Friday, January 27, 2006

When Does Elvis Costello Sleep?

Today’s delightful surprise:
1. ELVIS COSTELLO – My Flame Burns Blue (Deutsche Grammophone)
One of those packages that gets a true squeal of delight, especially as I had no idea this CD was even coming out. Recorded live with the Metropole Orkest, this advance set, which came in a nifty full-color booklet, has the never-still Costello revisiting some of his own songs (including my all-time favorite, “Watching the Detectives”) and one each from Charles Mingus and Dave Bartholomew, with a full-on orchestra. Plus there’s a bonus disc of El’s “Il Sogno” suite (I believe it’s the same as the one released last year). Ah, Elvis. Top of my personal Pops. And even if he crashes and burns (this may be a little too close to the overwrought stuff he did with Burt Bacharach), I love him for always pushing forward.
2. MARAH – Live at Jammin’ Java (bootleg)
A fan’s recording, sent to me by an architect (it was on his business card) I met while I was taking pictures at the show with Grace’s old, cheap digital camera (the one where she programmed the directions in Japanese, so I thought maybe I had deleted all the shots). I sent the guy some of the pictures and he sent me back this CD, albeit seven months later.
I couldn’t sing you a Marah song if you asked for one – except for a few from the band’s delicious Christmas CD – but they’ve got so much energy and charisma, in a sloppy Kinks/Replacements manner – that I’m very much looking forward to hearing this show again.

3. CAT POWER – The Greatest (Matador)
She’s one of indie rock's critical darlings, famous for on-stage breakdowns that make Fiona Apple look as calm as a kindergarten teacher, but I haven’t yet bought into it, much as I can relate to (perceived) crazy ladies. For this CD, Chan Marshall’s record label set her up in a Memphis studio with veteran soul players, including Mabon “Teenie” Hodges (he worked in the 70s with Al Green and co-wrote "Love and Happiness"), so there’s a “Dusty/Chan in Memphis” vibe, and she does seem to be enjoying herself a bit more. Offered for just $7.99 at Best Buy this week, how could I resist, especially with that shiny fuchsia cover? According to the cool cats at, the vinyl LP comes with an exclusive track, although this CD has a hidden 13th song, so who knows which is the “definitive” version. (I wish artists would stop messing with my head like that.)
4. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – eponymous (Arts & Crafts)
This is the CD I went to BB to get, delighted to see it on sale for $7.99 as well. And now for a tale of the music obsessive – I had heard that original pressings of this CD came with a bonus EP, “We Hate Your Hate.” So, I picked up all 20 or so copies of the disc and attempted to decipher which might offer the extra goody. And lo, I realized that one of the CDs had a price sticker unlike all the others – an earlier shipment, perhaps? And yes, when I got the baby outside and cracked the shrink-wrap, I had the extra disc. The OCD kid wins.
And yes, on first listen, this is what I hoped for – the poppier, peppier side of the sprawling ensemble, Arcade Fire-style, sound. Oh, Canada!

Sent by request:
5. JENNY LEWIS with the WATSON TWINS - Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love)
Writers are always mentioning Rilo Kiley front woman Jenny Lewis’
younger years as a child actor, but no one ever says what she appeared in. I Googled and found a list of largely forgettable titles, but she had guest spots on “Growing Pains” and “Roseanne,” plus the film “Troop Beverly Hills.” So, there, I did my part.
As for the music, while I prefer Rilo Kiley’s bright pop to such Americana heartbreak twang, there are some soft, tender moments.
And the big superstar moment - appearances by M. Ward, Ben Gibbard and Conor Oberst on a cover of the Traveling Wilburys' "Handle with Care” – doesn’t do much. It’s no match for the original, but let’s face it, it’s a powder puff of a song to begin with.
6. SIGNOR GROOVE – Scrambodia (Buried with a Donkey Music)
I asked the publicist for this based on the endearing band/artist name and a description that mentioned a “homespun party album” with nods to Sly and the Family Stone and Beck. And the first thing I see on the album jacket, once I’m past the picture of the cute little kid in his football footie pajamas, is this note: “If you own this CD, go ahead and make copies for your friends; I don’t really care to be honest with you and just appreciate your interest.” Viva, signor.

Unsolicited goodies:
7. AGNES CHAN – Forget Yourself (Bungalo/Universal)
Out February 14.
Billed as a “humanitarian/performer” and a “musician/activist” on her press sheet, Chan wrote these songs to tell the stories of children she met while doing work for UNICEF. So there’s a song (“Thirteen”) about a child prostitute and others about child soldiers and Ethiopian orphans. All of which could be a major bummer but the songs walk an uplifting, spiritual (as a concept, if not the style) road. The opening track, “Forget Yourself,” has a Peter Gabriel (global stage) feel, albeit with Jackie Chan listed as a member of the vocal choir. A portion of CD proceeds will go to UNICEF and she’s still working with the organization in other ways, so yay for the good guys.
8. The STRAYS – Life Support/Bastards of Young CD single (TVT)
The “A-side” (metaphorically) is used in the film “Transporter 2,” and so there’s a music video with the usual mayhem. And the “flip” is a cover of The Replacements, which shows good taste.
Factoid: lead singer Toby Marriott is the son of Steve Marriott, late and great front man from Small Faces and Humble Pie.
They Say: compared to the Killers with a more jagged tone
An album is due later this year, and songs are being previewed at
9. SHAWN MULLINS – 9th Ward Pickin’ Parlor (Vanguard)
I fear I’m always gonna see this guy as a One Hit Wonder. “Lullabye” sticks in my head in a way that either means I really like it or I was successfully brainwashed by hearing it a thousand times on the radio. The fact that nothing else he’s done, including the acclaimed Thorns gang-of-singers CD, has stuck with me would seem to indicate that the single was an earworm affection/affliction.
10. TAYLOR HOLLINGSWORTH – Tragic City (Brash Music)
Second copy of a CD I received as an advance late last year.
11. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Grammy 2006 Nominees (Sony/BMG)
Like the “Now (that’s what I call music)” series, this compilation series seems a blatant bid to milk every drop of revenue from some songs after they’ve been sold to the public in their original CD single or full-length CD form. If you’ve been able to resist the allure of a tune for all its time out in the marketplace, will the whole really exceed the sum of all these parts and convince Jane Q. Public to pay $14 for what’s essentially a 21-track mix CD? Why should she, when she could buy the few tunes she really must have for 99 cents each on iTunes? If I was in that position, perhaps I might spring for Seal’s version of “Walk on By,” which I admit I wasn’t even aware of until I read the liner notes.

YTD Total: 50

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bleak House and Bright Music

Watching the new Dickens mini-series on PBS and catching up on the collected music...

Today's CD trade-in store booty:
1. ELBOW - Powder Blue CD single (V2)
2. ELBOW - Cast of Thousands special edition (V2)
The CD single has two addtional tracks - "Suffer" and an acoustic version of "About Time."
And the CD, which I already own in its original version, is the deluxe edition, with a CD-ROM that includes videos and a film anout the band. The little sticker, written in a store clerk's hand, says "2nd album from this great Manchester dream pop band." Dream pop? I wouldn't have called Elbow that. Maybe mope rock, and I mean that in a good way.

And an attack of the cardboard freebies:
3. AMADOU & MARIAM - Dimanche A Bamako (Nonesuch)
2-track single, featuring Manu Chao.
4. ROB REYNOLDS - Find Me, Sample Me, Free Me, Take Me Sigthseeing (Invisible Hands)
An intriguing little number, this. In fact, it is numbered 20098, and the instructions on the back ask that I listen to and copy the music, and then leave the CD somewhere else - "on a train, aeroplane, in a cafe or venue." There's also a web site where you can log on and track the CD's progress once it's been sent on its way. Kinda like the "Where's George?" marked dollar bills.
5. MAT KEARNEY - The Chicago EP (Aware/Columbia)
What a pleasant suprise. It's not often you get a freebie that's 5 full tracks long, and of this consistent high quality. I put it on during the car ride home and was instantly impressed by the guy's voice, which reminds me, variably, of Chris Tapper (of the Push Stars), Citizen Cope (this guy raps, too), a bit if Jack Johnson and even some Chris Martin. Mat (with only one T) is due to have a full-length out in spring.

Friday, January 20:
6. WASHINGTON SOCIAL CLUB - Catching Looks (Badman)
I enjoyed the band's show at Jammin Java so much, I had to have a copy of the group's debut. Much as I've enjoyed listening to it the last two days, I don't think it does them justice. Live, lead singer Martin Royle has an endearing quality - a bit goofy, a bit sexy - and bassist Olivia Mancini is a cute (and sharp) blonde bassist, which isn't the only Talking Heads comparison you could make for this quintet. And I think that extra quitarist, who didn't appear on the debut CD, is one of the reason the live show has more punch, and it all bodes well for the band's next CD, due in the coming months. And in case you want to see that Post preview again...(click here)
7. DANIEL LEE - 3-track sampler (self-released)
An industrious home-made CD, yours for the taking at Jammin' Java, to promote Lee's upcoming J2 show. Simple but effective, the copier-created cover offers a photo, itinerary for the next few months, and a quote from which compares Lee to "Ben Harper with a funk-quitar style reminiscent of John Mayer." And that's an apt description. I'd definitely consider him for the Post column, but I just wrote about the club and need to share the love with other venues.

Arrived Friday, January 19:
8. IL DIVO – Ancora (Columbia)
“All by Myself” was an over-the-top hoot when Eric Carmen first recorded it. I can only imagine what these pretty boys do to it.
9. SAVAGE GARDEN – Truly Madly Completely: the best of (Columbia)
Another example of wanton reissue-ing. Who knew this pair had enough material to fill any full-length CD, let alone a greatest hits? The kids and I always joked that this act should be called the Koala Boys, ‘cause these pretty Australian guys were about as dangerous as a paper cut. I’m gonna listen to the B-side “I’ll Bet He Was Cool,” ‘cause the title has possibilities.

Over the past week:
10. TRISTAN PRETTYMAN – Twentythree (Virgin)
A second copy of the debut sent out last year. She’s coming to town (Barns of Wolf Trap) on February 14th, with Ben Taylor. One reviewer says she’s “poised to be the next Jewel,” which is one way to send me screaming from the room, but there’s also references to Sheryl Crow, Rickie Lee Jones and, on first listen, I buy the comparison to a female Jack Johnson.
11. VARIOUS ARTISTS – District Records, Volume One (District)
A 19-track compilation of local artists, due out on February 14th (happy valentine’s day). The label, home to acts like Trip Lizard and Los Hermanos Rodriguez (bassist Dave Ridgeway runs the show), sells directly to fans through its website at a cost of $10 per CD and 50 cents per song.
12. The SLACKERS – Peculiar (Hellcat)
A Dutch ska band. Yeah, why not?
13. The WIGGLES – Here Comes the Big Red Car (KOCH)
Every generation needs its harmless kids acts and, having lived through Sharon, Lois and Bram and Raffi, I’m not here to knock the Wiggles. But I do wonder about four hyper-energetic guys who dress in primary colors and sings songs with these titles:
“Five Little Joeys”
“I Want to Wear the Jacket”
“My New Shoes”
and this double feature:
“Dorothy’s Dance Party” and “Here We Go Dorothy”
Friends of Dorothy’s? And they sing 26 songs in 37 minutes! What are they on?
14. PEPPER’S GHOST – Shake the Hand That Shook the World (Hybrid)
This will be the third copy of this disc I’ve received, after a generic advance and a new release copy, both sent last year. But I needed an updated press kit for this week’s Post preview (click here). The last time I saw these guys, another show at Jammin Java, around last Thanksgiving, they had the audience in their thrall, but I had to leave early (family holiday car duties), so I’m looking forward to seeing the full show. Also on the bill, the Washington Social Club, who never did send a copy of their CD, even though I asked nicely – twice!
15. VA - PASTE Sampler
16. DOWNTOWN SINGAPORE – Don’t Let Your Guard Down (DCide)
Yet another – my third! – generic advance copy of the local band’s upcoming (February 21) release.
They Say: Produced by Matt Squire (Panic! at the Disco, The Receiving End of Sirens), Don't Let Your Guard Down expands the band's signature melodic indie rock with a formidable triple guitar attack and creates a cleaner, crisper sound that doesn't sacrifice any of the band's power or impact.
I Say: A credible effort, but doesn’t bring anything new to the table, at least that I can discern on first listen.
17. MERCURY RADIO THEATER - Blue Eyed Model (Lujo/Friction Records)
A song title to love: "We Put the Fun Back in Funeral." And "The Very Merry Unbirthday Song" is a good one, too.
18. WE ARE SCIENTISTS – Love and Squalor (Virgin)
My second copy, this one an official version. I’ve been traveling with the older, generic advance in the car and everytime I casually grab it and put it on, it sticks. Now I’m starting to see references to the band (a Spin feature, a highly-touted show in New York), and I'm feeling that there's something brewing here beyond hype.

YTD Total: 39

Friday, January 13, 2006

Slap the Rolling Stones Silly

Earlier this week, I did an interview with Emily Haines, lead singer of the band Metric, who will be opening for the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden in New York City next week. Sure, it would have been nice to see them perform at the show, but no press tix are available. In fact - and this was mentioned to me by the publicist and confirmed by Emily - if the band members themselves want to see the Stones perform, They Have to Buy Tickets! That's just not right. I blame Mick.

Anyway, before I fall behind, and it's way too early in the year for that, here's the latest acquisitions:

Sent by Request:
1. METRIC - Live it Out (Last Gang Records)
Solid album, angry without being cynical, danceable without being escapist. I interviewed Emily for the new national magazine Hyperactive, for the March issue. Will keep you posted.
2. WOOD BROTHERS - Ways to Not Lose (Blue Note)
Coming to play at Jammin Java on February 11, possible Post preview.

Sent without "warning":
3. The AUDIO BULLYS - Generation (Astralwerks)
Out January 24.
4. DEREK TRUCKS BAND - Songlines (Columbia)
Generic advance. Out February 7.
5. MERCURY RADIO THEATER - The Blue Eyed Model (Friction Records)
6. LILYS - Everything Wrong is Imaginary (Manifesto)
Good impression on first listen - bright pop rock - and I love the Chinese progaganda poster cover. Early March release planned. (BTW, the lead singer is 6 foot 7 and has been putting out music under this name since 1989.)
7. IAN LOVE - (Limekiln Records)
Former Rival Schools member, very honest about his battles with heroin, makes a solo album.
8. TOWERS OF LONDON - How Rude She Was CD single (TVT Records)
Supposed British sensation, Guns n' Roses musical trainwreck style. Three musical tracks, including an acoustic version of "F*** It Up" (their spelling), plus a video of the title track featuring the Gotham Girls Roller Derby. Not sure I want to see that.
9. SIA - Colour the Small One (Astralwerks)
Nice but breathy. Really breathy. May wear upon repeated listening.
10. WES MCDONALD - 1:50 in the Furnace (Skybucket Records)
Stickered thus: RIYL (recommended if you like): the Replacements, Whiskeytown, Neil Young.
Wonder if he can live up to that.

11. The ACADEMY IS... - Almost Here (Fueled by Ramen)
F.Y.E.'s prices aren't usually very good, tho' they do have the occasional cool clearance items. But this new release was only $9.99 and, since (as previously noted) Grace and I are going to the show with hellogoodbye next month, it was a research purchase. Not bad on first listen, but there is a certain sameness to much of this emo rock thing.
12. WASHINGTON SOCIAL CLUB - Live at Shuba's (emusic)
Next week's Post preview. (click here)
While the band PR contact was fine about sending a jpg and one-sheet bio, no CD came, even after a second request, so I checked out if anything was available through my "discount" online service and here we go. I'm looking forward to the show. The band has a catchy, slightly retro new wave vibe.
13. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE - Feel Good Lost (Noise Factory/IODA)
Another emusic purchase. I've been hearing so much about this band, want to know what's up. This, however, is an early release, largely instrumental, recorded before the band began its expansive ensemble style. (BTW, Emily of Metric sometimes plays with BSC.

Oooooh....13 CDs, inventoried on Friday the 13th....spooky!

YTD: 21

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Return of Half Man Half Biscuit!

Here's something I forget to mention that arrived yesterday:
1. HIP HOP ESSENTIALS, Vol. 5 (Tommy Boy)
I got Vol. 1 last month, and now here's #5. I feel like a kid who was collecting Happy Meals and, even though the commercial said "Collect all five," I haven't convinced mom and dad to take me to the Golden Arches enough times. Hey, Tommy Boy...please?

Purchased today:
2. The STROKES - Juicebox CD single (RCA)
Went to Best Buy intending to buy the full CD, but they only had the basic version, and I'm holding out for the "extended version" or the die-cut digi-pack that I just read about. For $1.99, this has two songs ("Hawaii" is the other track) and the director's cut of the video. I heard it was banned from MTV, which takes a lot these days, and havingjust watched it, I can confirm that it is an annoying piece of work. There's a too-long opening with David Cross taking an easy shot at a despicable morning DJ and the band playing in his studio. and then it's on to various raunchy couplings - boy-girl, girl-girl, boy-boy, and an implied old lady-dog! Oh, and there's vomit, too. What's up with this crap? Why would a band of this calibre want to distract from its music with sleazy (not to mention lazy) sex shots? Maybe I'll reconsider getting the album until I hear more of the songs, less of the hype.
My dear hubby is taking me to London in March for my birthday, and one of the things I know I will enjoy is the chance to listen to British radio, where DJ's talk to their listeners as if they have some brains and play music that doesn't always come from a database-driven playlist. Even then, they don't make 'em like John Peel anymore. This collection of tracks includes flashback favorites like The Mighty Wah! and the Sugarcubes, and an act I love for its name alone, Half Man Half Biscuit. Looking forward to a day of driving around when I can dig into this one.
4. PANIC! AT THE DISCO - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out (Fueled by Ramen)
Grace and I are going to see this band with hellogoodbye at the 930 Club next month, so we're doing a little advance research. I looked for something by The Academy Is..., too, since they're opening the show, but couldn't find anything by them. Times like that I'm reminded how much I miss funky independent record stores. Time for a trip to Tower, I guess.

Also, saw Marshall Chapman's 2003 novel/memoir, "Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller," in the clearance area and picked it up for a quick read. She was one of the original feisty, guitar-slinging women, responsible for titles like "Rode Hard and Put Up Wet," and I still have a vinyl copy of "Why Can't I Be Like Other Girls." Funny, now the author's picture on the back fly-leaf looks like one of the ladies I would car pool with. Time marches on, the bastard.

YTD: 8

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Behind Already?!

Well, I've missed a day already, but that offers a sense of relief to it, like getting the first dent in the car. You know it's gonna happen eventually, so once you get it over with, you can stop worrying about it.

My excuse was going to be that I had no new music to report on, and then I realized that I had, indeed, purchased a CD yesterday. It was on the emusic site, so there was no physical case to remind me. And so, I present the first CD of the new year (drumroll, please)....
1. The NEW PORNOGRAPHERS - Twin Cinemas (Matador)
I actually attempted to download this CD from the site last month, but the files didn't come through correctly. I've been reading about the band for a long time, and this release has appeared on a lot of year-end lists, so I was moved to move. Now, as soon as I can find the blank CDs and burn a copy to listen to while I'm away from the desk, I'll hear what all the fuss is about.

Purchased today (thanks, Target, for the $10 price point):
2. MADONNA - Confessions on a Dance Floor (Warner Bros.)
Never liked her. Not when she was a tramp, maybe even less so now that she's gone all Mommy Studies the Kabbalah on us. Her skank feminism doesn't fly with me, and I blame her for the fact that nearly every contemporary female singer feels the need to pose on the cover of Maxim or Blender these days to prove that they have nice boobies and a flat tummy. Imagine if we asked the same of all our male singers? Yeeech...
But enough about my issues. Terry likes to dance and the talk is that this is a return to fine form for the dance hall diva, so I sacrifice for my honey.
3. KANYE WEST - Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella Records)
Buying this album felt like an obligation, almost a capitulation. My guess is that this CD will top the Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll, so it's pretty much a professional obligation to hear the whole thing, and not just the singles, which seem to be everywhere. It bothers me that "Gold Digger" is all over radio, with it's N-word so obvious, even when it's blipped out, and the oh-so-easy dig at the sista who dogs the stars is hard to take when every rap video is awash in bling and booty. And to make it even worse, ever since I played the unexpurgated version on the ride home in the car, I can't get the damn catchy thing out of my head. Still, what makes buying West so much easier than buying Madonna is that he's not afraid to say something truly controversial (I agree with that George Bush does NOT care about black people) and he's not just doing it in Louise Ciccone's spoiled child/look at me! way.

4. VIVA LA VENUS - Forget the Fairy Tale (Shiny Pants Records)
Three chicks with guitars and a guy drummer, cominf to town. This week's Post preview (link to come).

Monday, January 02, 2006

Tomorrow We Work Again

in the meantime, here's my ballot for this year's Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll:

Your Pazz & Jop albums ballot was submitted as follows:

1. Gorillaz - Demon Days - Virgin (15)
2. Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak - RCA (15)
3. Talking Heads - Brick - Rhino (15)
4. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run 30th Anniversary - Columbia (15)
5. Troubled Hubble - Making Beds in a Burning House - Lookout! (10)
6. Various Artists - Six Feet Under soundtrack - Astralwerks (5)
7. Lali Puna - I Thought I Was Over That - Morr Music (5)
8. Various Artists - This Bird Has Flown - Razor & Tie (5)
9. Sigur Ros - Takk - Geffen (5)
10. Arcade Fire - Arcade Fire - (10)

Your Pazz & Jop singles ballot was submitted as follows:

1. Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To? - Domino
2. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine - Epic
3. Coldplay - Speed of Sound - Capitol
4. Spoon - I Turn My Camera On - Merge
5. Bright Eyes - When the President Talks to God
6. Magic Numbers - Mornings Eleven - Heavenly/EMI
7. Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict a Riot - Universal
8. hellogoodbye - Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn - Drive-Thru
9. Natasha Bedingfield - These Words -
10. Jesse McCartney - Beautiful Soul - Hollywood

But I forgot the Decemberists!
Please forgive me, Colin.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

And Thus It Begins Again

Okay, then.
I didn't make the final count to 1000 Cds for the year 2005.
I know they are here, in bags and boxes around the office, but you'll just have to trust me on that.

So, it's a fresh start, a blank slate and all such chances to make amends.
Tomorrow will be the time for re-introduction.
Today, just a quick hello and a happy new year!