Sunday, January 28, 2007

OMG! MTV is playing music videos again

Back in The Day, Sunday night was when you heard all the good stuff. Back in NYC, there was Vin Scelsa's "Idiot's Delight" radio show; here in DC, HFS played local music and new releases and true alternatives. And MTV had "120 Minutes," where you could watch the more interesting new stuff from the American indie and underground scenes, plus breaking British stuff. But now, thanks to the teen in the house, I've found MTV2's "Subterranean," where I've just seen videos by The Shins, Postal Service, Beck and now, Interpol. Awright!

I haven't put up any photos in a while, so let me get out these few from the England trip.
It turned out that our artist's sublet was not only in the hipster territory of Hoxton Square, but also literally around the corner from a live concert venue. We didn't realize it the first night, when Terry and I went to the bar for a few drinks, but behind a curtain past the bathrooms was a square room with space for about 100 people and a raised stage. I knew something was up when I saw five guys sporting guitars and teased hair leave with a rowdy entourage. Terry came out of the men's room a few moments later to tell me about the boorish boys he'd just encountered, comparing the size of their manhoods (boyhoods?). I immediately went on a fact-finding mission and discovered the venue area, where the bartender told me that the band in question was "crap" (he didn't know their name), but Amy Winehouse's brother (posters for Ms. Winehouse were all around town during our visit) had also performed that night and he was pretty good.

So, I checked into my copy of Time Out London and lo, the next night was a triple feature of Ghosts, Jesus Licks and Arthur Brick.
(Ooops. Perhaps I spoke too soon. This video station just played Fergie's "London Bridge" nonsense and now there's a trashy Latino pop video. I'm outta here.)

The way TO described the acts it seemed like a good way to spend a night, so we left the kids in the apartment (they had a chance to come, but were tired. HA! Let the old-timers show the kids how it's done) and headed over to the bar, where a mere 5 pound cover got us in.

Can't say much about Ghosts, since we arrived during the last song, but Jesus Licks was almost comically bad. Two men, who seemed to know how to play, and two women - the world's most listless drunmer, plus a "lead singer" whose voice was so fragile that I was reminded of my daughter's vocal recital, where most of the audience held its breath nervously for fear the singers might break and leave the stage crying. The sound - a wannabe Fairport Convention-style folk-rock - and its pained execution seemed better suited to an afternoon arts and crafts fair than a professional music club. Chances are, you'll never hear of them again, but here they are:

After the awkwardness of Jesus Licks, we toyed with leaving, but chose to give the headliner a chance and I'm glad we did. Arthur Brick was everything the other band wasn't - confident, accomplished, interesting. Made up of two older guys - one on stand-up bass, the other a Jack of many trades, mostly intriguing folk-y instruments - and two young snappers - one on drums and occasional rappy vocals, the other a keyboard/sampler and theremin wizard - the Brick (is there an Arthur in the bunch?) veered from a punky. somewhat Pogues-ian, tradtional sound to beat-dominated grooves that reminded me and hubby of Talking Heads. All in all, a happy discovery, and a band I'd like to know more about.

A visit to the band's not-very-intuitve web siteoffers links (if you can find 'em) to some sound samples.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One Pound = Two Dollars

And finally, for the O/CD project, here's the musical acquisitions from the Trip Across the Pond:

From the newsstand at the tube station:
1.VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Playlist Vol. 3 (Playmusic Magazine)
I thought I would load up on all my favorite British magazines and save money doing so, but with the awful dollar value, I would save very little $ and have to lug the extra weight, so I grabbed only this one, which I haven’t seen in the U.S. Grace immediately fell in love with the cute band on the cover, so I picked up the CD for her later in the trip.

At the TESCO Express across from Liverpool Station:
2. VARIOUS ARTISTS - NME: The Essential Bands
Why is it that the British do such good compilations? This 2-CD set cost me almost $25, but it is jam-packed with all the names I’ve been reading about, and offers genuine hits (now I don’t have to buy the only Killers single worth hearing from the new CD) and great new discoveries.
3. PAOLO NUTINI - These Streets (Atantic)
He’s young and he’s Scottish and he’s cute, so when I saw a good write-up – with nice photo – in a magazine some time ago, I “gave” him to my teenage neighbor/cat sister as her new boyfriend and promised to find the CD in our travels. He’s not bad – bright pop/rock with a bit more credibility than the usual pretty boys.
4. The AUTOMATIC - Not Accepted Anywhere (B-Unique/Polydor)
The cute band Grace spied on the cover of Playmusic magazine. The single “Monster” is silly rock fun.

At the HMV store in The Oracle, Reading:
5. GET CAPE. WEAR CAPE. FLY - The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager (Atlantic)
LOVED the band name, and the sticker promised a sound (Billy Bragg-ish) that I might like, so I took the chance.
6. LILY ALLEN - Still, Alright (Transgressive)
She’s a big star in Britain, and is about to launch her U.S. assault next month. Grace immediately took to her, and I like the sassy female vibe. She sounds bright and poppy, but listen closely and she’s telling off the boys in no uncertain terms, while celebrating a sunny day in London, watching crack whores and granny thieves at work. We like our ladies sweetly subversive.
7. The FRATELLIS - Costello Music (Drop the Sun Recordings)
Grace took to their song on the NME compilation, and the buzz was good, so we took another chance, and it paid off. Goofy but talented, with a distinctly British dance hall theatricality and juvenile (in a nice way) spunk, kinda like The Faces’ little brothers. Songs with whistling and engaging singalong ‘na-na-na” chorus and titles like "Vince the Loveable Stoner" and "Got Ma Nuts from a Hippy." What’s not to love?
8. SPIRITUALIZED - Amazing Grace (Sanctuary)
I've followed this band for awhile, but like them more in theory (great packaging) than in practice (I rarely listen through an entire CD). Since this title was on super-sale (2 pounds), I took another chance, but can't say a first listen changed my mind. Elements I liked, but not consistently.
9. The YOUNG KNIVES - Voices of Animals and Men (Transgressive)
When Terry came back from a trip to England last Novemeber, he said this was the band he kept hearing about. I found a single of theirs in the Tower records clearance and was quite taken with it, so the band was top o' the radar for this trip's music search. And the full CD lives up to my expectations - plenty of spiky hooks, odd detours and angular rhythms - real alternative rock.

10. DOCTOR WHO - Radio Times freebie (BBC Audiobooks)

Gifts from my British friends
11. JAMES BROWN - Funky Christmas (Polygram)
I have a variation of this album in another form – probably just the American release.
12. VARIOUS ARTISTS - In the City - Unsigned
Three discs of new alternative rock. Will be a challenge to know who’s who, since the iTunes playlist print-out stopped with disc one.

Virgin Records store at airport:
13. SCOTT MATTHEWS - Passing Strangers (San Remo)
Heard this playing in-store at the HMV in Reading, and thought it sounded neat, but the price was close to $20 American, and I had plenty of others to buy. Luckily, saw it again at the airport store for about $15, and am glad I brought it home. A soulful voice and a sweet vibe.
14. BASEMENT JAXX- The Singles (XL Recordings)
Gracie’s choice, and a great car album, full of fist-pumping fun. Favorite tracks: “Romeo” and “Where’s Your Head At?”

YTD total: 16

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Latest Links

Today was a day to update the Close Personal Friend web site archives with the most recent articles I've written for the Washington Post. And, while I finish off the list of new music acquired in England, and that which was waiting for me upon my return, I share those links here, for your one-stop reading pleasure...

Bottle Rockets at IOTA Club and Cafe

Steep Canyon Rangers at State Theatre

Jimmie's Chicken Shack at Fat Tuesday's

The Grandsons at Clarendon Ballroom

And this one, from last year, 'cause it was fun to catch up with the man who once Blinded Me With Science:

Thomas Dolby, BT at the Birchmere

Friday, January 12, 2007

Greetings from the U.K.

Well, it's been six great days in the U.K. and we leave tomorrow. I have photos (on another computer) and stories to share, but there's no time now! Just wanted you all (whoever you are) that I haven't forgotten you.

Tune in later this weekend for on-stage pics of Jesus Licks (didn't like them), Arthur Brick (liked them quite a bit) and a list of cool new music collected abroad....


Friday, January 05, 2007

Get The Party Started

I'm leaving for London tomorrow, for a week, to see the College Girl settled into her sping semester abroad. I tend to go into a nesting ritual before such trips, trying to put the entire house in order while I figure out what to pack. But I don't want to leave before dropping a few lines here.

I wanted to start the New Year off on the right foot, with something positive, but there wasn't a lot happening in my musical world the past few days, 'cept for being annoyed at the promo pic for the new Rolling Stone reality series, in which one of the two female wanna-be reporters is posed sitting up on the desk around which the male candidates are gathered, showing off her leggy, mini-skirted journalistic credentials. Perhaps I can plan to be out of the country every Sunday night.

But, as I said, it's too early in the year for bitchery. Thanks to an email from the PR folks at Tell All Your Friends, I found something much more fun to share. In touting a new act, Fujiya & Miyagi, whose "Transparent Things" comes out February 6th, the group included a link to a video of a dude named Charles dancing to the track, "Photocopier".

The link takes you to the YouTube collection of said Charles Dancing, a beefy young man who just lets his groove thing go in front of a camera, with "costume" (jeans and t-shirt) and "cinematography" that make the OK Go clip for "A Million Ways" look like "Lord of the Rings." He's loose and natural and throughly appealing, and I can see bands submitting songs to him just to see how he interprets them. Is Charles Dancing the next Viral Video hit?

In other press mailing news, the lovely people at Team Clermont have announced their new Digital Delivery service, and so will not be sending out hard copies of new CDs. Instead, they sent a link to a download of the new CD by The Couch and Four (I don't think I'm authorized to share it). As they said it:
" While there are certainly some drawbacks to moving away from sending physical promos, we can't help but be excited by these facets of our Digital Delivery plans:
* Cuts down on the expense and time it takes to mail
* Eliminates a substantial amount of waste from bubble mailers, bios, and the like
* Does not contribute to cluttering your office/apartment/house
* Allows for delivery of audio and biographical content in a convenient package"

I'll check it out, but I may still take them up on the promise to send physical copies to those who ask. And no, it's not a way to beef up the stack of stuff I sometimes take to the trade-in store. Call me old school - or just call me old - but as much as I love my iPod, I have a hard time keeping track of even those digital files I buy for myself out of genuine interest. I keep a stack of the new promo acquistions near the stereo and rotate a few each week into the car, so that I can just plug 'em in and test them out. And I still like looking at the covers, reading liner notes and gleaning what I can from the packages before/as I hear the music. Digital direct is the way of the future, sure, but that doesn't automatically mean it's always better.

Case in point, takes me to the first new musical acquisitons of the new year:
1. Arthur Dodge - The Perfect Face (Remedy Records)
An unexpected, but most welcome, surprise from YARRR! PR. A singer/songwriter with a a definite young Dylan vibe, less obstuse, more romantic and initially quite impressive.
2. Hero Pattern - The Deception EP (self-released?)
A little hint of early Elvis Costello rhythms and attitude (always a good thing) in a relatively generic alt-rock package.

And so, the Year-to-Date total (at least until I test out the Team Clermont offering) is...
YTD: 2