Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Penultimate Day of 2009

Resolved: The CPF Blog will be much more active in 2010.

I'm afraid I let things fall apart in the last month, but I am determined to get back on track, try new things, add more features and otherwise rededicate myself to this enterprise as the new year/decade dawns.
(And none too soon. 2009, don't let the door slap yo' ass on the way out!)

As I look to the new year, I am thinking of a redesign, maybe even taking it to another blogging site. (Wordpress, anyone?)
If you're still out there and you're still reading, thanks for hanging in there.
Now please let me know what you'd like to see more - or less - of. (I know it's bad to end a sentence with a preposition, but how else could that last one go?) Concert preview listings, the O/CD Tally, concert photos (will Painasonic ever fix my malfunctioning camera?!), links to examiner.com and other stories published elsewhere, videos that make me smile...everything's up in the air! How will it land?

Vote early and often.
And stay tuned.
Most happy new year, dear blog-mates.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Something I Found

Okay, it's been forever, and I've been meaning to drop in and say something about it, but then I saw this pretty clever video and, since I couldn't email it, I needed to park it somewhere.

I could have done without the grotesque cyborg, but otherwise...enjoy.

Dorsey Shaw: The Beatles Remembered In The Year 3000 (VIDEO) - Really - Air America

I'll be back. Sometime.

Friday, November 06, 2009

This Week (or so) in Digital Downloads

When I started the O/CD Tally, I didn’t foresee how much music I’d be acquiring in digital form, not actual CDs. As I’ve mentioned before, I still like that dinosaur plastic, much as I love the dinosaur wax that came before, but since old skool media is fossil fuel-intensive, I will try to learn to live without the plastic cases. But I will always miss liner notes! (And you won’t get label info, which I generally include when working from physical discs.)

Anyway, I’m taking this mellow Friday night opportunity to review some of the new music that’s come my way recently over the Internet. Thanks to iTunes' “Recently Added” playlist, we’ll work in reverse chronological order until I run out of steam.

One-off singles (not to be tallied):
TEGAN and SARA – Hell
amazon.com free download
VAMPIRE WEEKEND – Horchata
free download from the band’s web site.
The new album comes out in January. Looking forward to it, big time!
MITCHEL MUSSO – Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
OK, so this is embarrassing. I’m a sucker for amazon.com's free downloads. I don’t grab ‘em all, but I’ve always liked this Police track, so what the heck, I clicked on to the site. And then I see it’s from the soundtrack from “Wizards of Waverly Place” and I realize that Disney is grooming yet another tousle-haired actor kid to be a pop star. The track is sorta catchy, in that evil Disney way.

And back to full-lengths:
PHOENIX – It’s Never Been Like That
amazon also gets me with their Daily Deals, which sometimes offer albums, such as this one, for as low as $1.99. (I just checked and it’s now going for $6.99). Since “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” is shaping up to be a shoe-in for one of the year’s Ten Best, I will gladly spring the cost of a cuppa to hear what they were up to in 2006. From first listen, they were a bit less dancey, a bit more rocky, but that lead singer’s voice is distinctly wonderful.
ELIZABETH and the CATAPULT – Taller Children
They play tonight at Historic Sixth and I Synagogue, opening for
JUSTIN NOZUKA – Holly
While I had heard of E&tC, thanks to an NPR profile, I was only dimly aware of Nozuka, which worries me. How’d he get to Sixth & I headliner status under my radar? I consider myself fairly well-connected.
The few tracks of his that I’ve sampled so far seem fine, but not earth-shaking, whereas E&tC, playing as I type, are already engaging my attention. Elizabeth (I’d tell you her last name, but I don’t have the friggin’ liner notes!) can sound like Bonnie Raiit in one place, Amy Winehouse in another. Covering Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” is a good sign, and the title track touches on the Wall Street meltdown with mockery rather than anger. Sounds like a keeper. Hope they’ll come back soon and headline.
SPRING TIGERS – S/T (Bright Antenna)
The publicist asked me on Wednesday afternoon if I could be of help in garnering some coverage for the band’s show at North Hall of Eastern Market tonight. First off, who knew that Eastern Market was now hosing concerts? And with such short notice, I said the best I could do was a blog mention and he said that was cool. Trouble is, I got the date wrong in my head and thought the show was tomorrow. Oops. (Sorry, Bill.) But I just noticed that the band is offering two free downloads, so they may get “examined.” In the meantime, I offer you the tracks now:
"New Improved Formula"
"Just Suggesting"
By the way, the singer/frontman of Spring Tigers is the very same Kris Barratt who fronted The Capes. As the publicist wrote, “It's supposed to be a secret, but screw it! People need to know!” Scoop!?
HARMONIA & ENO ’76 – Tracks and Traces
This is a reissue of a collaboration between Michael Rother (an early member of Kraftwerk) and Cluster's Hans Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius with Brian Eno come aboard for the ride. Supposedly, the sessions were unreleased for two decades and now emusic.com has ‘em. It’s little bit ambient, a little but art-prog, but that can be fun. I found this when I was looking for:
The AVETT BROTHERS – I and Love and You
My new favorite band. I heard the track “St. Joseph’s” on a sampler and fell in love with its tender melody, vulnerable vocals and bittersweet lyrics. When amazon (yeah, it’s getting to be a thing) offered the album from which that track was taken during one of their $1.99 deals, I jumped on it.
The AVETT BROTHERS – The Second Gleam
And before that, I searched emusic for other Avett releases and got
The AVETT BROTHERS – Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions
And, as I work my way through this band’s back catalog (I had a physical copy of “Emotionalism” on a reference shelf), I find that the trio’s roosty, folky blend and sharp songwriting - smart and sensitive and soothing - is just what I need in my life right now.

Okay, my battery light is starting to blink. I’m turning to some quick hits, albums that I downloaded to write about for examiner.com. You can read about them there. I need the pennies.
NORAH JONES – The Fall (Blue Note)
My article is about how you can listen to a live stream (but the PR person sent me a digital download, she bragged).
TIMBER TIMBRE – S/T
One friend who downloaded this freebie said listening to it was torture. I didn't think so. I report. You decide. Alas, the free download offer is over, but I think you can stream the tracks.
TOM WAITS – Glitter and Doom (Anti-)
Eight tracks, free downloads from the upcoming live double-disc set.
PHILIP GLASS – The Orange Mountain Music Sampler, Vol. 1
Another (dare I say it?) amazon download, this one totally free. Not sure how long it’ll last, though, so jump on it now.

YTD O/CD Tally: 321


And just so you’ll have the complete set, here are two other examine-ations that haven’t appeared here on the blog before.
Halloween music mixes.
Musicians united for climate change action.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Get Off the Couch - Concerts a' Coming

I’m staring at two foot-high stacks of CDs that need to be dealt with (yeah, cry me a river). Time to revisit ye olde O/CD Tally so I can file some of them away. And, as tribute/thanks to those kind folks who wrote to say that they were sorry to see my WaPo “Live!” column dumped in the redesign, here’s pretty much every album related to upcoming shows in the DC area. They were sent as pitches for possible preview. Those artists that particularly appeal to me - and might well have been "columnized"- are marked with *.

And now that the "Live!" column is in my rear-view mirror, I will reclaim my original, proposed name for it - "Get Off the Couch." Maybe I’ll go to some of these shows anyway. See you there?

Coming to Jammin’ Java, the nicest little listening room in the region and my Home Away from Home:
RICHARD SHINDELL - Not Far Now (Signature Sounds)
Wednesday, November 4. $20 in advance/$25 at the door.
* STEVE MOAKLER - All the Faint Lights (self-released)
Playing with his full band, this Saturday. November 7. Honor by August, a local band that I’ve been hearing nice things about, is also on the bill. Tickets $12.

FIVE for FIGHTING - Slice (Columbia)
This show has come and gone, and an act of this stature was quite a coup for the joint, but you couldn’t have paid me to go. It’s all about the vocals, and I can’t stand this guy’s voice. (And since this is a watermarked copy, I can’t do anything with it. Not even offer it as a premium to you, dear reader.)

The guy who works press at the Birchmere, a larger, sit-down joint (except when the show takes place in the open bandstand area) that’s been the site of many a fine night out, has been sending CDs to tout his upcoming shows. (I fear that gravy train is gonna skip my station in future.) I missed out on a few shows:
PLAYING FOR CHANGE - Song Around the World (Hear Music)
CD/DVD set. Show was on October 20.
CANDYE KANE - Superhero (Delta Groove Music)
Opened for Bill Kirchen & the Hammer of the HonkyTonk Gods on October 30.
The new album is a tribute to her staying power, since she's fought cancer. Good on you, girl! Still, I prefer Kane's older stuff when she was a Bette Midler-style broad, with Sophie Tucker single entendres to spare.

Here's some shows you can actually still see at the Birchmere:
KITTY DONOHOE - Northern Border (Roheen Records)
Opening for Don McLean on Saturday, November 14. Tickets are $49.50, but she’s playing for free at the Kennedy Center at 6 p.m. the previous evening, so you can save money, and spare yourself yet another treacly version of “Vincent.”
The FOUR BITCHIN’ BABES - Diva Nation (Hem and Haw Productions)
Friday, December 4 and Saturday the 5th. Tickets are $35.

In other Birchmere news (sent from various PR peeps):
* CHRIS SMITHER - Time Stands Still (Signature Sounds)
Playing with his band, The Motivators, on Friday, November 13. Tickets are $25.
I’m not the biggest blues fan (maybe my life is too good?), but this guy adds just enough roots/rock power and sly lyrics to pull me in. Includes covers of Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler, so you know he has good taste.
* SID and SUSIE – Under the Covers, Vol. 2 (Shout! Factory)
This album - a generic advance - was a gift, passed on to me by one of the lovely clerks at the CD Cellar a few weeks back, when I was trading my Didn’t Dig ‘ems for others I might. It’s a fun, fun disc and that’s coming from someone who is just OK with Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs as solo artists. The songs they chose to cover are fun to hear again (“Here Comes My Girl,” “Bell Bottom Blues”) and often surprising (“I’ve Seen All Good People/Your Move,” “Beware of Darkness”) and their voices work well together (“Go All the Way” sounds especially good), adding new twists to tracks you might not have thought of in years. Sunday, November 8. Tickets are $25.

And a few more shows I missed:
* PORTER BLOCK - The Gowanus Yacht Club (Engineroom Recordings)
MIKE DOUGHTY - Sad Man Happy Man (ATO)
Block opened for Doughty on October 29. Bet that was a good show. Block’s fourth album is a collaborative effort with a bunch of talented folks in his Brooklyn neighborhood (where I spent many happy years Back in the Day), like Angela McCluskey. Doughty’s still doing his “Question Jar” thing, where he takes requests and answers questions that audience members put in the object mentioned. It’s a concept I wish more artists would try.
* KEB’ MO’ - Live & Mo’ (Yolabelle International)
Played October 27 and 28. (Tickets were $59.50 each - whoa!) I really like this guy’s voice and laid-back - but not lazy - style. He’s on the road through November 23, if you’re reading this from beyond the Beltway. (www.kebmo.com)
* AMONG The OAK & ASH - S/T (Verve Forecast)
New country/folk duo comprised of two touring veterans - Garrison Starr and Josh Joplin. Opened for A Fine Frenzy (Landon Pigg was also on the bill) which is a nice triple play. But the show was on October 31, which meant missing Trick-or-Treaters and a Yankees World Series game. No how, no way.

YTD O/CD Tally:309

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I only want to hear you laughing at the Purple Prose

The Yankees are currently letting me down, so I turn to a press release I received today for amusement. First off, there's the name of the CD - "Verbal Penetration." Sounds like something you'd make up for a B-movie about a hapless metal band.

But not, it's the "long awaited" project by guitarist Jesse Johnson, formerly of Prince's cohorts and rivals, The Time. The two CD-set of original material – "produced, performed, recorded and directed by Johnson – is the kind of benchmark work that redefines careers..." while his "adventurous amalgamation of soul, funk, rock and jazz finds him at the apex of his recorded creativity, ambitiously going where few artists dare venture in these days of fast food funk and freeze-dried passion." Johnson co-wrote two of The Time's biggest hits - “Jungle Love” and “The Bird" and now he's penned an "anthemic title track [that is] is a call to cerebral arms, an impassioned plea for us to open up our minds, mouths and our hearts and communicate with one another." In summation, "The work is lofty, yet sexy; introspective, yet in-your-face. It’s where all artists end up if they are brave enough to take the chance. Jesse Johnson has taken that leap."

Now if only the Yankees could get on the scoreboard.

I'll field a few pop hits myself with a quick dip into the O/CD Tally, this one being a recap of a visit some time ago to the CD trade-in store, where I feasted at the clearance bin, 10 CDs for $15.99:
JASON LYTLE – Yours Truly, The Commuter (Anti-)
Cardboard advance, with full color cover and bio info on back. So, do I replace the generic, no cover jewel case version I bought last time?
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE/CHRISTINA AGUILERA- Justin & Christina (RCA/Jive)
There’s a Target logo on this, so I guess it was some kind of store promotion. Six tracks, three each from J & C and though I’m mostly here for the JT remixes (from his first solo album), I may get behind the club mix of CA’s “Beautiful.” ($2.00, in the singles section, but the cashier counted it in the clearance bundle).
CIAO MY SHINING STAR – Various Artists (Shout Factory)
Subtitled “The Songs of Mark Mulcahy,” he’s the front man of the late, great Miracle Legion and this is a benefit for his wife. Performances by Thom Yorke, The National, Michael Stipe and a host of other (mostly lesser known) artists.
GREEN RIVER ORDINANCE – Out of My Hands (Virgin)
Released in February, though this a cardboard cover advance. At the time I bought this, they were coming to town, but that's all in the past now, like the chance of the Yankees pulling this game out of the toilet.
GOSSIP – Music for Men (Columbia)
This generic cardboard advance is marked as having “a unique identification number that can be used to trace unauthorized use” and has the woman’s name stamped on the disc (MG, you naughty girl!). Glad to have the chance to hear whassup with this band, which I've heard so highly touted in the British press.
The APPLESEED CAST – Low Level Owl: Volume II (Deep Elm Records)
I’ve heard the name before, the cover is intriguing and I needed a few more discs to hit the 10.
U2 – War (Island)
Wow. I know there’s a new, remastered version of this album, but I see dozens of the original on sale at amazon for less than a buck. I don’t mind paying less than two for 10 fine songs.
THIS IS MUSIC – Various Artists (Uncut)
15 “new & classic tracks” – Marah, Paul Westerberg, The Go! Team, Blue Nile, and a Clash demo of “Rudie Don’t Fail.” And maybe I have it already, but…
The GABE DIXON BAND – S/T (Fantasy)
Advance copy, in full jewel case with band info on back and, though I have it already, I can't let these favorites sit forlornly in the clearance bin. I shall give it to my friend Sally, who’s been to see the band with me twice, including when they opened for Loggins & Messina (and Gabe played keyboards in the L&M band).
KEVIN HEARN and THINBUCKLE – Havana Winter (Celery Music/Warner Music Canada)
One of the Barenaked Ladies.
YTD O/CD Tally: 295

Jim Messina, Kenny Loggins, bandmate, Gabe Dixon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Things You Might Have Missed

As usual, it feels like I’m playing catch up, with lots of new music coming, concerts seen, concerts to come and links to other stuff I want you to see. So, in the interest of creating bite-size (or is that fun-size?) posts that don’t overwhelm you as a reader and me as a writer, I’ll start with a recap of everything you missed if you don’t already subscribe to my examiner column (c’mon, it’s free, and I need the hits!), where I point the way to (mostly) free downloads and other digital music news.

* Oh, Pookie! An appreciation of Soupy Sales .
* Band From TV is a charity band featuring Hugh Laurie and other familiar faces from TV dramas (which I generally don’t watch).
* Tom Waits is giving away eight free live songs and launches an action-packed web site. What’s not to love?
* Sherwood is a nice new group that opened last week for Hanson and Hellogoodbye (more on that later).
* Noah and the Whale is a big hit in our house; Grad Girl turned me on to them and you can grab some sample songs for free.
* Portland Cello Project makes alt. rock with one of my favorite instruments.
* Making slideshows for the web is fun, as I discovered creating this overview of the MTV Video Music Awards show
* Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is about to release a live CD, and offers a free remix.
* One of the best songs of the year comes from White Rabbits . Check out the video here.
* Hope Sandoval offers a free track as she starts a new tour.
* Amazon.com offers oodles of free downloads, including these world music samplers .

Friday, October 09, 2009

The End of My Era

Today, the Post published two Live! stories. And they are my last.
Last week, I got a note from my (fairly new) editor, telling me that the paper is reorganizing (again!), that there would be no more Extra sections, and that they wouldn’t need my column. Can’t say I’m totally surprised, can’t pretend I’m not disappointed. It was a great outlet and gave me some cachet with publicists.

I hope I might be able to contribute to other sections of the paper as a freelancer, but I doubt I’ll ever have as much freedom as I had with the column to choose and write about artists that I personally care about. In the past year, I pretty much chose preview subjects at will, with minimal editor veto. The examiner column gives me that freedom but at lesser rates of exposure and pay. But it’ll do, pig, it’ll do. (It will have to, for now.)

So, let’s wrap it up with a summation of the last few months in my Post history and, where relevant, the O/CD tally of the music sent with ‘em:

The last columns:
Andrew McKnight at the Athenaeum
Lloyd Dobler, Maia Sharp at Jammin’ Java
MAIA SHARP – Echo (Crooked Crown)
Fine new discovery; looking forward to seeing the show next Wednesday.
MAIA SHARP PROMO COMPILATION – Various Artists
15 tracks that she wrote, as performed by the stars who recorded them, people like Bonnie Raitt, Cher and Dixie Checks.

And the ones that came before that:
Andrew Belle and Ten Out of Tenn
I love this guy’s stuff and went to the show basically to see him. It turned out to be one of the best live shows I’ve seen all year. So much talent in these ten musicians and so much joy as they played together, swapping instruments, harmonizing and generally having a blast.
The group offered a sweet deal at the merch table – the complete set of albums or EPs from each of the players (minus terrific guitarist Jedd Hughes, alas, as they’d run out), plus the TOT compilation; all 10 CDs for $45. I haven’t had this much fun buying cheap, good music since the clearance days before Tower Records went under. (I still miss that yellow and orange music fan’s hangout.)
I haven’t gotten into all of them yet, but so far none of them has disappointed. Seriously, these are all extremely talented folks:
TEN Out of TENN, Vol. 3 – Various Artists (Ready Set Records)
K.S. RHOADS – Dead Language (Alex the Great Recordings)
JOY WILLIAMS – Songs from This/Songs From That (Sensibility Music)
Two CDs, each with six tracks, in a simple but charming design. Two songs of note: “I Hate It When We Fight,” a duet with David Mead, and “Charmed,” a track was used on the “Grey’s Anatomy” finale (like I care).
KYLE ANDREWS – Real Blasty (Elephant Lady Records)
The above are full-length albums; those below are EPs:
SARAH SUSKIND – Say It Louder (Red Request Records)
MIKKY EKKO – Strange Fruit (self-released)
This guy has an incredible voice, and in concert he has the intensity of the late Jeff Buckley. He’s giving away all five songs from this EP through his web site, but I’ll sent you to get it through my examiner story .
TRENT DABBS – Your Side Now Lights (self-released)
Eight tracks; is that still an EP, or have we entered album territory?
ANDREW BELLE – All Those Pretty Lights (self-released)
MADI DIAZ – Ten Gun Salute (self-released)
ASHLEY MONROE – S/T (self-released)
Five songs, three performed with Trent Dabbs.

And back to those Post-ings:
Brian Stokes Mitchell at GMU Center for the Arts
Rusted Root and the Kin at State Theatre
RUSTED ROOT - Stereo Rodeo (Touchy Pegg/DKE Records)
The KIN – The UPside
Holly Cole and others at the Rosslyn Jazz fest
Living Colour at the Birchmere
Wolf’s Blues Jam at Bangkok Blues
Eddie Jobson at Jammin’ Java
UKZ – Radiation (Globe Media Arts)
Prog-rock fans know Eddie Jobson for his keyboard/synth and violin work with Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, UK - and UKZ - and such. His limited solo tour started in the DC area. I can appreciate prog to a degree – Yes, some ELP and what the Decemberists are up to - but this one isn’t my cuppa.
Caravan of Thieves at the IOTA

adding in the two CDs I picked up last night, we now have the YTD O/CD Tally: 285

Thursday, October 08, 2009

We Get Out - We Shot the Moon

In an effort to get back into the blog groove, even if it's just a quick hit, I'll tell you that I just got back from a show at Jammin' Java, my favorite local joint, where I saw We Shot The Moon, a new band featuring Jonathan Jones, keyboard player and singer/songwriter who used to front a nice band called Waking Ashland.

I took my time getting there and thus saw only a few songs from opener Lights Resolve, a trio from New York that plays tight (great drummer), high energy rock with a touch of Police-like harmonies and do-do-do type singalong moments, and worked a good shot of The Clash's "Lost in the Supermarket" into one track. Lead singer Matthew Reich rocks some heavy eye shadow and knows how to engage a crowd, but I could have done without the song that was heavy on the "melon farmer" (as my daughter told me is the polite way to replace an expletive that has the same syllables and initial letters).
The band was selling its three-track EP for a buck so, of course, I picked one up.
LIGHTS RESOLVE - S/T (self-released)

It was a small crowd - probably just 30 people in the entire club, including staff - and I felt bad for We Shot the Moon, a band based out of San Diego that is now on a long tour for a newly released CD. They previewed the CD online with some free downloads; I wrote that up for the Examiner column. Recommended for fans of melodic, piano-driven pop/rock in the Jack's Mannequin/Ben Folds (sans sarcasm) mode, click the link and grab 'em now.

Perhaps discouraged by the small turnout, WSTM did a pretty short set, about eight songs. They put their all into it (I actually thought the drummer might overwhelm Jones' vocals) and made "happy to be here" comments, but I felt bad for them and wanted to show my support. So I hit the merch table and bought the new CD. It was only $10 and the nice merch table girl loaded me up with a handful of stickers and one of each of the band's three posters.
WE SHOT The MOON - A Silver Lining (Afternoon Records)
I also chatted briefly with Jones, who didn't sound all that discouraged after all; he's hoping to come back around in the new year after the album gets out and about.

My camera's in the shop and I couldn't find one to borrow as I was headed out the door so, in the interest of adding some visuals, here's my favorite of the three posters:

In grabbing that from the band's site, I just noticed that the digital release date for the album is listed as next week (October 13) and physical date is November 17, which contradicts what my examiner article said. So I'd better get back in touch with the PR guy who gave me that info and see what's what.

Tomorrow, new Post previews go up. And some breaking, not-so-good news. But why spoil the fun now? Good night/morning!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Miniature Tigers cover...."Mama Mia" ?!

I didn't know anything about Miniature Tigers when I walked into Jammin' Java on Friday night. I went to see fun.. (The band uses lower case and puts a period at the end of its name, guaranteed to drive copy editors everywhere crazy.)

I will get to fun., too, but right now, I just want to share a quick video of the Mini-Tigers doing the final song of their set, an Abba cover. Good times!
video

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Takin' It To The Stores

I said I was going to finish the taxes today (my extension runs out next month), but yesterday was such a long day, with Post deadlines, errands and a community Board meeting (I’m the secretary, god help them and/or me), so I decided to use today to get caught up on emails and such.
For a change of pace, I plugged in the iPod and let the shuffle go wild, catching up on all sorts of things I had downloaded but never paid attention it. And, with my laptop right here, too, as I found tracks I didn’t care for, I could start cleaning up the iTunes clutter, too.
Which, in turn, inspired me to knock off a few more albums in the O/CD tally, specifically music that was sent to me for review but ultimately got put in the giveaway bag to take to the CD trade-in store.

Here’s what I dumped and (sometimes) why

It’s not always that I don’t like an album, or the band. Some things are fine while I’m listening to them, but I just know I won’t be revisiting them. And I need the space! For example:
The SAW DOCTORS - Live at the Melody Tent (Shamtown Records)
I’ve written about this band, seen them live and really enjoyed them. They do Irish folk-rock with a real kick, Springsteen-ian anthems to small-town life and large characters. Like many live albums, this one’s enjoyable as a one-time listen (kept me company on a long drive) but the songs that I liked best are ones that I will return to in their studio form, as these guys play to the crowd – as well they should- which is great when you’re in the crowd, but not so good for the listener after the fact.
The SAW DOCTORS - Clare Island to Cape Cod (Shamtown DVD)
For those considering making a live and/or documentary long-form, this is a great example of how to do both. A nice mix of off-stage conversations, interviews and general goofing off, plus footage from a raucous show at the Melody Tent in Cape Cod. Made with care and money and style. A lovely introduction to the uninitiated (though the accents are so thick at time, subtitles might have helped!) and a great souvenir for the longtime fan. And now that I've seen it once, I can pass it on.

Yep, there’s stuff I just don’t dig:
VIVA VOCE - Rose City (Barsuk)
I saw them open for The Shins last year and was unimpressed. Wrote about their show at the IOTA earlier this year – primarily ‘cause I wanted to spotlight opening act, Cut Off Your Hands – and, though I liked this album marginally better than the last one, it still didn’t stick.
The DUKE and the KING – Nothing Gold Can Stay (Ramseur)
The Duke is Simone Felice of the Felice Brothers and the King is Robert Chicken Burke, who’s worked with George Clinton, so I thought it might be good. But then again, it was touted as “country soul” and that’s not my bag.
PAT DINIZIO – Sings Buddy Holly (KOCH)
Although I could sing a number of Smithereens songs from memory – a sign of their hookiness – I can’t say I enjoy them. And the idea of frontman Dininzio rerecording Buddy Holly songs begs the question, why? Does he think he can improve upon them? I listened and there was just one track – “Listen to Me” - that I put on my iPod because Bobby Vee sings on it, and my sister used to listen to him as a teenager. Otherwise, nahhhh….

Of these, I’ll simply say, I’m just not that into them:
The BAND Of HEATHENS - S/T (BOH Records)
GRUPO FANTASMA - Sonidos Gold (Aire Sol Records)

Confession: I didn’t listen, I just got desperate to clear away space.
DANA FALCONBERRY – Oh Skies of Grey (00:02:59)
A time when the cover was so unappealing, I didn’t get past it.
DROWNING POOL – Loudest Common Denominator (Eleven Seven Music)
A live CD recorded at the San Diego House of Blues, described in press notes as “loud, raw and in your face.” Thanks, I’ll pass.

YTD O/CD Tally:270

Tomorrow, if I’m a good little blogger, I’ll post some pics from tonight’s Rhett Miller show.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Remember the O/CD Tally?

With all the zip files coming my way these days, the long-neglected O/CD Tally gets harder to keep track of. Until I unzip those digital files and put them into iTunes, they barely register. And with hard drive space on my (admittedly crowded) computer at a premium, I don’t always take advantage of the offers to grab new music. So, publicity people, keep sending those old skool discs!

But anyway, here are a few new albums that I’ve downloaded/unzipped and kept…

This first batch is associated with my examiner.com Digital Music column so you can check ‘em out there, too.
ANDREW BELLE – All Those Pretty Lights
He’s become one of my favorite new artists and the EP is a free download, as is a new track from his upcoming full-length. Go therenow!
AWESOME NEW REPUBLIC – Rational Geographic, Vol. 1
AWESOME NEW REPUBLIC – Rational Geographic, Vol. 2
Again, the music is available as a free download (do you sense a theme?), but I must admit that I haven’t found the songs to have staying power. Had the group pegged to a kind of Tears for Fears vibe, but the lyrics don’t hold up all that well.
NEW TALES TO TELL – Various Artists
A tribute to Love and Rockets. As usual, a mixed bag, but there’s a few good ‘uns.

AS TALL AS LIONS – You Can’t Take It With You
If you still haven’t subscribed to my (free!) examiner column (nudge, nudge),here’s what you missed. For the first few days, the link for the free single download actually took you to a page with a zip file of the whole album. I told the label rep that the story was up and that the link went to the whole CD, but he didn’t ask me to take it down; said he’d send another link. So, for a few days, early adapters got a bonus!

And here are some promos…
WILLIE NELSON – American Classic
This was sent from the PR dept. I don’t need to say much more than this - Willie sings some old standards, like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Fly Me to the Moon,” in his understated, well-arranged Willie way. You know what that means – easy listening in its true, best sense.
MATT and KIM – Grand
“Daylight” is a great tune and the album as a whole has a happy, summertime vibe. And the press pic is so cute!


I bought some digital albums, too:
BILLIE HOLIDAY – The Complete
Amazon.com offered this package – all 35 tracks - for a mere $2.99, so how could I resist?
COLDPLAY – Viva La Vida: Prospekt’s March Edition
Another amazon.com special. Yeah, I already have the CD, but not with all the extra tracks. Yeah, I’m a sucker.
RICEBOY SLEEPS – S/T
Bought this with my emusic account, in that near-the-end-of-the-month Use It or Lose It mode (if I don’t use my 30 downloads, there’s no rollover). New stuff that’s loosely connected to the Sigur Ros team. Have to remember to sync it up for nice bedtime listening
CAMERA OBSCURA – My Maudlin Career
Another emusic grab. Heard/like them on KCRW, saw them on the Craig Fergusen show and it sealed the deal.

And so, the long-delayed YTD O/CD Tally: 261

And finally, the latest Washington Post previews, posted at the end of August.
In the Arlington/Alexandria Extra section – Living Colour at the Birchmere.
For the Fairfax Extra - Wolf’s Blues Jam at Bangkok Blues

Friday, August 28, 2009

That "50 Bands" Facebook thingy...

I knew there was a reason I don't do those Facebook sharing games. The same reason I don't smoke dope - once I start, I can't shut up!

But I couldn't resist the chance to compile another list (remember the O/CD Tally?; I'll get back to that) - the "50 Bands/Concerts You've Seen" thingy. Rather than pluck them from my feverish brain, I found the glass jar into which I throw my ticket stubs (there are stragglers in other places relating to photo discs, set lists, etc.) and began to pluck 'em out at random. Given my penchant for yabbering on, I've only gotten to 25 in the last hour. This is gonna hurt me more than it does you...

1. Lisa Loeb – 9:30 Club, DC (March 1, 1996)
First one out of the jar and it was a show on my birthday! A favorite way to celebrate. I like Loeb just fine so we went with a bunch of friends. No offense to Loeb but it was more about the event than the music.
2. They Might Be Giants/NRBQ – Wolf Trap, NoVA (June 1994)
The two Johns once came to a birthday party (is this a theme?) Terry threw for me in our Bklyn basement apartment Back In The Day (they are friends of a friend, another musician). They complimented Terry’s coffee-laced chili and presented me with a cardboard hat with a toy camera attached. NRBQ are a kind of legendary band, but didn’t do much for me. TMBG are always great fun.
3. HFS Holiday Nutcracker , Patriot Center, NoVA (Dec. 1994)
Had to look up who played at this one - Simple Minds, Go-Go's, Veruca Salt, Big Audio Dynamite, Evan Dando, Pete Droge and Freedy Johnson. I remember B.A.D. best; they were doing great dance/pop/punk. When the girls were at the right age, we went pretty much every year.
4. John Sebastian – Barns of Wolf Trap (April 1998)
I was a huge Lovin’ Spoonful fan and, at age 17 or so stood, speechless, as JB walked past me on an NYC street. I kicked myself afterwards. I told him that story after this show, disappointingly light on Spoonful/solo material (he was in a jug band phase) but he signed my vintage 45 picture sleeve, “nice to see you again,” so he’s still a cutie.
5. The Edge/Universal/Hayden – Trinity St. Paul’s (June, 1998)
I’m writing the words as they appear on the ticket but I have no idea what it means. I was in London. A classical performance?
6. HFS Nutcracker – Patriot Center (Dec. 1998)
Hole, Soul Coughing, Eels, Garbage, Cake. I was with Emma (12 at the time) and we’re sitting in the press seats on the floor. Some jerk says to me, “You’re too old to be here. “ I say, “And you’re too rude to be here.” Got some great photos of Courtney Love (who wasn't very good) and Shirley Manson (who was/is a fun, foxy lady).
7. Brian Setzer Orchestra – Warner Theatre, DC (Nov. 1998)
I better remember a different show from BS with his Big Band group – one held during one of Terry’s conventions in California, on a military base. Big bands (good ones) are fabulous for dancing.
8. Ben Folds Five – 9:30 Club (Feb. 1998)
I saw BF5 a few times, the absolute best being a show at GMU Gunston Hall right before the album with “Brick.” This one was close to it. They were a terrific live band and, though I’ve seen and enjoyed Folds as a solo act, never as much as when he was with the other two guys.
9. Tibetan Freedom Concert – RFK Stadium, DC (June 1998)
This was the infamous 2-day affair during which a lightning storm stopped the show, put some fans in the hospital and caused travel chaos. Some fine music, though – Radiohead, Pulp, Pearl Jam, R.E.M... Two memories of the latter - Michael Stipe wore an Indian print skirt on stage and then deliberated stood where the photographers in the pit were blocked by his music stand (much grumbling). And I got into a debate with him in the press tent about producing a film from that vile "American Psycho" book. He seemed to enjoy having someone disagree with him for a change.
10. P.J. Harvey – 9:30 Club (Nov. 1998)
She’s so intense. I admire her, but don’t always enjoy her stuff.
11. Tori Amos – MCI Center, DC (Aug. 1998)
See above.
12. Paula Cole – 9:30 Club (Feb. 1998)
One of Grace’s first shows. She was eight. Cole was in a pissy mood and, since she was basically a one-hit wonder, too bad on her.
13. Ani DiFranco/Rebirth Brass Band – Wolf Trap (June 1998)
A lotta ladies this year! And she’s one of the best. Her stuff can get samey on the rhythm end, but she’s so cool. Lots of lesbian PDA's made it an interesting night for conversation with Emma.
14. Warren Zevon – Beacon Theatre, NYC (Feb. 1990)
Saw him open for someone in England as “Werewolves” was breaking, and at Birchmere (the best time), and at the State theatre (last time before he passed). He was a true original. Enjoy every sandwich.
15. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Radio City Music Hall, NYC (Oct. 1990)
Not sure if this counts as a concert (there was singing), or a play (there was a story of sorts), or anything that actually counts as entertainment. But we brought Emma, age 4, and she was thrilled. Now that I think of it, it was very close to the experience we had seeing Britney Spears many years later.
16. Avril Lavigne – Patriot Center (May 2003)
For Grace. I was actually quite impressed with her voice (Avril’s that is). Riot grrrl with training wheels. And then she got annoying.
17. Gaelic Storm – Birchmere, NoVA (Sept. 2003)
This Celtic band is great fun. Went with dearly missed (alive and well; she moved to England) friend Nancy, who was largely pregnant. I had interviewed the band and wrote about them, so we were invited backstage where I mistakenly said “we’re expecting…” and am sure the band thought we were a gay couple (not that there’s anything wrong….)
18. Good Charlotte/New Found Glory – Patriot Center (May 2003)
Emma, and later, Grace were both crazy about GC for awhile. And I appreciated them, too. They were sweet local misfits who played with great energy and joy And then came the day the Madden twins were curt with their fans when visiting Reston Town Center. What made it worse, that same night, they appeared at a different concert (which we also saw) and blathered between every song about how much their fans meant to them, we couldn’t be here without you, blah, blah, blah. And then they started dating supermodels and the music went south.
18. Ben Harper/Jack Johnson – Bull Run Park, NoVA (June 2003)
Not sure why JJ’s laid-back surfer dude music is so pleasant and soothing – in theory, that stuff makes me roll my eyes. But he’s pretty charming. I was alone and tired and got free tickets (another preview), so I stayed for a handful of BH songs and then split. I appreciate him in theory, but he doesn’t move me.
19. The Proclaimers – Birchmere (Sept. 21)
These guys are more than just “500 Miles.” Not a lot, lot more, but they can keep an audience fully engaged for a night. Went with my pal Matt (in a kilt!) so that was very cool.
20. Fountains of Wayne – 9:30 Club (April 1997)
The two songwriters here are among the smartest working in pop today. And though the band doesn’t have much to offer in onstage personality, they play great songs with great skill and that’s enough for me. Have seen them 3, 4 times.
21. Poi Dog Pondering – 9:30 Club (June 1997)
My friend Aries told me how much she loved this band, so I tagged along not knowing a note of their music. That’s usually a recipe for disaster but the band’s energy, good feeling, and Talking Heads-style smart dance music made it an amazing show. I have since bought many of their albums and still haven’t found the song I loved most that night (sample lyric: “I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”) Also notable for the German tourist who tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I want dancing. Dancing with you.” (I politely declined.)
22. Jane Siberry – Birchmere (Sept. 1997)
Oh, Jane. Jane, Jane, Jane. An extraordinary artist, an agreeable but obstuse interview. And an acquired taste. She can be brilliant, she can be head-scratchingly confusing, but she’s never dull. Terry and I have seen her a number of times, but one of my true concert regrets is that I did not see her “Bound By the Beauty” tour, since that album has some of her most accessible, euphoric songs.
23. Foo Fighters – 9:30 Club (July 1997)
One of the hardest-working, hardest-rocking and best live bands going. And the drummer is sexy cool. Seeing them at 930 was a major treat, though they never disappointed at the various arena fests where I’ve seen them.
24. Soul Asylum – 9:30 Club (June 1997)
SA were previewing material from a new album after going huge with “Grave Dancers’ Union.” It was fun, but I left the show to discover that my car was broken into and my checkbook stolen. Ensuing headaches over bounced checks wiped away whatever I heard at the show.
25. Ben Folds Five – Gaston Hall, NoVA (Dec. 1997)
Which takes us back to #8.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Squirrel strikes again

Have you been following the story of the squirrel that inserted itself into a young couple's vacation photos?
The joy of the Internet is that silly little stories like this go viral and everybody can get in on the fun. People have been photo-shopping the furry little creature into all sorts of places. Here's my current favorite:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just the Facts, Ma'am

No more house on the lake. (Well, the house is there but I am not.) I'm getting back in the groove, but it's a deadline week for the Post, so I am not blogging in full just yet. But I can share a few links from my recently published past...

First, the latest Washington Post previews, posted last week.
In the Arlington/Alexandria Extra section - Caravan of Thieves at the IOTA
For the Fairfax Extra - Prog rock violin/keyboard hero Eddie Jobson at Jammin’ Java

And here are the two latest stories on the Examiner site.
1. A free new Radiohead track – and a wonderful benefit single dedicated to the recently deceased last British soldier from World War One.

2. Two free downloads to preview the upcoming studio album from David Mead and a free live CD, too (in exchange for your email eddress).
DAVID MEAD - Live at Eddie's Attic 2/4/09
I downloaded the album myself and highly recommend it - a wonderful introduction to this skillful, beautifully voiced singer/songwriter.

And don't forget, you can subscribe to my examiner column so that you’ll be informed of each new story when it goes online. Although all digital music is fair game, I'm concentrating on free, legal downloads, so there's something in it for you!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

House on the Lake - again!

It's been two weeks since the last blog entry? Oh, dear. And now I'm on "vacation," at the upstate NY lake house. Will that provide me with yet another excuse? No!

First, the latest Washington Post previews, which were posted last week.
In the Arlington/Alexandria Extra section, we have:
Keegan DeWitt, Annie & the Beekeepers at Galaxy Hut
and in the Fairfax Extra, there's:
Marina V at Falls Church Episcopal Church

And here are the latest stories on the Examiner site
(please subscribe so that you’ll be informed of each new one when it goes online):
New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love And Rockets
The Dodos - Time to Die
Both of these stories included zip files of the digital downloads being sent to me, so I'm including them in the tally.
And this story was inspired by an actual,physical CD.
Datarock - Red (Nettwerk)
Datarock plays tribute to Talking Heads

When John Hughes died, I thought he deserved
a little appreciation for the great music he used in his films.

The O/CD Report (long gone, but not forgotten)
Went to the Thrift store last week. Donated a throw pillow, a coffee pot, some videos, a few T-shirts and various castaway toys. Got five new CDs for $1.50 each.
SWITCHFOOT – Learning to Breathe (Rethink/Sparrow)
I like this band. They’re Christian rockers who celebrate their faith without pushing their agenda (although I don’t know whether they get preachy in concert). I didn’t recognize this CD cover (three stickmen with TV-type heads) so I thought maybe it was a rarity. Now I see (through the amazon listings) that it’s the standard debut release on their original Christian label, before they got signed to Sony. One slight change, though. Here, the hit single is called, “I Dare You to Move.” Sony dropped the “I” when they put the track on “The Beautiful Letdown” release.
(The Best of) NEW ORDER (Qwest/Warner Bros.)
No, not the deluxe box set thingy, but enough good music for the reference library in the meantime.
CAROLE KING – Really Rosie (Ode/Epic/Legacy)
The original TV soundtrack featuring the wonderful “Chicken Soup with Rice.” There’s a “Where the Wild Things Are” movie coming, which would have me really worried expect that it’s directed by Spike Jonze, and I saw a pretty good trailer, so there’s hope it may capture the whimsical magic of the book. It’s time to renew (or continue) our memberships in the Maurice Sendak Appreciation Society. Let the wild rumpus start!
SWITCHFOOT – Live in San Diego (Columbia Music Video)
It comes in a CD-size case, but it’s a concert video.
TRAVIS – Why Does It Always Rain on Me? (Independiente)
4 music tracks, including a live song and the band’s cover of “…Baby One More Time,” plus multimedia which I can’t play, since it’s for older/different computer platforms (I’m a mac). There’s a sticker on the cover, promising stickers inside but, alas, they are not included.

YTD O/CD Tally:244

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Other Blog

Dear CPF Blog 2009,
I know it's been awhile, and I can see why you feel I've been neglecting you lately. We've been together a long time and you deserve an explanation. It's not that I don't care about you, and I don't want things to end between us, but you see, there's been...a complication.
I've been seeing another blog.
Well, it's not actually a blog. It's almost like a job. This rich newspaper guy has started an online service and he's inviting writers to sign up and submit stories, picking a topic - mine is Digital Music - and then posting on a regular basis to build up traffic to the larger site.
What we have here is all about love, baby. You know that.
But this other blog...there's money involved. Not a lot. At least not now, but there's a chance that, if people like the idea and visit often, it might turn into something.

And just so you know that what we have together is truly special, I want to lay it all out on the table, so you can see where I've been. Here are the first 10 stories I've posted elsewhere...
Japancakes
Awesome New Republic
Amazon music samplers
Lily Allen, remixed
Lollapalooza CD
Owl City
Flaming Lips
R.E.M. live EP
Sonos
Coldplay live CD

See? It's not like it is between you and me.
Nothing has changed between us, dearest CPF blog, and I know we still have many great times to come.
But for now, I hope you will forgive me if I sometimes appear a little distracted and don't always seem like I'm there for you. I'll make it up to you, dear blog.

P.S. And just so you know, I've been tested. No viruses.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Too Many Downloads, Not Enough Time

The trouble, for me, with digital downloads is that they get pulled into my iTunes library and may never be heard from again. Publicists send zip files, which are quick and convenient, but they offer nothing to hang onto – there’s a line of text with a song and album title and an artist name. Unless I have a need to listen for a possible story, or a few favorable notices nudge me to check them out, they might as well be invisible (what is the audio equivalent of invisibility?).

People who seek, download and/or buy music are acting on a desire to have the songs. My reception is passive. There’s a folder on my desktop labeled, “Do I want these?” and I may pop in occasionally to see what’s taking up space on my hard drive. Or, as I am doing tonight, I tell the iTunes to list material by “Date Added” so that I can review what’s come over the network in the past few weeks. Either way, there are plenty of albums that may never get the attention – or the dumping – they deserve.

I know. Cry me a river. Too many free songs is a problem any music lover would like to have. This is not a complaint so much as an explanation as to why some recent releases have been overlooked. And why, even when they're tallied, they may not have proper record labels listed (another failure of the system). Here, for the O/CD Tally, are some of the albums that have arrived lately through digital delivery:

These are keepers:
WHITE RABBITS – It’s Frightening
Saw this band do “Percussion Gun” on Letterman and needed to hear it again ASAP; asked for a copy from the publicist the next morning. After almost daily repeats, it remains one of my favorite tracks of the year so far. Percussive (as the title foretells, with two big drums struck in tandem), energetic, quirky and recommended to Radiohead fans, as the lead singer’s voice is Yorke-ian and the songs refuse to bow to tradition.
WHITE LIES – To Lose My Life
A little bit of Killers glam, a touch of New Order moodiness.
COLDPLAY – LeftRightLeftRightLeft
You can complain about Coldplay if you want, but Chris Martin has a sense of humor about himself (check out his hilarious episode of “Extras” with Ricky Gervais) and the band is giving away a free download of this 9-track live album on their website. I wrote about it in my new “job” (hey, I got over 130 hits today) as Digital Music Examiner.
SONOS – SonoSings
Another story I did for examiner.com, sharing a stream of the a cappella sextet’s version of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” (it was in the can months before Michael died, so they weren’t jumping on the bandwagon/hearse). I was sent the full CD, due in September, which has a sterling array of songs from writers like Bon Iver and Bjork, though I would call the cover of the Bird and the Bee’s “Again and Again” a mistake, as there’s little point in trying to top Inara George’s sweet, layered vocals.
IGGY POP – Preliminaires
Iggy’s getting positively chanteuse-ary here. “I Want to Go to the Beach” sounds like something Leonard Cohen might sing, with bass notes that sound like a bullfrog’s croak. And I’m not sure that I mean that in a bad way. Hey, he’s freaking Iggy Pop. If he wants to sing slow, sad songs and someone wants to send it to me for free, I’ll give it a try.
The BLUE VAN - Man Up
Two great songs here (so far) – “Man Up,” which puts the grow-a-pair message to a great pop/rock beat, and “Silly Boy,” which sounds like a Supergrass rave-up.
STAX SAMPLER - Various Artists
If amazon is gonna keep offering free samplers from cool labels, I intend to keep taking them.

Purchased downloads:


The BIRD and The BEE – Please Clap Your Hands EP
Just grabbed this today, another amazon special - 5 tracks for 99 cents. The title comes from the first song here - “Polite Dance Song,” also on the recent full-length, “Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future.” Good stuff, including the lovely cover version of the BeeGees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” that is part of the pair's regular concert set list.


CONOR OBERST and The MYSTIC VALLEY BAND – Outer South
Oberst and Co. opened for Wilco at Wolf Trap earlier this month and it was a great way to see them. When he isn’t at the top of the bill, Oberst has to put aside the self-indulgence (and self-regard?) that tarnished his headlining show at DAR Constitution Hall a few years back. He’s damn talented, to be sure, but too many people have told him so and at the earlier show, he took the audience’s adulation for granted, which hurt the set. This album also seems to find him more relaxed and maybe even happy. And that makes for a better experience for us, too.

The PAINS of BEING PURE at HEART
I heard some buzzing about this band, so I got this from my emusic account. Gives me that happy, poppy but not sappy, Belle & Sebastian vibe.
EELS – Hombre Lobo (Vagrant)
Another emusic purchase and, despite having it on my playlist for three weeks now, I haven’t heard a note. Which kinda proves the point I opened with…

Year to Date O/CD Tally: 236

Friday, July 17, 2009

42 Years Ago Tonight...

...I was at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, watching Jimi Hendrix open for the Monkees. I won the tickets from the WMCA Good Guys, and my parents let me fly home from their upstate NY summer cottage to see the show, 'cause I had to be there to see my pre-fab four perform.

My sister's boyfriend's younger brother took me, as a favor. He could have cared less about the Monkees, but now he has bragging rights, too.
Although Hendrix didn't set his guitar on fire (damn), he did a lot of things that left us teenyboppers confused and the parents in the crowd somewhat shocked. He left the tour soon after.

Quick 1's and 0's

It's all about the digital stuff these days. There's so much actual live music I should be recapping here - Wilco (so good!) and a multi-act bill at Jammin' Java last week and the Mid-Atlantic Band Battle, also at J2 just the past two days.

But I'm pressed for time right now, so I'll just provide a few links.

First, the latest Washington Post previews, which went out today.
In the Arlington/Alexandria Extra section, we have:
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the Birchmere
and in the Fairfax Extra, there's:
The Woodshedders at McLean Park

And, if you're the type who notices even minor changes, you might have seen the little notice on the top right of this page, asking you to visit my new online digital music column.

I've just started writing a regular thing, three times a week (or more; it's up to me) for examiner.com, an online group associated with the Examiner newspaper chain. I have the fancypants title of Digital Music Examiner and my aim is to point people to cool digital-only music and to legal downloads, esp. those that promote new artists. And I'm free to roam around other topics, too, provided there's some type of digital hook.

Please visit my home page and take a look at my first few stories. Even better, subscribe (just give an email eddress) and you'll get a quick email whenever I post a new story (I am spam; spam I am?) but no other junk. Unlike this blog, done for the sheer love of it, there's actual money involved in the new column. Not much yet, maybe never, but every hit helps the cause.

And please feel free to point me to cool online music sites, good music that is free and legal to download, or interesting news of the Brave New Digital, Musical World.

More anon!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Farewell, Trusty Harman Kardon T3OC

The old turntable is dead, long live the new turntable.

I’d been procrastinating about dealing with the very old Harman Kardon that ceased to function after I tested an equally old Fleetwood Mac bootleg on it (an editorial comment, perhaps?) but finally fought my way through the cords and wires to do a check on it. Having declared it officially dead and saying a few memorial words of thanks, I connected the new USB-compatible turntable that was my birthday present last year.
Having tested it once, I had it in storage for the days when I might have time to dive into major vinyl-to-digital conversion. And while I still don’t think I can devote myself to loading software and learning the process anytime soon, it was certainly fun to play with the sleek new component. Don’t tell my poor husband, who envisions those groaning shelves of LPs one day disappearing but, even after I convert any/all to mp3s, there will always be vinyl in my life. You can have my favorite records when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!

It seems only appropriate that, when speaking of vinyl, one should honor DJs, even if many are working digitally these days.I’m not sure how DJ Lobsterdust goes about creating his (could it be her?) stuff, but the
LOBSTERDUST VS. MOTOWN - Same Old Song EP(??)
that College Girl’s BF gave me is full of cool stuff. “Call Me Aready,” a mashup of Blondie and the Temptations “Get Ready” is way fun and “Train It Up,” where the Clash’s catchiest song is paired with a Marvin Gaye party groove, is another winner.
CG's BF also gave me a treasure trove of downloads:
ARCADE FIRE - B-sides and Live Tracks (???)
The live tracks come from various performances on KCRW (L.A.'s uber-cool NPR station) and BBC Radio, including a scorching 11+ minute concert finale starting with “Neighborhood #3,” and a cover of a most favorite Talking Heads tune, “Naive Melody.” The vocal here is even more fragile than Byrne’s original, but the steel drum is a nice touch and having a full-length CD-R full of new Fire is sweet, indeed!
And, in other gifties, he gave me:
GRIZZLY BEAR - Veckatimest (Warp)
The band’s myspace page, where you can stream the wonderful track, “Two Weeks,” and get free downloads of other songs, describes its sound as “Indie/Acoustic/Experimental.” That’s a good start, and you can add comparisons to Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills & Nash, thanks to the beautiful harmonies and maybe some Harry Nilsson, due to the occasional faux-naive bright pop. Could be a contender for one of the year’s top ten.

Actually it’s been a brilliant week for new music in our house, including two purchases with My Own Cash Money:
WILCO – Wilco (the album) (Nonesuch)
PHOENIX – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)
When my husband buys flowers, I tease him that he’s not earning Brownie points with me, since I know he loves flowers himself. Likewise, though I bought these two CDs as “gifts” for him, he knows damn well I wanted the music, too. There is some sacrifice on my part, however, because he plays any new album he loves every single day, sometimes twice, and I am unable to escape repeated listening. Thankfully, both albums here show acts at the top of their game, so I'm cool with the repetition.
This Wilco is more straightforward than its previous experimental efforts, although the wonderful guitar work of Nils Cline still offers a bit of quirk factor - and some definite George Harrison homage - to ward off any sense of “same old.” And yes, that’s Feist singing on “You and I.” Still wishin’ and a hopin’ that I might score some tickets for the Wolf Trap show this Wednesday.
As for Phoenix, I was happy to find the band’s two previous albums in the deep files since this new one is so good I want to revisit and explore the sound’s evolution. Hubby and I both hear a happy Beach Boys summer vibe within the dance pop and he keeps talking of a Kings of Leon-style rock twist, but I don’t. We can disagree on the details and still agree that it’s worth hearing again. And again.

In other purchasing news, amazon had a steal of a deal last week -
DAVID BOWIE – Diamond Dogs: 30th Anniversary Edition (Virgin)
19 tracks for $5.oo. Much as I love deluxe editions in physical form (liner notes! photos! fancy slip cases!), I doubt I could afford to spring for this one in full format. And I didn’t realize until I got the confirmation email that it was really only $4.oo since I’d forgotten a one dollar credit, good for any download, thanks to a recent purchase, in physical form, of
IDA MARIA - Fortress ‘Round My Heart (Mercury/Fontana)
Ever since seeing this dynamo rock the house at CMJ two years ago, I’ve been waiting to take her Bjork-meets-Lily Allen music home. “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” has been getting airplay on KCRW, and it’s a cool song, but the hint of novelty act in the title doesn’t tell the whole story. I hope she’ll be coming ‘round again soon as I can only imagine how much fun she'll be to see now that I know the songs.

I’ll finish off today’s CD round-up with a handful of acquisitions from a visit to the trade-in store two weeks ago.
ANNIE LENNOX - Unplugged: Cold 3 CD Single Box (RCA/BMG)
Each CD has the same studio version of “Cold,” and then three additional live tracks. The first, marked “Cold,” features songs from the “Diva” release, including one of my favorite heartbreakers, “Why.” The one marked “Colder” offers Eurythmics cuts like “Here Comes the Rain Again.” And the final one (you guessed it) - “Coldest” - has the single track that sold me on the entire $11.99 package when I heard it on the store’s listening station - a ripping version of “River Deep Mountain High.” The packaging isn’t all that great, and amazon shows the Japanese import version going for $44 and up (this one’s from Holland) so I suspect I will ultimately burn a nice single CD of Lennox live and put the set up for sale.
10,000 MANIACS - Trouble Me CD single (Elektra)
Back in the Day, I used to do promotional writing for Elektra Records. The guy in charge of the marketing department, an old skool industry Class Act (at least in my mind) named Hale Milgrim, oversaw some of the coolest swag and promotional packaging ever. I worked for his associate, a clever woman with a stylist’s eye and they were nice enough to share some of the cool booty with me. I was there when 10,000 Maniacs released the album from which this song came, but I don’t remember this groovy CD single packaging. It was a time when vinyl was still the primary format, so who knows. Anyhoo, this 3-track, 3-inch CD single comes in a die-cut cardboard cutout of an elephant (elephants were a motif of the album) that’s about the size of 7-inch vinyl single and, when you move the elephant’s trunk, it pushes away the cardboard title card that covers the animal’s back like a saddle and the single is exposed. Too damn cool! ($3.99)
The OC MIX 5 - Various Artists (Warner Bros.)
The $1.99 clearance bins are now stacked beneath a table and hard to access, so it appears their days are numbered - although the guy bought every CD I had in my bags, including some that seemed doomed to the cheapie section, so who knows. At any rate, I saw few of the slimline or cardboard covers that indicate possible advance releases and a cursory glance at the big batch showed few reasons to dig in deeper. But I did find this “Harbor School Classbook ‘05-’06” with a few worthwhile tracks, like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House,” and songs by people I want to know better - Rogue Wave, Youth Group, Of Montreal. We listened to it on the long ride upstate and it was just what a compilation should be - like an hour spent with a hip radio station.
WYE OAK - The Knot (Merge)
This one is an advance CD, but I found it in the regular bins for $3.99 and deemed it worthy of the extra two bucks to get a jump on the the July 21 release date. I misplaced it soon after purchase and only recently found it, so no comments yet.

YTD O/CD Tally: 225

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Isn't It Nice to Be Home Again?

It’s a long way from upstate NY to NoVA – 10 hours with food/pit stops – and it’s always nice to be greeted by a little stack of new music waiting to be freed from the puffy bonds of padded envelopes.
Some of the new acquisitions were sent in connection with this week’s Post previews which went online today. So we’ll start there, and do double duty with tally and links.
The TEXAS CHAINSAW HORNS – Whiskey & Knives (self-released)
You can read more about the Horns, and about Fools & Horses, a regional act that has the potential to break big, at this preview of a pair of free outdoor shows.
(Here's Fools & Horses)

BENJY DAVIS PROJECT – Dust (Rock Ridge Music)
Part of the joy of doing the Post column is being sent music I didn't know about previously but really, really like. The first song on this album, "The Rain," grabbed me right away - smart lyrics and rootsy, layered musical accompaniment in a Counting Crows vein. This is a Louisiana-based band that's been around a while but is new to me. Happy discovery!

BJD is playing on a multi-act bill at Jammin' Java along with
TIM BRANTLEY – Goldtop Heights (Blackledge Music)


There was also a CD late-comer from a previous Post story.
PAT McGEE – These Days (The Virginia Sessions) (Rock Ridge Music)
You can read more about him here.
LUKE MITCHEM – It Won’t Last Forever (self-released)
This one's sort of Post-related, too. When I was at the Gabe Dixon show mentioned last time, I got into a chat with the guy at the merch booth and it turned out he was a musician, too. When I mentioned my Post stuff, he quickly reached behind the counter to present me with a copy of his own album. It's a quiet, introspective set, mostly just him and his guitar. Fair game, indeed, for a possible preview down the road.

The rest of the Welcome Home booty:
The DONNAS – Greatest Hits Vol. 16 (Purple Feather)
I love that women rock, and attention must be paid to the Donnas, who are celebrating 16 years of fighting the good fight. This retrospective includes two new songs, some b-sides and live tracks, alternate versions and re-recorded tracks. I don’t know their catalog well enough to know if the re-takes are a good idea, but I’m glad to have a chance to get to know them better. Out July 7.
The CLARKS – Restless Days (Clarkhouse Entertainment)
These Pittsburgh guys are a cult favorite in my house, thanks to a catchy little tune called “Saturday” from an album some years old. The press rep was sending me something else for a preview story, and was kind enough to include this so I could hear what the band is up to more recently.
GREAT NORTHERN – Remind Me Where The Light Is (Eenie Meenie Records)
Thoroughly enjoyed this group’s debut album and can say after a few listens to this new one that they’ve still got it - big but not pompous, tough and dark but not oppressive.
CHEICK HAMALA DIABATE – Ake Doni Doni/Take It Slow (Grigri Discs)
Can’t say much here until I get a chance to listen, but there’s a story to this guy – a DC-based musician who is a “resident griot,” playing traditional Malian music while also jamming with the Afro-pop community.
The DYNAMITES featuring CHARLES WALKER – Burn It Down (Outta Sight Records)
Due out September 15, this generic advance forecasts cool by virtue of the comparisons made on the back cover by critics from Harp and the New York Times, who evoke the Dap-Kings, the Meters and Marvin Gaye in their comparisons.
BOULDER ACOUSTIC SOCIETY – Punchline (Nine Mile Records)
This one gets a prize for sheer packaging creativity. I liked it from first glance for the old-fashioned helmet die-cut cover with the real see-through lenses. Then I took it out of the plastic to discover that the whole thing unfolds and refolds into a working 3-D stereoscope! Also included, a handful of double-sided inserts that you put into the viewer so you can see 3-D images of the band, in group and solo shots. Very, very cool! I put the album on today and first impression is that of a solid, if not overwhelmingly original band that plows the field of gentle Americana. I will listen again and give them the benefit of the doubt. Anyone smart and playful enough to create this kind of album package may well have the kind of musical surprises that unfold slowly.

Year to Date O/CD Tally (adding in 3 from last posting): 214

And, circling back to the Post for a moment, the online version of the paper finally got around to uploading my story on the Strawbs show at State Theatre late last month. I did an email interview with front man Dave Cousins and was rather pleased with the results, so better late than never,
here 'tis.

Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

There is a House on a Lake

In upstate New York, there’s a beautiful 33-mile-long lake that my family has been visiting every summer since before I was born. And now I am sitting there, on a screened-in porch with a great view of said Lake George, after having a grilled steak meal with daughters, mother, brother, cousins and friend, eating homemade brownies and watching a spectacular fireworks display over the water. Yeah, life is good.

And the music is, too. Listening as I type to
PURPLISH RAIN - Various Artists (SPIN magazine)
It’s a free, nine-track album celebrating the Purple One’s seminal (I rarely use that word, but with him it fits, especially the double-entendre) album. The download was offered free to SPIN subscribers. All I had to do was answer a few questions, based on the current issue’s cover story. I would tell you the answers here and now, but that seems unfair and I bet you can easily find out elsewhere. Go get it, and you, too, can enjoy the mariachi style version of “I Would Die 4 You," Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings’ take on “Take Me With U,” and Apollonia, Prince’s one-time protege and film co-star, on a cover of "When Doves Cry" recorded with Greg Dulli and his band, the Twilight Singers. Good stuff.

Last Monday, before hitting the road for this trip north, I had a great time at Gabe Dixon Band’s show at Jammin’ Java (my last entry had a photo of me and Gabe, and I forgot to give photo credit to the steadfast Sally. Sorry!) Anyhow, you’d probably rather see a photo of Gabe in concert.

I had seen the band previously at Jammin’ Java in March, after writing a preview for the Post. As previously mentioned, I named the trio’s eponymous Fantasy CD one of my Top Ten last year, after which Gabe himself sent a note thanking me. Then I interviewed him for a Post preview and then, with hubby’s permission and through our mutual friend, the band’s publicist, I offered the band a place to crash after the show.

The show lived up to my expectations, but it was a truncated 45-minutes set as openers for pop (and maybe Christian?) rocker Dave Barnes, who is amiable and funny, but not quite as compelling in his songwriting. Barnes and Dixon are friends, sometimes even writing partners, so there were times in the former’s set when the latter sat in, including a nice ending number in which the band walked in among the crowd for maximum OMG-ness from the predominantly young and female Barnes fans. (Last time I saw him, he opened for Hanson.)

There was plenty of post-show breakdown and pack-up to do before Gabe and Co. were done for the night, so I headed home and did some computer play until they rolled in around 1 AM. There was some quick socializing, but everyone seemed kinda beat, so I showed them to their accommodations (with two daughters’ bedrooms empty and the pull-out couch in the family room, each got his own room) and said goodnight.

The next morning, over breakfast, we had a real chance to chat and I got to know more about these lovely guys. It was hugs and good vibes all around when they left in their van the next day, with promises to stay in touch.

Sure enough, when the band came around again, Gabe called to invite me to the show and I invited them to stay at the house again. But this time, they were staying in one of those luxury touring buses, courtesy of another act on the bill, a singer/songwriter named Roy Jay who had made a killing on the web and could afford to travel in style and share the bounty (no wonder his album is called “Lucky Guy”).

It was great seeing Gabe and Jano Rix (his longtime drummer/percussionist) again. It’s a duo, not a trio touring this time; bassist Winston Harrison is concentrating on a duo of his own with his wife Julia. Actually, he gave me a copy of the CD last time around.
WHAT BIRD - Good Night, Good Riddance (self-released)
Here’s a little background: while Winston toured with GBD, Julia attended graduate school at CalArts in Valencia, CA and her 30-mile drives from LA and back, many at night through the winding, mountainous freeways, meshed with Winston’s ambient recording efforts to create what they call “late-night driving music," influenced by the likes of Everything but the Girl, Kristin Hersh, Eric Satie and Arvo Part.
She writes the lyrics and sings the original songs, plus there’s nice cover of “Under the Milky Way.” My own hubby summed it up best when he was listening, not knowing the source, and said, “there seem to be a lot of women lately singing in that key and tempo.” Where What Bird stakes its own claim is in some intriguing arrangements.
The GABE DIXON BAND - Live at World Cafe (Reprise)
This live recording predates the trio’s Fantasy debut and is sold at shows. But I got mine for hosting the band. I may never have the money it takes to build a museum wing, but stay overnight in my basement and give me an autographed album and I feel like a real patron/matron of the arts!

So, back at Jammin’ Java on Monday night - Gabe gave Sally and me a guided tour of the luxury bus and, while I didn’t think to take photos (damn), it’s all filed away as research for the music-based screenplay and young adult novel (the first is finished, the second underway) that I’ve been working on. And as for the show, you probably think I’m gonna tell you it was great but...yeah, it was. GBD headlined this time and was able to stretch out, showing just how versatile and melodic two talented guys can be. And since you may question my critical judgment based on my fondness for the individuals involved, I just spent 20 minutes trying to upload a video clip so you could see for yourself how good these guys are, but blogger is bagging on me again. (I need to move this thing to another blog platform, I fear). So instead, I'll tell you that Sally, who’s a skilled musician, will back me up. She even bought the band’s eponymous CD when she could have easily asked me to share songs.

It was a multi-act bill - besides Roy Jay, there was Jay Nash, Joey Ryan (try keeping those three names straight) and Madi Diaz. (Here's Jay Nash.)
I didn't see the latter, and only a few songs of Ryan's set, but he and Nash were both fine singer/songwriters and they often came onstage to support Gabe and Jano, along with Nash's bassist, giving the songs full, powerful readings. I bet that bus is a rolling hootenany.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Madonna, Gabe Dixon and Me

It's late and I need to get to sleep, but I meant to post a picture from last night's 11 o'clock news report all day and never got around to it. Anyway, I had the TV on, tuned to USA Channel 9 to hear the weather report while I was working on the computer. I wasn't paying much attention during the sports segment until I saw the word "Madonna" out of the corner of my eye and heard a woman's voice talking about the Nationals game (they lost). Thanks to the miracle of TiVO, I was able to capture this screen shot:

Hmmmm...maybe the divorce is taking its toll?

As for the other two names in tonight's headline, Sally (my loyal Plus One) and I were at Jammin' Java Monday night to see the Gabe Dixon Band perform. For now, I will simply say they were great and post the next picture, of me and the lovely, talented GD.

More shots from the show and tidbits of news from same ASAP. (I'd say "tomorrow" but there's a crapload of stuff to do before we depart Wednesday for upstate NY, so I'm trying to be realistic.) Until then, sleep well and play safe.