Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sparky's Flaw(less)?

I lost track of this posting, begun back at the end of January, when High School Girl and I had a great time at Jammin Java seeing this fine young band.

Okay, so the headline's a bit hyperbolic. Sparky's Flaw isn't perfect, but I'd put quintet from Charlottesville, VA.in the highly melodic pop/rock school of Ben Folds and Jack's Mannequin, though keyboards are at the front of the sound only part of the time.

The songs are catchy, smart and easy to sing/bop along with, as HSG did heartily, and the addition of saxophone gives an extra ska-lite kick.

Opening act was Phil Bensen, a singer/songwriter from New Jersey who shares a cute, shaggy blondness with that state's own Bon  Jovi.

Bensen's myspace page lists two musical partners, but tonight he played in duo form with his ever-smiling drummer, George.

After the show, I handed him my contact info and explained that I write for the Post, encouraging him to keep in touch. I handed him $5 to pay for his CD (at that price, I couldn't resist) and he tried to hand it back, saying it was a press copy. I told him to consider it gas money and he smiled gratefully. Support your local artists, and those that have to drive to get to you!

So, that (finally!) brings us back to the O/CD Tally.

1.PHIL BENSEN – Not Good Enough (Linc Star Records)
Released back in 2006, Bensen's CD has 8 tracks, so shall we call it a mini-album or
an XL EP?

More music paid for with real cash money:
2.VAMPIRE WEEKEND – S/T (XL Recordings)
I’m responsible for 90% of the CDs that come into the house, and the girls take it up to about 99%, so when Hubby comes home with a new album, you know it’s got buzz going on. I had previously downloaded the “Mansard Roof” EP from emusic.com, but the full-length caught Terry’s attention when he was at a Borders store. Glad to have it. Hype can kill, but good music survives a battering of it. This album brings back fond memories of new wave dance parties, “Graceland” global rhythms and Talking Heads preppie/alt. rock, but with none of that nasty nostalgic aftertaste. Hubby, High School Girl and I all love this CD and take turns putting it on the family CD player every damn day.

3. JONNY GREENWOOD - There Will Be Blood soundtrack (Nonesuch)
Well, we missed out on Radiohead tickets at Nissan Pavilion but, given how much I hate driving to and negotiating the parking lot of that could-be, should-be, but isn't comfortable venue, maybe that's not such a great loss. I bought this CD (and the next in the list) as Valentine's tokens for Hubby, the obsessive Radiohead-head in our home (but the ladies like them, too!) I am surprised at the CD's rather meager length and the fact that it's nowhere near as screechy as I was made to believe. BUT, having just checked in at the Nonesuch web site to see if I could get an accurate timing for the album, I see that the Nonesuch store offers 3 bonus tracks - only if you buy through them. Arrgh. That's not fair!

4. MAGNETIC FIELDS - Distortion (Nonesuch)
It doesn't appear that the Nonesuch store is offering extras here, so I won't bitch. Hubby has played the CD a few times and declared it great, but I'm not convinced yet. I like the Fields in general, and like what I'm hearing so far, but I can't be sure yet that the roiling fuzz (good name for band?) in the background isn't a gimmick that will wear thin over time.

Barking Up The Wrong Tree
Sometimes I get stuff for reasons that are beyond me. I rarely even mention country musicians and, unless they're coming to play and are looking for a preview, why would they reach out to me? Why am I on these mailing lists and not Nonesuch's? And what do I do with these albums now that I have them?
This one package arrived with three custom created disc-holding folders that open up to a three-page brochure about artists that are strictly in the Red State Mode.
5. REBECCA LINDA SMITH – Renewed (Renewed Records)
Really, I try not to be cruel, but the cover on this one looks like a Talbot’s catalog shoot before the stylist arrives. For people who know such things, this one offers special guests Dottie Rambo and Marty Raybon.
6. BRETT HILL – S/T (HMG Nashville)
5 tracks of god-fearing (and loving) music. The inside pic shows Hill wearing his American flag and eagle shirt, holding his guitar and his babe, April Hill. Brought to you courtesy of the Jesus Ministry of Alamo, TX Inc.
7. DAVE CALEY – Live This Life (Renewed)
Least scary of the bunch, although his white cowboy hat and pale skin make him look almost albino. 4 tracks, including “Redneck Love Gone Bad.”

Yeah, so I guess I'm just a city snob, and speaking of which, here's something that's just Grand (as in Central Station) fun, and more evidence that New York City still is the greatest:
GCS Prank

YTD O/CD Tally: 36

Sunday, February 17, 2008

...and featuring me, on theremin.

On those deadline-driven days, when I feel chained to the computer, grumbling about having to write yet another preview, I need to remember moments like the one I had yesterday...
I'd written a preview about a composer/pianist and theremin player named Rob Schwimmer, who was performing at my local community center. Since I wouldn't be attending his show (dinner plans) but lived close by, I asked if he wanted to meet at soundcheck, and I'd drop off a copy of the finished article.
With High School Girl in tow, I stopped by the venue in the late afternoon, and he invited both of us to actually play the theremin! Quite a trippy feeling and not the kind of thing you get to do everyday.
Grace and I both did our "freestyle" thing - waving our hands tentatively around the vertical antenna that controls the pitch (the preview tells a little of the principal behind it; for simplicity sake, I'll call it controlled feedback) for random weird, fun noises.

Grace, who has more recently studied voice and an instrument in school, had a better feel for the whole thing, or maybe it's just that, being young, she's more in tune with the spontaneous vibe that fuels such activities.

In addition to letting us ramble, Schwimmer played musical puppeteer, holding our hands, literally, and moving them in a manner that created real songs. I "performed" the Disney chestnut "When You Wish Upon a Star" while Grace wowed the empty concert hall with "Over the Rainbow."

Until I figure out how to get the latter up on YouTube, here's a taste of general playtime...

Friday, February 15, 2008


There's a list brewing of many new acquisitions to add to the OC/D Tally, but this is just a quick hello to add in the two most recent Post previews, which ran yesterday.

First off, an old favorite, fine talent and lovely chap to chat with, Brian Vander Ark, who'll be appearing at the Iota Club next Tuesday (February 19th) with Kristy Kruger.

And a seasoned session player who also does his own thing on piano and - too cool! - theramin, Rob Schwimmer, performing at Reston CenterStage tomorrow night (Saturday, February 16th).

Peter Frampton is doing a Geico commercial as I type. Little Richard's was so much better...
oh, and in other commerical news, I finally discovered who does that catchy "hey, la" chant in ads for University of Phoenix online classes. It's from the New Pornographer's "Twin Cinema" CD.

Thursday, February 14, 2008