Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stuff I Wrote, Now with More Cowbell!

It's my week again at the Washington Post, meaning I have preview stories running in the regional editions for Fairfax and Arlington/Alexandria counties.

This week in Fairfax, I had fun with the cow-bella (I've got a fever, too!)
Blue Oyster Cult
In the A/A Extra, it was a more straightforward piece on a local acoustic duo, Gaylor & Katsu.

Catching up with the recent past, here's
Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion
from the A/A section and, from Fairfax, local blues acts
Mary Shaver, the Smokin' Polecats and others

There's about a baker's dozen CDs to be tallied, so I hope to return soon. If not later today, then tomorrow, when I hope to have live shots of a new favorite regional band, the pop-tastic Sparky's Flaw, appearing tonight at Jammin Java.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Live from Jammin' Java!

It's Monday afternoon and, while High School Girl is taking a Japanese lesson at the Oakton Library, I drove myself over to nearby Vienna to take advantage of the wireless service at my favorite coffee shop/music joint, Jammin Java. The local band Middle Distance Runner is doing a soundcheck as I type, adding to the backstage vibe.

Anyway, I've been falling behind in the tally, so here's the latest...

Took a few bags of unwanted housewares and such to the Closet thrift store and found a bunch of goodies in the $1.50 CD racks (saw a woman with Sade's "Lovers Rock" in her wire basket. I wanted to steal it from her, but that would be bad karma.)
From the writing on the cover,it used to belong to a girl named Nicole. At first listen, I can hear why R.E.M. might cite them as an influence. Nice, light and bright, but I'm wondering if it'll have sticking power.
2. CAT POWER – You Are Free (Matador)
I had burned a copy of this from my emusic account awhile back, but I'm still a sucker for original cover art. It appears, though, that there may be some kind of insert missing as there are no credits - not even song titles - anywhere on the cardboard case. Had to print one off iTunes.
3. NAT KING COLE – The Greatest Hits (Capitol)
All good - his take on "Route 66" still swings the best - but where's the "scrambled eggs" song that was used in the theme for "Frasier"?
4. MARY J. BLIGE – No More Drama (MCA)
Granted, I’m arriving late to this show, since I’ve never owned an MJB album, but have always been impressed with her pipes when I’ve seen her on various music awards shows. I'm impressed by the way she drops a classical bit into “Love” and uses a soap opera theme to underscores the title track. And where else can you find a slow “back off, Jack” jam like “PMS”?
5. DISNEY’S GREATEST, Vol. 2 (Walt Disney Records)
I don’t care about songs from Tarzan, Mulan or the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but there’s some good old skool Disney stuff – original Mickey Mouse Club theme, tracks from “Cinderella” and “Snow White” - plus the “Bare Necessities,” and tracks from the great Ashman/Menken era (they wrote Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast before Ashman passed away.)

From the Heavy Metal Ha-Ha files, a description of the Swedish death metal band Dismember:
“Like an [sic] strong serpent with fresh poison they will crawl the eerie filth of the world known as death!”

On that note, I need to go get HSG.
O/CD Year to Date Tally: 29

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No Such Thing as Irish Nachos

Way back in 2001, the family took a trip to Ireland and while we were staying in Dublin, I went off in search of new Irish rock music. The Temple Bar area, kind of Dublin's Tribeca, had a music center offering club shows every night, and I saw Bell X-1, knowing nothing about them but liking their logo. And I though they were great! These concert photos were taken back then and until this past Friday night, I didn't even know the names of the guys pictured.

That's the night that Yep Roc records hosted a meet and greet - and eat and drink - at D.C.'s Four Fields pub, with the band. The guy bathed in blue is bassist Dominic Philips (I dubbed him 'the kid") who has grown up muchly.

and the one brushing back his hair is Paul Noonan, who was originally the drummer and (shades of Phil Collins!) became lead singer when Damien Rice left the band (which was previously named Jupiter). Paul, who has less hair now, is very tall and quite charming in that great way that talkative Irish men have.

I didn't get to chat with Dominic, but guitarist/keyboard player Brian Crosby sat across from me, and we got to chatting, too. Though I don't have a picture of him from the show way back, he looks good now in his groovy "Mr. Bump" T-shirt.

Bell X-1 is finally about to release an album in America, "Flock," which is coming on February 19th, and the band will be touring in March. The drinks and dinner were an excuse for local press to get to know the band better, and maybe goose some coverage. I feel sorry for musicians at events like this - having to shmooze people who are generally jaded (some so much so that they don't honor their RSVPs, though I won't name names) at a "themed" place that, in this case, must have felt like the Epcot Center version of the Old Sod, especially when my friend (and plus-one) Sally offered to share her "Irish Nachos" - waffle fries with melted cheese, plus some black olives and other stuff. Being starved after a long day of radio visits, the guys tried them, but informed us quite firmly that there is no such thing as Irish Nachos.

We trusted their judgment on such matters, and had a fun time nonetheless. Blame it on the beer or the fact that Sally and I had many fond memories to share of trips to Ireland with our families, but the night moved happily on with discussions of the dangers inherent in Irish roadways and American politics and ended with a promise to (on my part) pitch stories and (everyone's) see the band again when the tour comes through (DC place and date to be announced).

Friday, January 11, 2008

If a Blog Falls in the Forest...

It’s always nice to have someone respond to the blog, especially if it’s *not* to complain. Got a phone call today from a publicist who thanked me for mentioning one of her acts. Mind you, I didn’t write a word about the music – it was one of the CDs mentioned in the many lists I was furiously compiling in an effort to complete the 2007 O/CD Tally Total. The thanks came in a phone message left on my machine, and I suspect that if I’d been home to answer the call, the gratitude would have been paired with more info on the act and a gentle push to get some other kind of coverage – and yes, he is coming to town in a few weeks.

Can simply listing a CD have any impact? If you already know/like the artist, I suppose it could serve as a simple reminder to keep your eye out for it. Perhaps if enough people mention a name, it’ll stick. Still, the call reminded me that there’s a lot of music out there that wants to be heard, a lot of worthy artists that simply ask to be acknowledged. I will try to listen carefully and expose more of them to you.

So, let’s get to the list…

My Own Cash Money:
On my first visit to the CD Cellar trade-in store for the New Year, I indulged in some old favorites and nice bargains.
1.The MONKEES – Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. (Rhino)
I’ve been reading Brett Milano’s fun book, “Vinyl Junkies,” reassuring myself that my obsession pales in comparison to the people he’s found in his travels, who sometimes let their collections take over the entire house. (Mine fills a room, much to my dear husband’s chagrin.) At one point, Milano mentions this Monkees CD as a fond memory, and I nodded in quiet agreement. Finding it in the used bin for a mere $7 was a delight, as was listening to it again on the ride home. With a five year head start on me, Hubby spent his teenage years immersed in Beatlemania, while I settled for the imitation. But I still had a great time!
2. DAPTONES RECORDS REMIXED – Various Artists (Scion)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings are coming to DC next week and, having been foiled in my quest to get their CD when it was on sale at Best Buy for $8, I was looking again today. This sampler offers four remixesfrom SJ&DKs, plus some other acts that I hope have the same spirit of old skool R&B.
3. CHARLIE SEXTON & SHANNON McNALLY – Southside Sessions (Back Porch)
Actually picked this up as a gift for my niece's ex-boyfriend, who sent me a terrific Jeff Tweedy live concert set last year. He fell in love with McNally after I passed on to him a duplicate of her debut. So now it's my turn to send him something nice (and it was only $4).
4. JONAS BROTHERS – S/T (Hollywood)
By request for High School Girl (BTW, she just got an acceptance letter from University of Pittsburgh - and it wasn't even early admission!). This here's the deluxe edition with the DVD, for only $12.

From the $1.oo Clearance Section. All of the following came in generic advance cardboard envelopes. The clearance section takes up a 12-foot shelf, but if you look for the small CD envelopes tucked in among the plastic jewel cases, you've got a better chance of finding promos.
5. The KIN – Rise and Fall (Aletheia)
Saw these guys play late last year and they're coming back to the area - The State Theatre, on Valentine's Day, opening for VAST. Seems an odd bill to me, the Kin being a more melodic, quieter act - and more to my taste. A duplicate that I will pass on to a friend.
6. CASSETTES WON’T LISTEN – Small-Time Machine (self-released)
Here's an example of keep-repeating-the-name promotion. I know nothing about the band but have read so many press mailings mentioning them, it was a Pavlovian response to grab the CD when I found it so cheap.
7. MARY GAUTHIER – S/T (Lost Highway)
Back at CMJ, I spent a lovely hour chatting with a loquacious Irish producer/musician, who praised this woman to the hilt.
8. The WASHINGTON SOCIAL CLUB – S/T (self-released)
Fine local act who rocked Jammin Java many months ago and won me over.
9. The INSPIRING NEW SOUNDS of RIO DeJANEIRO – Various Artists (Verge Records)
Modern bossa nova, anyone?
10. PHANTOM PLANET – Was Here (Epic)
A recurring presence on the daughters' mix CDs.
Also a buck each, but in commercial packaging:
11. Le CONCORDE – Suite E.P. (Fourchette)
A lovely batch of songs from an under-rated artist. Sorry to see a half-dozen copies in the cheap seats, so I picked it up to throw it into a package being prepared for a music-loving friend.
12. PEARL JAM – Save You (Epic)
A two-track CD single with a spiffy graphic.

In the mail, from the account:
13. LOST in TRANSLATION – Soundtrack (Emperor Norton/Ryko)
Sofia Coppola uses good songs to great effect in her films. And I'll always be grateful to her for turning me on to Air. I'm sure I'll hear some cool stuff I recognize and learn some new stuff to love. (That reminds me, gotta find the "Marie Antoinette" soundtrack, too.)

PEP (Puffy Envelope Promotion) Squad:
14. UNGDOMSKULEN – Cry-baby (tiny print I can't read)
Playing at Jammin Java on January 28th.
15. SEA WOLF – Leaves in the River (Dangerbird Records)
By request. I confess, I'm not sure which of the Wolf bands this is, but the description sounded good and the packaging is classy cool. I'll have to get back to you with the musical report.
16. AIR TRAFFIC – Fractured Life (Astralwerks)
Nice surprise. I heard great things about them before CMJ and was sorry to miss them.
17. MIWA GEMINI – This Is How I Found You (Addict Records)
Here's the Zagats-style PR summary: "New York City's jangly indie-folkstress" whose "airy vocal draws comparison to Bjork, Nina Simone, Tom Wait and Patsy Cline."

These two came last week, and I've had a chance to check 'em out:
18. The EXIT STRATEGY – City of Microphones (One Percent Press Records)
Fun, energetic, slightly ska-ish rockers from Buffalo, NY, engineered and produced (and tambourine provided, too!) by D.C.’s beloved J Robbins, who kindly supplies full songs from his varied production career at his web site.
19. PARLOUR STEPS – Ambiguoso (Nine Mile Records)
Welcome to the first happy discovery of the New Year. This Vancouver-based quartet makes what they call “Thought-Rock.” I just call it good fun, with interlocking make/female vocals, upbeat rhythms and happy little surprises in the way the melodies twist and turn, corkscrewing into your brain.

Free for All!
20. LOVE MUSIC HATE RACISM – Various Artists (NME)
Johnny Flynn. Johnny Flynn? Johnny Flynn! Ever since College Girl got back from a semester’s study in London, she’s been nagging me to write about this guy, a British folkie in a kind of Richard Thompson mode, who’s also a member of the Shakespearean troupe called Propeller. When she heard he would be part of the free CD to be given out with copies of NMW, I was put on notice. I tried to find the British music weekly at Borders, the only place I know that carries it, but missed out. Then on a day of idle web surfing, I found that NME, bless their blimey souls, is giving away the CD – actually two, since they added a second set of tunes - for free online. Besides Johnny, who makes a nice, raving it up, acoustic-style late-night-in-the-pub-noise with his band, The Sussex Wit, you get tracks by New Young Pony Club, Billy Bragg with Ian McLagan, MIA, Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things, among others. Free music for a good cause. What’s not to love?

Now Playing: Dropkick Murphys (now) and Lupe Fiasco (before) on Letterman (thank you, TiVo)

Year-to-Date O/CD Tally: 24

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Caucusing for Good New Music

What fun! The Democrats are kicking butt in Iowa, and I've rediscovered the joys of IODA Promonet, which allows bloggers such as myself to sample and share new tracks.

In browsing through the latest offerings by the service, I saw a number of songs from acts which I've only heard about and not actually heard. Nice to hear (literally) that they deserve the buzz - as Sam I Am would say, try them, try them and you'll see.

Person PitchPanda Bear
"Comfy In Nautica" (mp3)
from "Person Pitch"
(Paw Tracks)
Buy at Napster

The Flying Club CupBeirut
"A Sunday Smile" (mp3)
from "The Flying Club Cup"
(Ba Da Bing!)
Buy at Napster

Save the SceneKing of Prussia
"Misadventures of the Campaign Kids" (mp3) from "Save the Scene"
Buy at eMusic or Buy at Amazon

I liked the King of Prussia song so much, in fact, that when I saw it was available on emusic, I hopped on over and bought the whole thing. So that adds to the O/CD Tally.
1. KING Of PRUSSIA - Save the Scene (Kindercore)
BTW, it comes out next Tuesday (Jan. 8) but Amazon (and presumably the other online services) will sell you the download now.

Now here's the trick - Mike Huckabee seems like a nice guy, but I disagree with him on some big issues. I don't want him to be President, but he's the only GOP canidate that doesn't frighten me. Unlike our current Theologian in Chief, Huckabee doesn't demonize those who think otherwise and seems sincere rather than calculating in his compassion. Which makes him all the more dangerous, I suppose.
But, in the spirit of nonpartisan goodwill, here's another track, which I found simply from the album title, which was sweet. I'm not generally an Inspirational music type, but the guy has a nice voice and we all have hearts that hurt sometime.
Storms : Songs for the Heart When It HurtsBig Stuf
"Keep Singing" (mp3)
from "Storms : Songs for the Heart When It Hurts"

YTD O/CD Tally: 4

New Links for the New Year

Thursday is Washington Post regional section day, upon which (every other week, that is), I get to preview some type of cultural event coming to my Northern Virginia area. And, because I love music, it generally tends to be a rock show, although I write about all types of music and the occasional literary or dance event. So, tell me if you or someone you like is coming to town to play, to read, to dance or to be merry in any such way.

In today's Fairfax section:
Between the Trees, The Brilliant Inventions and Holiday Parade at Jammin Java

And in the Arlington/Alexandria section:
Panacea/RPM, Brice Woodall at IOTA Club & Cafe

Two weeks ago, A/A offered:
Good for the Jews at the Birchmere
while Fairfax was:
One Horse Town, Bandazian, Sparky’s Flaw, Stephanie’s Id

New CD's arrived yesterday, so I'll be back after today's mail arrives to add the new music...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

And Thus It Begins

Before the first day of the New Year ends, it is tempting to NOT write, and thus immediately put to rest any expectations that I can maintain a Blog Entry Every Day policy for 2008. And perhaps if I had not drifted into Best Buy on my way to the bookstore to get a new datebook, that would have been the case.

But I remembered that it was Tuesday, new release day, and came home with (not-so) new music. Time to launch the New and Maybe Improved O/CD Tally.

1. RADIOHEAD - In Rainbows (tbd records)
It seems only fitting that the first purchase of the new year is also one of the best albums of the year just past. When the download version came out, I said I'd pay $8 since that was the price for new release CDs on super first week sale at big box stores like Best Buy or Target. And that indeed was the price I paid today. Worth it just to see how the band would do its packaging. While not as elaborate as "Hail to the Thief" or "Insomniac" (in both cases, I bought the enhanced packages), this one offers DIY jewel case cover and tray liner, plus booklet with deep space photos and nearly inscruable liner notes in a fold-up envelope.

I browsed a bit, looking for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, too, but couldn't find them. Then my eye caught a $1.99 price tag (they're trained for that!) on:
2. KAISER CHIEFS - 3 song sampler (Universal/Motown)
For two bucks, I'll take almost anything, and I rather like the Chiefs, "I Predict a Riot" being a favorite of its time. This sampler inlcudes two live tracks, the "Ruby" video, and a coupon, which expired in April 2007, worth $2 off Yours Truly, Angry Mob. Since there were about a dozen of these CD singles in the K-Chiefs section, they either didn't sell well at all, or someome just found a bunch of them in the stockroom.
Also neaby and catching my (cheap) eye:
3. 2007 SUMMER DVD SAMPLER - Various Artists (Universal)
Seems to be another set of leftovers, this a freebie. Five bands - Fair to Midland, Noisettes, Straylight Run, Shiny Toy Guns and the Chiefs again, each repesented by at least one and often two, music videos and/or live performances. Given that this promotion dates back six months and only the Guns and Chiefs have been heard of since, I wonder if the other three bands are considered toast.

Meet the new year, same as the old year (at least for now).

YTD O/CD Tally:3