Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On the Road Again

I’m heading back upstate, and I’m feeling less than optimistic about what awaits there. So, this is just a way to keep busy, tidy up the desk and act like the world goes on…

Monday, July 18
The FOO FIGHTERS – In Your Honor (RCA)
Been looking for this on sale since I gave the one I bought during release week to my cousin. (I met him unexpectedly in a bar the night he graduated from nursing school and, since I had no present to offer, I grabbed my copy out of the car.) Refused to pay $17 at Target the next day, but as soon as I saw it on sale again at Best Buy, it was mine. Won’t count this one in my YTD total.
Grace bought (and I count ‘em, ‘cause it’s allowance that makes it happen!)
Since they’re coming to the Warped tour, and I have an assignment to cover it, I tell Grace to get the older album, with the cheaper price and bonus disc (punky covers of Christmas songs!) since I’m waiting on a press kit. And since this one has the song she first fell in love with, cool by her.
This was on sale for $7 or $8 during its first week of release, and some other store has it for less than $13, I’m sure. But, like Veruca Salt, she wants it NOW, and we’re traveling soon, so there’s no time to argue.

3. The BONAPARTES – S/T (self-released)
Coming to the IOTA on July 25th as part of a triple bill of young area bands.
4. HOOTIE and the BLOWFISH – Looking for Lucky (Sneaky Long/Vanguard)
From the start, way before Darius “Hootie” got involved with those bizarrely hideous Burger King commercials (between them and the Paris Hilton, I may have to give up the occasional BK fix), I have found H & BF annoying. Can’t imagine what would change my opinion now.

Saturday, July 16:
The CD Cellar trade-in booty:
5. MY MORNING JACKET – Chocolate and Ice EP (Badman)
Beautiful stuff, perfect for late-night blog writing. To those who are reading and are not big followers of contemporary rock, let’s use the old “if you like…” equation. If you like Harvest-era Neil Young, this is the band for you. Includes one of those inexplicable tracks offering a rambling phone machine message. It arrives as track 4 of this 6-track EP, like an annoying commercial break.
6. FOO FIGHTERS – One By One (RCA)
I was actually looking for a used copy of the latest, the one I gave to my cousin, but it wasn’t in stock. Meanwhile, since I’m in a Foo mood, seeing this one on sale for $7 in the “slightly scratched” bin (I haven’t bought a bum one yet) – and it was the deluxe, 2 CD set no less!, I had to have it. Previously I had only a gift-burned copy.
For Grace, who monitors the music channels on our digital cable TV, waiting to squeal and jump along with “Sugar, We’re Going Down.”
And two “why not?” presents for the birthday boy:
8. JONI MITCHELL – Woman of Heart and Mind DVD
9. KINGS OF LEON – DVD press kit

10. RODNEY CROWELL – The Outsider (Columbia)
Advance 2 CD set with bonus disc. Includes a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm.”
Coming to the Birchmere on Out August 16th.
11. MARTY STUART and the FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES – Souls’ Chapel (Superlatone/Universal South)
Though I’m not a big one for “Jesus Music” – another thing the right wing has destroyed for the rest of us, there’s something affecting when you hear sincere, loving praise. Stuart, a country (and alt-country) stalwart for ages, doesn’t appear to be

Wednesday, July 13:
12. The WHITE STRIPES – Get Behind Me Satan (V2)
Thought it was on sale for $11.99, but it rang up as $9.99. Sweeet. Got tix to see the - with the Shins opening! - at Merriweather Post in September.
13. JOHN STEVENS – selections from Red free sampler (Maverick)
14. MOJO magzine with U2 compilation
15. GREENLAND – S/T (self-released)
Coming to IOTA on July 25th.

I’ve lost track of what came when, so here’s a catch-all of recent acquisitions:
16. PEASALL SISTERS – Home to You (Dualtone)
Maybe I’ve lived in the south too long, but this former New Yorker is getting quite fond of that quiet, Appalachian porch sound, especially when sung with such lovely female harmonies.
17. BILLY F. OTIS – Sowing Wild Oats (Wild Oats)
Local singer-songwriter that persistently nags me to write about him. That’s fine, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease and all, but his stuff doesn’t bowl me over, so it gets awkward.
18. MARS ARIZONA – All Over the Road
19. LISA BELL – It’s All About Love (Hapi Skratch Records)
20. The HACKENSAW BOYS – Love What You Do (Nettwerk)
Coming to the 930 Club on August 9th.

21. The BEL AIRS – Got Love (Hightone Records)
22.The DOMINO KINGS – Some Kind of Sign (Hightone)
23. The MORELLS – Think About It (Hightone)
24.BRIAN CAPPS - Walk Through Walls (Hightone)
All from the same label, these four acts are coming to the IOTA on August 16th as the “big Noise from Springfield Missouri” tour.

25. MIKKI JAMES – Guess What… (Xemu Records)
It says RIYD (recommended if you like): The Strokes, The Dead 60s, The Vines, White Stripes. That’s quite an ambitious bunch. Worth a listen, but there’s a clear danger of the publicists overselling.
26.GRACE POTTER and the NOCTURNALS – Nothing But the Water (self-released)
Classy package for a self-released CD. The band will be playing on July 29th at the Birchmere, opening for hometown heroes (and damn nice guys) Last Train Home. If I weren’t going to be out of town, I’d definitely try to check it out.
27. DABY TOURE – DIAM (Real World)
Coming to the Kennedy Center this Thursday (July 21), so it’s out of my “domain.” I don’t get a lot of world music, and it’s also a pleasure to hear the sounds of other places/
28. JANN KLOSE – Black Box EP (self-released)
29.BOTTOM of the HUDSON - Holiday Machine (Absolutely Kosher)
YTD total: 573

Be thankful every day for the love in your life.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Isn’t It Nice to Be Home Again?

“Didn’t I miss your smiling face?” James Taylor sang that line in the song that bears this entry’s title. And yes, indeed, I am glad to be back.

Dad’s still in the hospital, still in ICU, but more stable, so please keep sending good karma his way. My brother flew in from California to be with him and mom, so I came back home to tend to my nuclear family (hubby, two kids) and some work issues. I will back with the ‘rents,, if all goes well for all of us, in another two weeks.

And so, back to what passes for normal life. To see my latest articles for the Washington Post, here’s the links:
Shannon McNally and the Alternate Routes (separate gigs)
click here
The Getwaway Car, The Argument, and Spiraling
click here

Before I left upstate, I went on two other retail therapy runs.
First one, at the local mall brought me (or shall I say, me bought) something I’d been wanting for a long time. It wasn’t on sale ($23.99, with a $3 discount coupon), but it was time to treat myself:
1. TALKING HEADS – The Name of This Band is Talking Heads (Rhino/Sire/Warner Bros.)
The expanded edition, two CDs, including the full “Remain in Light” tour set list. Terry was delighted to see it, and we’ve been listening – and reliving those glorious days in NYC – throughout the Friday evening. He challenged me to name my Top Five musical acts of my time. No hesitation – Beatles, Heads, Bruce, Costello, U2.
F.Y.E. (the store in question) was having one of those come-ons –buy $30 of merch now and get a coupon worth $10 (no minimums or exemptions) later in the summer. I was looking for something interesting to take me to that magic number and found this cool remainder:
2. MANIC STREET PREACHERS – Forever Delayed, Special Edition (SONY UK)
A 2-CD set from 2002 for $8.99, one of which is remixes from the likes of Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, David Holmes and Avalanches. I don’t know the Manx, as the Brit pop press likes to call them, but I have read so much about them over the years that I couldn’t resist the cheap chance to check ‘em out, especially with the remix disc offering so many artists that I do know and like, Nicely packaged, too, with a bilingual sticker label (English/French) which makes me feel oh-so international.

A second visit to the head shop, and I got two presents for Terry:
3. RADIOHEAD – Street Spirits
A double disc set, recorded live in Toronto, 2000.
4. RADIOHEAD - B-sides and rarities.
Saving this one for his birthday next week. Shhhh...don't tell.

And my brother came bearing gifts – a few CDs he no longer wanted, that I can keep or trade as I wish:
I'm so sick of Tom Cruise, I don't even want to look at the cover.
A single disc version, so something must be missing, I don't think I can listen to Andrew Lloyd Weber anymore.
7. JANIS IAN - Encore collection (live)
8. ANN MARGRET – Let Me Entertain You (RCA)
A 1996 collection that will fit nicely in with my lounge series and Vegas hits. I’m looking forward to her version of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Not so much the last track, “As Long as He Needs Me.”
9. AARON NEVILLE - Warm Your Heart (Polygram)
I have this one already, or did. Neville has a great voice, but his arrangements can be syrupy. Love his version of Randy Newman's "Louisiana."

And now to the stack o’ wax that awaited me on my return. Actually, a dump of discs. Since I don’t know what days they actually arrived, I’ll go by postmarks.

July 6:
10. The CLICK FIVE – Greetings from Imrie House (Lava)
Opening for Backstreet Boys, after opening for Ashlee Simpson. Personally, I think it's a step up.
11. ANTIGONE RISING – From the Ground Up (Lava)
Been hearing a lot about these ladies, but I wonder if the Starbucks-only sales strategy may hurt them. First listen reveals a strong female band. Yet to see if the songs will grab hold, but would like to check 'em out live,

July 5:
12. SHELBY LYNNE – Suit Yourself (Capitol)
Coming to the Birchere in the next week or so. Saw her once at the 930 Club, with elder teenage daughter and suddenly realized that some of the lesbian crowd thought she was my date! Weird feeling, that!
I played the shine off the "I Am Shelby Lynne" CD, an album with a beautiful "Dusty in Memphi"s vibe - but was seriously disilluisoned by its follow-up, "Love, Shelby," especially with the kitten pose cover. "Identity Crisis" was a bit back to form, and now I hear this one has a great low-fi vibe.
13. RESTORING POETRY IN MUSIC – Dream Awake (self-released)
In sharp contrast with Shelby Lynne’s CD, which came in a full-tilt press kit – folder, color pic and many photo-copied bio pages and tearsheets, RPM, as they are also known, comes in a hand-written envelope with a two-page hand-written note, in which the main guy sweetly and respectfully says, regarding an upcoming show (July 25th at the IOTA), “ We would really appreciate it if you could make it out that night and write a review of our show.” The female booker who gave him my address may not have explained that I do previews, not reviews, and I won’t be in town that night, but I’ll see what I can do to be helpful in future.

July 1:
14. ROYKSOPP – The Understanding (Astralwerks)

June 30:
15.EARL KLUGH – Naked Guitar (KOCH Records)

June 24:
16. WYNTON MARSALIS – Amongst the People: Live at the House of Tribes (Blue Note)
17. ERIN McKEOWN – We Will Become Like Birds (Nettwerk America)
Coming to IOTA on Friday, July 15 and then again on Tuesday, July 26, opening for Ani DiFranco.

June 23:
18. STOLL VAUUGH – Hold On Thru Sleep & Dreams (Shadowdog Records)

June 22:
This was a big day, with numerous labels sending out packages.
19. FATTY KOO – House of Fatty Koo (DASLabel/Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
20. BRANDI CARLILE – S/T (Red Ink/Columbia)
21. BOW WOW – Wanted (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
This one's great fun in the car with the teenagers, as they try to remember which current/recent hip-hop tracks used the source material contained here, like the Monkees' "Mary Mary." The press kit is an invaluable cheat-sheet that lets me act like I know what I'm talking about.

23. SHANNON McNALLY – Geronimo (Back Porch/EMI)
Official release to follow an advance I got weeks ago to promote a Jammin’ Java gig, which I did in the Post. Though the CD booklet has full lyrics and a few pics, I will hold on to the advance and pass this one on. But I’ll make note here and now of a nice bit in the liner notes: “Dedicated to the memory and spirit of Geronimo and the disenchanted hope of Hunter S. Thompson.”

24. TOWERS OF LONDON – Fuck It Up/Down in the Streets CD single (TVT)
The Sunday Independent (UK) calls ToL “the most notorious, remorseless, antisocial band in Britain right now” and the press sheet repeats it like it’s a good thing. From the photos, looks like these guys wanna mix Motley Crue misogyny with Sex Pistols manners. Oh boy.
25. DaKAH HIP HOP ORCHESTRA – San Francisco Debut, Palace of Fine Arts 7/31/04 (KUFALA Recordings)
26. DaKAH HIP HOP ORCHESTRA – Unfinished Symphony (KUFALA Recordings)

June 21:
27. The KALLIKAK FAMILY – May 23rd, 2007 (Tell-All Records)
Intriguing from the get-go. The futuristic title, the subtle package with simple line drawing, the liner notes stating that tape recordings made in Italy, Oregon and Illinois were then mixed and edited May 24th 2003 – 2005. Did they stop end on the same calendar day? The titular (is that word too pompous?) date is the one on which a fortuneteller predicted the artist’s death. The publicity people – those lovely folk at Team Clermont – say that it’s for fans of The Books, Susumu Yokota, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Alejandra & Aeron, Gastr del Sol and Brian Eno. The only name I know on that list is Eno’s. No matter what you think you know in this bizniz of music, there’s hundreds of bands you’ll never hear…This one goes to the top of the pile.

June 20:
28. KAISER CARTEL – Double Standard (self-released)
Since I am no longer on most of the major label mailing lists, much of what gets sent to me is directly targeted by publicists and bands who are hoping for coverage in the Post previews, and that means many indie label acts like this one. And many are hand-written envelopes, with return addresses that would allow me, if I were a stalker, to show up at their door and harass them personally. So it is with Kaiser Cartel, a Brooklyn duo who will be at the Galaxy Hut on Monday, July 18th.The CD comes in a cardboard case with a line drawing sticker cover. Let’s hear it for scrappy underdogs.

June 18:
29. FINE CHINA – The Jaws of Life (Common Wall Media)
The PR people are in Athens, GA, but the package came from Phoenix, with the band’s logo stamped in a large (6” square), and included a sticker as well. A sign of a better-than-average push for an indie band.

Arrival/postmark dates unknown:
30. TRISTAN PRETTYMAN – Twentythree (Virgin)
31. VIVIAN GREEN – Vivian (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
The label says that UPS sent this out on June 7. That doesn't seem right...anyway. saw Vivian Green at an intimate press performance at the time of the release of her debut and. though I liked her voice, was unimpressed with her material. I'll give it a listen, but not so sure.
32. KATE CAMPBELL – Blues and Lamentations (Large River Music)
33. The JULIET DAGGER – Turn Up the Death (Good Charamal Records)
I had requested this one as a possible Live! preview, but the press kit didn't arrive in time (I even gave the update address to facilitate. Whether the publicist paid attention or not, I don't know).
34. RA – Duality (Republic/Universal)
A second copy of something that came in earlier, perhaps because the band is coming to Virginia Beach. But that’s out of my range. Hey, they do a cover of "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic."

So much new music to catch up on. A lovely welcome home, indeed.

YTD total: 544

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Healing Power of Music

It’s after one in the morning, Sunday, July 3rd and, as I write this, my father is in the hospital, in the Intensive Care Unit, and things aren’t looking great. He’s been there for two weeks now, and I’ve spent almost that same amount of time with my mother in upstate New York, visiting him and trying to be supportive to both of them.

Up to now, this blog has generally kept to the light and fluffy, and I don’t intend to go very deeply now into the full emotional rollercoaster of these past days. Maybe it seems odd that I even mention this very personal matter in the context of a music blog. But that word – context – is the key.

Throughout this experience, I have kept myself distracted, kept myself comforted, perhaps even kept myself sane, because I have music around me. For someone who doesn’t share this love, it may sound silly, trivial or downright stupid but as I type, the local alternative rock station, WEQX (102.7 FM), is playing dance music mixes, and hearing Bono sing “It’s a Beautiful Day” over a pulsing dance beat is genuinely comforting. So was catching Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” when I turned the radio on, riding home from the hospital one night. Hearing the horn charts kick in during the middle break gave my spirits a lift, and singing along with the final verses brought temporary relief from all the pressures of the day.

So I blog on. Rituals are comforting, too, and listing these discs brings a small sense of order into a time when all the truly important things are way beyond my control. This is the context, then, in which I recall the latest new music in my life…

In the morning, if/when I make breakfast for mom and me, I put something on the CD player, choosing carefully among the few CDs I brought with me (most of what I’ve brought is stored on the iPod, and I have no conversion device), looking for something that she might like, too. Mom teased me the other day, asking, “What is that song that says, ‘she will have music wherever she goes?’ That was written about you.” It’s a fair cop.

One reliable selection, brought from home in the recent promo acquisitions was:

1. SONNY ROLLINS –Without a Song (The 9-11 Concert) (Milestone)
Of course, there’s a sense of melancholy in a live recording of a memorial for such a tragic event. But if anyone can make his instrument soothe and soar with a survivor’s strength, it’s this jazz master. Includes one of my favorite sentimental standards, “Where or When,” tho’ I must say I’d prefer a slower, moodier take on this bittersweet classic. A lucky, perfect choice that I threw into my bag at the last minute.

While I’ve been here in the land of scarily obese people and amazing mullets, I’ve been to the local malls (but I refuse to visit the Wal-Mart) and have found odd pockets of good, cheap, clearance items:

2. HELP: Benefit for War Child (Go! London)
49 cents. That’s less than the cost of buying an empty jewel box. This used CD includes tracks by Oasis (featuring Johnny Depp?!), Paul Weller, Radiohead, Massive Attack and other British favorites. I have a copy back home, but at this price, of course I will get one to keep on hand.

3.The SEAHORSES – Do It Yourself (Geffen)
A different store offered other 49 cent bargains. Bought simply on the name recognition of John Squire, formerly of Stone Roses, a band I grew to love only after its demise.

4. ALISON MOYET – Essex (Columbia)
The Dollar Market didn’t have much to offer, but this one brought back memories of YAZZ, a band that made some great music back in the day. Initial listening doesn’t reveal any great surprises, but Moyet’s strong voice and general lack of shrill is good for driving with mom.

5. BJORK – Emotional Landscapes (N/A)
The local head shop offers glass pipes, for tobacco use only (yeah, right) and a few racks of concert recordings (none dare call them bootlegs). Back before we all got wise to the ease of burning our own CDs, this shop used to sell the concert discs for $20 or more each disc. Now the cost is coming down. Most were $16, but I scored this live Bjork set for $10. It’s good to have the Icelandic chanteuse on my side, especially since this collection is from my favorite period – from the “Debut” and “Post” CD to “I’ve Seen it All,” from “Dancer in the Dark.” The disc comes with official warnings about “unauthorized copying and lending…” Yeah, tell me about it, record label that has no name…

6. COLDPLAY – X&Y (Capitol)
When I tell you that I paid $14.99 for this at Target, you may say ‘so what?’ But anyone who knows me well knows that I NEVER pay full price for a current hit CD that can be found for $12 or so at the local Big Box store (but not Wal-Mart). But I discovered I couldn’t wait any longer. In true ear-worm fashion, “Speed of Sound” has become lodged in my brain, and I remember “Fix You” from the HFStival as being a lovely song of caring concern. It just seemed that Coldplay would be a good album to have around. And then Jon Stewart mentioned this one and Foo Fighters in the Daily Show in an solicited testimonial of great new sounds. That clinched the deal. And so far, it hasn’t disappointed. Coldplay may not be doing anything daringly original, but they do what they do damn well. And if the New York Times critic faulted them for having not a hair out of place, I remember initially holding that against Steely Dan and now some of their early stuff is among my favorites. So yeah, worth the extra coupla bucks.

And here’s some stuff I jotted down before I left on my trip…

Monday, June 20
7. DAIKAIJU – S/T (Reptile Records)
8. HOWIE DAY – Stop All the World Now (Epic)
Featured in the Post. Personally, I can’t stand “Collide.”

Saturday, June 18
9. SIDE STEP – Hey Cadet (Arc the Finger Records)
10. MOJO magazine Mod Club Party free compilation
11. The AVETT BROS. – Live, Vol. 2 (Ramseur Records)
12. The CHICHARONES – When Pigs Fly (Camobear Records)
According to the press release, this Canadian indie-rap act is composed of brothers Sleep (that’s his name) and Josh Martinez, who
are “tearing up the mouths and hearts of all who come in contact.” But what if I don’t want my mouth torn up? That sounds nasty. Named after spicy crispy deep fried pork skin, los chicharrones.
Out August 23rd.
13. MARIA TAYLOR – 11:11 (Saddle Creek)
14. SPIRALING – Challenging Stage (self-released)
Upcoming Post preview. I did an email interview with the leader during the last week of upheaval. It was a good distraction.
15. The ALTERNATE ROUTES – Good and Reckless and True (self-released?)
Coming up in next week’s Post also, and another fine heart-mender. Early listening bodes well, especially track two, “Who Cares,” which has an instantly engaging beat. Mom asked “who is that?” while I was working on the story. She said, “He has a lovely voice.” Yes, indeed.

Friday, June 17
16. SONYA KITCHELL – Words Came Back to Me (Velour)
17. HOPE PARTLOW – Who We Are (Virgin)
The press kit, in which the song lyrics are presented in the form of a teenager’s diary, with curly script and little hearts for punctuation, is too cutesy-pootsey for words.

YTD: 510

Time to sleep, another way to escape.
Thanks in advance for any good karma you can send dad's way...