Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Me and Yoko, we're likethis

Think she reads any of the 228,000+ tweets?
I wouldn't be surprised if sometimes she did.
And made art out of it.
If Yoko wants to organize a flash mob, I'm in.

Monday, February 22, 2010

We Get Out - Sing Me Insomnia, The Bigger Lights

No, I am not a cougar, but I do enjoy me some cute boy pop/rock. And that was what was on the bill Friday night at Jammin' Java, my musical home away from home, where Mei the lovely door lady stamps my hand without even looking at the guest list. (I don't take it for granted, and I love it so!) This night, I came to see the second act on the three-band bill, Sing Me Insomnia (missed Action Item, who opened the show).

SMI won last year's Mid-Atlantic Battle of the Bands, hosted by the club - and for which I was a judge on two of the four evenings, including when these guys won their night. I was muchly impressed then by the group's three-song set. It was smooth, bright and tight and when I realized how young they are, the level of professionalism on display was even more remarkable. Seeing them again, in a longer set, I was not disappointed.
Let's get a little closer with the guys, Tiger Beat fans. Here's singer/guitarist Jared:

And Marshall (they don't generally use last names) on keyboards....

Here's a trio of good looking, talented young guys (the drummer is in the back, and he's cute, too). Sing Me Insomnia have just released a five-track debut EP on iTunes. Check 'em out.

I knew nothing coming in about the headliner, The Bigger Lights, but the size and response of the crowd led me to believe that this quintet, also local Northern Virginia boys, has a reputation. The band has toured with Cartel and Never Shout Never and records for Doghouse Records. By the look of the well-inked guitarist, you could guess that TBL's sound is a little rougher than SMI's, but it's still catchy and non-agressive.

Guitarist John Kendall "JK" Royston is a founding member of the band...

But it's vocalist Topher Talley who really grabs the spotlight with a bit of Jagger swagger...

...and, dare I say it, maybe a dash of brooding Edward Cullen?

And he knows how to work the stage, to a point that it was hard to get a still picture of him!

All in all, an energizing night and a nice reminder that talent is blooming in my little suburban world, helped along by a great venue that books national names but continues to support the local scene with quality, all-ages shows.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The best Frank Zappa tribute yet?

Ooops. I left an important set of pictures out of yesterday's NYC trip recap. On the drive home, we took a break at one of the rest stops in Maryland, just north of Baltimore and guess what I found? (The headline may help.)

I am a sucker for squashed penny machines and try to remember to carry some shiny coins to make especially pretty ones when I find them on my travels. I do prefer, however, that the penny has some relation, even a tangential one, to the region that's selling it.

And since Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore, his penny most definitely qualifies. He's the only musician I've ever seen immortalized in such a manner. Anyone out there seen any others?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I [heart] NY

Oh, New York City, you are a shiny toy, indeed.

(all pics by Terry, BTW, this one shot at Pearl River Mart on Broadway)
With the snowpocalypse finally behind us (here's the view outside our front door after the second wave hit), we were able to get out for a trip to our beloved former city.

Luckily, we had my 4-wheel drive Honda, so didn't have to dig Terry's car out...

It was a family field trip, long planned by the girls with the express purpose of seeing the Tim Burton show at the Museum of Modern Art. Pictures were prohibited within the exhibition (I snuck a few) but it was OK to pose with the huge figure on the ground floor so, of course, I did. GO SEE THIS SHOW. It's amazing.

It was fashion week in the city and there were beautiful and well-dressed people out and about. We passed by the showroom of the late Alexander McQueen and noted the tributes left on the sidewalk outside.

That was the same day that Terry and I took a walk along the elevated Highline walkway, cool (literally) in the winter and I bet it will be spectacular in the spring. And you'll no doubt have to fight for one of these comfy chaises.

After the Highline, we stopped at a closet-sized coffee joint called DubSpot on 14th Street, where they offer DJ lessons and you sit/sip at tiny tables attached to drum kit stands.

A small shop with a big heart, the place was selling a compilation CD - FUNK AID FOR AFRICA – Various Artists (Dubspot) - for African relief, mixed and compiled by one their own, DJ Obah, for a mere $10. So, yeah, I bought one.

Alas, the huge record stores I once prowled are no more although, this being NY, there will always be small boutique places to buy. We walked past the former downtown site of Virgin Records, and stopped briefly in the old Tower Records building, where an artists' collective called No Longer Empty was holding a gallery showing/concert under the banner title of "Never Can Say Goodbye" (the signage was done in Tower's trademark red on yellow).
We considered stopping in Other Music to get the new Sade album, until I had second thoughts about buying such an MOR release in such a cutting edge shop and being mistaken for - gasp - tourists (yeah, I know that's silly).
The Strand, of course, is known as a book store. One hell of a book store, to be sure. But on a previous NYC visit, I'd scored some amazing finds at the Wall Street area Strand, where a table of cast-off/cut-out/clearance CDs netted me a Johnny Flynn advance and MGMT's debut at steal-deal prices. The Village Strand has only a few racks and fewer rarities, but I came away with:
BETH ORTON – Trailer Park (Arista/Legacy/Heavenly)
The sticker says “Indie-folk classic," here in a 2-CD set with B-sides, live and instrumental versions. (I have the original, but couldn't resist this two-fer at $12.) Listened to the first disc on the ride home and was reminded what a revelation Orton's mix of electronica and folk was at the time. And it still holds up, enough that Terry asked when there'd be time to hear the extras disc.
UP. DOWN. TURN AROUND (Circa 80) – Various Artists (Starbucks/Rhino)
More great car tunes, including a few obscurities I've wanted on CD (China Crisis' "Working with Fire and Steel," "So Alive" from Love and Rockets, "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" from Split Enz) and many fine favorites by Bowie, Talking Heads, Kate Bush and more.
Between those two albums and the fine sounds of radio WFUV and WXPN, we never got around to the final Strand purchase:
PATIO PARTY! – Various Artists (Starbucks/Universal)
There were a number of Starbucks samplers on sale for $6 each and, if money were no object, I'd had bought more, but this one made the cut for having artists I need to know more about - Miriam Makeba, Tito Puente (the original "Oye Como Va"), Mongo Santamaria - and some sweet oldies (Roy Head & The Traits' "Treat Her Right," Nina Simone's "Feeling Good"). It's not patio time just yet, but a musical hint of spring will help us get through this snowy month.

Add in some great reunions with old friends and family and the NYC trip was a hit on all levels.

YTD O/CD Tally: 44

Sunday, February 07, 2010

SnOMG! Music to cure cabin fever

Well, we didn’t break the record, but we came close with the second major snowfall of this crazy winter season. Some called it Snowmageddon, others liked Snowpocalypse 2: Electric Boogaloo, but whatever you called it, it was pretty amazing and amazingly pretty. We had nowhere to go and nothing particular to do and there’s still plenty of beer, milk and food staples, so what’s not to like? Pajama party!

It was also a chance to do a few household tasks, like clean up my clothes closet with the help of Grad Girl, who made sure that I got rid of the stuff that was neither hip nor age appropriate. And music, of course, helps make being trapped inside more tolerable.

I turned the computer on to stream while I walked the bedroom runway, catching up with a few recent digital deliveries, Wasn’t impressed by a handful of tracks from
The Soundtrack Of Our Lives – Communion (Yep Roc)
It’s a double album, but I lost patience after about five tracks, which had a certain MOR taste to the them, too close to the cheesy album cover photo of a middle-aged couple that looks like something you’d find in the plastic pages of a new wallet. The group is playing in DC on February 18 and the PR email says, “These dudes put on an epic live show.” Really? Based on this sample, I don’t see how, so maybe I’ll revisit.
On the other hand, I much liked
PEASANT – Shady Retreat (Paper Garden Records)
Peasant is Damien DeRose, a 23-year-old poet turned musician, from Bucks County, PA, who worked out of his bedroom studio throughout high school, and released his debut album, "On The Ground," in 2008. He records in a converted studio in the woods, inspired by the likes of "Pet Sounds" and Nick Drake; the sound is sweet, simple and pretty, reminding me of Blind Pilot and Fleet Fixes. I’m allowed to share one track with you. This is “Well Alright” and if you like, the album comes out on March 2.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite new releases, in steady rotation around the house, snowbound or not, is:
The BIRD and The BEE - Guiltless Pleasures Volume 1 (Blue Note)
Subtitled “A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John Oates,” the CD is billed as “a love letter to [the] famed ‘rock and soul’ duo’” in eight cover tunes and one original song (”Heard It On the Radio”) that fits comfortably alongside, like a fellow Top 40 pop radio hit.
I can say without reservation that Hall and Oates make really great pop tunes because I like the tunes despite the fact that, back in the days when I did lots of feature interviews in person, said Hall and Oates were the most obnoxious people I’ve ever had to chat with. As you might expect, Oates sat there and didn’t say much of anything. Hall, meanwhile, dripped attitude and preened with a self-regard that seemed to imply that, because I was a female reporter, I must want him. The two were embarking on a seriously scaled-back tour since they hadn’t had a hit in years and talked grandly about how they had decided to make a daring move to get close and personal with their fans in small venues. God, they were pompous jerks.
So, anyway, the fact that I love this CD is a tribute both to the durability of the songs and to the much nicer duo reinterpreting them - the lovely Inara George on vocals and multi-instrumentalist/ producer Greg Kurstin, who can make synthesizers sound fun again. “I Can’t Go For That” has been a staple of the pair’s live act since I saw them in late 2008. Loved it then, love it now. The album comes out on March 23.

YTD O/CD Tally: 40

Oh, dear. I’m watching SNL while I type this and just saw a commercial for the new season of “Celebrity Apprentice.” It always makes me sad to see Cyndi Lauper among those losers. She was one of the nicest people I ever interviewed and has real talent. She deserves so much better.