-something pal, Shari. With loud music playing in the background, she says (yells, actually) that she's at some kind of press party and she got a second iPod shuffle; do I want it as a belated birthday present?
Having given my old skool 5 gig model to my daughter when hers broke, I consider this divine intervention.

Sunday, March 27
The CD Cellar in West Falls Church is my go-to place for trading in the CDs I don't want for ones I do. With my 15-year-old nephew-in-law visiting, what better way to entertain than take him and Grace with me to make a musical switcheroo.
Brendan gets:
BLINK 182 - Dude Ranch
Better potty mouth punk pop than the Goodfellows poster he had his eye on.
(not being counted in the daily or year-to-date totals)
Grace gets:
1. GREEN DAY - Insomniac
"My boys," Gracie calls them. On her hand-written list of Things To Do during Spring Break (just ended), she wrote: "Buy all other Green Day CDs and listen/memorize."
2. CINEMA BEER BUDDY compilation
Jimmy Eat World, Thursday, Thrice, etc. on a 11 track collection of emo favorites.
3. FIRED UP compilation

I get:
4. ARENA - Pepper's Ghost (Inside Out)
A mistake. I bought this CD thinking it was a different version of the new release by Pepper's Ghost, a PA-based band that's opening for Ashlee Simpson tomorrow night. Turns out that Pepper's Ghost is the title of the CD, and Arena is the artist, a German metal band performing a "lite metal opera." Well, it's an interesting concept and the CD booklet is a cool-looking cartoon. I'm not a metal fan, but I'll look at this as fate moving my hand (and ears) to pay some attention.
5. The CONCRETES - You Can't Hurry Love CD single (EMI Records)
6. FATBOY SLIM - Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars
A self-defense purchase. Found this in a generic jewel box - no cover, no booket - for $1.99. Considering how much Terry plays "Palookaville," which, to my mind, has only a few good tracks and a lot of swill, this may buy me some substiution time on the kitchen boom box.
7. ESSIE JAIN - Dalliance (self-released)
A $1.99 clearance bin orphan. Since a friend and I went to see Essie's show recently at Galaxy Hut, and will probably catch her again opening for Ed Harcourt, I figured I'd rescue this 5-track demo and pass it on to my pal, so she can learn up for the show.

8. COMES WITH A SMILE magazine, with free sampler CD
A groovy sized (8x8 inch) glossy magazine from England. I'd never heard of it before, but it has the ubiquitous Conor Oberst on the cover, a free CD with songs from Brendan Benson, Camper Van Beethoven, M Ward and Mark Mulcahy, a personal favorite since back in his days with Miracle Legion (find a copy of "Me and Mr. Ray" - it's an MIA classic).

9.ALANA DAVIS - Surrender Dorothy (Tigress Records)
This one was sent a while back, when it was just being released, but Alana's coming to town, so it was "reserviced." I played it the first time and found nothing caught me ear but the reworking of "Don't Fear the Reaper." But since it came again, and I may write about the show, I played it again. And nothing caught my ear but the reworking of "Don't Fear the Reaper."

Thursday, March 24
10. SECRET GARDEN - Earthsongs (Decca)
Every fear I had of new age drek - from the cover shot of the two bland lovebirds to the titles and general soft-focus feel of the press pic - was confirmed when I put this on late Friday night, finishing a jigsaw puzzle (the modern mandala) while the kids had a scary movie slumber party. I was waiting for Terry to call from the bedroom, "what is that crap?"
11. 22-20's- S/T (Astralwerks)
At this point, any four-piece guitar band is gonna have to compete with Kings of Leon, and those are mighty tough shoes to outrun. Threw this one on the player during a late-night drive to DC to meet hubby and daughter at the Amtrak station and, while it ain't no "Aha Shake Heartbreak," it's got strong beats, nice hooks, and the occasional ballad (which Kings don't do) that made the drive most enjoyable. They're playing next week at the Black Cat, with Graham Coxon and the Golden Republic, so that could be a good show to check out. (out April 19)

Wednesday, March 23
12. UTAH PHILLIPS - Starlight on the Rails: A Songbook (AK Press)
13.KIDS CHOICE compilation (Nick Records/SONY/BMG)
Past winners in the music category have included Outkast, Usher, Destiny's Child and Hillary Duff. Oh well, three out of four ain't bad. (Did you know that it's Hillary's sister who played the prom queen type in "Napoleon Dynamite"? Neither did I, 'til I read the press kit yesterday in the john...)
I passed this one right off to Grace, since I can always borrow it if I need a fix for tween tunes. There's stuff she likes (Kelly Clarkson, Switchfoot, Avril Lavigne and Alicia Keys), along with stuf she likes to make fun of (Britney Spears, who should NEVER be seen again on a children's channel; Clay Aiken and Jessica Simpson). On the whole, the good and the not-offensive outweigh the out-and-out crap. Maybe there is hope for the youth of America yet.

Tuesday, March 22
14. BRIGHT EYES - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (Saddle Creek)
Oooh, sexy black jewel case. When Conner Oberst became the ubiquitous cover boy on virtually every music magazine I read, plus the NY Times Arts section, my first reaction was not "oh, he must be a great musician," but "oh, he must have an amazing publicist." I dug out an old CD I'd burned ages ago, and liked the free iTunes song that slams the President (of course), but it was only when Target put the CD on sale for $6.99 that I took the bait. My hype deflector shield is up, but the vaguely electronic settings of this album make his awkwardly pained voice more interesting.

Monday, March 21
15. NIRVANA - With the Lights Out (Geffen)
I've been lusting after this one for a while, but never had the spare coin. My parents gave me $50 for my birthday, saying I should buy something I want but don't need. Then Best Buy put it on sale for $40. Case closed. So much to hear and see!
16. JIMMY EAT WORLD - Futures
Grace's purchase, and I can't argue with her taste.
17. GREEN DAY - (Lookout)
Part of Grace's ongoing quest to complete her Green Day collection.
Among the revelations in this first Green Day album:
1. Billie Joe looks awfully cute as a young boy with curly hair falling out of his baseball cap.
2. Tre Cool was not the original drummer!
3. While the studio sound is certainly primitive, the band is surprisingly tight and the songwriting impressive for such a young band. Grace tells me that one song was written when Billie Joe was 12 years old.
Her faith in this band is well-placed.

18. ALL HOURS - In Flagrante Delicto (hybrid Recordings)

Other recent arrivals:
19. TRAIN RIDE (DVD) (TriMedia/Columbia Music Video)
Ordinarily, I wouldn't count a film DVD in the music count, but it came in the Columbia press mailing, and it lists M.C. Lyte among the stars, so that puts it in the running. But not in the DVD player. There are so many, many movies I have yet to watch, and the opening line of the box copy runs thusly: "An off-campus get together goes horribly wrong for college freshman Katrina when Will, a sociopath senior, drugs her then joins his boys in brutally attacking her." Not for me, thanks.
But wait! There's a blurb on the back cover, too: "Entertaining and extremely thought provoking" says....DJ Jazzy Jeff. Oh, that changes everything. Where's the popcorn?

And a final (almost literally) note:
This afternoon, I was checking into vinyl prices on ebay, wondering if it was time to unload some of my unloved LPs. Some guy was selling off his Billy Joel collection, with the following subhead on his listing:
"Billy's in rehab. By (sic) His Albums Now. Come On! Who Knows"
Man, that's cold.
Reminded me of the time I was hanging out with some photogs at the WHFStival, when Scott Weiland was just launching his post-Stone Temple, pre-Velvet Revolver solo career. A press minder came by the gaggle of shutterbugs to ask if anyone wanted to be escorted to the photo pit to shoot Weiland. For a moment, no one expressed any interest. Then, one jaded dude remarked, "He could die tomorrow and this would be his last show." And, somewhat reluctantly, most of them followed the press woman to the pit.
But, hey, Scott's still here, so it's not a total bummer blog ending.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Hey Sailor(s)!

Late night in Annapolis, Maryland. Drove here Friday afternoon to meet Grace, whose animation team was competing - and won - the annual FIRST Robotics Competition. I hit the road with The Dissassociatives, who have a great sound for driving - upbeat dance pop, with a hint of Jellyfish-style harmonies and light. Moved on to Kings of Leon's new one, which just gets better and better. I'm even able to make out some of the lyrics!

And, after a celebratory dinner-and-movie ("The Incredibles") at a shopping center cinema grill, I found a Tower Records (actually, I found it while getting lost on the way to the movie) and picked up a few things:

1. ROCK SOUND magazine with free CD
This one's for Grace - Green Day on the cover and a big story inside with many more photos of her "boys," plus a free page of stickers, including one of the "American Idiot" logo and My Chemical Romance. The disc claims to have an "exclusive" Arcade Fire song, but it's from the "forthcoming album 'Funeral'" so this must be an old issue. Grace took it to her room, so I don;t have the date. I hope that awful pic of one of the guys from Slipknot doesn't give her nightmares.
2. ELVIS COSTELLO - Goodbye Cruel World
I didn't know Tower dealt in used (sorry, "previously played") CDs, but this store had a small-but-sweet selection. Elvis may bankrupt me with the continual re-release of his catalog, but how can I resist these two-disc sets with rarities and demos, especially when it's $10.99 with an extra 20% off? Looking forward to reacquainting myself with this album on the drive home tomorrow.
Another used cheapie - $4.oo - with "Girl from Ipanema" and a slew of names I don't recognize. But Terry likes Brazilian music (he saw Antonio Carlos Jobim perform in Rio!), so this will make a dandy gift.
4. IVY - In the Clear (Nettwerk)
Another one for the boy. While I am a bigger fan of Adam Schlesinger's work with Fountains of Wayne, Terry is smitten with this band - must be the coy female vocalist.

THE HOOTZ - Too Hoot to Handle (Koch)
A children's album, pitched as what it might sound like if Mariah Carey and LL Cool J recorded for kids. But you can't say Hootz around me without bringing up an image of Hooters, and that is a negative image indeed. Aimed at ages 3-5, it may be something I can pass on to one of the neighborhood kids, but there's no place I can think of to pitch it.

It's late. Must sleep. Robots again tomorrow/today...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Where Was the Green Beer?

Thursday, March 17
Top o’ the evening to you. I’ve got Irish blood from the Gillis clan (grandmother) and spirit from the Sweeneys (hubby’s mom), but I wore no green today. Leprechauns need to stay undercover. I’m playing Celtic rock, though. U2 to start, then Raindogs.

Feels like I’m a student, behind on my homework. No new music arrived today, but there’s a pile on the desk of things I’ve yet to catalog. Behind, behind, behind…

Tuesday, March 15
1. PORCUPINE TREE – Deadwing (Lava)

Monday, March 14
2. AQUALUNG – Strange & Beautiful (Columbia)
First off, he’s gotta change that name. I’m old enough to remember Jethro Tull, and the name association is not a pretty one. Mr. Lung, however, (real name Matt Hales) is quite the cutie in his press photo. On first listen, it’s more sweet-voiced British balladry of the Coldplay school and while that sort of sound is pleasant enough, Aqualung’s breathy ramblings make Keane sound positively nasty, and that’s too twee and a third.
3. LONG VIEW – Mercury (14th Floor/Columbia)
First listen brings a sense of ho-hum leading to a maybe…there’s a bit of old-school progressive rock and a touch of bombast, but with pop smarts. Too early to tell, but this band is playing with Phoenix and Dogs Die In Hot Cars later this month, so I’m coming back for another round.
4. JONATHAN EDWARDS – Cruising America’s Waterways (2000, Media Artists)
Yes, it includes “Sunshine.” Just wrote a preview piece about JE for the Post and listened to that first eponymous LP (the phonograph still works for the collected vinyl) and was reminded that he was a sweet-voiced hippie dude – and he sang a song called “Emma,” which I must play sometime for my daughter of the same name. But – maybe I’m just fighting against my own aging here – that Kumbaya vibe doesn’t grow better with time and this new CD, a soundtrack of sorts from a PBS TV series, literally put me to sleep when I played it during an early morning lie down.
5. JOHN BUTLER TRIO – Sunrise Over Sea (Lava)
Put this one on earlier today while I was working on some ad copy for a chocolate company web site, and it passed the passive listening audition with the proverbial flying colors. Periodically, I would come out from my writing coma, drawn to something I heard happening on the stereo behind me and ask myself “which CD is that? That’s good.” The capper was the hidden track that came up after the last song – not so much another song as an ambient soundscape that snuck up on me. When a first, casual listen calls to me like this one did, I look forward to another listen soon. I’ve got a long drive tomorrow; this CD’s coming with me.
6. GIRLYMAN – Little Star (Daemon)
(out May 24)

Sunday, March 13
7. THE MERCY SEAT – S/T (West Pier Records)
Previewed this trio in the Post, along with getting-to-be-a-pal Essie Jain, and went to the show, where I was mightily impressed. The guys looked very tired while Essie sang and her slow tempo sounds looked like they might put them to sleep. But they perked considerably when I showed them a copy of the story. (They gave me the CD at the end of the set.) It’s nice to give some attention and encouragement to a band like this on a long, hard haul of a tour that lands in tiny, no cover bars, where the only thing you make are new fans and some beer money from merch sales. A bracing live performance and a fine, taut CD as well – a cross of Tom Petty’s southern slur (the group is from Gainesville, Florida) with some dry Tom Waits style narratives, and a stand-up bass to boot. A nice new discovery.

Saturday, March 12
8. The BRAVERY - 3-track free sampler
The video for this band’s song (something like “My Mistake;” it’s not on this sampler) is fabulous, except for all the annoying shots of the band that get in the way of the real action – the amazingly contorted Rube Goldberg-ian chain reaction of things, starting with lines and lines of falling dominoes and then moving on to lots of other things rolling and bouncing and setting off fires and knocking down stuff…so, so cool. The band looks annoying, the song hard British pop cliché, but the video could make it a hit just so we can watch that cool shit happen over and over again.

9. JOHN DIGWEED – Fabric 20 (Fabric Records)
10. FORTY5 SOUTH – We’re Country So We Can (Tilo Records)
11. CELTIC FIDDLE FESTIVAL – Play On (Green Linnet)
Oh, no. Just read the accompanying press release to discover that this is a tribute by the Green Linnet artists to fiddler and founding member Johnny Cunningham, who died in December 2003. I’m 99% sure this is the same Johnny Cunningham I interviewed way back in the days of the Raindogs. It was one of my first short artist profiles for Rolling Stone, and took place in the band’s dressing room at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. I remember being nervous and I remember the band being a bunch of kind, friendly guys, especially JC. I’m listening to the Dogs’ “Lost Souls” right now. And it’s still just barely (almost midnight) St. Patty’s Day. Johnny was a Scotsman, but I still think it has a bittersweet appropriateness. Here’s to ya, JC.
12. THE METHOD AND THE RESULT – The Things You Miss (Losing Blueprint/KiraKira Disc Records)

Thursday, March 10
A visit to the Thrift Store almost always yields some good buck-fifty CDs.
13. US3 – Hand on the Torch (Blue Note, 1993)
14. BBC MUSIC magazine – Live from the Proms
Walton Symphony #1 and Takemitsu, From Me Flows What You Call Time
15. FARGO – soundtrack music by Carter Burwell (1996, TVT Records)
16.MORNING BECOMES ECLECTIC – KCRW compilation (1999, Mammoth)
Sign of a music addict – buying a CD that you’re not entirely sure, but you may already own…but at $1.50 with acts like Beth Orton, Air, Lyle Lovett and Pink Martini in rare live spots from LA’s hippest morning radio show, how can you not take the chance?
17. MANDY PATINKIN – Experiment (1994, Elektra Nonesuch)
A 50 cent cassette for my mom. Tho’ I love Patinkin’s voice, and he will always be a god for having starred in Sunday in the Park with George, perhaps the greatest musical I’ve ever seen, his arrangements can border on the treacly (one of the reasons he’s best doing Sondheim; no unctuous sentiments there). I’ll listen once and pass it on. My tape player’s pretty much a reference tool these days, like a microfiche reader.
18. U2 – Wide Awake in America (747 Music)
Another 50 cent cassette, tho’ not for mom. Despite the lowly cassette’s position on the food chain of music-delivery devices (even the 8-track fares better, with a kind of kicky vintage charm), there are albums I find in the format that I don’t have otherwise. Death Cab for Cutie recently released Transatlanticism on cassette so that fans who were driving in their parents’ car would have something cool to listen to! Anyway, I bought this U2 cassette ‘cause it looked like something released in another country and now, with a magnifying glass, I can see that it was made in Singapore. (The Japanese cassettes I have are cooler.)

Oh, and I did eat a green bagel....

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Mo' Money, Mo' Music

Tuesday, March 7

This morning, I spent over $400 on four U2 tickets – two for DC, two for NYC, and they weren’t even the most expensive seats in the venues. But I was happy and consider the $20 I spent to renew with the band’s online fan club as a great bargain - it allowed me to buy tickets in a presale that nearly guaranteed I would get in, even if I couldn’t buy four tickets in the same city. So, one of us will take the live-at-home teenager to the MCI Center show and one of us will travel to NYC (any excuse to go back is fine with us) to take our NYU girl to Madison Square Garden. That’s what we consider a proper musical education.

The mail came, and there were no packages. Sad.
But then the Fed Ex man arrived, and there were four. Happy.

Two were from a film company, promoting upcoming DVD releases – but no screeners within, just press releases. Why does it say "Extremely Urgent" on the packages? Unless there’s a cure for cancer inside, or a check made out to me, there’s no urgency that I can see (ooh, I like that rhyme).

Anyway, the music:
1. ASLYN – Lemon Love (Capitol)
I requested this advance CD when I was working on a preview story about her show with Ryan Cabrera and Kyle Riabko click here, which ran almost three weeks ago. It’s not all that helpful now. At the show, knowing nothing about the act except what I’d read online, the kids and I saw Aslyn’s set as a chance to grab something to eat. That’s no slam to her music, but a simple example of how delay created a lost opportunity for both of us.
2. DAFT PUNK – Human After All (Virgin)
Here’s something I didn’t know was coming but am delighted to get. Heard a great song that sampled/paid homage to Daft Punk on WXPN, Philly, when I was driving up to NYC a few weekends ago (saw the Gates; loved ‘em). I think it was LCD Soundsystem's "Daft Punk is Playing at Me House." I consider it a sign. Must. Listen. To. Daft. Punk.

Monday, March 6
Local boys made very, very good. International jet set lounge sounds, and now they’re working with David Byrne (a personal hero), Perry Farrell and other cool cats.

Saturday, March 5
4. L.P. – Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol (Light Switch Records)
5. LOVE TRACTOR – Black Hole (Fundamental Records)
6. WONDERFUL SMITH – Hello, It’s Wonderful (Fundamental Records)
7. BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA – Atom Bomb (Real World)
8. CHRIS CHANDLER – Collaborations (Prime)
Next weeks’ Washington Post pick click here, this guy is a verbose street poet type who’s hooked up with a pretty impressive array of helpers, as the title suggests - Catie Curtis, Dan Bern, Dar Williams, and others. Trouble (for me, at least) is that density words and intensity of Chandler's anger at the Powers That Be, even if I agree with him, makes for tiring, uneasy listening.

Friday, March 4
9. DONNA SUMMER – The Journey: The Very Best of (UTV/Mercury)
$10 in a nice velvety box, with a hard-cover copy of her autobiography (which I skimmed and put in the bag for the used book store). Why so cheap? I confess, I wore a "Disco Sucks" button back in the day, and still think "Love to Love You Baby" is soft-core crap, but some of those other songs - "Dim All the Lights," "She Works Hard for the Money," and "On the Radio" - have grown to be real dance anthem classics. Yes, I was wrong.
10. ROCK ON Universal Records free sampler
Who needs radio when you can grab a pile of free or cheap samplers and hit the road, tasting a potpourri of new offerings? And, if you hear something you like, there's the song title and artist, which most radio stations still make it hard to find out. When You Play It, Say It, people! This one has already won me over to Kaiser Chiefs.

11. The MARS VOLTA – Frances the Mute (Universal)
I came thisclose to buying this CD yesterday at Target for $7.00; even though I can’t name a single song of theirs or hum a fragment of melody, the press has been so good for this band that I’ve been feeling compelled to find out what the fuss is about. To have the CD arrive, unsolicited, in the mail is one of those simple joys of writing about music.
12. ELVIS COSTELLO and the IMPOSTERS– The Delivery Man (extended version) (Lost Highway)
Elvis, I love you, but I can't buy every new reissue of albums I already bought, even if there's new tracks included. Luckily, this one came out on my birthday and, when the publicist sent an email reminder of the fact, I was able to request one as my gift of the day. (Thank you)
There's one sad note in trading in my old copy of the disc, which this one makes irrelevant. The new one doesn't have this disclaimer on the back, above the FBI anti-piracy warning:
"This artist does not endorse the following wanring. The F.B.I. dosn't have his home phone number and he hopes that they don't have yours."
Elvis, truly, is king!
13. MATT BIANCO featuring BASIA – Matt’s Mood (Decca)
"Cruisin' for Bruisin'" was a great song by Basia, but her stuff overall leaves me cold. This is more of what i don't dig - washed-out ersatz jazz.

Thursday, March 3:
14. The REVEREND AL GREEN – Everything’s OK (Blue Note)
Was this guy not amazing on Letterman, and adorable on the Daily Show?! Skip over the cover of "You Are So Beautiful," though. Not worthy of the great man.
15. The DISSOCIATIVES - S/T (Astralwerks)
16. DOVES – Some Cities (Capitol)
I asked for it; I got it; so far, I love it. Doves are such a great mix of dance grooves and rock muscle. And there's something upbeat about them in a world of sadness. They're coming to town in May. Terry and I will be there.
17. BILLY GILMAN – Everything and More
18. THE CLICK FIVE – 4 song sampler for Greetings from Imrie House (Lava)
A second copy, sent by request (hey, I didn’t know the first was in the mail!) as a possible story, tied to the upcoming Ashlee Simpson tour. (see entry far below about Pepper's Ghost, also sharing the bill).
This copy came with two blue jelly bracelets, the now ubiquitous fashion accessory, though the only charity here is the band’s website. First listen – boy band pop in nice suits. Grace will have to be the final judge, but the opening guitar riff, to “Catch Your Wave,” is either custom-made to be an MTV show theme, or was stolen from one. (out this summer)

19. ROBOTS – soundtrack (Virgin)
Official release of the soundtrack, previously sent as a slim-line advance. On this one, Fountains of Wayne is listed by its full name, whereas the strange appellation F.O.W. appeared on the advance, hinting at naughty rap group. Nice selection – besides F.O.W., there’s James Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, Gomez and Fatboy Slim’s “Wonderful Night,” my favorite track on the otherwise erratic “Palookaville.”

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Beware the Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

They are tasty and addictive and even if you're supposedly avoiding carbs, you will eat the whole package and prattle away on the keyboard, fueled by the sugar as you attempt to remember all the new music that came your way in the busy week-and-change past....

Tuesday, March 1:
1. GREG KING - Cinematics (DVD)
Rachel’s (yes, with the possessive) were fantastic in concert this night, the double projectors showing evocative, slow motion imagery while the cello and violin created melancholy beauty. A perfect way to spend my birthday evening.
I chatted with Jason Noble before the show, a face-to-face meeting after a telephone interview many years back. Charming fellow. There will be more on this.
2. IDA - Angel Hall
A beautifully packaged letterpress package of a live-to-DAT performance of Ida, Low, The Secret Stars and His Name is Alive, recorded at a Brooklyn (yea, Brooklyn, my hometown!) benefit for people with HIV. What we heard on the ride home from the show (Ida opened for Rachel's) was truly lovely.
3. POLYVINYL 2005 sampler
19 tracks of intriguing sounds from a hip little label - Of Montreal, Joan of Arc (once a Pazz and Jop Top Ten fave of mine; recently too indulgent for my taste), Ida and more.

4. EMBRACED – Out Of Nothing (Lava)
(out May 3)
5. THE CLICK FIVE – 4-track sampler of tracks from Greetings From Imrie House (Lava)
(out this summer)
6. ANNE HEATON – Give In (Q Division Records)
She’s a feisty white woman, but according to her bio, Heaton was signing in a Harlem Gospel Choir when its director introduced her to jazz drummer Max Roach, and she torued with him through Europe, singing jazz standards, spirituals and original Roach songs. But she sounds like a bright popster, with hints of country. Her debut, “Black Notebook,” didn’t stick with me, but this sounds catchy on first listen.
(out late spring, it says)

Monday, February 28
7. JANE SIBERRY – Shushan the Palace (Hymns of Earth) (Sheeba)
8. JANE SIBERRY – Jane 101 (Sheeba)
Siberry is a fascinating, occasionally frustrating woman, one of those artists who does her own thing, damn the consequences and dares you to come along for the ride. She’s not quite of this world, god bless her, and the few times I interviewed her, she was gracious but obtuse. Sometimes just attempting to follow her line of thought left me grasping for the thread (not unlike young Michael Stipe). Writing her preview story of the Post click herewas a hard task – conveying how much I admire her without wanting to bring in newcomers not ready for the full Siberry effect. With or without my recommendation the concert was packed, and wonderful – and yes, sometimes inscrutable. Visit the website ( and get a taste. That’s where I ordered the Shushan CD, a new collection of interpretations of classical and other pieces, along with a strange but cozy Sheeba hat and scarf. Jane 101, a sampler of five Siberry songs from across the years, starting with the heart-breaking “You Don’t Need” and moving to the divine “Calling All Angels,” was a bonus.

9. THE FENIANS – Every Day’s a Hooley (Mizen Head Music) “Night Visiting Song” made me think of the Who, which is odd for a Celtic band. Some of the lyrics are real ear-catchers. Not sure about the guy’s voice. Need to revisit.

Saturday, February 26:
10. VAGENIUS – S/T (self-released) Saw this female-led trio open for the amazing Kings of Leon (more on them anon), and was compelled to buy the CD – which will not, I’m sure be the one that makes them famous, but they have definite potential. If I did A&R, I would tell them to change the name, play down the retro new wave party vibe (a shoulder-strapped keyboard?!), roughen up the Euro-trash sound, and go for the Blondie/Gwen Stefani smart pop effect. The chick singer has a fine voice, but needs a stylist who’ll tell her why thigh-high boots, zebra stripe tights and pink lace panties are a messy mixed message. Diamonds in the rough, Vagenius was blessed with a receptive crowd and made the most of it.
Kings of Leon, meanwhile, kicked major ass. And that is not a term I use lightly or often.

11. BLACK 47 – Elvis Murphy’s Green Suede Shoes (Gadfly Records)

Friday, February 25:
12. PRINCE – Musicology ( ) My husband’s been asking me to buy him this CD for months – and threatening to buy it at full price (he’ll pay $17 for a CD without blinking, while I balk at anything over $13). I finally remember to pick it up, bring it home triumphantly and when I hand to him, he laughs out loud. He had just bought me a copy for my birthday, acknowledging that it is as much a gift to himself as to me. The kicker – he got the better deal - $12 at Target versus the $13 I spent at Best Buy.
When Prince is good, he’s amazing, and when he’s bad, he can be pretty annoying. At first listen, this one seems to be solidly in the first category though I’d prefer the funky dance tunes to outnumber the slow jams.

13. IDA - Heart Like a River (Polyvinyl Record Co.)
I honestly, honestly, honestly couldn’t find the copy of this CD a kind publicist sent last year and with the hush-core ensemble coming to town (on my birthday, no less!), I humbly requested a new one. Lovely stuff -
three songwriters crafting a spare, bittersweet sound with beautiful harmonies. Mournful but not depressing, perfect wintery sounds. Even at the Black Cat, where a sometimes boorishly loud crowd can spoil quiet numbers, the group had a respectful audience, and did a gorgeous Brian Eno cover.
Ida opened for Rachel’s (see above).

14. GREATER CALIFORNIA – Somber Wurlitzer (Earthling Records)
(out April 5)
Combining chill-worthy lounge with late 60s British pop (think Zombies and Hollies) this Long Beach-based collective may well be favorite discovery of recent weeks. This, the group’s second CD, was written specifically to take advantage of a newly-acquired instrument’s hypnotizing tones (hence the title), but it’s no novelty act. The press bio says that it was purposely recorded “in dimly lit rooms between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.” and it feels like it. Not hangover music, but true mellow chill, with some of those deep, up all night revelations. Neat.
15. DEANA CARTER – The Story of My Life (Vanguard)

Thursday, February 24:
16. JON CLEARY and THE ABSOLUTE MONSTER GENTLEMEN – Pin Your Spin (Bason Street Records)
Concert previewed for the Washington Post. click here

17. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Genocide in Sudan (Waxploitation)
The guilt of being a bad global citizen was eased only slightly by bidding on ebay auctions from Waxploitation records, with all proceeds going to the victims of genocide in Sudan, but it’s a start.
This CD is a compilation of artists like System Of A Down (in truth, a band I admire but don’t truly enjoy), Thievery Corporation (DC hometown heroes) and a real mixed bag from artists like Gorillaz, Kinky, Danger Mouse & Murs, Jill Scott, Angelique Kidjo, The Pretenders, Toots and the Maytals. The auction listing said I was bidding on a copy signed by Aesop Rock, El-P, and Rjd2, but the one that came in the mail has only one scrawl on it (I think it’s Rjd-2.) Am I disappointed? A little. Will I complain? No. Do I sound like Donald Rumsfeld when I ask myself questions? (eeewwwwwww!) Proceeds will go to groups such as UNICEF, and UNHCR. No regreats at all. (

Wednesday, February 23:
18. KYLE RIABKO – 3 from “Before” (free sampler)
19. ASLYN – 2-track S/T (free sampler)
Obtained at the Ryan Cabrera-headlined show at the Birchmere click here , to which I took three teenage girls, ranging from barely-know-who-Ryan-is to I’m-gonna-marry-Ryan. (Grace was the one in the middle, interested but not fanatical.) Cabrera did his thing and the audience of YM, Seventeen, Cosmo Girl readers squealed on cue. It was relatively harmless, but Ryan’s handlers nearly derailed the love with the post-show meet-and-greet restrictions. If you paid $20 (!!!) for a copy of the CD you no doubt already owned, you could stand on the line and say hello to Ryan and have him hand you a signed CD booklet. But no other purchase of merchandise qualified you and if you were simply a fan who wanted a personal moment, tough luck. Shameful.
Kyle Riabko, on the other hand, is a real musician and, as an opening act looking to make new friends, stood by the merch area throughout the night, chatting with fans, posing for pictures, signing anything you asked him to. Granted, it wasn’t the kind of mob scene Ryan might have generated, but it lacked that sickly mercenary feel. Kyle’s the one that Grace wants to marry.

20. ELECRIC EEL SHOCK – Go USA! (Gearhead)
21. ROBOTS – soundtrack (Virgin)
22. LOST CITY ANGELS – Broken World (Stay Gold Records)
(out April 5)

23. HARP Magazine with free CD - ATO Records New Music
People I know I like – JEM, Mike Doughty, Orbital, My Morning Jacket - a few I’m not crazy about – Govt. Mule, David Gray, - and a few to decide upon- Ben Kweller, Vusi Mahlasela, North Mississippi Allstars, Patty Griffin.