Friday, May 19, 2006

God Only Knows

Watching "Big Love" (my daughter got me hooked) while I finally get to the lastest...

Friday, May 19, 2006
Quite the little stack of bundles today:
1.YOKO K and friends – PostSecret show demo (self-released)
If you haven’t seen the amazing PostSecret art project, go now to the site and experience this simple – and simply brilliant idea for yourself. Curator Frank Warren asked people to mail in anonymous postcards with written, drawn and/or illustrated confessions. The results, which some MTV watchers may know from the All-American Rejects video for “Dirty Little Secret,” can be hilarious and heartbreaking.

The music is chill – gentle washes of sound and a breathy female vocalist – that sounds fully realized, not demo-lite at all.
A theatre presentation- of PostSecret material on the big screen, plus dramatic readings and songs from FOUND magazine, are the subject of next week’s Live! preview for the Post, hence my getting this disc of original music for the show.

Two sides of the same story? (Funny they should arrive on the same day)
2. DARRELL SCOTT – The Invisible Man (Full Light Records)
I thought this might be another generic country dude, but I read the bio and perked up immediately. No, I didn’t know that this is the sixth album from a guy who’s an active member of Steve Earle’s Bluegrass Dukes, nor that he’s written songs for the Dixie Chicks, Keb Mo and Guy Clark, but them’s good credentials in my book. And I’m gonna pay attention when a guy is quoted saying, “There were times when I got up on my soapbox on this record. But I think we’re living in the weirdest time of my lifetime, and I’m going to say something about it.” The Earle connection reassures my that the outrage is one I can relate to.
Out June 27th.
3. PAULETTE CARLSON – It’s About Time (Pandean Records)
With her big mane of wavy blonde hair and a song called “Thank You Vets,” I’m hesitant. Could be a serving of red state meat-and-potatoes country…(and no, I’m not anti-vets; it’s just another example of the sad state of affairs that the self-righteous right has commandeered the flag and the troops as if only they care)…ah, says here she was lead vocalist for Highway 101 and critics’ quotes compare her to Kitty Wells, Stevie Nicks, Dolly Parton, Maria McKee and…Randy Travis (as in “the female…”) And she wrote the “Vets” song for her brother, a Vietnam vet. If I ultimately disregard the CD, it’s just ‘cause I’m not the biggest country fan. Out in June.

Two cardboard-encased pitches to preview:
4. MARIANNE DISSARD – demo (self-released)
Dissard and Amor are coming to the IOTA, and she asked if I might preview them, Her CD features music by Joey Burns of Calexico, and she did the all-French lyrics. He is also helping her re-record these songs with the intention of releasing an official album this fall.
5. NAIM AMOR – Sanguine (Amor Music)
Dissard’s husband and touring partner also gets Joey Burns’ help for his jazz/lounge/experimental rock. Amor also released a pair of CDs, “Soundtracks” (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) on Howie Gelb’s OWOM Records, so he’s got street cred, too.

Two delightful reissues in the same puffy envelope:
6. DELANEY & BONNIE – Home (Stax)
The kind of re-discovery that makes my mail a joy to open. Here, the husband-and-wife deep-fried Southern soul team is backed by Booker T. and the MGs, plus the Memphis Horns and two young studio turks of the period - Leon Russell and Isaac Hayes (!) on keyboards. The original 1969 album is expanded to 16 tracks for the reissue. Tasty!
7. MERL SAUNDERS and JERRY GARCIA – Well-Matched: The Best of… (Fantasy)
Kudos, first of all, for the wonderful cover. It’s rare that non-limited (i.e., you pay more) packaging can do something that makes you stop and take notice but this one – designed as a digipack book of matches – opening with a top-to-bottom flap, the liner notes booklet tucked in to simulate the rows of matches – is truly clever. And while I can by no means be considered a Deadhead (Q: “What does a Grateful Dead audience say when the drugs wear off? A: “Who is that shitty band?”), I can get behind this duo trading licks in a more jazzy, earthbound style than the Dead’s usual cosmic noodlings – tho’ I still think Jerry’s a pretty lame vocalist. Covers of tunes like “Positively Fourth Street,” “Mystery Train” and more, including a previously unreleased take on “I Second That Emotion.”

Thursday, May 18
8. Beethoven for Kids (KOCH)
9. Eloise – (KOCH)
10. HOTEL LIGHTS – eponymous (Bar-None)
Darren Jesse was in the mighty Ben Folds Five, and now he’s got a new band and a CD which features guest appearances by pals from Sparklehorse, Archers of Loaf and Fountains of Wayne (mother of pearl!).

Wednesday, May 17
11, 12, 13. MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNER – Plane in Flames (self-released)
An unfortunate coincidence that this album, by a DC-area band, arrived the same day that the news featured new footage of the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon. And the band sent three copies, in case I want to share them with friends, “particularly any folks at the Washington Post.” As a lowly freelancer, I know no folks.

Tuesday, May 16
The last major record label that sends me new releases on a regular basis (most of my stuff comes from independent publicity people), Columbia material usually arrives on Tuesday, as did this package. Four CDs, divided evenly between stuff I’m curious about, and two I may never get around to. See if you can guess:
14. TYE TRIBETT & G.A. – Victory Live! (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
15. SUSAN CAGLE – The Subway Recordings (Lefthook/Columbia)
16. VARIOUS ARTISTS – WWE: Wreckless Intent (Columbia)
These are phrases that tell me I need not break the shrinkwrap:
"World Wrestling Entertainment programming"
17. ANJANI - Blue Alert (Columbia)
Right there onthe cover, in type about a quarter of the size of the singer's name is "(produced by Leonard Cohen)" and, indeed, that's a selling point.

Friday, May 12
18. The NEVER – Antarctica: A Storybook Record (Trekky Records)
First listen was very impressive. Orchestral pop from Chapel Hill, NC. The full CD release comes with a 50 page illustrated storybook that tells the same strory, and either can be enjoyed (it says here) separately. But I like the music, and the concept, so I want the whole deal (this advance comes sans livre.)
Out July 11th.
19. JUDGE JULES – Proven Worldwide ( )
Put this one on in the car, starting an evening drive and the propulsive dance beat (is that redundant?) was initially quite enjoyable. But my fast-forward finger got impatiently by the third track, as the beat didn’t vary and the female vocals – the breathy, processed kind, hiding a weak voice (like Madonna, but without the gimmicks/hooks) – combined with trite lyrics (“Without love, I had….nothing”) grew tiresome. I’d rather hear this supposedly master DJ (ranked Top 10 most popular in the world, the press kit says, in DJ Magazine) on his recently-released re-mix CD, The Global Warm Up. Just as some great lead guitarists were never meant to front a band, many DJs fail to impress when they are the auteur.

Thursday, May 11
20. SNOW PATROL – Eyes Open (A&M/Polydor)
I don’t like this trend toward different stores having different versions of a CD. I was in Target and was already willing to buy the Snow Patrol “limited edition” for $11.98, but I don’t like to encourage this “Available Only at Target – Limited Edition CD/DVD Set.” Yes, it’s nice to get 3 extra live tracks and bonus interview footage, but what if I don’t live near a Target? Or if every Big Box store gets their own exclusives? Then the completist fan gets screwed.

21. DR. JOHN – Mercernary (Blue Note)
22. T-BONE BURNETT – The True False Identity (DMZ/Columbia)
Is he still married to Sam Philips? I like to think of them as being an uber-hip musical couple.
23. IRON HERO – Safe as Houses (Self-Released)
24. The REMOTE – Too Low to Miss (Global Underground)
They Say: “The Remote are Depeche Mode after two weeks in Ibiza, they’re Joy Division if Ian Curtis had done a pill, Japan if David Sylvian had spent twenty four hours clubbing.”
I Say: Besides the fact that they spelled out “24 hours,” that’s a compact - and clever - description.
Out: July 11th.

Wednesday, May 10
Okay, so I won’t count these Mother’s Day purchases in my YTD total:
BARRY MANILOW – Greatest Hits of the Fifties
HARRY CONNICK, JR. – On Broadway, Vol. 1

25. RADIO 4 – Enemies Like This (Astralwerks)
26. YONDER MOUNTAIN STRING BAND – eponymous (Vanguard)

Via UME Promo Player:
27. CAT STEVENS – Gold (2 CD’s worth)
28. DIANA ROSS – Blue

Sunday, May 7, 2006
29. STEPHEN MERRITT – Showtunes (Nonesuch)
Advance word on this CD was sketchy, said that Merritt’s collection of short tunes (most under 2 minutes long) for Chinese theatre pieces was pretentious (Merritt pretentious? who’da thunk it?). And the initial reaction - one of the singers sounds just like Miss Piggy (and it’s a guy, too!) – is one of “what the f…?” But the guy’s clever wordplay, seeming obsession with death, and jaunty melodies can win you over if you have a taste for Brecht, Sondheim, or something almost completely different. ($9.99)
30. PRINCE – 3121 (Universal)
“Black Sweat” = cool song. ($8.99)
31. VARIOUS ARTISTS – I Believe to My Soul (Rhino)
A round-robin of righteous soul from Mavis Staples, Billy Preston, Ann Peebles, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint, lovingly produced with a minimum of fuss and bother, but a whole lotta heart, by the classy Joe Henry. ($7.99)
32. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hear Music Playlist, Vol. 2 (Rhino)
The usual comment for these collections – great selections - like Sam Philips, Sondre Lerche, Zero 7- well-worth buying at a discount (and only at a discount) price. They are, after all, promotional samplers, ($3.99, from the slightly scratched bin)

From the $1.99 Clearance Bins:
33. 1 GIANT LEAP – Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost DVD single (Palm Pictures)
Glad that Grace didn’t look over my shoulder as I paid for this – the front cover has a pic of a naked man holding up a weight by a piercing through his penis.
34. GREGORIAN CHANT – Christmas Chant (Milan)
Never pass up a good deal on something that could work on next year’s Cool Yule compilation.
35. ROBIN HOLCOMB – The Big Time (Nonesuch)
Back in The Day (the childless NYC years), I did promo writing for Elektra Records which, at the time, included stuff from the Nonesuch label. I remember Holcomb fondly as an arty woman who created pure, melancholy American music. The cool black who checked me out seemed pleased I had rescued this one from the castaways and remarked how much he liked her.
And a freebie:
36. VARIOUS ARTISTS – SXSW AV Subwoofer sampler (MoRisen Records)

Gracie’s choice;
37. GATSBYS AMERICAN DREAM – Volcano (Fearless)
She grabbed it on a friend’s not-so-recent recommendation. Word of mouth and mix CDs play a big part in exposing her to new music. Right now, she’s hot on a band called Streetlight Manifesto, that I’ve never heard of, but Emma, too, says she first heard them on a mix. Emma doesn’t even have a working radio in her college dorm.
38. OST – Take the Lead (Republic/Universal)
Grace loved the movie and wanted the music as a souvenir (why God made soundtrack albums). I may borrow it - Lena Horne and Q-Tip?, a guy named Dirtbag, and a version of “Que Sera, Sera” performed by Sly & the Family Stone.

Saturday, May 6
39. SNOWGLOBE – Oxytocin (Makeshift Music)
I like these guys. Wrote about them awhile back when they came to town to play Galaxy Hut, based on another neat CD.

Friday, May 5
40. The 303’s – Lines of Parallel Minds (Cult Hero Records)
41. BLACK-EYED PEAS – Elephunk (A&M)
Some great tunes here, but I feel guilty even listening to “Let’s Get Retarded.”

Thursday, May 4, 2006
From Sonic Youth on, I’m not a fan of the disjointed noise band concept. Don’t understand it, don’t like it, don’t follow it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006
43. SSM – S/T (Alive Records)
Detroit avant rock outfit.

Tuesday, May 2nd:
44. PEARL JAM – S/T (J Records)
Ugly inner cover, with the guys looking like zombies. Gonna see them in DC on the 30th.
45. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Uncut magazine sampler
I don’t want to turn the page in my music magazine and see a full-page, full color shot of a torture scene from “Hostel” - involving eyes, no less. Yeeeccchhhh.

YTD Total: 302

Monday, May 01, 2006

Time flies, and so did I

To Seattle, last week, for business of the corporate media nature. Had a great time, work went well, and I got to see the Editors (and just a couple of songs by stellastarr*) at the funky little joint called Chop Suey. Mightily impressed by the Editors, whose lead singer creates an effortless enigma with a sonorous voice like the guy from Dead Can Dance set against pumping rhythms that stick. (“Munich” is now stuck in my head.)

I had only one day for sightseeing and, since the Experience Music Project cost $20 to get in, I only cruised the gift shop and chatted with the cute young cashier, who was amazed to hear that I saw Jimi Henrix open for the Monkees (I could be a museum piece myself, I fear). There was a symposium of rock journalists talking about Guilty Pleasures (Jem is truly outrageous!), but I didn’t partake.

Good radio in Seattle, too. The very first song I heard when I found the first rock station (WEXP) was from the new Loose Fur album. And there were at least two other stations I could have spent time with. How dismal DC radio is.

Haven't had a piece in the Post lately. Had my biweekly week off since the paper as publishing regional guides for the two counties I write for. I did see my name in a magazine again after a long time - the Marh/April issue of Hyperactive magazine, where I had a short interview with Emily Haines of the Canadian band Metric and a review of an indepdent CD by The Endless. The magazine doesn't post everything online but, until I get around to scanning and loading it up myself, here's a

Monday, May 1st:
1.SPACE MONKEYS Versus GORILLAZ – Laika Come Home (Astralwerks)
Part of the continuing obsession with all things Gorillaz, saw this on in a discography of the band and ordered via Amazon. Trippy dub reworkings of songs I don’t recognize in their new form, for the most part. Laid-back and inherently cool.
2.BARNEY – Let’s Go to the Farm (Koch)
3.BARNEY – Let’s Go to the Beach (Koch)
The anti-Gorilla strikes again. Maybe a doped-out dub version of “Icy Creamy Ice Cream,” could make him cool? Nah.

While I was in Seattle last week, these arrived:
4. ELF POWER – Back to the Web (Ryko)
I thought they were English, but they’re actually Athens, GA indie-pop rockers, born of the Elephant 6 collective. There’s a mixed bag of influences here – Dylan, T. rex, Pink Floyd - which makes for a fun ride.
They were at the IOTA on April 27th; wish I’d gotten this sooner.
5. TRESA JORDAN – S/T (South River Road)
More girly country pop.
Out on July 4th.
6. SAM ROBERTS – Chemical City (Secret Brain/Fontana)
The press sheet is pushing these guys with comparisons to Radiohead and the Clash. Whoa, boys. That way lies backlash.
7. ANNIE SIDLEY – Diamond in the Sand (My Money Records)
The good news is, this local diva with a Big Voice and good taste in blues rock belters (her own and covers) has graced me with a Thank You in her liner notes. The bad news is, she added an “s” to my last name (which, BTW, happened at the end of my bizniz meeting last week, when the speaker at the podium thanked me and my partner for the video presentation we put together).
8. DAVID FORD – I Sincerely Apologize for All the Trouble I’ve Caused (Independiente/Columbia)
The Parental Advisory makes it sound likes it gonna be all tough and street, but Ford’s really a new rock/folk kinda guy, with KCRW airplay to make me pay attention right off the bat. It’s also cool that he used his local football club, Team Sundry, to provide choral voices.

Tuesday, April 25:
9. IMOGENE HEAP – Speak for Yourself (RCA Victor)
10. CHEVREUIL – Capoeria (Sick Room Records)
11. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Sick Room Records sampler
12. FINAL FANTASY – He Poos Clouds (Tomlab)

Friday, April 21:
13. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Columbia)
America’s heartland hero (and once my passionate fave) makes an end-run around Red State piety by recording a slew of classic folk songs (oddly, none of them actually written by Seeger) that resound with political bite. This is, the press sheet says, the Boss’ 21st album. Wow.
Bruce is coming to town on May 28th, playing the obnoxiously-painful-to-get-to Nissan Pavilion, the same day as the better of the two-day HFStival, featuring Counting Crows, Strokes, Joan Jett and others at the also-painful-to-get-to Merriweather Post Pavilion. I heard Bruce had some harsh words for the government (“criminal ineptitude”) at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, but nothing’s gonna beat watching the Internet feed of Stephen Colbert doing his unfiltered best to debunk Bush at the AP dinner over the weekend. My heroes! And soon, new Pearl Jam and Neil Young, singing outrage. Count me in.
14. MERCY ME – Coming Up to Breathe (Ino/Columbia)
The way the letters ran together on the cover, I thought the band’s name was Mercume (thought the lower part of the Y was a graphic embellishment).

Wednesday, April 19:
15. VARIOUS ARTISTS – My Dil Goes Mmmmm…(Love Songs)(Yash Raj Films)
The funky cool Indian spices store offers mystery ingredients, cheap rentals of Bollywood DVD’s and a rack of surprisingly cheap (but not cheap looking - $6.99) Indian music imports. Not sure what the title track means, but it’s damn catchy.

Monday April 17:
16. JEHRO – S/T (Recall Records)
US debut of a French troubadour with an angelic voice and rhythms that swing between Caribbean and American grassroots.

Sunday, April 16:
CD Cellar trade-ins:
17. VARIOUS ARTISTS - Acoustic 05 (V2)
2-CD set, 38-tracks, covering a nice spectrum of stuff that would fit well in a British version of Paste – Mercury Rev, Nick Drake, Amy Mann, Zutons, Wainwrights Rufus and Martha. A nice set to have in the car as instant radio.
19. SUGARCULT – DVD/CD (Artemis)
20. BETH ORTON – Comfort of Strangers (Astralwerks)
Limited edition includes second disc with 5 tracks.

From the $1.99 clearance:
21. The DEVLINS – Waves (Nettwerk America)
22. NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALL-STARS – Electric Blue Watermelon Screwed and Chopped EP (ATO)
23. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Piece of Cake: 20 Years of Ryko (Ryko)
Big Star, Josh Rouse, Warren Zevon and Flaming Lips – and they’re just in the first 5 tracks! This is one of those discs I may already have in the deep files, but I couldn’t risk missing out at this price.
The BRINDLEY BROTHERS – Playing with the Light (Paste)
I bought this one for a video-making friend, whom I am trying to convince to do some taping of the band for possible promotion purposes. (Won’t count it in the total.)
24. MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNER – free EP (self-released)
Yeah, I’ve got the whole set now – the official full-length, and a couple of the band’s hand-made promos. Finally played some of the music and liked the easy pop charm.

Saturday, April 15:
25. ROCKNOCEROS – S/T (self-released)
Cute music in a charming package by a local kids act that packs ‘em in every week at local coffee joint, Jammin Java.
26. The MAMMALS – Departure (Humble Abode/Signature Sounds)
Unlike past Mammals albums, there is no traditional music on this album. Instead, the Woodstock, NY-based band covers the South American protest anthem “Sólo le pido a Dios,” and reinvent songs from Morphine (“Do Not Go Quietly Unto Your Grave”) and Nirvana (“Come as You Are”).
27. GLEN PHILLIPS – Mr. Lemons (Umami/Highwire)
28. MATT NATHANSON – At the Point (Acrobat)
29. BRIAN ENO & DAVID BYRNE – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Nonesuch)
30. ELVIS COSTELLO & The BRODSKY QUARTET – The Juliet Letters (Rhino)
31. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Deluxe Edition Sampler, Volume 3 (UM)
One of those in-store freebies. 11 Tracks, maybe half of which I’ll grab for the iPod – including Weezer’s “Undone” (Kitchen Tape Demo), Diana Ross (“I’m Coming Out”) and a 12” Rick James mix (“Give It to Me Baby”).

Leftovers from previous tally:
32. MELANIE MASON – Lonesome is I (self-released)
33. MELANIE MASON – Live at Blues Alley (self-released)
34. DeSOLE – A Story to Tell (Abacus Recordings)
Official release of a title I got a while back as a slim-line advance. The official release has a nice design element – the “cover” is actually a black type-on-clear sticker that’s stuck directly to the jewel case, with the booklet serving as backdrop.
Former hometown hero who split to Florida and is coming back for a few gigs.
36. UMPHREY’S McGEE – Safety in Numbers (SCI Fidelity)
Second copy.
37. The BLEACHERS – Suspicion (Village Industries)

38. GORILLAZ – Demon Days Live DVD (Virgin)
The audio version of this work made it to my Top Ten for last year, and this live presentation is sheer exhiliration. I’m terribly jealous of the crowd in Manchester who got to see this extravaganza in person. When Damon Albarn and Co. recorded the CD, I don’t think they ever envisioned trying to reproduce all the orchestral parts, samples and guest stars live. But when they did it, they spared no effort. It’s like “Carmina Burana” for the trip-rock set – a children’s chorus, a Gospel chorus, a stage full of instrumentalists, rockers and Djs. And Albarn slumps at a piano in the back, barely seen against the colorful back screens (bigger video projection overhead) until he steps out for the encore, a lovely ballad, accompanied by a Japanese woman playing a long, low stringed thingy. This is his masterpiece, and he deserves our respect.

YTD Total: 257