Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Crushed aspirin and jelly

Play it: Jon Auer Songs From the Year of Our Demise

In the midst of yesterdays' post-Memorial Day new music drop, the long awaited solo album from Posies co-founder Jon Auer made it's way into the Rhapsody catalogue. As the title suggests, Songs From the Year of Our Demise isn't look at how grand life is, and the opening track "Six Feet Under" ushers you into the tomb with a velvet leash. Just like when my mom used to crush aspirin and mix it with jelly to get it down my throat, Auer's sweet melodies act as a cover for the bitter taste of subjects like alcoholism ("Bottom of the Bottle", strained parent-child relationships ("You Used to Drive Me Around,") and failed romances ("Four Letter Word".)

Earlier this month, Auer played a smallish show at the Sunset Tavern, working out the kinks in a live solo setting. Auer played without accompaniment, giving the songs even less 'jelly' to hide the bitterness of the lyrics, and his unadorned voice occasionally seemed to call upon memories of past events. Auer has commented on the process of the album being "a soundtrack to the end of an extremely turbulent era" for him, which is a concept near and dear to this blogger's heart (or, for a better location, guts.) The excellent ballad "Wicked World" demonstrates this - when even the sentiment of "you're all I want..." needs the qualifier " this wicked world," allowing Auer to walk that perilous lyrical tightrope without falling into the sappy MOR sententality.

On a song-by-song basis, it's an surprisingly great feat of songwriting, complete with Auer's usual sparkling fretwork, and even has him playing (with few exceptions) every thing on the release. As an album, however, my minor complaints would have to do with length (15 songs is a bit long) and the sameness of much of the pacing. Aside from those minor nitpicks, it's a welcome release that hopefully signals more to come from a solo Jon Auer (and perhaps more contributions from MJAPA ["Song Noir"]?)

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Desmond Dekker (1941-2006)

Play it: Desmond Dekker RIP (1941-2006)

While I was gone, it came out that the great Desmond Dekker died. The king of ska and rocksteady was preparing for a big European tour when he had a heart attack at his home in Surrey, England, May 25, 2006.

Before Bob Marley, the king of Jamaican music was Desmond Dekker. His work with producer Leslie Kong is the stuff of legend, and they had a hitmaking run from 1963 up until Kong's untimely death in 1971. In 1968, they released "Israelites" (PLAY IT) which became the first truly Jamaican song to top the UK charts and crossover into the US charts (top 10.) There's not one compilation that has all of Dekker's best, unfortunately (the best of the bunch, though, is Rockin' Steady: Best Of Desmond Dekker - not Rhapvailable.) Here's a playlist of of Dekker's more memorable cuts during his and Kong's hey-day (PLAY IT.)

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dulli lights Leary's fire

Play it: Rescue Me Seasons 1-2
Play it: Rescue Me (Original Television Soundtrack)

In coordination with tonight's season three premiere of FX's Rescue Me, Nettwerk Records releases a soundtrack album with music featured on the television drama. Any show that uses The Von Bondies' "C'mon, C'mon" as a theme can't be too bad, and throw in a lot of Greg Dulli and Ray Lamontagne in the moody end credits and you've got the beginnings of an interesting compilation.

I've compiled nearly every song featured on the show in the first two seasons, and you'll note looking at the tracks on the release that several on the soundtrack have yet to be heard. Which means, in theory, this season will feature songs from Wolf Parade and the amazing new Twilight Singers album, Powder Burns. Why so much Greg Dulli (The Twilight Singers, Afghan Wigs)? Creator/actor Dennis Leary is a buddy of Dulli going way back, and Leary's especially been stumping for Dulli's art a lot this year (stereogum.)
Leary plugs Twilight Singers on The Daily Show (end of clip below)

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My 遊び Valentine

Play it: Asobi Seksu Citrus

Much like Norway's Serena Maneesh, NY's Asobi Seksu won't let the shoegazer sound die (to which I give a big 'thank you!') While Citrus doesn't forget any new ground, the influences are of the highest quality. A litte Ride here and there, some of the Primitives and Lush creep in, but mostly it's My Bloody Valentine seeping in throughout. Some of the guitar sounds would even make Kevin Shields blush. While some might find it tiring playing 'spot the influence,' there's enough creativity and spice (singer Yuki Chikudate sings in Japanese much of the time) to make it feel more inspired then ripped off. Song highlights include the poppy "Thursday," "Strawberries," and exquisitely arranged "Strings." A must for shoegazer fans.

Fun fact: Asobi (遊び) means 'for fun' and Seksu is a variant of the Japanese word for sex - Sekusu (セクス)
Asobi Seksu official site

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Wicked hot weekend

Play it: "The Wizard and I" From the Musical Wicked

It was a wonderful to see my nephew get his bar mitzvah, but when he got up and sang this song from Wicked at his party, it was a bit surreal... and truly brave. He's not bashful about his love of musicals (or television game shows and cooking shows.) Professing said love of musicals is akin to having green skin when going through high school - I don't envy the road that lies of ahead of him.

My wife, baby and I all crammed into his bedroom for the weekend, while bar mitzvah boy took the basement. We slept with the smells of a 13-year old boy surrounded by Harry Potter memorabilia. Add to that the fact that was niney-frickin'-seven degrees this weekend - and Eli having six-teeth all coming in at once - it was a tad uncomfortable to say the least, but we survived.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What I'm missing this weekend

Play it: Sasquatch Music Festival 2006

The lineup and schedule is now all finalized for this weekend's Sasquatch Music Festival at the beautiful Gorge Amphitheatre. It's an incredible lineup, spanning three days, but I'm heading to Minneapolis for my nephew's bar mitzvah.

While I'm doing a reading at temple Friday night, TV on the Radio will be holding their own temple on the Mainstage. While my nephew recites from the Torah Saturday, Sufjan Stevens and Stephen Malkmus will be will recite musically from their respective indie idioms on dueling stages. When the challah is broken, Neko Case and Band of Horses will be breaking heartstrings on two different stages. And when "YMCA" by the Village People gets played at the reception, people will be raising their hands to the end of Sam Roberts' set while The Shins are just hitting stride with their's on another stage.

I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea here, though. I wouldn't miss my nephew's bar mitzvah for just anything (it only happens once - and will be my first.) I just hope someone reading this goes and comes back with a report for me... come on - this goy needs some vicarious gorge. L'chayim!

A Gorge-ous lineup
An amazing day (Sasquatch 2005 recap)
Sasquatch, Yeti... Wookie?
Sasquatch Music Festival 2005 lineup announced

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Bob, Neil and Bruce

Play it: 100 Best Living Songwriters (Paste Magazine)
Play it: Wish You Were Here (gone, but not forgotten)

Paste Magazine just published their special collectors issue featuring the 100 Best Living Songwriters list. Compiled by 50 some musicians and writers, the list doesn't have too many big surprises, and while I'd have some minor quibbles with where some folks got placed (Pedro the Lion's David Bazan ahead of Iron & Wine's Sam Beam?) it's a sound list. Leading the charge is Bob, followed by Neil and Bruce (the full list here.) Jagger/Richards fall in at 12, which begs for another playlist: 10 Best Hard Living Songwriters.

Paste also included small sidebars throughout the list of who we're missing from those in songwriter's heaven (Wish You Were Here,) which makes a nice Memorial day playlist.

Should be on newstands now... worth picking up if for no other reason then the classic Bob photo on the cover.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The size of Nancy Reagan's head

Play it: Mission of Burma The Obliterati

When Mission of Burma made their 2004 comeback with ONoffOn, a chorus of post-punk fans like myself just about wet our pants. Not only was it a surprise to see them back at all, but to still sound as vital as they did back in 1982 was a revelation. Many of their bretheren have attempted similar comebacks (Wire and Gang of Four to name the obvious) but haven't been able to pull it off. Here it is two years later, and not only are they still together and touring, but they've released an even better album this time. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is their best full-length release - 25 years after breaking up! (The EP Signals, Calls and Machines is still their hands down best.)

From the first poundings of Clint Conley's "2wice," you can tell age has done nothing to quell their aggression. The chorus evokes a bit of "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," which is a spine-tingling joy. Then, at about 1:38 into the next song ("Spider's Web,") Roger Miller rips into the best Sonny Sharrock guitar impersonation I've ever heard - for a good example, listen to Sharrock's guitar in "Space Ghost Coast to Coast Theme," or about three minutes into "As We Used to Sing". Then, in a song gutsily called "Donna Summeria," they somehow magically manage to pull off intertwining Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" into the bridge of a song that's at least a continent away from disco. And we're only three songs into the album.

Next is Prescott's ripping punk workout "Let Yourself Go" and at this point, someone's giving me a standing-8 count and I go to a neutral corner to shake the cobwebs. Bob Weston's production (Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Sebadoh, MOB's ONoffON) here is big and crunchy, with room to spare. The space created on Miller's "13" is a thing of beauty, and the controlled chaos of "Careening with Conviction" has a calm-like clarity, even when the backwards vocals sift in.

And in case you thought Mission of Burma were far too serious, the closing song "Nancy Reagan's Head" contains what might be the funniest lyric of the year:
Roxy Music came to save the world
And all I got was this lousy T-shirt
And I'm haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan's head
No way that thing came with that body
The same couldn't be said of their body of glad they stuck around to make what could end up being the best rock album of the year.

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3-ball in his side pocket

Play it: The Sopranos Ep. 6.11

The rejoicing you heard this past Sunday night was Sopranos fans cheering... someone finally got wacked - two as a matter of fact. Yup, that's right, Vito wins the SDP (Sopranos Dead Pool.) Even though I know it was inevitable, I hated seeing Vito go. Joe Gannascoli really owned that character this season and basically, wrote in his own character's death by making the suggestion last season that Vito be a closet gay. Of course, the many homophobe Sopranos fans, I'm sure, were cheering, but did they notice Phil coming out of the closet to do it? A little metaphorical humor to be sure. What wasn't funny, though, was them leaving him with a cue stick shoved up his ass. And of course, what is not lost on us is that Phil taking out Tony's captain (regardless of the fact he ordered a hit at the same time,) was akin to light a fuse to a powder keg. Fat Dom, one of Vito's executioners, gets his own come-uppance when he cracks one to many gay jokes at the expense of his New Jersey colleagues Sil and Carlo. Now we're looking at war.

This week's music selections reminded me once again of the glaring AC/DC hole in the digital distribution world ("Back in Black" played while Tony got his knob shined) but we did get probably our first taste of kindercore in the Sopranos world (Gritty Kitty,) as well as a selection from the movie Casablanca. Anyone else find it eerie that Carmela's visit to Paris was completely devoid of soundtrack? The quiet had an odd effect.

I can't believe how fast people update these Wikipedia entries.

The Sopranos music track listing and scenes

...and may I say, not in a shy way (Ep. 6.10)
Does it have to be a pair of socks? (Ep. 6.09)
The son also rises (Ep. 6.08)
Lauren Bacall takes a fall (Ep. 6.07)
Vito is a come-from-behind kind of guy (Ep. 6.06)
Don't you know who I thought I was? (Ep. 6.04)
The righteous cut [while conscious] (Ep. 6.03)
He Marvin Gayed his own nephew! (Ep. 6.02)
Who shot Artie Shaw? (Ep. 6.01)

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Monday, May 22, 2006

What if Ike had never beat up Tina?

Play it: The Bellrays Have a Little Faith

Went to the local venue (Sunset Tavern - crawling distance) for some live music and came back a believer... in The Bellrays.

Who are the Bellrays? Think Tina Turner fronting MC5 and you're getting warm. Their new album, Have a Little Faith, just came out a couple weeks ago and is their first to come close to capturing their live sound. Running from the classic soul of "Third Time's the Charm" (which sounds like a long lost classic hit from the era) to the motor city meltdown of "Detroit Breakdown" they cover the seemingly impossible ground between James Brown and Iggy and the Stooges. Just listen to the opener "Tell the Lie" and you're well on your way for the ride.

I was there, in part, to take some photos for some friends who opened. These friends were Sugar Farm, who are a two-person (Marty on drums, Margaret on guitar) Delta blues boogie machine. They've been playing together now for over 7 years when they both were really learning their instruments, and it's nice to hear how far they've come. I got some decent shots (one of which was rendered into an eye-grabbing poster [pictured above] by artist/musician/vascular technician/friend Britton,) then my camera battery started to go right as Top Heavy Crush got into their set, so I got no photos of The Bellrays ('cept this weird dead battery shot.) Too bad... so sad.

Some recent live photos of The Bellrays.

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Pour some 70's on me

Play it: Yeah! Def Lep covers these
Play it: Def Leppard Yeah! (link should work beginning 05/23/2006)
Stream: Free AOL full album stream of Yeah!

Tomorrow sees the release of the comeback album for Def Leppard. One wouldn't expect that a comeback album consisting of all 70's covers would work, but for some reason it does. Def Leppard have always had some glam roots, and they show it off here covering the masters - Bowie, T. Rex, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople and Sweet. They don't stop there, with their covers though, as they also tackle some power pop (The Nerves/Blondie "Hanging on the Telephone" and Badfinger's "No Matter What") and even, in what might be the highlight of the album, ELO's orchestral pop of "10538 Overture." Of course, any album of covers begs to hear the originals, and I've assembled them here as best as possible (12 of the 14, plus Blondie in lieu of The Nerve's "Hanging on the Telephone" which isn't digitally available.)

Won't be on my 'best of' list by any means, but Yeah! is a pleasant enough surprise to be worth checking out.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Guitars made out of rubber

Play it: Polvo - The Merge Years ('92-'95)

Many of holes in the Merge back catalogue became Rhapvailable yesterday. Of note were nine Superchunk singles (containing about 8 songs not available on their three odds n' end compilations;) several great albums from Lambchop, The Radar Bros. and The Rose Buds; and all the Merge works of Polvo, which for me, is the real prize here.

Formed in Chapel Hill, NC in 1990, Polvo used alternate tunings, Eastern music drones and a liberal amount of the tremelo bar. Guitarists Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski's two guitar attack still sounds inventive to this day, even after The Archers of Loaf took a similar sound and made it more accessible. You can still hear their influence in bands like Lenola, Vidi Vittles and especially The Joggers (hear "We've Been Talked Down".)

The album Today's Active Lifestyles (1993) was probably their creative peak, with gems like "Thermal Treasure," "Time Isn't On My Side," and "My Kimono." The other album I highly recommend is their follow-up EP, Celebrate The New Dark Age (1994.) The playlist above contains highlights of the bands years with Merge, and while they went on to record a couple more interesting albums on the Touch & Go label (not to mention Bowie's contributionso to the band Helium,) it was these years on Merge that they truly put their imprint on the Noise Rock/Math Rock genres.

Confessional: Back in the day, a bandmate/roommate friend and I had a challenge involving coitus and f*cked up music, and needless to say, when we tried to slip any Polvo on, our female counterparts would complain and any chance of 'getting it on' was out the window... still had to try. The key was having a disc-changer and starting with something more acceptable like Liz Phair, then, say, have it followed by Rocket From The Crypt. Polvo (and Trumans Water, for that matter) was a sure bet for coitus-interruptus... I guess they're sort of the anti-Marvin Gaye.

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Austin's other music get together

Play it: Austin City Limits Music Festival 2006

Austin City Limits announced their festival lineup for this year and it's once again pretty jaw-dropping. 130 bands on 8 stages (September 15-17) - besides the big three of Tom Petty, Willie Nelson and Van Morrison, there's a veritable who's who of acts I want (need) to see. Gnarls Barkley, The Raconteurs, Sam Roberts, The Flaming Lips, Iron & Wine, Cat Power, Wolf Parade, The Black Angels, Centro-Matic, The New Pornographers... need I go on?

Ok, how about the Palm Elementary School Choir? Seems like an anomaly in the otherwise stalwart lineup, but they did play last year (and SXSW this year) and even made an appearance on the Today show. Another act my son Eli can get behind is the Imagination Movers, who sings songs like "Bye-Bye Diaper," "I Want My Mommy" and "Please and Thank You." See, there's really something for everyone at this festival.

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In hot water yesterday

Play it: "Water in the Basement" Bitter, Bitter Weeks

Hot water heater busted yesterday and now the basement smells like a damp diaper (a smell we were already quite familiar with.)

Discovered a couple things... water heaters typically only last about 10 years or so, and decent ones cost a lot of money.

Pictured is Bob Vila's disection, and playing in the background is producer Brian McTear's band excellent band Bitter, Bitter Weeks. He originally performed the song ("Water in the Basement") with his mid-90's band The Marinernine, but I prefer this more folksy update on the song.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A case for modern classic rock

Play it: Sam Roberts Chemical City
Play it: The Raconteurs Broken Boy Soldiers

Notice how most 'classic rock' these days is played by the classic artists? Oh sure, there's plenty of retro-rockers out there, but they're all very focused in mining specific territory (garage blues, led zep, etc.) I'm talking a more generalized classic rock here, and that's the ground that Sam Roberts' Chemical City covers here, running from Dylan to the Stones to the Beatles and more in between.

Roberts' last album (We Were Born In a Flame) should (and one day may still be) considered a classic, full of Beatlesque melodies and toe-tapping shout-outs. With Chemical City, Roberts sounds even more entrenched in classic rockism, sounding (and looking - with the requisite beard) like he should be cast in a sequel to Almost Famous. "The Gate" opens the album with some tasty psychedelic-rock, the kind that you could imagine Canadian hero Tom Cochrane's Red Rider would do if they were in their hey-day now (play "Lunatic Fringe.") Much of Roberts' poppier side is less visible here, which may disappoint some fans (namely, my wife.) As a result, it's not a collection of singles like WWBIAF, but instead a more coherent album. The better songs this time are less accessible, take the loud-soft dynamics and guitar-freak out of a song like "Mind Flood," which one can imagine just burning the stage live (which, I might point out, I'll be missing this Memorial Day weekend at Sasquatch... anyone going?) Nothing groundbreaking here, just good classic rock with meaty lyrics to match, and I couldn't really ask Sam for anything more.

The Raconteurs' Broken Boy Soldiers also finds itself covering the full sweep of classic rock as well, but more on a song to song basis. Separately, Jack White and Brendan Benson mine pretty specific 60's guitar rock - White with the Stones and Led Zeppelin and Benson with the Rubber Soul/Revolver era of the Beatles. Together, they trade vocals, often sounding like each other (see "Level,") and add splashes here and there to each other's idiom, with the rhythm section from the Greenhornes anchoring the duo handily. "I'm adding something new to your mixture, so there's a different hue to your picture," sings Benson on "Together" which could be about their collaboration (if it weren't about a girl - and it's always about a girl, isn't it?) Highlights include the power pop of the Joe Jackson homage "Steady as She Goes" and "Intimate Secretary" and the Led Zep fix of "Broken Boy Soldiers." As often with Benson, it's sometimes hard to get past some of the inane lyrics ("I've got a rabbit, it likes to hop / I've got a girl, she likes to shop" in "Intimate Secretary,") but if you can, it's a fun album.

Another last tidbit: I was intrigued to find, that many expected roles were reversed. For instance, Benson plays all the slide guitar on the album while White plays the synth - this is a recent revelation, so I'm going back and listening to it again w/ new visuals.

MTV Interview with Sam Roberts (05/19/2006)

Is she really going steady as she goes? (The Raconteurs' "Steady as She Goes"
It's all about Jack (Greenhornes review / Raconteurs preview)
Pop! goes the playlist (Brendan Benson / Power-pop revival)
Making time with Star Time (Benson's label)
Sam Roberts Award (best album released year prior seeing US release a year later)

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Monday, May 15, 2006

...and may I say, not in a shy way

Play it: The Sopranos Ep. 6.10

This week is one of those 'further the plot' episodes. Johhny Sack pleads guilty for a reduced sentence and as a result has to admit he led the New York division of La Cosa Nostra, angering his crew (specifically Phil "the hairdo.") Add him to the Sopranos Dead Pool. Speaking of the SDP, Vito (or, as he's known in NH: Vince) has moved in with Johnny Cakes and we're treated with plenty of gay sex scenes. All the homophobic Sopranos viewers let out a collective 'what the fuck,' and I find myself chuckling. I could just feel the message board flaming (no pun intented) with cries of "what is this, the Gaypranos? Where's my violence?" Serves 'em right. Vito (Vince) uses the 'L' word (no, not that 'l' word) and finds himself bailing his Johnny Cakes to head back to NJ.... congrats Vito, you're back at the top of the SDP. We also got to see Joe Gannascoli (Vito) do some cooking, which is means it's more likely Vito's going to be gone soon, as I'm sure some folks felt they needed to show off Gannascoli's chef skills before his goose is cooked.

Musically, Frank Sinatra makes an appearance (funny how little you hear of him on the show,) and I'm reminded that 'ol Blue Eyes has some big holes in his catalogue as far as digital distribution goes. No "My Way"?? Anyway, also missing out is a track from Sylvio himself - Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. So what's available? Well we do get the ubiquitous "That's Amore" from Dean Martin, some Toby Keith, and an outro from Chuck Berry. Funny how I find myself lately more interested in the songs that aren't digitally available. I suppose as more and more becomes available, it's the catalogue items that aren't out there that become the anomalies.

The Sopranos music track listing and scenes

Does it have to be a pair of socks? (Ep. 6.09)
The son also rises (Ep. 6.08)
Lauren Bacall takes a fall (Ep. 6.07)
Vito is a come-from-behind kind of guy (Ep. 6.06)
Don't you know who I thought I was? (Ep. 6.04)
The righteous cut [while conscious] (Ep. 6.03)
He Marvin Gayed his own nephew! (Ep. 6.02)
Who shot Artie Shaw? (Ep. 6.01)

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Send the Prez to pasture

Play it: The West Wing

So last night saw the end of an era - The West Wing shut it's doors for good after 7 seasons. Some might argue it ended when Aaron Sorkin jumped ship 2002-2003, and merely just hobbled to the finish. The series certainly began suffering before it, and only this year did it make overtures to what made it great at the beginning. The series just parallelled most presidencies... there's a rocky honeymoon period, then the time when things get done (the 4 straight Emmys for best drama,) then about the 5th year, the wheels fall off.

Musically, the series has been back and forth on it's usage of songs, and looking back, it's best years, oddly enough, used a lot more music. When I heard them using "She's Lost Control" by Joy Division in the second episode of the inaugural season, I thought we had another soundtrack juggernaut, but it wasn't to be. The playlist here encompasses the whole 7 years (40 songs.) Last night had Keb' Mo' playing at the inauguration which also saw a guest appearance by Aaron Sorkin himself (in the audience, camera focused on him after the Bartletts.) The episode on the whole, wrapped up the season well, but failed to wrap up the series. Throughout the episode, the goodbyes felt rushed and barely felt. Perhaps everyone had spent their heartfelt goodbyes on fellow cast member John Spencer?

Aaron Sorkin's new series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, had a timely preview (see video below) during the finale, and it looked like a surefire winner. It features West Wing alums Bradley Witford and Timothy Busfield, and a load of others: Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, D.L. Hughley, Steven Weber and Judd Hirsch (does this mean he dies in the finale of this week's Numb3rs, or is he just going to be very busy next year?)

Music on the West Wing, season by season

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mama get down those rock and roll shoes

Play it: Mama songs

Happy Mama's day! Hope y'all are having a fine Hallmark sponsored holiday today. I've got two moms to call, and since my son is only 14 months, got to proxy some of his affection as well.

Just remember when you're calling your mama... make sure to say hello to the NSA while they're listening in.

Here's my wife's Super Mom trading card (via fd's flickr toys:)

Super Tootie trading card

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Contort yourself

Play it: James Chance Irresistible Impulse (Box set sampler)

Sometimes I think the Rhapsody additions are mysteriously connected to what I'm reading. Take for example yesterday's addition of the box set on James Chance entitled Irresistible Impulse. It comes on the very day I read the No Wave New York chapter in Simon Reynolds' Rip it Up and Start Again: PostPunk 1978-1984. James Chance is the focus of the chapter, and his band The Contortions, while not the first, were arguably the best of No Wave. Besides The Contortions, there was Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (with Lydia Lunch,) Mars and DNA (which featured Arto Lindsay.) These bands were in the wake of punk, but were more influenced by acts like Captain Beefheart, Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band and free jazz of the time.

Chance (born James Sigfried) came to New York to play free jazz and really fell into the avante garde scene after seeing the band Suicide play. Besides singing and playing saxaphone, he wore a collection of loud suits and was famous for his confrontation with the audience. Chance would jump into the audience in the middle of a show and find himself in a fight for hitting on someone's girl, or just hitting someone. Listen to the live "Jailhouse Rock" to get an earful of some of Chance's confrontation tactics. Chance also had a strong appreciation for James Brown and saxaphonist Maceo Parker, which informed much of his freak-funk compositions (see the burning James Brown cover "Super Bad.")

There was hardly any recordings of the No Wave bands when Chance was approached in 1978 to release two albums, one as The Contortions, the other Chance's interpretation of disco, whatever he felt like doing in that context. Out of that came Buy by The Contortions, and Off White, by James White and the Blacks (he wanted to call the band James White and His Blacks, but that understandably didn't fly with the label.) The Contortionists never released another album, and Chance continued on as James White for a couple more albums, but never broke through like many thought he would.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Your wire's showing

Play it: Covering Wire

Thanks in part to Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again, I've been chomping at the bit to take on the recent reissues of Wire's first three albums (Pink Flag / Chairs Missing / 154) but I don't know when (or even if) it will make it's way into Rhapsody, so instead, to scratch that Wire itch I have right now, here's some covers of songs from those three albums.

The one cover that most recognize is R.E.M.'s take on their breakout album Document. The ever serious Wire never sounded like so much fun. Others interesting Wire covers here are Yo La Tengo's "Too Late", Antenna's touching version of "Outdoor Miner" (Wire's most accessible, and thus covered, song,) Dykehouse's "Map Ref. 41N 93W" and New Bomb Turks' angry take on "Mr Suit." I even included Elastica's "Connection" since it lifts Wire's "Three Girl Rhumba" main riff for the basis of the whole song (they settled a lawsuit out of court.)

Not in Rhapsody, but worth mentioning is Steve Albini's Big Black's "Heartbeat" and My Bloody Valentine's version of "Map Ref. 41N 93W" (from the Wire tribute album, Whore: Various Artists Play Wire.) There's even a tribute album (A Houseguest's Wish: Translations of Wire's 'Outdoor Miner') which is made up of only covers of the Wire song "Outdoor Miner." Worth checking out. (MP3 samples here.)

Pitchfork gives perfect 10.0's to Pink Flag and Chairs Missing (154 gets a 9.1)
Rip it Up's Official page

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Last night's Gilmorepalooza

Play it: Gilmore Girls - Season 1
Download: Sonic Youth "What a Waste"

Last night was the sixth season finale for The Gilmore Girls, and they ended on a high note for creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who (with her executive producer husband Daniel Palladino,) is saying goodbye to the show. While I can't say I was a fan, their attention to music on the show cannot be denied, and it will be interesting to see if the new braintrust continues their dedication to music. Not only did they have a lot of music on the show, they also casted musicians in recurring roles. Sebastian Bach, Sam Phillips and Grant Lee Phillips all had recurring roles, but it was GL Phillips' role as local troubador that had a lot to do with last night's extravaganza.

Phillips' character gets discovered by Neil Young and is picked up to open on his tour, so all these musical acts flood the fictional town of Stars Hollow, CT, to get discovered next. Appearing last night were Sonic Youth, Joe Pernice, Yo La Tengo, Sparks, and Sam Phillips. Sonic Youth played "Wasted Again" from their new album Rather Ripped (due in June,) and featured Thurston and Kim's daughter Coco on bass. Coco's so cute!

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Me and Eno down by the schoolyard

Play it: Paul Simon Surprise
Play it: Brian Eno / Paul Simon - Parallel Works '72-'92
It may be that it's just too abstract for a lot of people. It may be that, as with Brian's work, it's meant to speak to a specific group of listeners, and that group may not number in the millions. They might number in the thousands. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it, it just means that you have to accept that you're going to be talking to a smaller group of people.
- Paul Simon, NY Times (05/07/2006)
The Surprise here is the odd pairing of Paul Simon with Brian Eno. Both were 70's icons of completely different worlds - Simon of the popular, Eno of the cult (see second playlist for a comparative parallel output from '72-'92.) So hearing Simon's familiar phrasings and rhthymic based lyrics over a bed of Eno textures you'd think would a surreal experience - and at first, it perhaps is - but it feels more natural then it really should. Like Graceland, when he paired up with musicians from South Africa, Simon's embrase of Eno's sonic architecture (Eno's credited on the album with 'Sonic Landscape by') feels seamless, and together they've crafted a fitting comeback album for Simon.

Standout songs include the sure to be classics like the post-9/11 opener "How Can You Live in the Northeast" and the surprisingly funky "Outrageous." Meanwhile, the very personal "Beautiful" speaks the joy of fatherhood in such a way I probably cannot be objective about it's qualities (disarming the critic/new father is so unfair!)

Eno in his instrumentation, manages to subtly include appearances by Bill Frisell on guitar and Herbie Hancock on keyboards, but it's hard to notice, and that's a compliment. Regardless of the sonic landscape, though, Surprise still sounds like Paul Simon - and the best Simon we've had since Graceland. While it's probably a song or two from being a masterpiece, it still a welcome return for Simon to his better songwriting days.

The second playlist above follows the parallel works of Eno and Simon (AMG) from '72 through '92. I stop at '92 because Simon's output became more sporadic after his marriage to Edie Brickell (while Eno production became almost ubiquitous thanks to his breakthrough work with U2 and Talking Heads.)

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Balkan disarmament

Play it: Beirut Gulag Orkestar
Download: "Postcards from Italy", "Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)" (Beirut Official Site)

Every once in awhile a release comes through that has folks climbing over one another to heap praise. Such a critical feeding frenzy has been buzzing in the past two weeks (especially, the blogosphere) about this release from the band Beirut. The brainchild of 19-year old Zach Condon, Beirut's Gulag Orkestar reminds one of so many favorable things, it's hard not to fall head over heels for it. Neutral Milk Hotel, Andrew Bird, Devotchka, Magnetic Fields, Jens Lekman, Gogol Bordello... you can hear bits of all these inspirations, but it's mainly the beautifully disarming Balkan Gypsy sound this blossoms from that has my ears so enamorous.

Condon, who hails from Brooklyn by way of Albequerque, has recorded 3 albums under the Beirut moniker prior to this, all in different idioms - Electronica, Doo-Wop and Electro-pop. It seems all it took was a trip to Eastern Europe to set his Gulag in motion, and one can imagine this dual-purposing as a soundtrack to his travel slideshow ("here's the girl who broke my heart in Prague...") It will be interesting to see if he sticks to this genre if it's as successful as it seems to be projected.

Back to the feeding frenzy... so many folks have been waiting so long for anything to approach In the Airplane Over the Sea, and it's no surprise that the holy album is invoked here considering NMH's Jeremy Barnes is on board in the Orkestar. I'm only bringing NMH up because the comparison is inevitable, but I implore you to ignore the comparison as the album is much more enjoyable on it's own then pretending it's like a younger brother to Jeff Magnum's opus. With the target out of site, you can lower your guns and fully appreciate it's disarming beauty.

"Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)" is NPR's song of the day

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Does it have to be a pair of socks?

Play it: The Sopranos Ep. 6.09

This week we not only find out that Christopher has a girlfriend, but also that she's pregnant. Where has she been this whole season, anyway? Being an upstanding Catholic (albeit a violent, swearing, misogynistic, junkie Catholic,) Christopher offers to make her an honest woman, but it's obvious that it's because of the dearly departed Adriana that he's doing it. After he and Tony steal some wine off of thieves (and Tony gets Chris' AA-ass drunk on the spoils) we're treated to a little flashback of when Christopher confesses to Tony that Adriana's Fed-flipped. Later, we find out Adriana's mom (and the Feds) are convinced Christopher knocked her off. Between this and the horse that Chris partakes in (marriage suits him well,) it looks like we can add Chris to the 'who gets wacked next' list. Top of the list is Vito, who makes no appearance this week, while second belongs to Paulie, who's not only been lining his pockets outside the lines, but also probably has prostate cancer.

But back to Chris and the horse, the scene where he relapses (again) is backed beautifully by Fred Neil's "The Dolphins." Hearing this (and realizing it's not in digitally available, as of yet) I had go back and listen to the amazing (and recent reissue of) Bleecker & MacDougal (1965.) Neither "The Dolphins" nor "Everybody's Talkin' At Me" is on it, but it's Neil at his best nonetheless. Besides Neil, the rest of this week's soundtrack is very drug-friendly indeed. "All Right Now" by Free, "Midnight Rider" by Buddy Miles and "Pipeline" by Johnny Thunders all go well with a big fatty.

The son also rises (Ep. 6.08)
Lauren Bacall takes a fall (Ep. 6.07)
Vito is a come-from-behind kind of guy (Ep. 6.06)
Don't you know who I thought I was? (Ep. 6.04)
The righteous cut [while conscious] (Ep. 6.03)
He Marvin Gayed his own nephew! (Ep. 6.02)
Who shot Artie Shaw? (Ep. 6.01)

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