Thursday, February 16, 2006

Me and Mr. Ray

"Mort Shuman took me under his wing. He said 'You've got to do something for me. You've got to leave this house, leave your wife, take drugs, change your whole life. You've got to get away from this- it's ruining you. I want you to be a writer."
Ray Davies (according to a press release about his upcoming appearance on Little Steven's Underground Garage this weekend)

I’m happily married and have no intention of running off to take drugs, so there goes that career…

Thursday, Feb. 16
Two new previews in the Washington Post:
Rachel Sage, Steve Wynn (two separate shows) @ Jammin Java
Spinout Records package tour at the IOTA
Two new CDs in the mail:
1. TOM RUSSELL – Love and Fear
CD out March 21st.
Sent in conjunction with his upcoming show at Jammin Java.
2. DEREK TRUCKS BAND – Songlines
Official release of a CD that came in weeks ago as a generic advance.

Wednesday. Feb. 15
3. XRAYOK – Like Life (self-released)
They Say: “a lush blend of dark New Wave, Rock and Electro…in the league of Mogwai, Elbow, Slowdive.
I Say: them’s mighty big footprints to fill, but I liked these 6 tracks on the first late-night listen.
Out April 4
4. GUS BLACK – Autumn Days (Cheap Lullaby)
CD covers that are printed to look like vinyl album covers, complete with ring wear, are getting to be a bit of a clich̩ Рbut they still look damn cool and this one carries the effect over to the back cover of the digipack (but enough already with CDs printed to look like records!)
According to the press sheet, Black was held up at gunpoint at the Radio Shack when he was buying a headphone extension cord. Actually, this is Black’s fourth release (he did two albums under the name of simply Gus) – a reminder that it sometimes takes forever to get noticed.

Tuesday, Feb. 14
5. UNCUT magazine with free CD – New Music for 2006
I have a few of these already (Jenny Lewis, Neko Case, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), but that makes for little islands of familiarity in the car ride preview. The new Belle & Sebastian track reminds me I need to download the whole CD from emusic and damn if the inane Sparks song, “Metaphor” (“girls dig metaphors”) doesn’t stick like pre-chewed gum. I can do without Plan B (I’m just not the hip-hop type) and Kris Kristofferson’s offering (“This Old Road”), but I’m sure I’ll make some new friends elsewhere in these 15 songs.
6. JACK JOHNSON and FRIENDS– Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the film Curious George (Brushfire Records)
What a happy surprise to get this unsolicited CD! Johnson’s style is just so good-natured and catchy. Grace jumped on it right away, and we were happily groovin’ while we finished our pre-dinner work.

Other recent deliveries:
7. 13 GHOSTS – Cicada (Skybucket Records)
21 tracks that totally intrigue on first listen. I put the CD on while doing other work and kept getting pulled back to ask, ‘what’s that? That’s cool.’ Looking forward to the next spin.
Out March 4.
8. MARIA TAYLOR – 11:11 (Saddle Creek)
Second copy of a CD I got last year, sent because Taylor is coming to town next March (25th, at the State Theatre).
9. DESOLE – A Story to Tell (Abacus Recordings)
Said to mix indie rock, pop and post-hardcore, this sextet from Phoenix, AZ is not to be confused to deSol, the bilingual (Spanish/English) band from New Jersey, previously profiled for the Post.
Out March 7th.
10. The HOPEFULS – The Fuses Refuse to Burn (2024 Records)
Formerly known as the Olympic Hopefuls (we can all guess why they couldn’t keep that name), these Minneapolis guys appear onstage in matching tracksuits, and have won, not athletic awards, but numerous music honors in their hometown.
They Say: “combines a bit of Weezer guitar grit with the playful, carefree anthems of bands like The Cars and The Apples in Stereo.”
I Say: Yeah, no argument with that – except that I would never call the Cars' meticulously produced pop "carefree." The Hopefuls, however, have a casual, bright bounce.
11. STEVE WYNN & The MIRACLE 3 - …tick…tick…tick (Down There/Red Eye)
Today’s Washington Post preview for tomorrow night’s show, along with Rachel Sage, who appears at the same venue tonight.
12. JEROME DILLON – nearLY :reminder (KUFALA Recordings/La Cosa Nostra)
Dillon served as drummer and occasional guitarist with Nine Inch Nails for six years and four albums, and now serves himself as writer, producer and arranger while playing drums dobro, guitars, stand-up bass, ukulele, melotron, piano, and violin. His guests include Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers' Greg Dulli and Decemberists violinist Petra Haden.
They Say: "reminiscent of artists such as Pink Floyd, The Cure, and Dead Can Dance…Baroque strings and acoustic instrumentation with aggressive, bombastic drums and bass.”
Song Title I Like: “One Day I Was Gone”
Out April 11, 2006.
13. KT TUNSTALL - Eye To The Telescope (Relentless/Virgin)
Half Scottish, one quarter Irish, one quarter Cantonese, Tunstall has gone from playing small pubs in her Scotland to a Mercury Prize nomination and double-platinum British sales. Produced by Steve Osborne (U2, The Cure, New Order, Doves), compared to Fleetwood Mac and Rickie Lee Jones, Tunstall’s debut sold over one million copies in the UK (that’s four times platinum there) making her the best selling female artist in the UK last year. And unlike Brandi Carlisle, whose debut came with similar Next Big Girl Thing press. This one intigues me.
14. UNTIED STATES – Retail Detail (self-released)
That’s Un-tied, as in shoelaces, not United, as in our country ‘tis of thee. Atlanta art-rock experimentalists said to recalls Swans, Jesus Lizard, and Brainiac, among others. Which doesn’t rock my socks.
They say: “their first conscious attempt to ameliorate their subconscious with a very real portrayal of their immediate existences.”
I say: what the hell does that mean?
The PR people have posted two tracks online, so you can hear for yourself (the second one really grates on me…):
Out May 2.

Emusic purchases:
15. The WRENS
When I realized I was going to London next month, I started looking for musical possiblilities of shows to see while I was there. I got tix to see The Go! Team at a cool place called Koko, and the Wrens will be playing at a London college while I’m there as well. So, I’m checking ‘em out.
When I saw that the Black Moses was available for cheap download, I was ready to go. I have “Shaft” already (but of course!) but I wanted a few of the other greatest hits – “Walk On By,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Never Can Say Goodbye.”
Today’s other Post preview – the Spinout Records showcase at the IOTA next Monday. Angel himself does publicity for the little indie label, but he didn’t get any CDs out to me in time, so I made my own 20 track sampler from tracks on emusic. Sadly, Sir Bald Diddley and His Wig-Outs aren’t in the show, but I did get to hear “2000 lb. Werewolf.”

YTD: 93

P.S. Whoa! Snowboard cross!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pazz and Jop and Rock and Roll

The Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll came out in last week’s edition, and you can see my ballot here.

Again, I’m very mad at myself for forgetting the Decemberists’ “Picaresque,” which would have gone on the list in place of the various artists’ tribute to the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul.”
And lately, the household has been rocking to the Wilco live CD, “Kicking Television,” which arrived too late in the year to make the list, but I can see (hear) now was truly a contender for the Top Ten.

Monday, February 6:
1. ROD STEWART – The Rock & Roll Collection (Rebound Records)
If this hadn’t been $1.74 in Target clearance, I’d probably call it a rip-off, especially once I took off the nicely designed cardboard envelope around the CD and found a cheesier cover beneath, calling this “The Rock Album.” But it’s a good set of 11 songs – a few big hits like “Every Picture Tells a Story” and “Twistin’ the Night Away,” plus a bunch of Stewart favorites – “An Old Raincoat…” and “Let Me Be Your Car.”

2. UNITED STATES – Retail Detail (self-released)
From Atlanta, and I’d tell you more, but the press bio is in a hard-to-read type and I’m too lazy to wade through it right now. According to my pals at Team Clermont publicity, recommended if you like Sonic Youth, Deerhoof, Jesus Lizard, Brainiac and Pattern is Movement. Which may actually leave me out.
3. CRISTINA BRANCO – Ulisses (Decca)
Somehow I had it in my head that this woman had some kind of operatic background, and wasn’t expecting much from the CD when I put it on as my go-to-sleep selection. How wrong I was. The woman is a rising star of the Portuguese fado style, and has a gorgeous voice which she (thankfully) never pushes. Her style is clean and direct, not a lot of fussy arrangements and when halfway through the CD, she breaks into a lovely rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” it’s a knockout.
She’s coming to perform at the Birchmere on March 12 (why they sent the CD) and is definitely a pitch I’ll make.

Saturday, February 4:
4. FIONA APPLE – Extraordinary Machine (Epic)
Finally. Been flirting with this one for weeks. She just opened for Coldplay in DC and frankly, right now, she’s the act I’d rather see.
5. CATIE CURTIS – Acoustic Valentine (TK )
$15 at Curtis’ show at the Wolf Trap Barns. More than I would usually spend (I’d wait to pick it up on sale or online) but I was so taken with the performance, and I had gotten my tix for free, so I was ready to give back. Curtis radiates a simple, straightforward warmth that has its feminist/gay underpinnings but really just wants everyone to get along and be happy in their own way. John Jennings, who works with Mary Chapin Carpenter and provides the sort of dead-on pure guitar picking that makes every song sound profound, accompanied her. Funny thing is, the CD I bought, which is a selection of Curtis’ favorite love songs (many of which she did at the show) performed acoustically with Jennings, is rather tepid in its studio form. Just goes to show that sometimes live magic cannot be replicated.

In other live music news, the charming live wire Matt Nathanson will be releasing an official live CD (he allows taping at his shows and I have a few fun bootlegs) in April. He’s another performer whose studio releases can’t match the delight of his concerts.

CD trade-in store:
6. ANNIE LENNOX – No More I Love You’s CD single
I may have this already, but it was only 50 cents, so I couldn’t take the chance.
7. ELVIS COSTELLO – Get Happy (Rhino)
Working on completing my set of two-disc reissues, which offer all sorts of bonus goodies on the second disc.
8. UNCUT magazine – Thunder Road: Songs Inspired by The Boss
Funny, I missed this on the newsstand, but “Thunder Road” is on my list of top five songs. Ever. So, of course, I couldn’t let this slip away.

Friday, February 3:
9. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE - Feels (Fat Cat)
Available though the emusic account, purchased without my having heard a note. But it’s kept coming up in the Best Of’s, so I figured it was time. I miss CD booklets with online purchases, though.
I gather it’s a bit loosey-goosey, and I love this member’s review: “Too much hippie in the hippie dippy. OR: no more brownies for you, mister.”
10. PASTE Magazine free CD
(I’ll consider this as a purchase as I bought a subscription)
I like Paste, and I would like to write for it someday, but I’m at that phase (read: age) in life when I prefer my magazines less dense (read: bigger type).
There’s a bunch of my favorites on sampler #20 – Flaming Lips, Josh Ritter, Elbow, Ray Davies – and a slew that I’m sure I’ll be happy to get to know. But no free DVD this time.
11. NEKO CASE – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (ANTI-)
One of those albums that existed on the edge of my radar and, while I may not have had it on the list of things to actively seek out, I said a variation of “oh goody” to see it in the mail, especially as I’ve been enjoying Case’s work on the last New Pornographers’ CD.
Out March 7th.
12. JUST A FIRE – Spanish Time (Sickroom Records)
“Detroit’s most radical rock ‘n’roll collective,” from the same Detroit scene that spawned the White Stripes and Brendan Benson.
Out March 20th.

13. EUGENE EDWARDS – My Favorite Revolution (Flagship Recordings)
Comparisons have been made to Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Tom Petty and he’s supposedly rocking the LA power pop scene.
14. SOLEDAD BROTHERS – The Hardest Walk (Alive Records)

Thursday, Feb. 2
15. CATIE CURTIS – Dreaming in Romance Languages (Vanguard)
Curtis was supposed to be a part of this week’s Post preview but, since her show was on its way to selling out, the editor asked me to remove her section of the preview. But here’s today’s rant: though I rewrote the story to cover the deletion, someone else at the paper put back a reference to Curtis’ show selling out – and misspelled her name! It wouldn’t annoy me quite so much but a few of the copy editors are thorough to the point of anal-retentive when they question me about my work, and seem to gloat a bit when they catch me in an error, so I hate taking the fall for whoever screwed this up.
16. The ENDLESS – The Republic of Heaven (Queen of the Moon Music) Here’s what I wrote for Hyperactive! Music magazine, which will come out next month:
“This husband-and-wife team call themselves an “ethereal dreampop duo” and their debut full-length, a musical meditation on love and loss (inspired by the death of her mom) lives up to that description, and a few more besides. Adriana Roze’s haunting voice, echoing Kate Bush, Jane Siberry, even Siouxie Sioux on occasion, creates an art-house/goth vibe, while David Roze’s precise, layered accompaniment envelopes the vocals like a long velvet cloak. Some might find the sonic decorum and emotional sentiments a tad twee, and the languid, somber tone sometimes flirts with the maudlin, but the aching sincerity of this pair won’t allow you to shake the impression of shadows dancing just beyond the peripheral. Cynics need not apply.”
They didn’t ask, but I would have given it 2 and a half (out of 4) stars.

Wednesday, February 1:
17. VARIOUS ARTISTS - I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey (Vanguard)
Featuring Fruit Bats, Sufjan Stevens (the one with the cheerleaders), Devendra Banhart (the one with all the hair), Calexico, M. Ward (who produced), Grandaddy (heard they broke up) and a bunch of people I never heard of before. I confess, I don’t know Fahey’s originals, so it’ll be hard to say how these tunes stack up.
Out on February 14th.

18. FLAMIN’ GROOVIES – Members Edition (United Audio Entertainment)
My Giant supermarket is selling CDs now (!!), in a big cardboard display where you have to look for them like you’re picking out vegetables. The lowest priced CDs are $4 and the highest are $10. Most of the$10 ones (earlier albums by Aerosmith, Green Day) could be picked up cheaper elsewhere, but this is the one bargain I found. Sound quality?

19. LYLAS – Lessons for Lovers (Fictitious Records)
LYLAS – my 15-year-old daughter signs notes to her best pals with this – Love Ya Like A Sister.
They Say: “Lylas combines delicate, skewed pop and a distinctly American aesthetic with some of the quirkier sensibilities of baroque songs of yore.”

Monday, January 30:
20. JAMES HUNTER – People Gonna Talk (Go/Rounder Records)
This guy’s good! The minute I put it on, I was smitten with his voice – back to the smooth, soulful R&B of the 50’s and 60’s like Al Green and Sam Cooke. The CD was recorded at Toe Rag Studios, the UK's premiere analogue recording facility, where the White Stripes recorded 2003’s 'Elephant,’ and (according to the press kit) was recorded entirely live - without overdubs, computers, or even headphones – which makes for really warm sound. Fun factoid: Hunter used to sing with Van Morrison.
While Terry was listening, he said he liked it, too, but voiced his worry that maybe such music sounds too much like vintage soul, like what’s the point? Gracie, however, is 15, so what does she know of Way Back When. “This is an old style?” she asked. “Maybe we should bring this back.”
Out March 7th.

Saturday, January 28
21. JOSH RITTER – The Animal Years (V2)
Out on April 4th and I’m delighted to get it early. Saw him perform at the IOTA last year, and he was wonderful. Afterwards, when I spoke to him after the show, and told him that I’d named his last CD one of the year’s best, he hugged me. And he was wearing red sneakers with a vintage baggy suit. Did I tell you he’s wonderful?
22. BROTHERS PAST – This Feeling’s Called Goodbye (SCI Fidelity)
This week’s Post preview (paired with a classical trio), these guys combine electronica and jam band grooves. I liked the CD so much on first listen, I put it on again that evening while dinner guests were in, and it sounded fine once more. Would have liked to go to the show, but after the Catie Curtis show (same night), I was tired and wanted to see Steve Martin and Prince on SNL.
23. The LOST PATROL – Lonesome Sky (self-released)
I wrote about this band last summer for the Post, conducting an email interview with the female lead singer while I was in upstate New York during my father’s decline. She was a sweet person, grateful for the coverage, and she sent me the new CD with a sweet note: “thanks for your support of us.”
24. CASIOTONE for the PAINFULLY ALONE – Etiquette (Tomlab)
Coming to the Galaxy Hut next month.
25. DEERHOOF – The Runners Four (Kill Rock Stars)
Bay area art-pop darlings, #6 in Pitchfork magazine’s Top 50 Albums of 2005. Someone else says: “20 different misses at conventional songwriting, silly attempts at traditionalism that go fascinatingly awry in every way of the year's most playfully dense, eminently relistenable calamities.” And a Billboard magazine list of artists’ choices had this one selected by Beck and Jeff Tweedy. So that’s a promise of something strange.
26. HEM – No Word from Tom (Waveland Records)
Coming to the Birchmere in coming weeks to open for my dear Josh Ritter. This CD collects a number of cover tunes and rarities. On first listen, lovely stuff.
27. The BEAUTIFUL GIRLS – We’re Already Gone (Cornerstone RAS)
Australian critics’ darlings, they’re going out on the “Yellow Snow Tour,” a name that doesn’t inspire confidence.
They Say: “a sonic mix of reggae, dub, hiphop and rock influences.” Also, a reference to “surfer/rock reggae.”
Out February 14th.

YTD: 76
I had to deduct one CD from last entry’s total, having discovered that I listed the same CD twice (which I do only if I receive an actual duplicate disc).