Monday, April 28, 2008

We Get Out: Justin Currie (ex-Del Amitri)

Another fine night at Jammin' Java, last Thursday, to see a solo set by a guy whose name may not right a bell but whose former band, Del Amtri, was a bright spot on the fringes of the '90s pop/rock scene.

I'm not sure why I had the impression that Justin Currie was a tough cookie (I dimly recall a friend talking about a disappointing concert experience with the band), but I wasn't prepared for the chatty, funny Scottsman who took the stage and joked about his former band and the vagueries of the pop life.

Naturally, he played a goodly number of songs from his recent CD, "What Is Love For," opening with the sobering title track, but he was also great about dipping into the Del Amitri songbook - playfully doing "Not Where It's At," in faux lounge-singer style...

and "Roll to Me" as a tongue-in-cheek romp with ukelele. When an audience member expressed surprise that he did the song at all (it was the band's biggest hit, but more poppy by half than any of Del Amitri's generally bittersweet material), he explained matter-of-factly that "I owe that song about a million and a half dollars," adding that much of it was gone. "Tell Her This" was stripped-down, straight and still lovely, and he even did "Be My Downfall," a personal favorite.

Throughout the show, Currie was beautifully supported by multi-instrumentalist Peter Adams and an old LP cover of Sylvia, which became a running joke after the musical partners found it in the greenroom.

At the end of the show, I went to the merch booth to lend my support. The PR team at his label had already sent:
1.JUSTIN CURRIE - What is Love For? (Ryko)
So I bought the only other CD he had on sale:
2.JUSTIN CURRIE - No, Surrender (Ryko)
Eight dollars for a 5-track EP is not my idea of a deal, especially when three of the tracks are the same song, in Part One, Part Two and demo versions, but I got in for free (thanks to the lovely Jammin Java team, who treat me so nicely), so I consider it artist payback.
Anyway, note the telling punctuation. The song presents, in a torrent of near rap-like lyrics, tales of rampant materialism and the soullessness of modern life and asks whether to fight back. No, surrender. Take away the comma and you've got a Springsteen anthem. Leave it there and you can feel the defeated sigh. Good thing Currie has a sense of humor onstage or we'd all be out in the venue parking lot with our mouths wrapped around the tailpipes.

I didn't see much of the opening act, Michigan-based singer/songwriter Angie Mattson, but when I first arrived at the show, I scanned the merch booth, as I usually do, and chatted with the guy manning it, who turned out to be her brother. When I came back to get the Currie disc, he was still on duty, alone - and she was sitting right there, too, so how could I not buy something of hers, too? Luckily, she had an EP on sale, too - 7 songs for only $5 - and I chatted with her as she signed it.
3. ANGIE MATTSON - Monarch EP (self-released)
She will be returning to town to open for Uh Huh Her at the 930 Club on May 14th.

While I was at the club, I also picked up a CD by a local singer whom I will be covering in an upcoming Post preview:
4. CHELSEA LEE - S/T (self-released)
Six tracks, written and performed by the 16-year-old Northern Virginia native with area stalwarts Daniel Brindley and Todd Wright. My interview/preview will be here next week, so I'll finish off with a pic of Lee back when she stood in for a few songs at the club months ago with The Kin.

Year-to-Date O/CD Tally: 78

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

High School Girl required my driving services this evening so, after I dropped her off at a far-flung high school musical (not the Disney one; "The Music Man"), I decided to fill the down time by visiting a nearby indie record store whose business card I'd been carrying in my car for a long time - Strange Land, in Annandale. But when I got there, and climbed the wrought iron steps to the shop on the second floor, I found a padlocked door and a pile of wet and yellowed mail on the doorstep.

Just looked it up online and found that the store closed last month. Sigh. Even today, as I was browsing in a FYE store at Fair Oaks Mall, I was mourning the empty space I drove past where Tower Records used to be. There are so few places left to shop for music!

Sounds like a good time for another edition of (drum roll....)

Took a bulging bag of CD rejects to the trade-in store last week and most of them were dismissed as too lame. But, with the $23 in credit from those that made the cut, I scored thusly:
From the $1.99 clearance section:
1.BIG DIPPER – Supercluster: The Sampler (Merge)
This 9-track single CD pulled from the 3-CD box set that came out last month may be all the Big Dipper I need for the moment. A chance to play catch-up.
2. STEPHANIE’S ID – Grus Americanus (Nine Mile Records)
I mentioned this band in passing in an old Post preview and liked what I heard about them doing the research. They’re playing a DC Artomatic show next month, so a 2-buck investment seemed in order.
3.PSYCH OUT! – Various Artists (MOJO magazine)
“15 nuggets from the scene that spawned Pink Floyd.” Donovan, Small faces, The Troggs, The Zombies and such.

In the growing vinyl section (I eagerly await my USB-turntable, coming next week), I found:
This amazing find was just staring at me from the front of one of the rows; I wasn't even searching those bins (with all the vinyl I have at home, buying more seems madness - until that turntable arrives!). Having just seen the PHJB perform recently, I had to spend the mere $3 to own this lovely disc. Just looking at the cover makes me smile.

5. COUNTING CROWS – Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (DGC)
A yellow sticker means ever-so-lightly scratched (and I’ve never had a problem), so this was only $7. Why do the critics delight so in bashing Adam Duritz? One review of this album was titled “Saturday’s Trite and Sunday’s Boring,” and that’s just mean (albeit clever). So he sometimes whines about his life. Don't we all? At least he's got the sense - and sensitivity - to explore his feelings. When the band is on, it creates a sound that I once tried to convince my brother-in-law has the classic Americana rock beauty of The Band. He never replied.
6. PAUL WELLER – Bonus Tracks (V2)
Not sure why this six track bonus disc from 2004, was $3 but it includes interesting takes by the ex-Jam/Style Council’s leader on Sly Stone’s “Family Affair,” John Sebastian’s “Coconut Grove,” “Let it Be Me” and more.
7.STEP RIGHT UP: The SONGS OF TOM WAITS – Various Artists (Manifesto)
Violent Femmes, Frente!, Magnapop, Tim Buckley - and no Scarlett Johansson! $3.99

Other recent purchases...
8. NOW HEAR THIS – Various Artists (Word magazine)
15 tunes in line with the British magazine, including B-52’s, Supergrass, k.d. lang and some new blood.
9. FLIGHT of the CONCHORDS – S/T (SubPop)
HSG and I have tickets to see our New Zealand heroes at the Lisner Auditorium in two weeks! The tickets are single seats in different sections (best I could do) but I see on StubHub that tix in pairs are going for $300 and up each!
10. ELBOW – The Seldom Seen Kid (Geffen)
More live excitement - Hubby and I will see this wonderful band tomorrow night - the first time we'll get to see them together (he saw them open for the Doves; I saw two truncated sets at a CMJ years ago.) We are thoroughly psyched, and the new CD has an even more ambitious, epic quality than the previous ones. Let’s hope that this wonderful, intelligent, intense Manchester band finally gets the American break it deserves.
11. DEMETRI MARTIN – These Are Jokes (Comedy Central Records)
A CD and a DVD for $12, which is great since his charts are such a key part of the act. Comedy acts seem to be doing the paired audio/video thing more and more, and at good prices. Musicians, take note!

O/CD Year-to-Date Tally:74

Friday, April 18, 2008

Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

And the concert joy just keeps coming! On Wednesday night, the intrepid Sally and I headed off to the Barns at Wolf Trap, where the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was performing. I had spoken with the band's musical director, Ben Jaffe (hey, along with the guy from Honeyhoney, that makes two Ben Jaffes in just over one week!) for a Post preview. And, if I can say so myself, it's one of my favorite articles in a long while, so I'll give you the link again.

I've been to New Orleans only once, years before the hurricane horribleness. Hearing this joyful noise, played by a mix of old-timers and young turks who obviously love each other and what they're doing with near-religious (in the best way) fervor, I vow to get back there again soon.

(press photo)

The band's manager graciously invited us backstage during intermission to meet Jaffe and some of the band, which was a kick. We talked about Polaroid film, set lists, and a great character in N'awlins who prefers to do his sets after he cooks BBQ for the audience.

The second half kicked it up to a level of celebration worthy of Mardi Gras, with sing-alongs, great solos and a band stroll through the crowd which resulted in a bunch of us creating a second line that went up onto the stage. Sally and I stood right behind/between the drummer and the piano player, looking out over the on-their-feet dancing crowd and "shaking our things." Fun, fun stuff.

Time to get cracking on the O/CD Tally, so here are a bunch of discs that came to me as potential concert previews, but didn’t make the cut:
1. The BIG SLEEP – Sleep Forever (Frenchkiss Records)
2. ROBBIE FULKS – Revenge! (Yep Roc)
3. HAALE – No Ceiling (Channel A Music)
Pronounced as in “halle-lujah or jale-peno," this Iranian-American singer/songwriter is going for a Persian mystic vibe, but the near-dour tone gets kinda drone-y.
4. SECONDHAND SERENADE – A Twist in My Story (Glassnote/East West)
For those who need another Dashboard Confessional (one’s enough for me), singer/Songwriter John Vesely of Menlo Park, CA became MySpace's #1 unsigned artist for 7 months at the end of 2006 and sold over 20,000 copies of his self-produced, debut album before making a record deal. But I feel like I've heard it all before, and better.
5. AUKTYON – Girls Sing (Geometriya)
John Medeski and Marc Ribot are two of the hot players in this “Russian bohemian-rock band.”
6. HOT CHIP - Made In The Dark (Astralwerks /DFA Records)
Unlike a lot of electro-dance traxx, this album was informed by two years of touring, so the music is meant to be performed live and has a beating human heart (metaphorically speaking) audible in the mix.
Produced by Chris Stamey, of Yo La Tengo, Alex Chilton and dBs fame.
8. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – The Good Life (Bloodshot)
Justin Townes (named after Van Zandt) is the son of Steve Earle, and a chip off the smart block. Fired from his own dad’s band for what his press kit calls “some very bad habits,” he’s cleaned up his act and upped his songwriting game, citing influences as varied as Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles and the Pogues in narrative tales that reflect shades of acoustic blues and country-tinged folk.
9. WINK KEZIAH & DELUX MOTEL – Working Songs for the Drinking Class (Great South Records)
10. KEVIN DEVINE – Put Your Ghost to Rest (Capitol)
Devine is no longer with the label, but he's got a voice like Ben Gibbard's, a writing style akin to Josh Ritter, and a bright, smart sound, so it's their loss.

YTD O/CD Tally: 63

Add to your own tally -
Tomorrow (Saturday, April 19th) is Record Store Day - go to a real music store and buy some real music!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We Get Out: Matt, Colin and honeyhoney

This entry will be a combo platter of recent concerts seen and CDs obtained in relation to same.

Sunday night found Sally (stalwart musical companion and neighbor) at the 930 Club for a solo set by The Decemberists' Colin Meloy. In preparation for the event, I purchased his new CD:
1.COLIN MELOY – Sings Live! (Kill Rock Stars)
direct from the KRS website, and the nice people at the label sent it with all sorts of cool extras – a Meloy bookmark, tour poster and postcard and even a bonus CD by a band I know nothing about:
2. COMET GAIN – City Fallen Leaves (Kill Rock Stars)

The show was all I hope it would be. Meloy seemed in fine spirits, joking with the crowd, encouraging a camp fire sing-along vibe and - oh, happy day - performing the two songs I had on my Please Play list - "The Bagman's Gambit" (You Tube has an epic version performed with a symphony at the Hollywood Bowl) and "Red Right Ankle," the latter a tune I have always loved and never heard live. The fact that Meloy fumbled on the last, most poignant verse, didn't so much take away from the moment as make it more ephemeral.

I had no photo pass and was using an old camera that I hadn't played with in ages, the controls so foreign to me that I had no idea what I was doing (even more so than usual). I got only the one previous shot that came even close to being clear and a whole bunch that I kinda like as studies for color abstract paintings.

We caught only a few songs by opener Laura Gibson and that was fine by me. Though she appeared to have a lovely rapport with the crowd, the songs I heard were simple to the point of simplistic. Her talents were better shown as she came out to sing harmony with Meloy on "Cupid," one of the tracks on the merch table CD, which I purchased that night:
3. COLIN MELOY – Sings Sam Cooke (tour only CD)
Five tracks for $10 (the package deal was $20 for this and the "Sings Live!" set) - a nice compliment to the "Sings Morrissey" set I got at the last solo gig I saw, at IOTA. (There's also "Sings Shirley Collins," but I missed that tour.)

Earlier this month, the label behind the new duo Honeyhoney reached out to promote the band's 930 Club show opening for Lifehouse (yawn) and Matt Nathanson (a young god in our household), so High School Girl and I went to the show. I had a photo pass, and a little better luck with my camera.

Honeyhoney's Ben Jaffe

Honeyhoney's Suzanne Santos

The rep had sent the CD a few days before the show:
4.HONEYHONEY - Loose Boots (Ironworks Music)
This 5-track EP is the fourth release from Jude Cole and Kiefer Sutherland’s O&O indie label.It's a bright, poppy set with dark undercurrents, apparent immediately in the catchy and slightly creepy (in a good way) opener, "Little Toy Gun." And "Thursday Night," is an upbeat number about screwing that if sung in another language, you could play for your mom and she’d tap her foot and say, “that’s catchy.”
Live, it's clear that this isn't one of those He Does The Musical Heavy Lifting While She Just Sings couples. Santos plays a mean fiddle.
From the duo’s self-penned press bio: “if you buy/illegally download one EP this year, let it be ours.” (Cue the sound of record company reps fainting.)

HSG, who has no vested interest, said she also liked them, but to be perfectly honest, we were there for the inimitable Matt Nathanson, whose recorded works to date (except for the "At the Point" live set) can't begin to express his impish potty-mouth humor and sweet charm.

He seemed genuinely surprised and pleased at the number of people who made it clear they had come for him, not Lifehouse, and won over many of the others with his intensity and goofball penchant for dropping fun covers ("Jesse's Girl," "Kids In America") into his own material. Can't wait for him to come around again soon - as headliner.

I would have stayed for a few Lifehouse songs (three-song rule) just to see if they were any more interesting than I remember them from an HFS Nutcracker show long ago, but HSG was tired, so we split. I was also a little wary of the Lifehouse crowd - an older crowd than I would have expected, with more artificially enhanced boobage than I've seen in ages.

I'll finish off with one more 930 memory, from some weeks ago. HSG and I caught OK Go, again thanks to the opening act, a horn-driven band called Bonerama, at a benefit for New Orleans relief. I don't have any of my Bonerama shots handy, though here's one when a few of the guys from the band came out to play with OK Go:

At the show, I picked up:
5. OK GO – Oh No Deluxe Edition (Capitol)
I’ve wanted this for a long time, since the second disc has all the videos, including the glorious treadmill dance for "Here It Goes Again." And, at $15, it was a good deal for concert pricing.

I also recently purchased a signed (by Damian Kulash) copy of the book, "Lessons I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me" from the OK Go web site, and picked up another CD on the way:
6. OK GO – Pink EP (
This 3-track CD includes “Hello, My Treacherous Friends,” “What to Do” and – the reason I bought it – “Antmusic.” Nifty letterpress cardboard sleeve, too.
The puffy envelope it came in had the return address "OK Go Loves You." Ahhhh....

Year to Date O/CD Tally: 53

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We Get Out: Be Good to Your Traveling Band

You may just drop in to grab a drink and sample some sounds, but chances are the band on stage has traveled over many hours in a small van to bring you some amusement. Pay them back.

Last year, I had hoped to see Barcelona at CMJ, but circumstances got in the way, as often happens during that crazy week. I got a chance to catch them at Jammin’ Java but this time, too, I was partially thwarted, and only caught a few songs. I hope to get another chance some day, as I liked what I did see. The album is great in a melodic, Keane-y, Coldplay-y kind of way, which gets kicked up a notch live.

I spoke briefly to lead singer Brian Fennell after the show and had him sign my CD (“This was better than CMJ” he wrote) and also bought some stickers and buttons which he didn’t want me to pay for. “I’m buying you a gallon of gas,” I said, passing along $4 and his grateful smile was worth it. Poor guys were a long way from home (Seattle).
Sad to say that there was only a small crowd in the club that rainy Tuesday night and the number decreased during the set change so that there were only about a dozenpeople in the joint – including the staff! - when the next band - The Everyday Visuals - went on.

I’ll give any band three songs while I decide whether to stay, and these guys won me over right away. I bought a CD and some buttons from them, too (a few gallons of gas in this case) and asked them to keep in touch in case I might be able to write about them in future. Charismatic singer Christopher Pappas (who also plays guitar, keyboards) seemed genuinely pleased that someone cared after what must have been a dispiriting turnout.

1. EVERYDAY VISUALS – Things Will Look Up (self-released)
This group has a melodic sound, too, with bits of noisy experimentation and some alt-country leanings that made me think of Wilco. Originally from New Hampshire, they were named Best Band in the state by 92.5 the River, and their first record "Media Crush," was named the "Best Record of 2005" by local magazine The Hippo Press. The group moved to Boston and repeated the feat, earning another best band award there and praise for the CD. There's a lot of care evident in these tracks and I'm enjoying it in steady rotation.

and while I'm tallying CDs with shows:
2. ROONEY – Calling the World (Geffen)
This California quintet opened for the Jonas Brothers at the Patriot Center last month (I scored not-unreasonable tix for High School Girl and pal thanks to Craig's List). The group took no chances in winning the crowed over, beginning their set with “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” as if to reassure the squealing mass that it would be a distracting wait, at least, for the main event. Out on the smoker’s patio, I met a fatherly escort who’d I befriended earlier on the way into the arena. I told him that Rooney had a good rep and made real music (something you can never take for granted at these arena pop shows.) He told me, “yeah, those guys were pretty good.” And when HSG heard me playing this CD the week before the Really Big Show, she paid it her ultimate compliment “Can I steal that?” This deluxe edition contains free ringtones – if I ever figure out how to load them.
I like to blog my own photos, but since I didn't shoot them live, here's a press shot:

And here's one of the Jonas Brothers that I did take myself, once I realized that my little digital camera could handle it:

Those sweet SPOON boys are giving away a free mps of a countrified demo for Cherry Bomb. Though I still prefer the horn-y version, it’s fun to hear how the track evolved.

O/CD Tally: 47
ye gawds, it's been weeks since I've tallied any new CDs, and they are piling up, but more anon.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

And the WInners are...

Last night, while we drove home from the honeyhoney/Matt Nathanson show (more to come soon), we conducted our highly scientific selection of winners for the "Alvin and the Chipmunks" DVDs.
High School Girl wrote down the names of everyone who sent in a Chipmunk Memory, each on a separate high-quality post-it. She meticulously folded each one and scientifically dumped the bunch in her lap. Then, in a studiously random manner, she tossed away all but these three winners:
atrischitta (an intriguing name!)
John Weber
and let's not forget Sally, who won by getting her comment in first.

The winners are now officially invited to get their squeak on by sending me a mailing address. (just post in the comments; I won't publish them)

Congratulations to y'all (as we say here in ole Virginny) and thanks (and condolences) to everyone who didn't achieve the thrill of victory. Blame HSG.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

CPF Chipmunk Giveaway - it's all over but the sorting!

So, somebbody DOES read this thing!
Thanks to all who submitted a Chipmunk Memory.
We now have more comments than there are DVDs to give away, so I will close the goodie bag - for now. (Hopefully, we can do something like this again soon.)
With the use an independent selection service (probably High School Girl pulling names out of a hat) we'll pick the winners and contact them to get correct mailing addresses.
Again, thanks for playing!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

You've been Munk’d! Alvin & The Chipmunks DVD Giveaway

When the nice people at FOX (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d write) offered CPF some free copies of the brand new (out today, in fact) “Alvin and the Chipmunks” DVD, I said, sure. And why not? I know there are CPF readers who have kids, and I especially like the readers who don’t mind acting childishly. (Meet ya at the playground!) So let’s do this thing!

First, I’ll tell you why you might actually care. This is not a kid’s movie that spends a lot of time doing nudge-winks at parents with over-a-kid’s-head jokes (David Seville does have some pretty smart books on his end table, though). It’s straight-on CGI chipmunk mayhem and, but for an unfortunate “raisin” joke, there's little beyond safe Saturday morning cartoon style fun. If there’s any hipster quotient, it’s in the casting of eternal nice guy Jason Lee as struggling songwriter Dave Seville and eternal smartass David Cross as the (can you guess?) greedy record producer who exploits our singing chipmunk heroes. (Justin Long and Jesse McCartney provide character voices, but who can tell with the sped-up vocals?)

But even through the film has family-friendly, comfortably numb intentions, it becomes a rather spot-on indictment of the record industry despite itself. Seeing the wildlife trio decked out in track suits, performing “Witch Doctor” with headset mics, booty-shaking dancers and a rapping DJ, while their images are projected on stageside monitors to a rapt downtown crowd, you realize that Alvin, Theodore and Simon might as well be Britney, Ashlee and Milli Vanilli – although in this film, as in “Singing in The Rain,” the exposure of lip-sync cheating leads to a happy ending.

The subtle-as-a-sledgehammer moral of the film is Family Beats Fame. But there’s a subversive dismissal of the bland mass marketplace tucked in underneath. Combine that with a bonus feature focusing on the hard-working musicians behind the scenes, desperately trying to convince themselves that it’s not selling out if you really try to do your best, even if it’s selling sugar pop to kids. And believe me, as one who has toiled in the fields of children’s media (from working with the Muppets to Barbie magazine), I don’t begrudge them that fantasy at all. It's mine, too.

And who's to say who's delusional? I still have intensely fond memories of wrapping Christmas presents as a child with my family, hot cocoa and fresh cookies at my side, the ‘munks wonderful “Christmas Song” playing in the background. I doubt that “Alvin and the Chipmunks” is destined to become a kid classic, but it’s more fun than listening to Sonic Youth.


It’s simple. Tell Close Personal Friend a Chipmunk Memory – a moment where you enjoyed a Chipmunk song, TV show or even this recent film. Leave it in the comments section below. At the end of a yet-to-determined time period, if there are more comments than there are copies to give away, I will arbitrarily pick my favorites.