Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cool Free Music

In keeping with my (almost) new year's resolution to blog more often, even it it's just a quick hit, here's a nice freebie from, a sampler of free tracks from the Yep Roc label, home of some great artists like Nick Lowe, Bell X-1 and Robyn Hitchcock. It's called, This is How I Roc

You're welcome!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CPF Wishes You a (Belated) Cool Yule

Hey there, CPFs.

I've been on Santa's naughty list, not doing the blog thing in a long time. Thankfully, he cut me some slack, and I had a great holiday, full of fun and nifty gifties.

As for the blog, I'm rethinking it and making plans to start the New Year with a change in format. (Feel free to let me know what you enjoy most and/or need less of.) Details as they develop, film at 11.

This year's Cool Yule compilation was finished about 4 pm on Christmas Eve, right after I filed my last Post stories for this year (actually, the stories will appear in the January 1st regional editions, so they are both the last stories of 2008 and the first of 2009). Anyway, so here's this year's Cool Yule deal...

Rather than distribute discs, I'm going the digital delivery route (and even so, I'm late!). The songs have been posted on my MobileMe site (another Apple perk) and can be downloaded by any and all who know the URL and password. So, send a comment, give me your email eddress and I will let you know how to grab it.

And in the further spirit of giving, with immediate gratification, here's a nice song, called "Rabbit Ears", by the band Pompeii, courtesy of the band's label, Eyeball Records.

A little background: Pompeii's sophomore release, "Nothing Happens for a Reason," was released in October 2008 and produced by CJ Eiriksson (Jack's Mannequin).

One of the ingredients of the new CPF Blog will be more free music!

So, that's all for now.
Happy, Happy, Merry, Merry.

see you again before 2009.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Who Gives a ^$#@ about an Oxford Comma?

The delightful Vampire Weekend asked the musical question last night at the 930 Club at their second show in two nights. In answer to that particular question - I generally avoid such punctuation (it's also known as the serial comma, the one that follows a word in a series, right before the word "and," as in "apples, peaches, and pumpkin pie." I don't see the need for that comma)
The bigger question for those of us gathered in the sold-out club was whether the band, whose album blasted onto the scene earlier this year as one of the best and brightest new acts in long memory - and still continues to charm - could bring the sound home live. So glad to report that they did, in spades. Played the whole album, plus a few new songs that bode extremely well for the next release, and still came in at just about one hour on stage.

But none of us felt cheated. The drummer kicked everything up another notch - the usual wonky DC crowd actually kinda sorta danced a bit - and the lead singer radiated cute.
Also helping to make the night a full event of fun was opener, The Teenagers, whose lead singer drips irony in a way that would be positively annoying if it weren't so utterly amusing. The sound is herky-jerky rhythms that stood up well as a companion to Vampire Weekend (of course, the Talking Heads songs we heard in the break showed where all these rivers run back to) topped by deadpan monolog lyrics that occasionally bordered on the profane and yet didn't piss me off.
I downloaded
The TEENAGERS - Reality Check
the day of the show so I could get a taste of what was to come. Enjoying it again today (shocked to hear that "Homecoming" really said what I thought it did last night) , though it's still the lead singer's arch charisma that really brings it home.

Anyway, Ferguson is a repeat, so I'm off to bed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dug 'em/Dumped 'em

I’ve been keeping an eye out - and an ear (actually both of both) - for Sparky’s Flaw, a regional band that first caught my ear on a mix CD played in the car during a road trip with then-High School, now College Girl.
The band has a melodic, smart pop style, sometimes compared to that of Maroon 5 and The Fray, but I see the group more in the mold of The Format (which, alas, I’ve heard has broken up!) and Jack’s Mannequin.

I’ve listed this CD before, but I gave away my last copy to an editor at the Post, in hopes of getting him psyched to do a story on the band when they release their major label debut next spring. So, the nice press contact sent me a handful of copies to keep spreading the love. If you want one, send a comment - I’m not above bribery to discover who’s out there!

Also on the bill that night - headlining, in fact - was Brendan James, a sensitive, keyboard playing, singer/songwriter type more in the style of James Taylor and early Elton John (before the ghost of Liberace possessed him).

James has gotten the support of MTV for his new national tour, with the network sending a videographer out with him to catch moments on the road to be shared with fans in a series of online clips.

Much as I love James’ voice, and the guy was thoroughly charming when I chatted with him after the show, there’s a bit of ponderousness that takes hold in his set as he goes from one strongly emotive song to another. He’s obviously got a great smile and a sense of humor between songs. Would love to hear some of that in the material as well.
2. BRENDAN JAMES – The Day Is Brave (Decca/Velour)
You can read more about both acts in a preview story I wrote for the Washington Post.

And that's a good reminder to list the latest articles from that part of my working life, some of which also add to the O/CD Tally:
Warren Zevon Tribute at the Barns of Wolf Trap
3. WARREN ZEVON – S/T (Rhino)
Those ever-wonderful archivists at the world’s most fun record label have remastered, repackaged – with a bonus disc of alternate takes – and reissued Zevon’s masterful debut album.

Ingrid Michaelson at the Birchmere

This one came in the form of a digital download zip file, complete with a wealth of PDFs of articles about the charming singer/songwriter. I miss actual discs, but the ease of delivery, especially when I’m on a tight deadline, is really handy-dandy.
Jane Franklin Dance at Community Center
Hanson at the State Theatre

5. HANSON – The Walk (3CG)
I was very impressed with young (but not as young as he used to be!) Zac Hanson, who spoke to me for the Post preview. For a guy who’s been doing the media thing since he was a preteen, he seemed remarkably grounded, poised and never went into Interview Auto Pilot, always stopping to consider his answers and talking as if each new topic was worth putting his attention to.

The concert was equally impressive. These guys can truly write it and play it and perform it. And Taylor is still quite the Cougar Bait he was back in the day when it was my kids who were smitten and I gladly tagged along.

Bio Ritmo
6. BIO RITMO – Bionico (locutor Records)

The O/CD Tally Lightning Round:
Gone (to trade-in) and Possibly Forgotten

Just to clarify - being on this list doesn’t necessarily mean that an album is bad. I’ve just gotten to a point that the pile of promotional discs sent to me, however much I love getting them, is threatening to overwhelm me. I try to listen to everything at least once, and even that is, admittedly, hardly fair to the hard work and good intentions that went into making them.
But sometimes you just have to declare New Release Amnesty and move on to the stuff that’s coming in next, And yes, there have been plenty of times that I’ve gone looking for a disc that I’ve a new reason to check out and saying, “damn, I traded that it!”
7. WHITEY MORGAN and the 78s – Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels (Small Stone Records)
8. EMMANUEL JAHL – Warchild (Sonic 360)
10. STATE RADIO – Year of the Crow (Ruff/Shod)
11. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY and the BROKEOFFS – Dirt Don’t Hurt (Transdreamer)
Funny, when I put this CD in the disc drive to rip the songs “Getting’ High For Jesus” and “I Wanna Hug Ya, Kiss Ya, Squeeze Ya,” the disc appeared as “Dirty Don’t Hurt,” which puts a whole new twist on the title.
12. KATE CAMPBELL – Save the Day (Large River Music)
Sometimes even guest appearances by John Prine, Nanci Griffith and Mac McAnally, a lovely, organic-feel package design, and a soft, sweet sound aren’t enough. But I know deep in my heart that all that fine pedigree won’t pull me back to listen to it again. I’m not saying granola isn’t good for you; it’s just not my taste.
13. The CRUXSHADOWS – Immortal (Dancing Ferret Discs)
14. ROBBY HECHT – Late Last Night (self-released)
15. FERRAS – Aliens & Rainbows (Capitol)
16. STEVEN ALVARADO – Let It Go (Mott St. Records)
17. LOVE PSYCHEDELICO – This Is…(HackTone Records)
I was more impressed with the cover design – bright red embossed logo – and free clingie – than I was with the music.
18. SOL Y CANTO – Cada Dia Un Regalo (MusicAmador)
I like world music, but this one has too much of a soft jazz vibe, too sweet, not enough sour.
19. ANDREW HELLER – My Beloved: Music to Fall In Love With…(Diamondisc Recordings)
20. ANDREW HELLER – Broadway Love (Diamondisc Recordings)
When the press material proclaims the artist as “Singer, Scientist, Entrepreneur,” there’s a fear that what you’ve got here is a vanity project. And while another area of the material claims that,
“his vocal talent has been compared to the legendary singers such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, or Perry Como. Combine the legends into one voice, fast forward…and you have Andrew Heller,” you need to read the fine print to see that such effusive praise is coming from the publisher of Power Source magazine. (Anyone heard about that mag?) The tenor, formerly an employee with IBM who worked on advanced technology systems, is probably a huge hit at family weddings, and might even make the first round of some kind of Cleveland’s Got Talent cable series, but there’s nothing here to make me put away my Frankie, Dino or Perry.
21. STEVE TYRELL – Back to Bacharach (KOCH)
Okay, so I read the liner notes and learned that Tyrell worked with Bacharach early in both their careers, and had a great time watching as many of the original versions of these songs were being recorded. And I am truly sorry that his wife of 25 years died during the recording. Still, the only track I might ever want to hear again is a version of “What the World Needs Now” featuring Bacharach, James Taylor, Rod Stewart, Dionne Warwick and Martina McBride. It suffers from the same tepid MOR arrangements as the rest of the CD, but at least the interplay of the various voices gives it that happy, “we’re doing a nice thing together here” feeling.
22. The WILDERS – Someone’s Got to Pay (Free Dirt Records)
A fine example, I guess, of a type of music – midtempo country rock – in which I have very little interest.
23. The RED JUMPSUIT APPARATUS – Don’t You Fake It (Virgin)
24. SHAWN MULLINS – Honeydew (Vanguard)
25. RED HURLEY – Based on Songs and Stories: The Concert (SONY/BMG)
26. IFIHADAHIFI – Fame by Proxy (Latest Flame)
27. SUBTLE – Exiting Arm (Lex Records)
28. WAYMAN TISDALE – Rebound (Rendezvous Entertainment)
29. LEMURIA – Get Better (Asian Man Records)

And yet, as if it were pardoned by the governor on the way to execution (how’s that for overstatement?), I popped the following disc in the car stereo on the way to the trade-in store, and liked what I heard well enough to hold it back for further exploration.
30. ROOKIE of the YEAR – Presents Sweet Attention (One Eleven)
A bright sharp-edge pop sound that I want to share with New College Girl to see what she thinks.

And that brings us to…
Year To Date O/CD Tally: 197

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The (Wonderful) Week That Was

Looking back from the quiet contentment of a late Saturday night/Sunday morning...

Tuesday, we all made history, with the help of President-Elect Barack Oabama (maybe that’ll get old sometime, but it still leaves me smiling).

Wednesday, Post-College Girl left for her sixth-month stay in England (which was wonderful for her, a bit wistful for the dad and me).

Thursday, hubby and I had a real date, down to the ever-lovely Jammin' Java for dinner (they make great chili) and a concert by longtime favorite David Mead, a singer with a gorgeous voice/a songwriter well deserving of the attention of fans of literate, well-crafted material, a la Paul Simon or James Taylor.

The opening act was The Grey Race, a Brooklyn-based band led by a New Zealand ex-pat, singer/songwriter Jon Darling.

Drummer Ethan Eubanks provided some deadpan commentary throughout the set, and warned that a band compatriot would be working the crowd between sets to sell copies of the band's CD. Sure enough, I returned from the ladies room to find that he had come up to Hubby's and my table to seal the deal.
So, we add to the tally:
The GREY RACE - Give it Love (Unfiltered Records)

The band's publicist had sent me a link to an online download of the album last week, but my computer was being repaired and I didn't get a chance to download it.
The publicist also sent an mp3 for sharing, and it happens to be the song that I found most catchy in the band’s fine set. So, enjoy "On The Chin"

Eubanks and bassist Jeff Hill also work as session musicians, playing and recording with the likes of Robert Randolph, Trey Anastasio, Juliana Hatfield and The Scissor Sisters. With the addition of a keyboard player (whose first name I believe, is Andrew), the trio also served as David Mead’s backing band on this night, which made for some great renditions of his material.

Mead explained/joked that he was able to bring the band along since they worked for free, but it was clearly a mutual admiration society that created beautiful harmonies and deft arrangements of the intelligent songs.

Among the between-song intros, Mead revealed that there is a new CD (“Almost and Always”) imminent, but it hadn’t made it back from manufacturing in time for his current road trip. He also said that, though he wasn’t going to get political, he was very happy with the way the election turned out, which gave us all a chance to clap and yell and celebrate our Blue Victory again. And then he did a tender version of “Figure of Eight.”

I took a bunch of photos, but never left my comfy seat, so they’re all pretty much the same angles. To vary the fare after the fact, I played around with the settings, so here’s something with a bit of color fun...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Yes We Did

savoring the moment.
more anon.

photo by emma "data entry queen" poltrack

thanks for voting!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Time is Now?

A quick clarification on the last entry...

The way Blogger works, the date and time of a posting is set when you/I/whoever starts writing. And so, the previous entry is dated Friday even though I mentioned watching Saturday Night Live (and it was live; I don't have a time machine. If I did, a lot of things would be different!)

I thought of going back to delete the post and redo it, but then I would have a date after the correct one. So, as I hope we've all learned in the recent political past, don't believe everything you read.

I'll admit, I have let the blog go. But I have a good reason - I have bigger fish to fry. There are five days left to go before the election and when I'm not working, I'm trying to do my small part by volunteering at the local Obama office.

There will be plenty of time to blog next week, and I hope to do so with a happy heart, under a new administration of hope, change and unity. (I shudder to consider my mood if things go the other way.)


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Friday, October 17, 2008

Not Much.

Just some links.

Is it me, or is Chris Martin's voice shot? I'm watching Saturday Night Live while I prepare this post and he seems to be having trouble projecting much at all, let alone hitting the high notes. Coldplay is set to play DC on Halloween night, but these performances don't bode well for that show.

So, to bizniz - I'm gonna be lame and simply toss up some recent Washington Post links to prove that I'm still alive. And, where applicable (fun word, that), add the accompanying CDs to the Tally.
BTW, those Mushroom and Swiss commercials are such a blatant rip-off of Flight of the
Conchords; When will our delightful New Zealand folkies return?

David Davis and the Warrior River Boys at Holy Cross Church

Lucy Kaplansky, Allegheny Uprising at Church of the Resurrection
1.LUCY KAPLANSKY - Over The Hills (Red House)

Amy Rigby & Wreckless Eric at Jammin’ Java
2.AMY RIGBY & WRECKLESS ERIC - self-titled (Stiff)

Alternate Routes at IOTA Club and Cafe
3.The ALTERNATE ROUTES - The Watershed EP (Vanguard)

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit at the Birchmere

In thinking ahead to the show, I picked up
4.LAURA MARLING – S/T (Astralwerks)
and, at the show, I bought Post College Girl the beautifully designed
5., 6.JOHNNY FLYNN – A Larum (Lost Highway)
12" vinyl LP version, presented in cool deluxe gatefold style ($17).
I'm counting this title twice, as I also received a CD of the commercially released CD. Add in the advance CD and a few 7" vinyl singles that PCG ordered from overseas, and we've got a freakin' lot of Flynn! (And I still haven't figured out if anyone wlll reimburse me for the $100+ phone call to England to do the interview with him for the story.)

Hmmmm...Chris Martin must have heard me talking about him...Coldplay's third (!) song on SNL was a pretty strong version of "Yellow."

Music Builds: Jars of Clay, Switchfoot et al. at Nissan Pavilion
The Motels at The State Theatre

O/CD Tally Year-to-Date: 166

Friday, October 03, 2008

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Bird and the Bee

Greetings from Philadelphia! In “1776,” the singing John Adams decried, “foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia!” Maybe it was back in the day when the founding fathers were hammering out the Declaration of Independence, but I’m certainly enjoying my visit here, having only had one brief day trip here some years ago.

And I must now tell the citizens of this city to cherish its superb venue, World CafĂ© Live, where I spent a most lovely first night in town. Located in a beautiful building that also houses the offices and studios of WXPN radio, there are actually two venues – a smaller upstairs space that had a jazz band playing (what I heard wandering the halls was pretty good), and the bigger, two level downstairs theatre that hosted The Bird and The Bee, the act I came to see.

As befits a venue created and served by a radio station, the sound was impeccable. And it was worth hearing every note played by this band which, I confess, I had little prior knowledge of (yes, I’m ending a sentence with a preposition. Sue me.) I just bought the iTunes version of the duo’s debut CD the night before leaving Virginia (see O/CD Tally, below) and what I heard on the drive was impressive – bright electropop with an artsy/indie spirit, marked by distinctive female vocals. Frankly, I was worried that the act would have trouble replicating the sophisticated sound live.

And yet, with just the two players on stage, the sound was rich, supplemented by careful use of tapes. But the real highlight was watching vocalist and (frequently) bassist Inara George, daughter of the late Little Feat leader, Lowell George. Dressed in a simple white dress that flared dramatically, George was, in a word, adorable. Her voice was clear and unaffected, her banter charming and her charisma undeniable. She reminded me of the great Jane Siberry in her earlier, poppier years, with a touch of Bjork (without the sometimes off-putting insistence on always being avant-garde).

I missed the opening set by Willoughby, but the trio came out to help on a few mid-set songs. I chatted with the band afterward and wound up buying a limited edition copy of the self-titled CD, party out of curiosity and party because I didn’t feel I could walk away from the merch booth without contributing.)

The Bird and The Bee is (are?) releasing a new CD early next year, and played a few of the new songs in this show, including a poptastic Japanese-tinged number that I think could be a huge hit in a Gwen Stefani mode. There were also two covers that took cheesy oldies and breathed fresh air into them – a playful take on Hall and Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and a wistful, affecting “How Deep Is Your Love” (used in the “Sex and the City” movie) which reminds me that the BeeGees deserve their props.

The Bird and The Bee, plus Willoughby, will be playing at Jammin’ Java in Vienna (VA) on Friday night. Highly, highly recommended, If I were going to be home, I’d be sorely tempted to go right back again for more.

So, let’s add:
1. The BIRD and The BEE – S/T (Blue Note)
2. WILLOUGHBY – I Know What You're Up To (self-released)

Year to Date O/CD Tally: 160

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Own Cash Money (Cheapo Edition)

I’ve purchased a lot of music in the last few days, most of it at bargain basement prices!

On Wednesday, I took a bag of trade-ins to the wonderful CD Cellar in Falls Church and, even with $35 credit, wound up spending almost an equal amount of my own cash money (it was the deluxe anniversary of “Nightmare Before Christmas” for Post-College Girl that tipped the scales).
I came home with:
1. BEN FOLDS – Sunny 16 (Epic)
I was actually on the prowl for the new CD, after Hubby told me that he’d heard a great advance track featuring Regina Spektor, but that isn’t due, I now realize, until the end of the month. This 6-track EP opens strong with “There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You,” and has one seemingly obligatory song riddled with curse words. ($6)
2. LONG TIME GONE: 15 All-New American Music Classics (UNCUT)
I have finally broken the habit of buying each and every monthly British magazine that comes with a free CD sampler, but I can’t resist getting the music for a mere two bucks, as they’re great in the car. This one offers Fleet Foxes, Joan as Police Woman, Silver Jews, and the usual newcomers that might lead to happy discoveries. ($2)
3. ASTRALWERKS: Sampler 2001 Vol. 1 (Astralwerks)
A brief hop back in the time machine to hear what the fine dancey/alternative label was betting on seven years ago. I know Air, Beta Band, Doves and Basement Jaxx made a good impression, but can’t say why the likes of Neu!, Scanty Sandwich, Uberzone and a few others never made the grade. Monday Morning A&R Quarterbacking, here I come. ($2)
4. TODD RUNDGREN – Re-Mixes (Brilliant)
I’m a little nervous about The Runt redoing his classic tunes, but it’ll kill some time on the ride to work. ($2)
5. The KLF –The White Room/Justified & Ancient (Arista)
A 2-disc set in a generic (advance?) case, one of which is the full album, the other a 5-track EP of “Justified…” More backwards time-tripping. ($2)
A 2-disc set, one of original material and one of remixes, with plenty of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings on hand. ($2)
7. YES – In a Word (Elektra/Rhino)
A 5-disc box set from the always-skillful archivists at Rhino. An excuse to relive college memories (my boyfriend of the time was a huge fan, with a “Tale of Topographic Oceans” mural painted in the hallway of his dorm room) and maybe to clear out some of the old vinyl. I may never get past disc three, since I lost patience around the time of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” – and that’s here on disc four! Still, I can’t resist “I’ve Seen All Good People.” ($10)
8. SIGUR ROS – Heima (XL Recordings)
A 2-disc DVD set that I’ve read brilliant things about.

And Thursday, I was at the local Thrift Store, for these finds:
9. EDDIE FROM OHIO – Actually Not (Virginia Soul)
1993 release, marked as a promotional copy; one of about a half dozen copies from the popular local outfit. Who is clearing out their closet?
10. NIRVANA – In Utero (DGC)
If I ever get a good price on my clear vinyl LP copy (not that I’m sure I’ll ever want to part with it), I’ll have the CD ready.
Generic slim-line case, with no liner notes, but it is the actual CD. Good for making oldies compilations for the older family members.
12. JACK JOHNSON – Brushfire Fairytales (Enjoy/Universal)
One of those CDs that I might already own but, at these prices, I won’t risk missing out. It’s in excellent condition, so I can always sell it off again later.
13. DAVID BOWIE – Earthling (Virgin)
A cheap chance to catch up with a well-respected artist whose always interesting, even if it turns out to be one of his lesser works. Includes “I’m Afraid of Americans,” more true now that when he first recorded it in 1997.
14. FRANK SINATRA – Christmas Cabaret (KRB/Passport)
Geez, I guess it’s getting on that time of year when the holiday records are promoted (Enya just announced one, and Reliet K has a reissue on the schedule), so I’ll begin long-range planning for the 2008 “Cool Yule” mix. This one is a mixed bag of tracks from the Chairman and friends – Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, and Enzo Stuarti and Lou Monte (who are those last two guys?!).
15. TORI AMOS – To Venus and Back (Atlantic)
I was hoping that the regular cashier at the back of the store wouldn’t notice that this is a 2-disc set, and I might get away with it for $1.50, but she’s a sharp one, and charged the whole (!) $3. I might have hesitated had I known, not being a major Amos fan, but hey, it’s still less than the tall chai latte I bought on the way home.

Year to Date O/CD Tally: 158

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

After a Long (Shameful?) Absence...

I'm going to take charge and get this mofo back in gear!
Or maybe I'll just try to be better at signing in more often.

Anyhoo, let's recap a few recent Washington Post previews:
Music Builds Tour featuring Switchfoot, Jars of Clay and Third Day
Johnny Flynn, Post College Girl's British discovery, whom we'll be seeing later this week at the Birchmere
Planet Arlington World Music Festival with Solas, Ricardo Lemvo and others

The Motels, featuring Martha Davis

Melody Gardot
The Wiggles And yes, I interviewed the Blue Wiggle!

Some of these shows involved CDs, so I'll add them to the O/CD Tally:
1.JARS OF CLAY - Closer EP (Gray Matters)
2.SOLAS - For Love and Laughter (Compass Records)
3.MELODY GARDOT - Worrisome Heart (Verve)
4.THIRD DAY - Revelation (Sony)

And, while I'm at it, I'll toss a bunch of other albums in that haven't made a strong impression, but might as well be mentioned so I can move on. I declare New Release Amnesty!
5.The FUTUREHEADS – This Is Not the World (Nul Records)
6.LUKE DOUCET and the WHITE FALCON – Blood’s Too Rich (Six Shooter Records)
7.The SLACKERS – Self Medication (Indication Records)
8.CAROLINE HERRING – Lantana (Signature Sounds)
9.TIM LEE 3 – Good2b3 (The Paisley Pop Label)
10. SUBTLE – ExitingARM (Lex Records)
11.PORCUPINE TREE – Lightbulb Sun (Kscope)
12.RACHEL SAGE – Chandelier (Mpress Records)
13.FRIGHTENED RABBIT – The Midnight Organ Fight (FatCat)
14.The INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS – S/T (Sugar Hill Records)
15.BEAT UNION – Disconnected (Science)
16.MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK – Even If It Calls Me (Epitaph)
17.The M’S – Real Close Ones (Polyvinyl Record Co.)
18.The SUBMARINES – Honeysuckle (Nettwerk)

which brings us to
YTD O/CD Tally: 143

As Post-Collge Girl said to me, "You'd better get to it, if you're gonna reach 1,000"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Tale of Two Adams

We're back from vacation! It was a most excellent time, full of all the things I love - boat and beach action, good food, bargain shopping, "Dark Knight" at the drive-in, mountain storms and music.

Thanks to a former work associate and (still) good pal of Terry's, we scored primo seats to the Counting Crows/Maroon 5 show at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a great "shed" venue in upstate New York. I didn't have a photo pass, but the seats were close enough that, using Post-College Girl's new tiny digital camera, I still got a few shots.
Sara Bareilles opened the show with a short, sweet set after a gracious introduction by the Crows' Adam Duritz. Her catchy hit, "Love Song," got the biggest reaction, of course, but her other material made for a nice, low-key start to the night, and she included a throaty cover of the Beatles, "Oh, Darlin'" as well.
I'd heard that this CC/M5 show was a co-headline deal, so we weren't sure who would be up next. Turned out to be Maroon 5, whom I have seen before and knew would wear thin quickly. As catchy as the band's songs are, I have little patience for Adam Levine's posturings. The show was a study in rock star poses, laser lights and loud guitar solos, which the crowd lapped up, but I went wandering toward the end of the set, tired as I was of Levine's "Ain't I Great?" 'tude.

In contrast, Counting Crows let the music create the magic, with Duritz in compelling, compelled rare form. He started the show with a stunning version of "Round Here," a song I hear they rarely play anymore, and his impassioned vocals bordered on a breakdown - and I mean that in a good way. This guy doesn't hold back and, unlike the Adam onstage just before, the honesty of his delivery is almost painful and fully cathartic.

After about a half dozen songs, when the band tore into "Rain King," the hardcore fans in the show (like my older daughter) hit upon the realization that the band was performing its brilliant debut album, "August and Everything After" in order and in its entirety. Duritz made mention of Isaac Haye's recent death and said that he wanted to do a special show as a big fan of the soul legend. And such it was.

Though Duritz is, clearly, the driving force behind the songs, and a riveting frontman in his Sideshow Bob dreadlocks, you never lose sight (sound) of the fact that the band is there to cushion, support and sometimes hang on for dear life as they follow him on his emotional wanderings. It makes for a riveting show.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

No Vacation from the Blog

Ah, life at the lake house....!
The two-week escape to update New York is underway and, having put in some real working class efforts for Apple over the last eight weeks, I am reveling in the ability to sleep late and start each day with a simple, "what do I feel like doing today?" The temptation to loll on the couch and sip cocktails while watching the Olympics is strong, but I do want to get caught up with the blog, and establish a more steady habit thereupon. And so, to begin, here are the most recent Washington Post previews:
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Black Crowes at Wolf Trap
What a hoot this gal is! A down-to-earth, straight-talking, fun-loving young woman who also happens to write fine songs and play them like a house a'fire. I had plans to see the show - and finally catch the infamous Crowes in person - but it was a crazy busy time shortly before leaving for vay-cay, so I stayed home instead and watched a DVD, of which I will tell you more anon.
The Section Quartet at IOTA Club
Darling Husband and I got out of the house to see this show two days before leaving town, and were most glad we did. TSQ play genuine rock and roll songs in a genuine classical string quartet style, which results in a greater appreciation of both. This night was billed as a night of Radiohead songs, but that was a bit of bait-and-switch.
The first half of the show lived up to the title, including great versions of "Paranoid Android" and "Karma Police," but then the group veered off into songs mostly pulled from TSQ's recent CD, "Fuzzbox." I love the quartet's version of the Strokes' "Juicebox," and they are so totally proficient at their instruments that nearly everything they play sounds terrific, but I wanted more Radiohead (they'd done a previous tour of the entire "OK Computer" album, so I knew they had more songs in the catalog). Minor quibble, though, for a night of invigorating, unusual music.
And these were the two stories that appeared in the previous Post cycle:
Slapsticon film festival at Rosslyn Spectrum
Hoots & Hellmouth, Robinella at Jammin Java

As for the long-neglected O/CD Tally, I brought a bag of recent acquisitions with me, and will be dealing with them as the week progresses. For now, I have one recommendation:
1. SUPERGRASS – Diamond Hoo Ha (Astralwerks)
The spunky Brits join a new label but retain the same engaginly scruffy sound. Easy to take these guys for granted but you put on the album and start to smile. “Rough Knuckles” has a gotta-dance keyboard hook that would do Jerry Harrison proud.

And then, alas, there are those that left me disappointed:
2. WE ARE SCIENTISTS – Brain Thrust Mastery (Astralwerks)
Now positioned as a duo (didn't there used to be three?), WAS made a nice splash with their debut CD, but this new one flowed past me on a recent drive without one making a solid impression and a few driving me to push the FF button. Now I hear they're opening for Kings of Leon in the fall, and the track "After Hours" is getting radio airplay, so I may revisit. But first impression was dull.
3.LACH – The Calm Before (Fortified)
This CD is stickered with a PR note that says “RIYD [recommended if you dig] Paul Westerberg, Beck and Paul Weller.” Fine artists, all of them, but I don’t hear a lick of that high-quality creation in the music here.
4. The CAT EMPIRE – So Many Nights (Velour)
I loved the first Cat Empire so much, it made it to my Top Ten list for the year, which makes it hurt to say that this one is a true sophomore slumper. The lyrics are often cringe-worthy and the rhythms, so playful and seemingly spontaneous in the debut, feel forced. Guys,what happened?!
Simply not my bag, baby. Produced and mixed by a guy named Mudrock.

YTD Total:125

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering When with R.E.M.

Okay, so I've been really bad about keeping up with the blog. I could tell you about how I've been crazy busy working for Apple, but then Steve Jobs would have to kill me. So, let's just take a deep breath and dive in.
First order of delayed business is catching up with a set of shamefully old concert shots. You saw Modest Mouse pics a while back, and now here's R.E.M., who headlined that same show back in June.

I'll admit, despite being a fan of R.E.M.'s from the band's earliest days when I met and interviewed them for a story as "Murmur" was launched, I've had issues with the past few releases and was fairly bored by the concert I saw during the "Around the Sun" tour. Hubby has remained more (blindly?) loyal, but I needed to be re-convinced that the band still had its power, and its sense of humor. (Michael Stipe, dear boy as he is, had been coming across a bit stridently of late.)
Anyway, from the first moments in the photo pit, where I spotted the dinosaur display along the top of Peter Buck's amplifiers, I felt that things were looking up...

The band was in fine form and good humor, Master Stipe exuding just the right mix of Shiny Happy People-ness and rage against the political machine. When he's on - and without that distracting blue facepaint - he's still one of rock's most charismatic showmen.

The group tore threw a well-paced set list (I got a copy from the road manager!) of new tracks from the "Accelerate" CD, which has revived their reputation for hard-driving alt. rock, along with classics from the past.

Grace, who had come along mostly to see Modest Mouse, grew a little restless toward the end. Given my previously stated apprehensions about the last R.E.M. show I'd seen, I made the mistake of saying I might be willing to leave early. But I was swept up in the band's momentum, grateful to feel a rekindling of my admiration/affection for the guys, and we stayed until the end.

R.E.M.. welcome back. All is forgiven.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fleet of Fox, if Not of Feet

Last night, I heard the live online broadcast on NPR of The Fleet Foxes, playing some 25 miles away at the Black Cat in DC. So that reminds me...

1.FLEET FOXES - self-titled (Sub Pop)
I bought this CD last week, at a genuine old skool record store, Plan 9, in Richmond while Soon-To-Be-College Girl and I were in the city for a VCU orientation. I went into the store as if into a church, a quick visit to pay respects to the vanishing house of music worship, and to ask if they had the Johnny Flynn vinyl single that I’d heard was being serviced to independent stores as a teaser for his full-length debut.
The nice older guy (owner) and younger cashier chatted with me about what they had listed in the upcoming release charts, but the vinyl itself was nowhere to be seen, and then I caught sight of the Fleet Foxes CD, lined up in a row just above a set of My Morning Jacket CDs. That seemed fully appropriate as I find the Foxes tapping a similar vein of fiercely beautiful, near-choral indie rock, though the Foxes have a slightly more pastoral take that made me initially think they were British. As I paid for the album, the older gent remarked, "Album of the year!" and said he was driving to DC for the show.

The band members trace their music to that which their parents played: The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, The Zombies, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills and Nash. The Foxes’ harmonies harken particularly to the latter, and frontman Robin Pecknold was quoted on the NPR web site as explaining, "To me, the most enjoyable thing in the world is to sing harmony with people.” It shows.

Oh, and since we were talking about them, I’ll add to the tally my emusic purchase of:
Have seen and enjoyed the band in the past, but this album is really sticking with me in a big way. On track as one of the best of the year.

Here's a shot from the band's appearance at the 930 Club in 2005. It's not so much a concert shot as a cool image I use as a desktop.

O/CD Year to Date Tally: 120

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

We celebrate as we always do - with a screening of "1776," in which we lustily sing all the songs (Terry abstains, courteously), preceded by a short subject - the "Freedom" number from "Holiday Inn," in which Fred Astaire dances while tossing firecrackers.

As "dreamy" (Post-College Girl's word) Thomas Jefferson moves ever closer toward completing the Declaration of Independence, I share some of the remaining concert photos of recent vintage.
Here is Modest Mouse, who opened for R.E.M. at Merriweather Post last month...

As I stood in the photo pit, waiting for the show to begin, a guitar tech strummed Johnny Marr's guitar and it rang with that distinctive wah-wah sound that marked so many Smiths songs. I got chills. A fine performance, though as glad as I was to hear "Dashboard," I think I prefer the studio version.

Isaac Brock is an interesting character, an obvious musical talent with a slightly deranged air.
And Johnny Marr...? A wizard. A true star.

And while the Continental Congress continues to "piddle" (John Adams' word), I found and bought and downloaded a nifty collection from It's called
A compilation of independent artists that's being sold only from July 4 to July 6. Tracks from artists like Ani Difranco, Frank Black, Atmosphere, Dr. Dog and some less savory (Slipknot). 25 songs for $2.99. Good deal.

Year to Date O/CD Tally: 118

Sunday, June 29, 2008

One Off: Rick Wakeman's "Grumpy Old Picture Show" DVD

As I was catching up with some computer issues the past two nights, I popped in a recently acquired DVD. It was a random selection and I held no great hopes for it, but it turned out to be a pleasant diversion.
RICK WAKEMAN – Grumpy Old Picture Show DVD (MVD Visual)
My first serious college boyfriend had a huge mural painted on the hallway outside his dorm room – the inner gatefold painting from the “Tales of Topographic Ocean” LP. It was quite well done actually, and Yes music was constantly booming from his stereo (along with Fireside Theatre albums). So Yes has retained a soft spot in my heart, even though the former boyfriend doesn’t. As prog rock went, Yes did some of the best.

According to Wikipedia, and as initially announced on the official Yes website, Wakeman will not be joining Yes on their 40th Anniversary tour, but will instead be replaced by his son Oliver. The elder Wakeman has been touring with a solo show - an evening of biographical stories and music, captured here one night in Dunstable, England.

Wearing a coat that hits the ground when he sits down to the keyboard and a hefty paunch that falls over his belt as he walks around the stage, he tells bawdy jokes amid stories about growing up, getting sober and playing music, including some tales of his days with Yes and beyond. (Sample quote from a tale about porta-loos, and how he thought he had found a private alternative: “I had lovely wee and then I got a round of applause.”)

There are some hokey “very rare footage” sketches hosted by a BBC-style presenter and dropped in between the chats, like Wakeman portraying a bratty schoolchild in sex ed class (appropriately accompanied by rim shots). Musically, there’s a nice take on “Eleanor Rigby,” plus a few duets with his clear-voiced daughter and a few rather snoozy new agey instrumentals and prog rockers played with guest musicians who are dropped in via a video screen. The climactic version of “Starship Trooper” is a particularly nice choice gone particularfly bad (the singer sucks). Wakemen still excels in advanced synthesizer noodling, some of which sounds better now than it did Back in the Day of Wretched Excess.

Production wise, the DVD is no marvel of technology; just a straight-forward capture of a one-man show from a guy with a scruffy, genial and self-deprecating style – which, frankly, I never would have attributed to the Rick Wakeman of Yore. Much like Ray Davies’ 1996 one-man story-telling show, "20th Century Man," it’s a nice model for classic rockers looking for a new way to reconnect with old fans.

And so, because I count music DVDs, that ratchets up the
Year-to-Date O/CD Tally: 117

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We Got Out (Pt. 2) - WWJJD?

Still catching up with recent concerts of note…

When I was working on a Post preview of the Celebrate Fairfax! event – a weekend county fair sans livestock – I was offered the opportunity to chat briefly with one of the featured performers, the wonderful Joan Jett. I try not to be jaded, but I don’t often get positively nervous/excited when I’m prepping to talk to musicians these days. But this was Joan Freakin’ Jett!

Glad to report that the woman is a pleasant, giving personality who chatted freely about a variety of subjects, including the reprehensible fact that she’s not yet been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She seems to harbor no grudge, finds it just another example of the way women are often overlooked in the world, and explained that her appearance at this past year’s R&RHoF ceremonies was not a sign of a bridge being built between her and the Powers That Be, but simply her honoring the request of a friend, the late Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five, who passed away shortly before the event.

At the end of the brief conversation (she had squeezed me into a busy day filming an episode of “Law and Order”), Jett asked me if I intended to come to the show and invited me to meet her backstage.

Lots of musicians extend such invitations in the enforced friendliness of an interview, but I had an email confirmation of the meeting from her super-efficient PR people within minutes of hanging up the phone.

And I was nervous/excited again, driving to the Fairfax Government Center to make the date a week later. First I met Kenny Laguna, Jett’s longtime manager, musical collaborator and protector of sorts, the guy who handles all the petty details so that she’s free to rock. Another writer (who appeared to know Jett and Laguna personally) and I were the only two people allowed in her trailer before a crush of Meet-and-Greeters, and the other guy did most of the talking. But I was able to shake the iconic female rocker’s hand, get a few autographs on some photos I’d taken at her Warped Tour appearance a few years back and got permission to shoot the concert.

Not only permission, but a full access pass that put me on the side of the stage or in the pit for the whole damn show.

Jett’s a tireless performer, with energy to burn, anthemic tunes that are perfect for a summer outdoor show, and a smile that’s made all the more special for its rare, spontaneous wattage.

When the main set ended, Jett came to the side of the stage and nearly collapsed. She seemed to deflate into a rag doll heap, leaning against the stairs as if she were too exhausted to play. And yet, after being enclosed in a circle of affection and support by Laguna and her fellow Blackhearts, she roused herself for a full-on encore. A rock legend. A class act.

Side note: that night marked the debut of Jett’s new signature Gibson guitar, designed to her own specifications by the instrument giant. Laguna called me a few days later to say that the company was excited to hear that a photographer was on hand, and askd that I send pics of Jett playing her new axe. Haven’t heard back from anyone on the Jett or Gibson side (I assume I would if they were using any of the photos) but if you see a Gibson ad that looks like any of the photos here, let me know!

While we’re at it, let’s add to the O/CD Tally with the album that Laguna was nice enough to give me at the show.
1. JOAN JETT and the BLACKHEARTS – Sinner (Blackheart Records)

and I’ll tag on a bunch of albums that came to me in conjunction with other past Post previews, along with the links to the original articles, for archive sake.

2. JON DEE GRAHAM – Swept Away (Freedom)
The CD soundtrack for the documentary film about one of Austin’s local heroes.
3. JON DEE GRAHAM – Swept Away DVD
show with the Squirrel Nut Zippers

4. TAB BENOIT and LOUISIANA’S LEROUX – Last Train to Nashville (Telarc)
show at the State Theatre

5. PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND – Made in New Orleans (Preservation Hall)
OMG! The nice folks at Shore Fire sent me the deluxe edition of this CD/DVD set, the one that comes in the Every-One-Truly-Unique packaging, with a Polaroid photo taken by PHJB director Ben Jaffe and collectors’ items like original press releases, photos, even receipts from band expenses, like the bill from a BBQ dinner! Way cool.
show at the Wolf Trap Barns

6. MACEO PARKER – Roots & Grooves (Heads Up Recording)
show at the State Theatre

7. and 8. MATT KEATING – Quixotic (Kealon Records)
show at St. Elmo’s Coffee Shop
I got two copies of this one – a generic cardboard advance before I interviewed Keating, and the commercial release, with a truly stunning photo on the cover – a windfarm under a gorgeous blue shy (unretouched, he swore to me).

10. EAST VILLAGE OPERA COMPANY – La Donna e Mobile (Brick Wall Mgmt.)
Music video single
11. EAST VILLAGE OPERA COMPANY – Habanera Redux (Carmen) at Irving Plaza (Brick Wall Mgmt.)
show at Reston Center Stage

13. RICARDO LEMVO – Shall We Salsa (Trilogy Records)
An emusic download that I made for myself.
show at the Rosslyn Spectrum

14. SAW DOCTORS – That Takes the Biscuit (Shamtown)
show at the Birchmere
And here’s a pic from that wild Irish romp of a night.

Year-to-Date O/CD Tally: 116

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

We Got Out - and We're Still Catching Up

I have been a very bad girl (that phrase will get me some new Internet hits). I have been to three shows in the past two weeks and haven’t posted pics or reviews. I still have a bit of a time and procrastination problem, so tonight I’ll just mention one – those nice boys from Ireland, Bell X-1.
When we last saw the guys, it was at a pub in DC where the stalwart Sally and I were invited to have a few drinks with the band at an intimate press party (recapped in the blog entry for January 23).

Hugely popular in the homeland, Bell X-1 released its American debut, Flock, in February and started making the radio/TV rounds, including a spot on “Letterman.” After having hung out with them, and seeing what polite, soft-spoken guys they were, it was a hoot to see them on my TV full of rock swagger and sharp music.

Of course, Sally and I had to make it to their concert at the 930 club at the start of this month. I’d heard that the band’s NYC dates were SRO, but this was an instance in which DC’s most modern venue pushed its mobile stage forward to make the club look smaller, and even then it wasn’t very crowded.

At first, the band seemed a bit bummed by the quantity of the crowd, but its quality warmed them up. This was an audience that roared its approval, called out titles and sang along with songs that one could never have expected them to know. The band got looser and smiled more, dropped cool Talking Heads references into two songs, and lead singer Paul Noonan offered an acoustic Depeche Mode cover during the encore. Well done, boys.

Trivia note: frontman and primary songwriter Noonan was originally the band’s drummer but original vocalist Damien Rice left to pursue a solo career, so Noonan came forward to take the spotlight. Suffice to say he’s a natural.

And that leads to a new title to add to the O/CD Tally:
BELL X-1 - Flock (Yep Roc)
This was an official copy of the commercial release.
I got a generic advance late last year, in advance of the pub meeting.
Year-to-Date: 102

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We Get Out: Kate Walsh

I don’t always get to attend the shows I write about, nor do I always want to, but when I wrote a Post preview about the 3-act all female Amoeba Music tour, sponsored by the hip west coast retailer, I was anxious to make it happen.
It wasn’t Brandi Shearer’s bluesy rock, nor Quincy Coleman’s jazzy, quirky arrangements that called to me, but the sheer simple beauty of Kate Walsh’s new CD.
1. KATE WALSH – Tim’s House (Verve)
The CD is a quiet joy, as was the show. Though the crowd was sparse (30 people would be a most generous guess), it was a fiercely devoted one, many choosing to sit on the floor and all in rapt attention. Which meant a lot, as Walsh’s sweet, often sad material is the fragile sort that wouldn’t hold up well to lots of crowd murmuring and glass clanking. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop as she sang of love found, and generally lost. And though she chatted amiably between numbers, the melancholy vibe led one of our friends, after the set, to say that he wanted to give her a hug and tell her everything would be OK.

I chatted briefly with Walsh shortly thereafter, told her honestly that “Your Song” kills me (it’s the heartbreakingly poignant lead track on the CD) and said we all hoped she was happy. She laughed and said she’s been in a great mood recently – and hasn’t written much as a result! I hope she stays happy and finds inspiration to match it.

2. QUINCY COLEMAN – Come Closer (self-released)
The bad news was, we missed Coleman’s opening set (I thought she was going on second in the bill). The good news was, when hubby and I got to the club, we ran into friends of ours and spent time sitting on the back deck, chatting, drinking and catching up.

My other Post preview last week was for Louisiana swamp stomper
Tab Benoit

While I’m on the subject of live shows, I’ll O/CD tally up a few CDs based on who’s coming to town…
3. HOLLY COLE – S/T (KOCH Records)
The album was released in January and Cole was set to tour at that time, but the date here in Virginia was cancelled. She’s now set to perform at the Birchmere on June 1st. I can’t say that the CD appeals to me – it’s so smooth and pretty as to feel sterile.
4. The GIBSON BROTHERS - Iron & Diamonds (Sugar Hill)
At IOTA on June 1
5. JULIE OCEAN – Long Gone and Nearly There (Transit of Venus)
Bright and shiny power pop that puts me in mind of Fountains of Wayne and Weezer.
At the IOTA Club on June 6th.
6. REM – Accelerate CD/DVD set (Warner Bros.)
Here’s one I spent my own cash money on. I didn’t intend to get the deluxe package, since Hubby said he didn’t care about the DVD extra, but when I went to Target to pick it up, encouraged by the tunes I’d heard on radio and the Colbert Report (hysterical interview), there were no regular versions left. And the packaging – including a thick, cheap paperback insert marked “This book will fall apart” looks pretty nifty - so I didn’t mind shelling out the $17.
Yes, it appears on first few listens that the band has redeemed itself and thank god it’s true, since Hubby now has the CD in heavy kitchen rotation (I made him a “sloppy copy”). We watched the DVD, too, which divides into fine live footage, fairly illuminating interview bits and some of that insufferable B&W shaky camera crap that passes for Art Film.
We have tickets to see the band at Merriweather Post on June 11th, with a faboo triple bill including the National and Modest Mouse.
And that reminds me, in anticipation of the new R.E.M. hubby purchased:
7. R.E.M. – And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years (I.R.S./EMI)
8. GEORGE MICHAEL – Twenty-Five (SONY)
29 songs over two CDs, including duets with Paul McCartney (when did that one slip by?) and Mary J. Blige, plus solo and Wham! Hits.
I’m going to edit this down to a killer, single disc compilation.
Playing July 29th at Verizon Center

And a few from shows I missed:
9. The MYRIAD – With Arrows, With Poise (KOCH Entertainment)
10. The B-52s – Funplex (Astralwerks)
Is it just happy coincidence that the B-52s have returned (with their first studio album in 16 years!) within weeks of the new R.E.M. CD? The bands function as a yin/yang team of the original indie rock scene, both Athens, GA-based bands who made it big by playing against the type of “southern rawk,” both quirky and danceable but the B’s choosing a goofy, party vibe while R.E.M. hinted at Big Thoughts. I’ve always had a warm spot for both bands, though I doubt Michael Stipe would ever deign to attend a dance club party dressed in a gorilla suit, as Fred Schneider once did, god bless him. The band sounds as good as ever, with the knowing wink of elder statesmen toward those who’ve followed in their grooves (such as The Rapture, Scissor Sisters and Daft Punk, whose very name is a description of the B’s sound). Producer Steve Osborne has worked with Happy Mondays, Doves, Kt Tunstall and New Order, all of whom, in some way, can also pay psychic royalties to the B-52s. So nice to have old friends back.

And now, in an effort to begin catching up to the scads of scattered CDs still to be tallied, I resort to the Goldilocks method, meaning I will simply say…
This music is too soft:
11. THOMAS & FRIENDS – Thomas’ Train Yard Friends (KOCH)
12. THOMAS & FRIENDS – Thomas’ Songs & Roundhouse Rhythms (KOCH)
13. The WIGGLES – Pop Go the Wiggles (KOCH)
No, not pop tunes, but nursery rhymes.
14. DEBORAH HIGHTOWER – Her Name is Deborah (Highest High Records)

This music is too rough:
15. ARCHITECTS – Vice (Anodyne Records)
16. GREELEY ESTATES – Go West Young Man, Let the Evil Go East (Science)
Post hardcore is not my thing, but I’ll give the band credit for a few choice song titles like“If We’re Going Out, Let’s Go Out in Style” and, my choice for title of the month, “Desperate Times Call for Desperate Housewives.”
17. COIN OPERA – What Went Wrong with the Right? (Umbrella Etiquette)
Comes out June 15th.
18. WHITE LION – Return of the Pride (Airline Records LLC)
A 12-track collection, two of them live. And yet, just when I was about to dismiss the entire package as second rate Big Hair/Sorta-Hard Rock, I get snagged on the hook of “Finally See the Light,” and have to admit that this arena guitar god posing can still offer some fun - and great riffs to sing in mock-parody with Matt Nathanson,

And this music is just right:
13. BON IVER – For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar)
Bon Iver, A.K.A. Justin Vernon, has created a lovely, intimate album that creeps up softly, whispers in your ear and makes you smile and sigh.
14. LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO – Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu (Heads Up International)
Tha harmonies are as good as they ever were back in the “Graceland” days.
15. BILLY BRAGG – Mr. Love & Justice (Anti-)
A class act, still classy.

Year to Date O/CD Tally: 101

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Treasure Hunting in NYC

My Own Cash Money - and worth every penny!

The family drove up to NYC to celebrate College Girl's graduation. And, as she noted, it may be time to give her another name. Post-Grad Girl? Smarty Pants? (She graduated with honors, boasted the proud mommy.)

Anyhoo, half the family had to return to Virginia for work/school obligations but, as all I had to deal with was a pair of Post previews, I stayed to enjoy a few extra days of Big Apple playtime and attend the second grad ceremony - in Yankee Stadium! (NYU does everything, including charge tuition, on a grand scale.)

The trip’s fine musical adventure began when I walked into the Strand bookstore, Fulton Street annex, to pick up a carry bag for CG, who wanted to replace one that was worn out from its long service. Meandering through the store, I glanced at a table of jumbled CDs to see what kind of stuff was offered. At first, I was unimpressed; it seemed to be cast-offs from in-store play, some in rather funky condition, and some promo singles. But since I saw a few recent, if relatively obscure, releases and every disc was only $4.oo, I kept sifting through the shoddy display.

1. GENE KRUPA - Big Band CD 10 (NA)
This was the first disc I put in my keeper pile. A single disc in a generic cardboard jacket, it looks to be part of some larger set. Since I don’t have any Krupa in the collection, this was a good chance to start things up.

And then magic started to happen!
2. JOHNNY FLYNN – A Larum (Lost Highway)
If anyone had been watching me at the point I discovered the generic black slimline case holding this CD, they would have thought I’d found some Holy Grail. And in a way, it was. Ever since returning from England, (Post)College Girl has been singing the praises of said Johnny Flynn, a young Brit who also acts in an all-male Shakespearean troupe called Propeller. She’s seen the theatre group about eight times and Flynn in concert once. She’s collected all his tunes from his myspace page (there are two free downloads there now) and had me order beautifully designed 7’ vinyl singles from ebay. A multi-instrumentalist with a singing style that puts me in mind of Richard Thompson, Flynn tills the rich earth of British folk tradition, writing original songs that sound like obscure classics from dusty songbooks of times past. Drinking songs and wenches abound.

Anyway, I have been hearing about this guy for over a year now and was put on warning that his debut American CD is due this summer. Finding two advance copies of his CD in the Strand pile was the musical equivalent of panning for gold and getting a nugget the size of your fist. I got a huge, happy reaction from (P)CG, and from a fellow student who’s also a big fan and got the dupe. The album is out in the UK on March 26.

So now, like a fish who had been half-heartedly nibbling at a worm, I was hooked! What other cool stuff was buried in these racks? I paid particular attention to those slimline and cardboard cases, and was paid off with…
3.AIMEE MANN - @#%&! Smilers (SuperEgo)
Still-sealed in its cardboard cover, it will make a pleasant surprise for the huge Mann fans who fed the tortoise while we were away.
4. STEVE REICH – Three Tales (Nonesuch)
A CD/DVD advance, the latter being a video by Beryl Korot, for which Reich did the music, plus an audio-only version.

I also found some new/recent releases for the bargain 4 buck price:
5. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)
Just before leaving Virginia, I heard a track from this on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” and found it intriguing in the same way I did Battles’ “Atlas.” In the latter case, the full CD didn’t live up to the promise of that lead track, but again, it’s just a few bucks to take the chance. BTW, the table had both an advance and a commercial copy of the CD, but I took the formal edition, with enhanced content.
6. PUNCH BROTHERS – Punch (Nonesuch)
Brand-new, still-sealed commercial copy of the latest from bluegrass wizard Chris Thile, for whom I’ve harbored a little thing every since I saw him cover Nirvana in a musical documentary.

And then some miscellaneous fun:
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS - Live at KEXP Volume Three (KEXP)
Also still sealed, this benefit CD carries a sticker declaring that all proceeds from its sale will go to the deserving Seattle-based alternative station. I doubt that the station is getting any money from this particular sale, so I’m sorry ‘bout that, but I am delighted to get rare songs by the likes of Ghostland Observatory, The Long Winters, Cloud Cult, Grizzly Bear and more.
8. LITTLE ANNIE & Paul Wallfisch – When Good Things Happen to Bad Pianos (Southern Records)
I almost didn’t get this, knowing absolutely nothing about the act, the songs or the label, but the cover, the title and the track listing – “Private Dancer,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “All I Want for Christmas” and more for an odd mix of rock and pop favorites - leads me to believe/hope that these are cover tunes played by hideously out-of-tune pianos. The idea tickled me one grande latte with almond’s worth. And I’ll let you know how that works out.
9. VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Other Side: London: Damian Lazarus (TimeOut)
A sealed, double sided CD and DVD from the hipster travel company, this one offering a set of audio tracks including folktronica from Gruff Rhys,electronics from Nathan Fake, and tracks from the Magic Numbers and Yazoo amongst others. The interactive DVD gives insider tips on edgy shops, bars, restaurants and such. The booklet includes listings and a map of the city, so I can pass the set on to College Girl after I’ve checked it out (she’s off to England in the fall as a prelude to graduate school).

Year to Date O/CD Tally: 86

Coincidentally, just as I was working on this post, my desktop picture changed to a shot of the Raconteurs onstage at L.A.'s Amoeba Records. And just to remind us all of what a pleasure a well-stocked music shop can be, I place it here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

elbow triumphant! (my Guy...!)

It was a little over a week ago when Hubby and I had a most delightful evening out with the Manchester UK band known as elbow. He had seen them open for Doves (I was sick that night) and said they “blew Doves off the stage.” I had seen the band do a short set at the CMJ daystage and watched another truncated show on a video screen later that night when the club they were playing was overcrowded.

This band has been around for many years, but has had a different label for nearly every one of its previous albums – Asleep in the Back, Cast of Thousands, Leaders of the Free World – and never got the traction it needed to break the American market.
Now, finally, the band has released an album, The Seldom Seen Kid, on a US major (Geffen) that appears willing and able to support a proper tour, and we were thoroughly psyched to see elbow do a full headliner set and to see it together. (This is a very romantic band.)

The show was a triumph on all counts. The venue – the Historic Sixth and I Synagogue – is a jewel. The audience sits in the pews of the sanctuary under a gorgeous domed roof while the musicians perform on the raised….altar? (I was rasied Catholic, so I don’t know if that’s the proper word). And any concerns we had about the sound were knocked out by the first number. We heard it all just fine.

The opening act was Jessca Hoop, a woman with that little bit of quirky edge that raises her above the usual singer/songwriter crowd. I knew one song from exposure on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” show (available via Internet stream every weekday from noon-3 EST) so I was pleased to get a chance to hear the rest.

Hoop wore an old-fashioned long print dress, the new hip matron look, and was barefoot. Her patter with the audience was a tad arch, but with a sense of humor to it, too. Her guitar playing stumbled some, but her voice and songs were intriguing and strong. Her set was maybe a half-dozen songs, and the audience was respectful-to-enthusiastic. She lingered in the small lobby during intermission and we were going to buy her CD (she and elbow were selling all their albums for a kind $10 each) but hers sold out before we got to the table.

And then came the main event. In trying to think of a single word to describe it, I decided on “majestic.”

Instead of simply walking onto the stage, the band strode down the center aisle, leader Guy Garvey being one of a few members carrying horns. Taking the stage, they opened with the beautiful blare of “Starlings” from the new CD. The audience’s ovation reflected hubby and my own sincere joy in finally getting to hear the band. The applause after every song was sustained and loud, as if we were trying to convey to the group our congratulations that they might finally break through and our delight in tasting victory with them.

Garvey – a burly, bearded man with the stature of a melancholy literature professor (the kind all the graduate student girls fall in love with and want to save) was in fine form. His voice soared to choirboy Kyrie heights with a rough vulnerability that resonates at the midpoint between Bono and The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan. And he seemed as happy to be with us as we were to be with him, frequently commenting on the beauty of the venue and the strength of the audience’s response. He taught us all the anthemic chorus of “One Day Like This” and sang the repeating coda of “Newborn” with an intensity that brought the audience cheers to a new decibel, and generally endeared himself all around with amusing asides and little stories between songs.

We left with big smiles and full hearts. A great night out.

As I type, with 92% of the vote in, Indiana is still too close to call. Unbelievable!