Sunday, April 22, 2007

Let's Start a New Week and Let's Make It Better

It was a bad week for Virginia, and if we ever needed Kurt (by which I mean Vonnegut, not Cobain) it was in these recent days of mourning. “So it goes” can’t begin to cover it. In the wake of one of my absolute favorite author’s passing, I heard one tribute mention an epitaph Vonnegut said he would like:
“The only proof he needed of the existence of God was music.”

As usual, he said what I felt. So let’s resume our musical musings and hope that the future offers some reason to hope. Going, going, Gone-zales, perhaps?

Catching up with some recent Post previews, these are new in the Archives:
Austin rock hero Bob Schneider
NPR news quiz host Peter Segal
local roots masters Dead Men’s Hollow
uber indie guy Andy Zipf

And resuming the O/CD Project, here are (some of) the recent acquisitions…
My Own Cash Money:
Hands down the coolest CD cover of the year, possibly the last decade, and a Top Ten for all time. After I pulled the clear logo/title sticker off the plastic wrap, I noticed the smudgy lines on the textured gray cover. Inside the fold-out digipack is a “Spectral Decoder” which, when you hold it over the smudgy spots reveals beautiful lenticular, nearly holographic images. So freakin’ cool!
And, so far at least, the music is leaving a solid first impression. Though I’ve never doubted Conor Oberst’s talent, I’ve thought him a bit overwrought in the past, but this time he seems to have found a sense of balance to match his ambitions. I’d probably be playing this CD a lot more if it wasn’t for…
2. PETER BJORN and JOHN – Writer’s Block (Almost Gold)
…which is in permanent rotation in my car. And it’s not just “Young Folks” (a.k.a. “The Whistling Song”) and no, I don’t care one bit that it was used on “Grey’s Anatomy” ‘cause I don’t watch the show (I tried, but my daughters kicked me out when I started calling Lizzie a psychopath). No, this song got me for its own wicked, gimmicky charm and then convinced me to stay ‘cause it’s just too much fun to ignore. And, happy surprise, the rest of the album is catching fire, too. The trio echoes other acts I love, like Eno/Bowie (“Amsterdam”) and uses unexpected instrumentation (are those steel drums on “Let’s Call It Off”?) and harken back to the better acts of the synth-pop era without the bad hair. Catchy, catchy stuff that’s growing with each listen.
3. BEYONCE – B-Day (Sony Urban Music/Columbia)
To the left, to the left…my husband can’t ask for directions anymore without Grace and I using every opportunity to sing his next turn. I put the album in the queue at my YourMusic account (one CD per month via automatic delivery for $6.99, shipping included) just to have “Irreplacable.” And so far, I’ve barely touched the other songs there.
4. The ACADEMY IS… - Sante – (Fueled by Ramen/Atlantic)
Purchased for High School Girl. Produced by Bruce Walker. No impression yet, though I’ve seen – and enjoyed – the band twice in concert with HSG.
5. MODEST MOUSE – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic)
The combination of Brock and Marr is hereby declared a success. “Dashboard” is such a great song, so I’m surprised it’s not the first single, and the rest have unfolded slowly, surely and quite deliciously. It made the grade for our long car trip, satisfying me, the hubby and HSG all at once, and we listened from beginning to end, rare for us in our car-induced ADD.
6. KINGS OF LEON – Because of the Times (RCA)
I love this band so much that I’m surprised I haven’t listened more than once since getting it the week it was released. No smack to the Kings; I just haven’t had the time.
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Have You Heard the New Sound of Alternative Rock (EMI Music Special Markets)
$2.24 at Target, so I couldn’t resist.
8. CECIL B. DEMENTED – Music from the Motion Picture (RCA)
Six bucks at the Andy Warhol Museum gift shop (a great shop stop the next time you’re in Pittsburgh). I haven’t seen many John Waters movies (I’m a wimp, not a prude) but I love his writings, his general persona, and he always does right by the music in his films.
9. The GOOD, The BAD & The QUEEN – S/T (Virgin)
You could call it a “super group" with Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (The Clash), Tony Allen (Fela Kuti) and Simon Tong (The Verve) and Danger Mouse in the mix, but the results have proven to be not-so. Each time I put this CD on, I’m initially intrigued but lose interest as the songs roll on and nothing seems to develop. By the arrival of the Big Important Long Song at the End, I’ve stopped caring.

Thrift store steals ($1.50 each)
10. The CARDIGANS – First Band on the Moon (Mercury)
Worth it just for “Lovefool” and “Your New Cukoo” and I’m curious to heat the rest.
11. JACK’S MANNEQUIN – Everything in Transit (Maverick)
This is on Madonna’s label? I wouldn’t think she had enough taste to sign an act this good. Grace and I both know this music real well from a CD burned for us by the College Girl, but I like having the official release.
12. VARIOUS ARTISTS - That’s Squintertainment (Zondervan Interactive)
I bought it because it offered “The best digital clip art for your youth ministry publicity” so I figured it might have some Jesus fun, and then I discovered it had music as well, so it makes the list.

Missing from the last CD trade-in store visit:
13. WBCN Naked Too
Unreleased live performances, mostly by those I don’t care about (Creed, Scott Weiland, Eve 6, Jewel) and a few I do (David Bowie, Barenaked Ladies). Actually, most of them are drips, but I can resell on ebay.

Sent by the PR Peeps:
14. POKEMON X: 10 Years of Pokemon (KOCH)
15. The WIGGLES – Racing to the Rainbow (KOCH)
16.UMPHREY’S McGEE – The Bottom Half (SCI)
17.JOSS STONE – Introducing (Virgin)
18.FAVORITE SONS – Down Beside Your Beauty (Vice/Atlantic)
19.DANIEL LEE MARTIN – On My Way to You (ChinMusic)
20.ANTSY McCLAIN and the TRAILER PARK TROUBADOURS – Trailercana (DPR Records)
21.UTAH CAROL – Rodeo Queen (self-released)

22.RAY’S VAST BASEMENT – Starvation Under Orange Trees (Howells Transmitter)
July 3rd release for this “folk of the retro-future.”
23.SUZANNE VEGA – Beauty & Crime (Blue Note/EMI)
Out July 17th

I know I’m keeping:
24. CORINNE BAILEY RAE – S/T (Capitol)
The newly issued double CD version of the fine young singer’s debut includes a second disc of new tunes and a few covers, including a wonderful take on one of 2006’s best songs, The Editors’ “Munich.”

Good First Impressions:
25. READYMADE BREAKUP – Isn’t That What It’s For? (self-released)
26. JE SUIS FRANCE – Afrikan Majik (Antenna Farm Records)
All around the block and then some, starting with an energizing instrumental (“Sufficiently Breakfast”) and sprawling on through a highly entertaining and invigorating mess o’ styles. The PR kit called it, “Here Come the Warm Jets as played by Pavement.” I’ll buy that.
28. GRUFF RHYS – Candylion (Rough Trade)
29. The ALTERNATE ROUTES – Good and Reckless and True (Vanguard)
30.The SAPS – C’mon Already – Start a Fire (self-released)

Coming/Came to town:
32. BOB SCHNEIDER – The Galaxy Kings (Shockorama/Vanguard)
33. BOB SCHNEIDER – I Have Seen the End of the World and It Looks Like This (Shockorama/Vanguard)
34. BOB SCHNEIDER – The Californian (Vanguard)
35. BOB SCHNEIDER & MITCH WATKINS – Underneath the Onion Trees (Shockorama/Vanguard)
36. The NIELDS – All Together Singing in the Kitchen (Peter Quince Productions)
37. DAGMAR and the SEDUCTONES – Come Back to Me (TYM Records)
38. CATIE CURTIS – Long Night Moon (Compass Records)
39. The WAYBACKS – From the Pasture to the Future (Compass)
40. 41.PAM TILLIS – Rhinestoned (Stellar Cat)
Actually, I got two copies of this; one, an advance some weeks ago, and a second in conjunction with the show, at Wolf Trap.
42. DAVID VANDERVELDE – The Moonstation Mouse Band (Secretly Canadian)
43. MATT WERTZ – Everything in Between (Nettwerk)
It was sent in a generic cardboard envelope that label info but no other identifying information, so I’m always forgetting what’s inside. A simple omission that always works against the artist. Where’s my sharpie?

YTD Total: 133

Monday, April 09, 2007

Road Trippin' in the Twilight Zone

We took a Spring Break drive out to the midwest to show High School girl some colleges, Try as we might to listen to local radio on the ride, there was little to amuse us - too much country, Jesus music and overplayed oldies. So we played CDs and the ipod. David Mead's "Indiana" was a natural as we passed through the state of the same name, but it got rather freaky when we were headed through Illinois, listening to an unmarked CD (I was using the road hours to make up track lists for a pile of blank mixes) and Jack's Mannequin came on with "I Woke Up in a Car." We heard the line, "She wrote me a letter as we passed through Rockford," just as we...literally passed the sign for Rockford, Illinois. Freaky!

In (not so) recent past concert news, I saw Of Montreal at the State Theatre in early March, following a Post preview. Kevin Barnes is one snazzy dude in his fishnet stockings and coy, Peter Pan-style tunic. The music is appealing in a ADD'd pop-lover's carnival way, but nothing has stuck since numerous listenings to the CDs. Still, it was a show that kept me staring at the stage from beginning to end, if only to enjoy Kevin's lovely legs.

The following week, Husband and I went to DAR Constitution Hall to see the Shins (got the tickets at a not-unreasonable mark-up though ebay) and, while we had a perfectly lovely date, the band is at a crucial tipping point that may well expose their limits. The albums are great (the new one isn't holding up as well after these first weeks of intense play) but the hall was too big for the band. Opening act, Viva Voce, made a good first impression - a White Stripes in reverse with a hot shot girl guitarist/singer and a passive guy drummer - but the effect wore off quickly. By the time they got to "We Don't Fuck Around," the novelty was wearing thin, as were the lyrics.

And then Grace and I had the supreme good fortune to be offered tickets to see The Decemberists and My Brightest Diamond at the gorgeous Strathmore Concert Hall, courtesy of MBD's label. I knew Grace was into it when, two songs into MBD's set, she turned to me and asked, "do we have this album?" (Yes, courtesy of my emusic subscription). In fact, it was the rare case when you wished the opening act had more time to stretch out. After a half hour, we were just getting into it.
And oh, Decemberists...! You are a literate college geek's musical joy. And though I may not love "The Crane's Wife" as much as the previous two CDs, it still has wonderful moments, like the propulsive Talking Heads-ian rhythms of "The Perfect Crime." Though I had seen the band in concert before, Grace was enjoying the theatrical pantomime of "Mariner's Song" for the first time, and her joy, like the band's, was contagious. Well played, Decmeberists. Well-played. I had just my little camera, so the pic (TK) is for souvenir purposes only.

And now back to the O/CD Project, long fallow...
Paid Actual Cash:
1. ARCADE FIRE – Neon Bible (Merge)
The rarest of purchases for me – preordered online. I don’t like risking that I won't have a long-awaited CD on the day of release, but the Merge site had such a good deal - $15 for the deluxe edition, free shipping, plus some bonus stuff (the poster and label sticker weren’t such a big deal when I saw them). Better yet, the CD actually arrived on the Monday before the album hit stores. And yes, you can believe the hype. So good!
2. The HOLD STEADY – Boys and Girls in America (Vagrant)
This month’s $6.99 auto-delivery from I could swear that Springsteen’s keyboard player was on this album, and the lead singer/songwriter certainly channels vintage Boss with his storylines of young love among the American lower middle class. Hearing all the songs in one sitting can be exhausting (which Bruce never was) but there’s some fine material here.
3. MOJO Presents Love Will Tear You Apart
It’s subtitled “15 hand-picked songs of hurt, pain & despair” and yes, I was in a bad mood when I bought the magazine. Nina Simone, Sparklehorse, Jarvis Cocker, Elbow, Elliott Smith, Galaxie 500.
Also, given away at the Best Buy store:
4. The KILLERS – Read My Mind (Island)
Three remixes of the single, including one by the Pet Shop Boys.

The local thrift store charges only $1.50 for its used CDs so, if they’re not scuffed and scratched (do people treat their music so badly, or is it the rough shelf life on a thrift store that takes its toll?), you can take a chance on just about anything. Then, at the checkout, I discover that it’s half-price on everything, so here’s my 75-cent specials:
5. The PROCLAIMERS – Sunshine on Heath (Chrysalis)
6. TAKE THAT – Nobody Else (Arista)
Robbie Williams is listed in the credits for vocals, but not in the list of band members or on the cover, where there are just four brooding pretty boys. Now it appears that he may be rejoining the band for a reunion (ka-ching!) tour. “Back for Good” is a song that the girls sing out loud – and with deliberately overwrought emotion – in the car when they’re trying to drive us crazy. We pretend to be annoyed, but we actually find it endearing.

Back at the CD trade-in store:
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Shop (Patio Music)
The cover caught my eye – a crossword puzzle grid with the name of the artists worked into it. And since those names included Joe Strummer, Annie Lennox and The Rapture, it seemed like a safe bet for $2. There’s a couple of slicksters – Chris Botti and Steve Tyrell – but the overall Adult Alternative vibe makes it a good dinner-with-friends compilation.
More from the under-$2.oo discount pile:
8. ECHO & the BUNNYMEN – S/T (Sire)
I took it as a sign that I was grooving along to a “retro-future” remix of “Lips Like Sugar” as I drove to the CD trade-in store. Sometimes it’s fun to get into the WayBack machine and recall the days when Terry and I were young, together, childless and somewhat mad, living in New York City.
9. BJORK – Venus as a Boy (single)
99.9% sure I have this already, but I couldn’t take the chance to miss out on six tracks, including two unavailable on the full-length CD.
10. BJORK – Big Time Sensuality (single)
75% sure I have this (who can keep track of all Bjork’s remix singles?!) but there’s five tunes, including rarities and remixes. Cheaper than a cup of Starbucks!
11. BJORK – Hyperballad (single)
This one I’m pretty sure I don’t have, which is good since there’s only four tracks here (those longer EPs spoiled me).
12. OF MONTREAL – 7-track sampler (Polyvinyl)
Purchased in prep for the band’s appearance at The State Theatre on March 6th (yep, that’s how far behind the list is!).
13. MIXEL PIXEL – Music for Plants (Kanine Records)
Released in October of last year, but sent as part of my research for the Post preview. They cite Influences – Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground (they say VU), The Flaming Lips and (who can tell me about…?) Quinton & Mrs. Pussycat.

What once were advances are now imminent:
14. CHUCK BROWN – We’re About the Business (Raw Venture Records & Tapes)
15. RYAN SHAW – This is Ryan Shaw (Columbia)
16. SON VOLT – The Search (Transmit Sound/Legacy)
17. KLAXONS – Myths of the Near Future (DGC)
18. RODDY HART – Bookmarks (Compass Records)
19. UMPHREY’S McGEE – The Bottom Half (SCI)
20.MIDNIGHT MOVIES – Lion the Girl (New Line Records)
21. BLACTOP MOURNING – No Regret (T-Recs)
The band was discovered on myspace and signed by Counting Crow Adam Duritz for his new Tyrannosaurus Records label. He also sings on four tracks. Angsty lyrics, rockin’ rhythms, quite at home in our Panic! At The Disco/Fall Out Boy world, though with a bit more of a classic rock sound.

Recent Releases:
22. FULTON LIGHTS – S/T (Android Eats Records)
PR compares them to Massive Attack, John Cale, Grizzly Bear and the Tindersticks. I saw a variation of the band play in NYC last year and was mightily impressed. Also liked the main guy’s previous outfits – John Guilt and Maestro Echoplex. Great sample lyric (from “The Sound of the City”): “New York is the city that never…shuts up.”
23. SIA – Lady Croissant (Astralwerks)
24. The STOOGES – The Weirdness (Virgin)
25. DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER – More Behind the Picture Than the Wall (Rounder)
A duplicate, official version of a CD I got in advance form a few weeks ago,

YTD Total: 90