Saturday, January 14, 2012

Battles, Sex and Death

As I write this, I’m listening to the BeeGees’ “Trafalgar” (on vinyl), inspired by a viewing last night of “That Hamilton Woman,” a 1941 film starring then-newlyweds Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh as, respectively, Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton, who carried on a long-term affair while both were married to others and Nelson was keeping England safe in perpetual naval battle with Napoleon.
It was a big, grand, old-fashioned movie, part manly action flick (the sea battle was quite impressive for its time) and soapy chick weepie. Watching old movies, especially ones with torrid love affairs, shown in chaste 1940’s style, where passionate kisses are strictly lips smushed together (no tongues, please!), makes me wonder how the great screen couples of that period – Leigh and Olivier, Hepburn and Tracy, Gable and Lombard – would have handled the Nearly Anything Goes style of today’s sexy films. How would these great screen icons have played tonsil-hockey?

Olivier has a death scene, too, as Nelson is killed in battle at Trafalgar (hence, the inspiration for today’s musical selection and accompanying visual). I know I’m watching way too much MSNBC when, in the middle of our tragic hero's death throes, I’m thinking to myself that he kinda looks like pundit David Corn, of Mother Jones magazine…And then there’s the moment when Leigh/Lady Hamilton gets news of Nelson's demise and goes into a immobile stare before collapsing to the ground. Cinephiles tend to talk about so-and-so’s death scene, but I’m actually more fascinated by actors who need to portray the intense emotion of hearing that a beloved one has died. On the whole, Vivien Leigh did a pretty good job.
Anyway, that’s the sex and death part. As for battles of the non-naval type, I was asked to judge again this past week at Jammin Java’s6th Mid-Atlantic Band Battle. I was there for two nights; seven bands competed on each night for top honors and the right to return for the finals in February. Fourteen acts in two's still a bit of a blur.

Local musician Nate Ihara, of We Were Kings, hosted again and he always does a good job of pimping this here blog when he introduces me in the Meet the Judges moments, promising photos, videos and scandalous backstage stories. Sorry to say there’s no scandal here, but I did post a story and photo slideshow of Wednesday night’s event at So, please visit there and you can get a full(er) report.

In that article (part two, covering Thursday night, will follow soon), I gave background on the competition and tried to give each band at least one photo; most got two. Needing to stay put at the judges’ table, I wasn’t able to get up close, and some bands were just easier than others to shoot from a distance. I have a few random shots that didn’t run in the examiner story as they would have looked redundant. Here, then, are some outtakes for y’all:
The Dirty Jacks won the night, although there was some stiff competition.
Grand Rivival opened the show. Turns out, I had seen them at a previous MABB (put their name in the search and you'll see). With a new drummer, the band has really tightened its sound since then.
Grand Revival again (note shirtless guitarist on left).
Here's Groove 8, whom I would definitely try to catch again.
The Later Sun brought some nice folk-rock harmonies to the evening.
Finally, the "dreamy" (he likes me to say that) Nate Ihara, opening the envelope that contains the name of the winning band.
As I said, a second story will go up soon. My twitter account (@mariannemeyer) will announce it right away, or you can watch this space. 

Hey, it's Saturday night -  go out, have fun, be safe!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Heavy Metal Ha-Ha (first of 2012!)

Some of the best music writing out there - or at least the most entertaining -  comes to me in the form of press releases about heavy metal (or super hard rock, grindcore, etc. It's a pretty wide field...of blood!).  From the names of the bands to the album and song titles to the descriptions of music that wants to rip your face off, it's a thesaurus of aggressive fun. Here then, my first HMHH entry of the new year, with two bands featured. (Both are excerpts, with my emphasis added.)

1. Following their first ever trek through Brazil with Aborted, California goregrind ministers EXHUMED will spray their blood overseas next month on the Grind Over Europe Tour 2012.
EXHUMED will be touring in support of All Guts, No Glory, issued earlier this year via Relapse Records. The band's first new record in almost eight years offers up 11 slaughter-filled tracts of soul-raping, grind-infused death metal that toppled an array of Year End lists including Decibel, Pitchfork,, MetalSucks and Skulls N Bones.
[CPF NOTE: yes, you read that right – NPR. The socialist propaganda outfit covered Exhumed's show at Maryland Deathfest 2011.]

“… fans of dripping blood, gaping autopsies, and ravenous zombies will absolutely adore this record.” — Revolver 

EXHUMED has aged like corpse putrefaction: that is indeed the highest compliment you can pay to one of 2011’s best records.” — Brave Words
And here’s a little something about another band, Toxic Holocaust:

"If The Exploited and Nuclear Assault had a kid, TOXIC HOLOCAUST would take its lunch money and toss it in the dumpster." -- Hails & Horns
….sweetly redolent of thrash, d-beat, and raw sewage, the album simmers with tar-thick riffage, staggering breakdowns, and a corroded dose of self-loathing. — The Onion’s A.V. Club
Throw your devil horns, people!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Singular Sensations? Not So Much.

OK, so I had every intention of posting, as mentioned last time, my top singles of the year, as submitted to the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll, but now I can't find my original list nor can I access the site to see the titles. Why can't I just name them, you ask? For the same reason I couldn't get past number 7 in the final list - individual songs just didn't have the same visceral impact on me in 2011 that I felt in years past. There was Adele, of course. You couldn't escape "Rolling in the Deep," be it at a middle age dinner party, grabbing a drink at Starbucks, stealing cake at a tween neighbor's birthday party or eavesdropping on a drunken night of twentysomethings. Luckily, the song was so good and so rife with pure talent, that you didn't mind hearing it yet one more time. 

And for me more personally, there was Fleet Foxes' "Helplessness Blues," a song so rich in gorgeous harmonies and heartfelt emotion that I bought it immediately upon hearing it and played it over and over in that manner one used to do with actual physical singles that you feared you might wear down the vinyl. The album is lovely in a general overall sense, but no other track comes close to that one shining beacon of musical beauty.

After that...not so many new classics. I had "No Light, No Light," from the new Florence + The Machine album on the list; not even sure if it's a real single (by which I guess I mean featured track), but it's the only song on that much-anticipated new album that stands out to me and even then, only after an SNL appearance gave it a boost.

When I attempted to boost my list-making memory, I pulled up a few Great Songs of The Past Year articles from the usual suspects - Spin, Rolling Stone, Paste, etc. - and will admit that, for every compilation of 100 supposedly great songs, I literally didn't know dozens of them and couldn't quote you lyrics or hum you the melody of many that I sort-of-had-heard-of. It's such a fractured market out, with so many niche styles and I rarely listen to any commercial radio. So, I'm content with my album choices and there are many wonderful songs to be heard therein.

Anyway, I've had two beers tonight and that's just enough to fog my faculties so that I cannot recall the other four songs that made the cut. Another day, then. Sleep tight (as I will), friends.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Looking Back to Good Albums and Forward to More

I'm actually pretty optimistic about the year ahead, but this illustration, from yesterday's New York Times, was too good not to share:
Anyhoo, as 2011 was drawing to a close, I got my reminder from the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll to list my ten favorite albums and singles of the year. I had a hard time whittling the album list down to ten, but here's the final list as submitted to the poll, which will be published in the January 18th edition of the esteemed alternative weekly:

Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys! (Downtown/Cooperative Music)
Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music)
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto (Capitol)
Wilco - The Whole Love (dBpm/ANTI)
James Blake - James Blake (Universal Republic)
Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones (Epitaph)
Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal - Chamber Music (Six Degrees)
Scattered Trees - Sympathy (Musebox)
M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute)
Radiohead - The King of Limbs (Ticker Tape)

As for the singles, in sharp contrast, I had a hard time coming up with ten songs that reached out and grabbed me in the way that a great single is supposed to do. What made the list? I'll get to that tomorrow.  (I'm really gunning to blog every day, if possible, so I need to pace myself!)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Keep On Rockin' In The New Year

Greetings, Close Personal Friends, and a most happy new new to all!  For a change, the hubby and decided to get out of the house on New Year's Eve and drove off to my favorite local venue, Jammin Java, for a "Big Ol' Super Classy Throwdown" celebration with Native Run (formerly known as Big River) and other local musicians who've helped make the club a hub of great area talent. It was an all around wonderful night, with dancing, laughter, kisses and a champagne toast for all at midnight.  A nattily-dressed Nate Ihara opened the show.

Native Run's Bryan Dawley joined Nate for a few songs, adding beautiful mandolin accents to "3000 Miles."

Among the added guests, the Miller sisters, Justina and Marie, whose harmonies worked very well on two covers, "Moon River" and "Kiss Me" (the Sixpence None the Richer track)

Luke Brindley's solo set showed off what a fine songwriter he is, with "You Are Not Alone" and "We Go Together" as standouts, again with support from Bryan.
Brindley Brother Daniel came onstage to add his musical support...

...alas, I didn't get a good shot of Daniel playing what appeared to be tabla drum as he accompanied Luke on the always show-stopping instrumental, "Dervish."

I grabbed a shot of Nate, his lovely girlfriend Aleksandra and producer/musician Mark Williams as they posed for someone else.

This was actually the first time that The Band Formerly Known as Big River performed as Native Run.

A peek inside, from outside.

You lookin' at me?

Native Run has energy to spare, always an invigorating show, and a great way to welcome in 2012.