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 free download
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'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
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 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 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).
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. (
* 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