Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sinking Death's Battleship

I heard about Ingmar Bergman's death via the radio in the ladies room of Uncle Bill's Pancake House in Cape May, New Jersey. Later that day, having lunch on the way home at Snappy's Bar and Grille in Denton, MD, we told High School Girl and her pal a bit about Bergman's work, and they knew about the Death Playing Chess scene - from its parody in the Bill and Ted movie. Grace drew a picture of Death playing chess against Snappy the Turtle, the scary bar mascot, on her placement, titled: "Upon the Passing of Ingmar Bergman."
I think he would have liked it.

And now on to the music...

Seen with my Own Eyes (Thursday, July 26th):
1. GREAT NORTHERN – Trading Twilight for Daylight (Eenie Meenie Records)
I’d never been to the Backstage the Black Cat before, but it’s a great little space for about 100 fans or so to enjoy an intimate show. This CD has been in heavy rotation since I got it some weeks ago, and I missed an earlier opportunity to see the band play live, so I jumped at the chance – even though it was the night before the early AM departure for Cape May – and I was glad I did.
As in my previous experience with Fields, the band surprised me live, with much more volume and energy than the mellow vibe of the CD, but it was quite good. The guitarist had power, the dual female presence (keyboard/vocals and bass) was inspiring, and the addition of a few of the members of Comas at the set’s end made for a party vibe.

(BTW, since I mistakenly counted a different CD twice in the YTD total, I will only count one copy of the Great Northern CD, for which I received a duplicate).

At the club, I scored a freebie:
2. The BEANSTALK LIBRARY – selections from America at Night (self-released?)
At the freebie table, stocked mostly with postcards and flyers of upcoming shows, I found this 3-track homemade disc, with a postcard touting the band’s upcoming show at IOTA, on August 7th.
The band will be celebrating the release of its full-length debut that night.

My Own Cash Money:
3. Tribute to JONI MITCHELL – Various Artists (Nonesuch)
I’d been hoping to get this one as a promo, but took matters into my own hands when Best Buy sent me a 10% off coupon (so it was $13.50). I had to have Prince’s version of “A Case of You,” done in his very best soul-seducer falsetto. The rest of the album is also effective, tho’ a few of the choices are from the later, more obscure JM catalog, and I wish Elvis Costello had chosen to do so something more upbeat than his intense bo-ho reading of “Edith and the Kingpin.”
4. The WHITE STRIPES – Icky Thump (Third Man/Warner)
Another Best Buy discount ($12.70). Wish I could have been there when Meg and Jack rocked the Patriot Center, though I comfort myself with having seen them years ago at the 930 Club, when the buzz was just beginning. Did you see the great etched red vinyl single the pair gave away with issues of NME last month? Gatefold cover, too. JW knows how to appeal to the fetishists among us.
5. PRINCE – Planet Earth (NPG/Columbia)
Didn’t expect to buy this one, but when I saw the lenticular cover winking at me in Target, for a sale price no less ($10), I had no choice. Good first impression, but I can’t cite any songs by name because the purple prankster doesn’t give titles anywhere on the package! Actually, when I load it into iTunes, the songs claim their identity.
Nice collection of concert tracks from Killers (“Mr. Brightside”), Franz Ferdinand (“Matinee”), Doves, Keane, Zero 7 and more. As such, a chance to find out who can reach the notes outside the studio and who can’t. I love the disc design – graphics of fresh, high, ready to be stomped on grass.
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS – When I Fall in Love: Women of Jazz (Universal)
Another Target cheapie ($2.25!) pulled from the clearance end-caps, where I do much of my best bargain hunting. Bought it in upstate NY while on vacation and it made an excellent companion on the drive from Ossining to Virginia on a Sunday morning with tracks like “A Sunday Kind of Love” (Etta James) and “That Sunday That Summer” (Betty Carter) and choice swinging tracks from the likes of Ella, Billie (spelled Billy on the cover!) and other fine ladies. The only song I had to skip over – “Love Dance” by Diane Schuur, - which had inspid lyrics no proud vocalist could save.
8. SPOON – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new contender for the Next Big Band, a stalwart indie favorite about to smash into the upper tier. Gimme Fiction was a winner, and “I Turn My Camera On” is a track that never ceases to call me back, and now “Underdog” which I trust has nothing to do with the upcoming movie, is coming up as this album’s perpetual favorite. Another sign of the breakthrough – hubby has become smitten, leaving the CD on random repeat with a special fondness for “Cherry Bomb.” Oh, how I wish I had braved the rain for the free show in lower Manhattan during my early July visit to NYC. The Target edition also came with a bonus disc.
9. INTERPOL – Our Love to Admire (Capitol)
Yeah, those bonuses work – this CD came with 3 free iTunes downloads (I passed them on to my brother as part of his birthday gift) and was also a Target sale ($10). While I don’t doubt Interpol’s inherent cool, there’s a chill to the attitude and a sameness to the sound that comes when I listen to the whole CD in one sitting.
10. MEW – And the Glass Handed Kites (Columbia)
This month’s top-of-the-queue selection from yourmusic.com, the automatic monthly $7 online service. I had forgotten it was there, but it came as a pleasant surprise, despite the hideous album design. (Slightly unnerving and just badly done). The music is a bit grand, but the reach rarely exceeds the grasp.

This week’s Post preview, to appear Thursday, is a fine triple bill with three up-and-comers:
11. ROCCO DeLUCA and the BURDEN – I Trust You to Kill Me (Ironworks)
12. The MIDWAY STATE – Met a Man On Top of the Hill (Interscope)
13. The LAST GOODNIGHT – Poison Kiss (Capitol)
Out August 28th
All three will appear August 8th at the State Theatre.
14. SAW DOCTORS – The Cure (Shamtown Records)
Coming to the Birchmere on Thursday, August 9th.
15. BIFFY CLYRO – Puzzle (Roadrunner)
New buzz band from Glasgow, Scotland, the geographical location that rivals Austin, Texas for spawning cool new music. The CD comes out on September 18th but the band is opening for Editors at the 930 Club on Tuesday, September 4th.
16. MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE – You’ll Rebel to Anything (Metropolis Records)
Headlining the second stage at the upcoming Projekt Revolution tour, coming to Nissan Pavilion on Sunday, August 19th.
17. MADINA LAKE – From Them, Through Us, To You (Roadrunner)
Also on the Projekt Revolution tour.
18. SUZANNE VEGA – Beauty & Crime (Blue Note)
Playing the Birchmere Tuesday, September 18th.

New Music Advances:
August 4th (usually new albums drop on Tuesdays, but this is what the PR says):
19.COLIN LINDEN – Easin’ Back to Tennessee (True North/Red Eye)
20. STEPHEN FEARING Yellowjacket (True North/Red Eye)
Solo albums from two founding members of BLACKIE & The RODEO KINGS.

August 7th:
21. The WARRIORS – Genuine Sense of Outrage (Victory)
One of the creepiest CD covers in recent memory – a guy with a wolf’s head bursting out of his stomach, Alien-style, and some red goblin-types scurrying about. I gave it the 3-song trial and it was pretty much what a expected – music you might hear as the Death Eaters march on Hogwarts. (I finished the book at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, so I need not fear the spoilers!)
BTW, features a vocal by Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister (I never knew his last name until I just read it in the PR sheet).
22. TESTA ROSA –S/T (Latest Flame)
23. The HOTTEST STATE – soundtrack (Hickory Records/Sony)
New songs by Norah Jones compadre Jesse Harris performed by Willie Nelson, Ms. Jones, Cat Power, Bright Eyes and Feist, among others.

August 14th
24. TURBONEGRO – Retox (Cooking Vinyl)
Norwegian Rockers known for “faux-mo-erotic” lyrics and a sense of gay Spinal Tapian humor.
25. IAN MOORE – To Be Loved (Justice/Yep Roc)
Got two copies of this one, from yet another Austin-based musician. What’s in the water down there?
26. TWO LOONS FOR TEA – Nine Lucid Dreams (Sarathan)

September 25th
27. MIDTOWN DICKENS – Oh Yell! (307 Knox)
28. WAYNE WONDER – Foreva (VP Records)

29. PRENUP – Hell to Pay (Yep Roc)
This trio features Cait O’Riordan, a.k.a the former Pogue and onetime Mrs. Elvis Costello, which is a double dose of meritorious service in my book. The other two players are members of Hothouse Flowers, so you know the whole thing’s gonna kick with a Celtic vibe. Release date still TBA, but due sometime this fall.

Good First Impressions:
30. MARK RONSON – Version (Sony/BMG)
I was chatting with High School Girl and a friend on the day they sat, laptop by laptop, exchanging favorite tunes. We got into a discussion of Amy Winehouse and I mentioned how I wanted to track down the remix CD by her producer. Friend had it! I don’t use peer-to-peer services online but if fate puts me in the direct path of such a gift…call it a Burnt Offering.
31. SUPHALA – Blueprint (Suphala Productions)
This is the Indian/American tabla artist’s third recording, a pleasing blend of traditional and modern sounds, featuring a range if guests like Edie Brickell, Vernon Reid and King Brit. The song titles set the gentle tone: “Music Like a Memory,” “ Seventeen Birds Outside My Window” “I Feel Awake Even Though This is a Dream.” She wrote and produced most of the CD in her Brooklyn basement studio.
32. ANDRE PREVIN – Alone: Ballads for Solo Piano (Decca/Universal)
I put this on during a family dinner on the lake porch and it made a perfect fit – melodic and gentle without slumping into cloying MOR as the old school master plays standards like “It Might as Well Be Spring,” “Night and Day” and “Second Time Around.”

33. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (Artists’ Addiction)
Soundtrack to the critically acclaimed but audience-challenged football series, featuring an exclusive (they say) remix of the Killers’ “Read My Mind” alongside songs from Iron & Wine, Whiskeytown, OutKast, a previously unreleased Jose Gonzalez track and the ever-appealing Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On”! Here’s a trivia bit – the score for the film that inspired the TV show, and much of the music for the series, comes courtesy of Autin’s latest band-to-watch, Explosions in the Sky.

O/CD YTD Total: 637

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Feeding the Band and other Adventures

You know times have changed when NPR Morning Edition mentions the birthday of one of the Arctic Monkeys…(it happened last week).

If you can't play, cook!
1. EILEN JEWELL – Letters from Sinners & Strangers (Signature Sounds)
Jewell’s publicist, an old friend from Back in the Day, sent me this new album, which came out on July 17th, to pitch the singer/songwriter’s upcoming show at the IOTA on August 10th. Turns out that’s the week I’m off duty from the Post, but I was delighted to learn from the initerary that Jewell was playing a free show in the park at Lake George, NY, where I just happened to be this week, visiting family.
I asked my publicist pal to pass on an offer of local hospitality to Eilen (rhymes with hard-wheelin’, as he told it) and her traveling band, so the five of them (singer, three collaborative musicians and a good friend from the area) came for a burger, chops and veggie dog grill last night. The assembled musicians seemed to enjoy having a home-cooked meal on the lake view porch, and I loved supporting the arts in my own small way.
Since it had rained most of the day, the outdoor show was moved into a lakeside bar, where the neon bar signs made a perfect compliment to Jewell’s gentle western swing/folk. My pricey (but bartered) digital camera has been positively wonky lately, but I got a few shots I’m not ashamed of…

I wanted to purchase Eilen's first CD, but she wouldn't let me pay for it...
2. EILEN JEWELL - Boundary County (self-released)

But there are other places I spent My Own Cash Money:
3. FACES – Good Boys…When They’re Asleep (Warner Archives/Rhino)
Sad to say that, as I was preparing for an interview with Ian McLagan for a Post preview, the local Best Boy had nothing at all to offer in the way of Faces or Small Faces music, let alone McLagan’s indie solo output. Sure, they had some Rod Stewart collections, with the Faces listed in small type as an afterthought (how fitting to the tales told of his rising star hurting the band), but only Barnes and Noble had this single CD to bring more balance to the band’s contribution. McLagan played at Jammin’ Java July 9th and did a fine show that covered all aspects of his career from Small Faces ("Itchykoo Park") to his upcoming solo CD. Here are a few shots from the gig:

After talking to the charming guy on the phone, I had to say hello, and my friend Sally took our photo together:

While searching for Faces albums in the rock classics discount section, I found these two collections for less than $4 each.
4. The SHANGRI-LAS – Golden Legends
5. JUDY COLLINS – Golden Legends
And there were some online purchases, too:
6. PAUL McCARTNEY – Memory Almost Full (Hearmusic)
June 18 was Paul’s 65th birthday. May I be so full of spirit, grace and energy when I hit that landmark. I was surprised to see the album offered on emusic, but that seems to be in keeping with his alternative marketing strategy.
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Instant Karma (Amnesty International)
High School Girl bought the iTunes version of the album (more extra tracks) as a Father's Day gift for her dad. Some great stuff here from surprising sources (who knew Christina Aguilera could handle "Mother"?!)
8. LULLABY BAXTER – Garden Cities of To-Morrow (Boompa)
College Girl bought this for her dad as a Father's Day present.

Recent Promo Acquisitions:
9. INGRID MICHAELSON – Girls and Boys (Cabin 24 Records)
If you can’t wait for the next Regina Spektor album, this should tide you over nicely. Not quite as out-there quirky as RS, but sweet strong female stuff.
She played at Jammin’ Java on July 17th.
10. ANANDA PROJECT – Fire Flower (Nite Grooves)
A second copy of the CMJ-related sampler, sent all the way from New Zealand. Which reminds me...
"FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS" RULE! It's biz-niz, it's biz-niz time, baby!
12. The JUNIOR VARSITY – Cinematographic (Victory)
13. JUNE – Make It Blur (Victory)
14. ERIK FRIEDLANDER – Block Ice and Propane (Skipstone)
15. EMERSON HART - (Manhattan)
16. SILVERSTEIN – Arrivals & Departures (Victory)
17. The CHEMICAL BROTHERS – We Are the Night (Astralwerks)

Advance Music:
18. The LOVE MAKERS – Misery Loves Company (Fuzz)
Out July 24th.
19. CARMEN RASMUSEN – Nothin’ Like the Summer (Lofton Creek)
Out August 14th.
20. VARIOUS ARTISTS – SXSW Live 2007 (Shout! Factory DVD)
Out August 21st.
21. PETER HIMMELMAN – The Pigeons Couldn’t Sleep (Himmasongs Recordings)
Out August 21st
22. MICHAEL McDERMOTT – Noise from Words (One Little Indian)
Out August 28th.
23. The DEADLY SYNDROME – The Ortolan (Dim Mak)
Out September 11th.
24. STEPHEN KELLOGG & The SIXERS – Glassjaw Boxer (Everfine)
I spoke with Kellogg last year (here's the preview) when he had a college gig in the area, and he was totally psyched about the new album (but not in the knee-jerk “this is my best album ever” way that most musicians have).

Coming to Town:
25. WE ARE THE FURY – Venus (East/West)
Opening for Silverchair at the 930 Club on July 24th.
26. SILVERCHAIR – Young Modern (Eleven/ILG)
Like I just said - July 24th.
27. The INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS – Fork in the Road (Sugar Hill)
Playing the Birchmere on Wednesday, July 25th.
28. The ALTERNATE ROUTES – Good and Reckless and True (Vanguard)
Duplicate copy, sent to pitch the band’s July 16th show at the Birchmere, when they opened for Jonny Lang, but they’ll be back headlining Jammin’ Java on August 4th (with a date opening for Squeeze in-between).
29. The SAW DOCTORS – In Concert Live in Galway (Slamtown??DVD)
Playing the Birchmere on August 9th.
30. MIRAH and SPECTRATONE INTERNATIONAL – Share This Place (K Records)
Out July 24th (says the disc) or August 7th (press release);
Playing the Black Cat on July 21st.
31. The PIETASTERS – All Day (Indication/Red Eye)
The Post previewran today; playing at the State Theatre on July 21st and the new CD comes out August 21st.
32. ACUTE – Arms Around a Stranger (Help Records)
Indie rock with horns, soaring falsetto, strings, and some smarts. For reasons I don’t quite understand, the band’s video for “Follow You Home” is getting airplay on MTV Latin America (I don’t feel that vibe.) Produced by Dave Trumfio, who’s worked with Wilco and My Morning Jacket.
Opening for Jesse Malin at Jammin Java on July 21st.
33. DEAD ROCK WEST – Honey and Salt (Populuxe)
July 31st at the IOTA, with John Doe.
34. MIA TYSON – Parking Lots (Black Door)
Opening for at the Birchmere on August 1st.
35. The LAST GOODNIGHT – Poison Kiss (Capitol)
Opening for Rocco Deluca at State Theatre on August 8th.
The CD drops on August 28th.

And more misc...
A promo...
36. ABRA MOORE – On the Way (Sarathan Records)
Fun trivia – the Seattle-based label was founded by Jonathan Kochmer, one of the first 10 employees of Amazon,com and half of the duo Two Loons for Tea. And more – her music has been used in more than 25 movies and TV shows, including Felicity, Dawson’s Creek and Happy Texas. And finally – her last album, recorded for Clive Davis’ J Records was shelved due to creative differences. (What could Kelly Clarkson teach her?) And I forgot – she used to be in Poi Dog Pondering, a greatly underrated band.
A purchase...
37. MAROON 5 – It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (A&M)
Actually Grace paid, but since I hear it whenever she remembers to bring it into the car, I count it. I think this is an able band, but Adam Levine grates on me and I sort of resent when I find myself humming along.
A few more digital additions:
38. BEIRUT – Lon Gisland
As an eMusic member, I can take a chance on lots of stuff I might not otherwise, ‘cause the tracks cost less than 50 cents each. You gotta love a title like “My Family's Role in the World Revolution,” and as a former Queens resident and Stony Brook University student, I can relate to “The Long Island Sound.”
39. AMY WINEHOUSE – Back to Black (Republic)
Posters for this woman are sniped all over London when we were there in January and now she’s starting to buzz in America. Terry thinks she’s got a gimmick, not a true sound, but I like it. “Rehab” still hasn't overstayed its welcome, and I drive my family crazy singing the "no no no" refrain.

Thanks for hanging in. Here's your Free Music Fix:
40. KURT HAGARDORN – Ten Singles (Bladen County Records)
“You Are My Girl”
The comparisons to Ray Davies, Harry Nilsson, Ben Kweller are pretty apt. He'e got a bright pop thing happening.
Out July 24th.
41. AMERICAN CATASTROPHE – S/T (Oxblood Records)
Described as “Nick Cave fronting Sixteen Horsepower,” and came in a classy package - letterpress cardboard with a genuine wax seal with the AC initials on it. You can download “The Well.”
42. SCHOONER – Hold On Too Tight (54 40 or Fight!)
A double dose:
"There's Enough To Do"
"They Always Do!"
43. The TRIALS of DARRYL HUNT soundtrack (Young American)
A mix of cool alt rock (Andrew Bird, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Portastatic, M. Ward), hip-hop diatribes against the justice system (deserved) and music from the score by Paul Brill.
Here you hear Paul Brill’s “Powerlines."

O/CD YTD Total: 604

Saturday, July 07, 2007

07/07/07 - Live Earth Day; Welcome Planeteers!

While I bounce between the Sundance and Bravo channels, monitoring the Live Earth coverage (who let the Pussycat Dolls in?!), I will attempt a few updates.

First, here’s the most recent Washington Post preview coverage, from this past week:
Ian McLagan
Old Time Banjo Festival

And from the previous biweekly cycle:
Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra
Devon Sproule, Drew Gibson and Paul Curreri

Monday, July 02, 2007

Minneapolis Rocks, you betcha!

Just got back yesterday from a visit to Minneapolis, where hubby had business and I had fun. And, while I didn’t actually get out to see a live show, I found a cool new (to me) local band that was getting press thanks to a new release and a gig.

Went to the Mall of America, which is certainly big, but not overwhelming so (surprisingly). I was saddened to see that there was only one place to buy music – a rather cluttered Sam Goody, which is as much about electronics gear as it is about CDs. I was looking for a local music section (hah!) and barring that, I had a list of names that had appeared in a newspaper about the city’s best acts. There was a divider card for one of my searches – Cloud Cult – but no CDs.
And then the helpful sales girl took me to a bank of monitors and looked the band up. Two albums appeared, one of which I could have custom burned for me on the spot. Cool idea! She told me that the system is primarily used to make custom mixes – the company itself, based in St. Paul, is called “Mix & Burn” – but that the store could also make copies of CDs that were out of stock and weren’t marked as prohibited (as the one Cloud Cult CD was). You also had the option of having the music downloaded directly into your mp3 device.
One of the wrinkles – some releases didn’t allow a full album purchase price, and my intended purchase being one of them. It would cost almost $25 for the full CD. So I opted for a five-song sampler, grabbing the two songs listed in the paper’s favorable review and a few titles chosen strictly for their appeal, like “The Girl Underground.”
My CD was ready in about five minutes, in generic cover with titles and artist(s) listed for every track, and I picked the name. Second wrinkle – when I loaded it into my iTunes collection, none of the info came through, so I had to type it all in.
1.CLOUD CULT – (sampler from) The Meaning of 8 (Earthology)
And it’s good stuff, too! Reminds me of Flaming Lips and Terry called out a Death Cab influence, too. Wish I could have seen the show they did at 7th Avenue Friday night, but will look for the full CD – online.
Freebies from Sam Goody:
2. THIS WORLD FAIR – 3-track sampler from the S/T release (Rethink)
Stickered with the info that the band was playing the Varsity Theatre – in April.
3. The PHOTO ATLAS – 2-track sampler from (Morning After)
tagged as “the result of unprotected sex between the Faint and At the Drive-In” and “a blazing cross between Fugazi and Gang of Four.”
The power of the press – in this case, an ad for a store with a neat anime graphic T-shirt – brought me to a hipster outlet called Metroland, which was a generally higher-priced fashion outlet, but they had a nice clerance section where I scored a shirt for High School Girl, a vinyl figurine and some very cheap samplers ($1.99):
4.VARIOUS ARTISTS – Destination Lounge: New York City (Revive the Soul)
2 CDs and a DVD. First track: a remix of the Peter Malick Group featuring Norah Jones, and a full array of acts I’ve never heard of.
5. VARIOUS ARTISTS – more pLUSH (Kriztal Entertainment)
Fifteen tracks: “distinctive downtempo works alongside upbeat and straight out party rockers but all the while maintaining the sexy and sophisticated groove you’ve come to expect.”
And finally, from a previous day’s trip to Borders to get a map of the city:
6. VARIOUS ARTISTS – MUSE: The Supermassive Collection (NME magazine)
The British press is losing its mind over this band and its triumphant Wembley Arena show, so the music paper had the band compile a set of tracks it claims it will be playing before the Big Show. Lord Buckley (bookending the 13-track set), Bjork, Flaming Lips, Cold War Kids and more.

O/CD YTD Total: 561

Anyway, while wondering around the city, it's hard not to fall over the city's star musical attraction. Here's the famous First Avenue Club, where Prince filmed much of "Purple Rain":

And here's the huge Target Center across the street where Prince will play on 7/07/07:

And here's the display for Prince's perfume, in the window of the downtown Macy's store, which pumps music out into the street far into the night:

"Eucalyptus" by the Deadly Syndrome.