Sunday, December 30, 2007

Top 10 Albums of 2007

Well, here it is...the obligatory Top 10 post from yet another music blog. Sure you've seen a few of these before, but what you haven't seen is the definitive Top 10.

Look no further.

After choosing our individual Top 10 lists, we scored the compilation the only way we know how: college football rankings style. In the end, we were happy with our results, which we humbly present to you now, starting with number(s) 10.

10. (tie) Mark Knopfler - Kill to Get Crimson

Bob Schneider and Ryan Adams should take note of Mark Knopfler’s career. You don’t have to get bored of your stuff and start doing crazy shit. Just enjoy playing music, invite new artists to collaborate with you from time to time (please note celtic vibe at play here, with accordions and fiddles joining the fun), and keep creating excellent music.

That’s what Van Morrison did. And it’s what Mark Knopfler does. He’s the consummate veteran of the music industry, and this is a polished, impressive album that he’s released in 2007. I’ve been a Knopfler fan since I was a Dire Straits fan, which was for a long as I can remember. The guy doesn’t miss.

Here we have a collection of tight stories benefiting from the impeccable performance Knopfler’s vocals and guitar give to every song they touch. I think this guy is a real genius in our midst that maybe we won’t fully recognize until he’s gone. By the way, Little Dynamite and Little Gun missed the ball on this one big time. But then again, they’ve never respected the history of Rock ‘n Roll.

P.S. The Eagles album is garbage.

-JtR

10. (tie) Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

Earlier this year, when I first posted about this album, I think I said something along the lines of “I don’t want to listen to any more music, because nothing will be as good as the Arcade Fire.” I’ve since backed off that statement (I was probably drinking), which is not to say that this album isn't still fantastic. What I love most about Arcade Fire is the care that they seem to put into each song. Each note, each lyric seems to have been painstakingly poured over until it is just right. They show us that their music is important, their message is important; even if that message is often that the world is about to end.

In Neon Bible, Win Butler and gang fire away at the war-torn world that surrounds them. They do this through lyrics about the working-class man, the disillusioned man, and the soldier both here and abroad. Their songs on this album are mostly Springsteen-esque four-chord rock songs, delivered with Springsteen-esque passion. For me, the song of the album is “Ocean of Noise,” a beautiful tune in which Butler describes an “ocean of violence” that lies between so many of us. However, the listener is left with hope at the end, as trumpets and strings come to the forefront as Butler desperately sings “It’s time to work it out.” And hopefully, Butler finds that we can, and maybe their next effort won’t involve the word ending.

-Little G.

p.s. Here’s your stocking stuffer. I recently bought my mom an album by Joe Henry called Civilians. If I had listened to it before making this list, it would definitely be in my top ten. As my mom said “Some of the artists you listen to should take some lessons from Joe Henry.”

10. (tie) The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

Right from the get-go, this album reminds me why I love music so much. The first song, "Sleeping Lessons," takes you from a dreamlike state to a dancing and joyous rocktastic climax that makes you want more. And then they follow up with "Australia." Arguably the best song of 2007, this beautiful pop song solidifies this album as one of the year's best.

The Shins used to be that cool underground band you could throw out there to impress other indie-rock fans, but that all went away with the Garden State phenomenon. I was worried about how that would affect them going into this release, but I found it hasn't hurt them at all (except possibly in the critics' minds, who I think are a little pissed that people other than them now know who the hell the Shins are...see album reviews for WtNA for further evidence).

From every "la la la" to every guitar chord, this album is as synced up as James Mercer imagined when he wrote the entire CD. Tight pop music at its best, WtNA is exactly what I could have hoped for out of the Shins. Don't let Zach Braff down. They can still change your life.

-Little D

7. (tie) Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

I heard “The Underdog” on WFUV and knew right from that instant that I had to burn this album from one of my friends that actually paid the money to buy it. I knew (and still know) nothing about this group of Texan’s backcatalogue, but I may be heading out and actually spending my hard earned green on some of their earlier work. This album transformed me from a “burn the CD” to a “buy the CD” fan.

What I like about Spoon on this album is that they’re rock and roll, and poppy, and still maintain an indie rock edge. They’re the ideal band to represent me when I try to explain the type of music I’m into to a mainstream / soft rock / pop fan. Usually the conversation goes like this:
Other: “So, what kind of music are you in to?”
Me: “Oh, I like a lot of different stuff.”
Other: “Oh.”

Now, it can go a little more like this:
Other: “So, what kind of music are you in to?”
Me: “Oh, I like a lot of different stuff. Here, listen to ‘Don’t You Evah’ on my iPod.”
Other: “You’re pretty cool.”

Thanks Spoon.

-JtR

7. (tie) Romantica - America

This album was a surprise hit for me. I listened to it one time through, thought it was fine, but thought that was about it. But then I listened to it more, and kept listening to it, until I realized that I really, really like this album. Coming to us from Belfast via Minneapolis, Romantica has commonly been compared to Mr. Adams and Wilco, and while this is true at times, these comparisons do not encapsulate their sound. “Ixcatan,” a somber, heart-breaking ballad about a murder in Mexico, sounds straight off a Mark Knopfler album. Lyrics like “Oh it’s gonna be cool, all the boys from school/And the girls from down the way” or “Between my daughter and my wife is where you’ll find me,” are positively Boss-like, a slice of Americana; even if lead man Ben Kyle is sometimes talking about Ireland.

The album has a few up-beat pop tunes to start the album, and while they’re very good, they’re quickly forgotten. Romantica’s strength is in the ballads that make up the bulk of the album, complete with lush strings, beautiful pedal steel, finger-picking, piano, and the aforementioned Americana lyrics. Romantica made the most beautiful album of the year and I think you should check it out.

-Little G

7. (tie) Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger

Ryan Adams gets his heartbroken a lot it seems. And if this is the case, I’m not happy about it, but damn does it make for some good music. Throughout his career, girls have been breaking his heart, stealing his records, and the English girls, in particular have just been so mean. He’s been waiting for them to come home, he’s been begging them not to let him go, and wondering why they always leave.

On Easy Tiger, none of this changes. In this tight, focused effort from Adams, failed relationships and loneliness are still the main themes. And he relays this heartache through beautiful lyrics and even more beautiful music. The top track on the album is “I Taught Myself How to Grow Old.” It’s one of Adams’ prettiest, saddest, and best written songs. A pedal-steel guitar weaves in and out as Adams sings “I taught myself how to grow/without any love…”, his lines punctuated by a lonely harmonica. I heard an interview by Ben Harper in which he said something along the lines of “You could go to therapy for 20 years, or you could just listen to this song every day.” Surrounding this gorgeous number are classic Adams pop/folk/alt/country tunes, along with some straight twangy tunes in “Pearls on a String” and “Tears of Gold.” A fantastic listen from front to back.

-Little G

6. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

In case you haven’t heard, they tried to make her go to rehab. She said “No.” Again and again, she said “No.” Yet, alas, in the end, she went to rehab. Does that make her a liar? Yes. Does it make her album any less impressive? Only marginally.

Look, this a sexy, old-school album that I ranked #2 on my list of best albums of 2007, and was relegated down to #6 because of the cowardly, front-running choices of Little Dynamite and Little Gun adding up in our scoring system. When I listen to this album I picture an anorexic-thin Winehouse, dripping wet (potentially just out a bubble bath…with scented candles…), wearing nothing but a burgundy hand towel, running her fingernails down a chalkboard – except that the noise created is a jazzy, sultry crooning with retro-instrumentation. Get in.

To sing its praises, this album is cohesive but varied. Amy invented the word “fuckery” (as far as I know, maybe it’s a common term in the UK). It has fantastic melodies, gripping themes, and did I mention she has a sexy voice? And did I just hear Jadakiss? Yes, yes, I did. This is the 1920s on 21st century designer drugs and fruit-flavored booze, with style, some dignity, a little less class and plenty of pizazz. Smooth, you ask? Smooth as a vodka tonic for lunch.

-JtR

5. Bruce Springsteen - Magic

I hesitated to review this album since I already gave it a write up when it came out, but if there's one thing that I don't mind doing, it would be singing Bruce's praises. I was so anxious for this album to come out that I played Born to Run on repeat for about a week prior to its release date.

Even though Bruce lends us our blog's title, we are not completely biased towards his works (at least not like Rolling Stone is to Bob Dylan...I swear, Dylan could put out a 45 minute disc of himself snoring and Rolling Stone would give it five stars and proclaim all other music inferior -- in the same issue that they put Zac Efron on the cover...and he has been on the cover this year, fyi...). However, we do enjoy Bruce's efforts for a reason. It's not everyday that an artist can inspire multiple generations of men and women to fall in love with music again and again.

The king of American music, Bruce's latest release elicits scenes of late nights on the open highways out west, political corruption and turmoil, war veterans, and good old fashioned Americana fun with "Girls in Their Summer Clothes." I'm not sure if you can find a more rewarding storyteller in today's industry, although Bruce himself has acknowledged a few different proteges (hello...hello again). This apple pie wrapped in an American flag album provides die hard Springsteen fans with enough juice to satiate their appetites, but it also gives new listeners a chance to find out what they've been missing.

-Little D

4. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

I can't say enough about this album. I think I used up all my adjectives in the past three months since this album came out trying to describe it to people. Solidified by incredible studio work from a full band, Sam Beam once again comes through with a magnificent work of art. His voice is so soothing and soft that I've often wondered if I would be able to hear him in a normal conversation.

After becoming enthralled/slightly obsessed with their previous album, Our Endless Numbered Days, I was just a little excited to buy The Shepherd's Dog. Needless to say, I was blown away by the full, rich sound that greeted me. Acoustic guitars, subdued and varied percussion, singing slide guitar, violin, and organ music all came together at once to lift me up on a wave of bliss-filled happiness. If you can honestly listen to "Lovesong of the Buzzard" and not want to hug the nearest person by the end of it, I would submit that you have no soul.

If it weren't for the #2 album on this list, The Shepherd's Dog would have been my first choice for album of the year, hands down. Nothing else has come close to the beauty and emotion that this CD has accomplished. Hats off to Beam for his fantastic creation and I will be looking forward to whatever comes next for Iron & Wine.

-Little D

3. Feist - The Reminder

Leslie Feist, how I love you. Let me count the ways:

1) You have the single greatest voice in music today. Even though I would rather be serenaded to sleep every night by Norah Jones, her pipes have nothing on yours when it comes down to it.
2) You are absolutely awesome at guitar. I saw you live and you rocked out way harder than I ever thought you could. "Mushaboom" was everything I hoped it would be.
3) You are sexy as hell. Not in the I'm-a-tramp-in-a-thong hot or the pole-dancing-in-my-music-video hot, but just naturally I-am-really-cool-to-hang-out-with-and-I'll-probably-make-out-with-you hot. There's nothing better.
4) You like to dance. A lot. No, really, quite a bit. That's always a big plus in my book.
5) "It may be years until the day/My dreams will match up with my pay." I think you just summed up my life.

-Little D

2. The National - Boxer

In May of 2007 I bought an album called Alligator, by The National. It was incredible. Two days later, I bought their follow up, called Boxer. It was better. Now, it wasn’t better right away, but I had plenty of time to let it sink in on a 24-hour drive home from Texas to Michigan. Boxer is an album that needs that time to marinate. It’s filled with thoughtful, melodious guitar arrangements, catchy drum beats that move the songs along, and exquisite lyrics brought to you by front man Matt Beringer’s baritone; a baritone that leaves the lyrics lingering long after a song is complete. Lyrics that are able to turn the mundane into something celebrated, able to turn everyone’s small world into something greater.

The album starts with pretty, steady piano as Beringer comes in with the opening lines “Stay out, super late tonight/Pickin apples, making pies/Put a little something in our lemonade/Take it with us, we’re half awake, in our Fake Empire.” Soon a bass drum comes in, slightly off-beat, before syncing up with the piano just as the drums pick up tempo, then a fill, and onward with the song. From there on, the album lingers with a steady pace, no real rockers, no real downers, as Beringer weaves words describing “the un-magnificent lives of adults” throughout the album. However, the tales he tells of un-magnificent jobs, un-magnificent personalities, and un-magnificent meetings leave the listener wondering if this “Fake Empire” that Beringer describes, really is un-magnificent, or if it’s all you need.

-Little G

1. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

Someone may ask you, “Why is the ocean blue?” Perhaps you’ll know to tell them it’s because the water reflects the blue of the sky. Yet if they then ask why the sky is blue, the only valid answer would be to perform “Edge of the World” on a wind instrument.

When Josh Ritter put out Animal Years, I thought he was a really great singer-songwriter and a lot less of a nancy than a lot of the artists Little Gun listens to. But when he put out The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, I started to wonder whether he was Siddhartha Gautama incarnate. This album really blew my socks off. It has the best of what was good about Dylan, Springsteen and The Beatles, yet even better because it is fresh, exciting and new.

I saw Ritter live touring for this album, and the guy is magnetic. He seems to genuinely enjoy performing his catalogue. And why not? This album alone is full of humor, sensitivity, energy, longing, confusion and expectation…sometimes all on the same song.

A lot has been said about this album by others as well as by me, so I won’t wax on for much longer. Essentially, this is an album that cuts a cross section into the human heart and examines all the emotions that reside therein. It does it all with energetic spirit. You are ultimately left just short of a classic catharsis, rather, your soul longs to again experience something so powerfully human – humor and pain and all. Who knows when an album will next be able to so completely fulfill this desire? For now, I am simply content to have such a deserving album top our list.

-JtR

Others Receiving Votes:
Scott Matthews - Passing Stranger (6 pts.)
Radiohead - In Rainbows (5 pts)
Deadstring Brothers - Silver Mountain (5 pts.)
Fionn Regan - The End of History (5 pts.)
Okkervil River - The Stage Names (4 pts.)
A.A. Bondy - American Hearts (3 pts.)
The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism (3 pts.)
John Fogarty - Revival (2 pts.)
Bright Eyes - Cassadaga (2 pts.)
The Alternate Routes - Good and Reckless and True (1 pt.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Alternate Routes - Live at the Blender Theater at Gramercy, NYC 12/15/07

On a recent Saturday night, I was lucky enough to finally see The Alternate Routes live at the Blender Theater at Gramercy. On a weekend packed with Christmas parties and other events, I had just enough time to show up for their opening set before the Clarks came on afterwards.

Their debut album, Good and Reckless and True, came out last spring, but I didn't get into them until this summer. An album that is as solid as it is fun, GaRaT easily became one of my favoirte CDs this year. After missing a couple of shows earlier this year, I was excited to get to catch them in person for the first time.

To be totally honest, I didn't know what to expect live. Their album is very well produced and clean sounding, which made me wary of seeing them live. However, thier stage presence was incredible as they tore through their eight-song setlist. They played my three favorite tracks "Ordinary," "Aftermath," and "Time Is a Runaway" with precision, but the other songs are really what elevated their credibility in my book. A great song off their album, "Going Home with You" can get lost behind the other previously mentioned standouts. However, as the third song of the night, this was where the show switched gears. Guitarist Eric Donnelly stepped out and delivered a jaw dropping performance as he ripped through his notes and guitar strings (he popped one or two during this song) on some of the most ridiculous solos I've ever seen. With a scary amount of control, Donnelly was flying through notes faster than I could watch his fingers in one of the best live guitar performances you could imagine.

Vocalist Tim Warren also showcased his great voice, proving that his talent is not limited to the studio. His smooth and clear sound projected perfectly over the band's coordinated instrumentation. He also brought a fun-loving attitude to the group, introducing "My Old Lady, She Ain't Home, She Won't Cry, 'Cause She Don't Know" by explaining "everyone's got a song about cheating on your wife -- this one's ours."

Speaking of "My Old Lady...", this song was good enough to have closed out the show. They still had not played my favorite song, "Aftermath," but when they finished "My Old Lady...", I realized they could've walked off the stage then and I still would've been blown away -- it was that good. A hard, raking, foot stomping, call-and-answer song, "My Old Lady..." stole the show. Hopefully, it'll make their next album, which can't come soon enough for me.

If you get a chance, I highly recommend seeing them live; if you can't, go buy their CD and get to know these guys now. I guarantee it won't be long before everyone else does.

Setlist:
  1. Shelly
  2. Time Is a Runaway
  3. Going Home with You
  4. The Future's Nothing New
  5. Say What You Mean What You Say
  6. Ordinary
  7. My Old Lady, She Ain't Home, She Won't Cry, 'Cause She Don't Know
  8. Aftermath

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Johnny 5; Staying Alive

Since Little Dynamite responded to my challenge to post our top 5 favorite albums, I'll respond now with mine. The only difference here is that my Top 5 favorite also happen to be the 5 greatest albums of all time as well. Lucky for you, the reader, to be able to read about both my favorite and the greatest in one go.

First off - ground rules: No Greatest Hits. No live albums (although if somebody wanted to make the Live at Folsom Prison argument, I'd be listening).

Let's do this climactic order.
This album has it all. The killer title. The rocking lead track (title track). The pop hit (Fairy Tale of New York). The instrumental track that holds up (Metropolis). The soul stretching introspective-but-not-self-conscious track (The Broad Majestic Shannon). This is a near perfect album put together by an unstable group of musicians at their apex. In fact, it should be pointed out that the fact that this band even reached their full potential is incredible. When they could barely get Shane MacGowan on stage most nights, let alone on stage sober enough to remember the words to his own songs, how could they have held it together for long enough to write and record this is a mystery to me.


This album is punk. It's traditional Irish music. It's cheeky, irreverent, fun, calamitous, potent and ultimately cuts right to the core of human existence. It's impossible for me not to simply quote from the lyrics and hope that starts to shine some light on this work.

In "Fairytale of New York," the man courting the woman is accused near the end of the tune of taking her dreams away when he met her. How does he respond? "I kept them with me, babe. I put them with my own, can't make it all alone, I built my dreams around you." Exit air from room. In Shane's own words (and I know this isn't the first time I've quoted him on this) "Lovely song, I wish I could rememeber writing it."

This album is absolute genius. One more fly-by highlight is the greatest horse racing song of all time ("Thanks and praises, thanks to Jesus, I bet on A Bottle of Smoke / I went to hell and to the races to bet on A Bottle of Smoke / The day being clear the sky being bright, he came up on the left like a streak of light / Like a drunken fuck on a Saturday night, up came A Bottle of Smoke / Twenty-fucking-five to one, my gambling days are done / I bet on a horse called A Bottle of Smoke and my horse won"). I dare The Weepies to write a horse racing song.

Maybe you don't get this album if playing tin whistle isn't one of your hobbies, but I don't think that's the case.

4. Bruce Springsteen - Greetings From Asbury Park New Jersey



The first we hear from "the future of rock and roll." He starts us with "Blinded by the Light," a song best known for being butchered by the Manfred Mann Faggot Band. And after a few lines, we get it. Bruce is going to bring us to his little slice of America, and introduce us to the quirky personalities who somehow resonate as weightily as Conrad's Marlow and Hemingway's El Sordo. This album oozes it's so smooth. The energy skips out of the speakers and takes on size and weight as it fills the car, room, backyard, or wherever.

This album contains my favorite (read: the greatest) song of all time in "For You." This song is not-so-ostensively about a suicide, but even given the dire subject matter the indominable spirit of the album can not be subdued. The ultimate sense is of a sort of hope. You feel that there is a great big eager exciting world swirling around the tradgedy at hand, knocking at the door and threatening to enter and make all well again at any time. Ironically, perhaps, in this song the Boss postulates that his intended "did not need [his] urgency."

Maybe she didn't need it, but we do and always have. The best of Bruce is his urgent, honest, bright-eyed assessment of our world. This album is full of that best, at its best. These qualities are still apparent even in The Rising, The Seeger Sessions Band stuff, and Magic, which is why Bruce is still the greatest after all these years.

As a side note - this album contains the name of this blog, which I only hope is as youthful and exuberant as its namesake. There's nothing worse than a dispassionate, scientific exploration of music.

3. Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter



I am going to continue to put my money where my mouth is on this album. Despite being just over 3 months old, this collection of songs has to be one of my 5 favorite of all time. I can't even tell you with what excitement and disbelief I found myself listening to the album for the first 500 times. It is a complete effort, and in fact it shares many of the same youthful and energetic qualities of the previous disc. I would also like to mention at this time that having 6+ words in the album title is NOT an element of my album choice discernment process, it's just a coincidence that IISFfGwG, GfAPNJ and THCoJR all happen to be similarly titularly verbose. Although I will say, all three are fairly arrogant titles (the current album being the most egregiously so) and that does tickle my fancy.

Anyway, there's not too much to say about this album in addition to the current buzz surrounding it. The lead track is brilliant, and "The Temptation of Adam," to use Little Gun's own words, is like "a five hundred page great American novel in 4 minutes and 12 seconds." I still think that the line "fusion is the broken heart that's lonely's only thought" may still one day prove to be scientifically accurate when the medicinal pendulum swings back toward the primacy of the 4 humours and leeching as a viable treatment for influenza.


I started to write that Josh Ritter brings us back to a simpler, more decent time with his music, but I caught myself. Rather, I believe he shows us what is simple, important, and true in the very world we're all caught up in. His phrases are clear and transparent yet do not lack the least in beauty. This album will stand up for a long time to come.

2. Martin Sexton - The American



"Freedom came my way that night
Just like a jet plane in and out of sight
I was hauling ass at a million miles an hour
Wondering how hard I'd hit.

Singing sweet Cherie, Cherie, Cherie,
Cherie, won't you dare to
Leave a message and your number please
Wrap them in a big red bow and then send them care of me

I've taken my chance on the wind
I'm packing up all my bags
Taking a mistake I gotta make
Then I'm glory bound."


If I ever have a band, I'm going to name at least two of my albums The American. It's the best album title I've ever seen. And this album is dynamite to boot. It's like a fucking Kerouac novel set to music and performed by an angel choir. The lyrics here almost outshine Martin's pipes. And that's saying something.


This album captures all the wonder and heartache of one forced by his own circumstance and weakness to flee to the comforting anonymity of The West. This is the only story worth telling in America. Every other story has been told thousands of years ago in China, India, Greece, Egypt and Italy. All we have as Americans is this one story. In "Glory Bound", "The American," "The Beast In Me," "Love Keep Us Together," and "Way I Am" Martin spins this very tale with effortless skill and fascinating variation. Perhaps he draws on his own experience. Perhaps he's the pro(an)tagonist of "Love Keep Us Together." Regardless, this album is THE truly American experience. This is why it will always be my second favorite album.


To bad Martin Sexton sucks now (see: 2007 release Seeds).


1. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks


If Martin Sexton has told the American story, George Ivan Morrison tells the human story. In 8 tracks. The best word for the album, I think, is magical. Mystical, maybe. The instrumentation is remarkable, varied, and unstable. Van Morrison himself brings the cohesiveness to each track with near constant repetition of lines. It's a deep, passionate and personal journey we are permitted to follow him down, and I feel almost embarassed to listen, as if I am prying into something that should be between a man and his god, and not to be shared with anyone who has $20 and an amazon.com account.

I think that this album is uncoverable and without flaw. Every note, stammer, pause or otherwise seem to be simultaneously intentioned as well as improvised. The songs do not only tell of stories, the instruments do not merely play notes. The songs themselves become love, panic, change, rain, wine, sunlight and everything else that has ever or will ever exist. Describing this album is impossible. I'm done trying. Hopefully that was over-the-top enough.

- JtR

Friday, December 21, 2007

My 5 "Favorite" Albums

I know this is late. Even Lil' D late. But I promised I'd have this post out at some point and I've finally had enough Celebration Ales to complete my promise.

To refresh your memories, Jack the Rabbit challenged Little Gun and me to post our favorite 5 albums of all-time about a lifetime ago. Now to clarify, these aren't our most critically acclaimed albums, nor our highest rated albums. They are simply our 5 'favorite' albums in any context. I've had my albums in mind this whole time, but I'm just now getting around to posting, so here it goes.

5) Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman (cassette)

This album will always hold a special spot in my heart for reasons only I can know. While I was extremely tempted to put New Age artist Ray Lynch's 1984 cassette Deep Breakfast in this slot for similar reasons, Chapman's album is still one that I listen to today, beyond my childhood memories. Both albums bring me back to driving in my dad's car when I was really little: on our way to a 5:00 a.m. hockey practice, cross country to Colorado for a family vacation, or to pre-school, this album will always bring me back to the two of us in his old grey Audi driving in the early morning somewhere. And for that, Tracy Chapman will always have a hold on me.

4) Marc Cohn - Marc Cohn

Ok, ok. This probably seems like I'm doing a disservice for my credibility at this point, but I can't deny my true feelings. Originally, I had the Beatles' Abbey Road slated in this spot. It would have been a safe pick, and while probably my favorite critically acclaimed album, it didn't meet my requirements as a 'favorite' album quite like Cohn's did. This cassette-turned-CD (yes, about that time) was a staple in my upbringing. I had at one point resolved to sing "Walking in Memphis" at the all school talent show in 1992. Luckily, I ended up doing an MC Hammer dance routine with a bunch of other friends that never made it to stage.

This album is chock full of gems that I still enjoy listening to until this day. Besides the well known "Walking in Memphis," "Ghost Train" and "Saving the Best for Last" provide some substance to this standout CD. While Little Gun may tell you that my wedding song will be Chapman's "The Promise" due to my own rantings at one point in time, it's really Cohn's "Perfect Love" that strikes a chord whenever I hear it. Now I just need a fiance and Cohn or James Taylor to agree to play at my wedding. I'm sure it'll all work out...

3) Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

I'll never forget the first time I "really" listened to this album. My family was in doing something somewhere, and I was left in our old Volvo wagon in the parking lot. This wasn't any old Volvo though -- it had a CD player. Our first CD player in a car (a 6-Disc changer in the back of the car), it was '96 and it was the only CD in the player. I begrudgingly put it on and was immediately enthralled. Now, as pointed out many times, I'm not one for lyrics, but I was hooked by the stories and the emotions exuded by this to-me-still-unknown artist (I was only 12 or 13 at the time). I couldn't get over the growls, the sax, and the wonderfully arranged music that blasted so vehemently throughout the speakers. To this day, I've never enjoyed a single CD in one sitting as much as I did that one fine day.

2) Dave Matthews Band - Under the Table and Dreaming

Without a doubt, this was my ultimate find. To this day, I've never felt so excited about finding a new artist more than I did when I bought this CD. I bought this CD during the summer between 4th and 5th grade and never stopped listening to it. Sometimes you buy an amazing album and you listen to it so many times you actually burn out (hello Vitalogy and River of Dreams), but this was not the case with UtTaD. To this day, I can listen to this CD straight through and recite every mumbled line, albeit incorrectly, and instrument's note without batting an eye. I always dreamed that I would someday be at a DMB concert and one of the members wouldn't show up, leaving me to go on stage and sing their instrument's part since I knew it so well. I'm still waiting...

1) Derek & the Dominoes - The Layla Sessions

Anther Volvo favorite, my Dad bought this for my Mom for her birthday after we got the car. He was so excited when we gave it to her, but I didn't know why. Needless to say, I can almost guarantee that I've never listened to one album more times than this one. If I could pinpoint perfection, this would most likely be it. With an all-star band collaborating so cohesively, it's a wonder that this work of art isn't always in the running for best all-time album. From the first call-to-arms guitar licks on "I Looked Away" to the soothingly soft "Thorn Tree in the Garden," this album has it all.

While Eric Clapton is lovingly referred to as "God" around the world, I think that he's beyond labels. There's no one like him out there -- never has been, never will be. That includes Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix if you can believe that. Clapton's true manifestation comes in the form of a plastic disc that can swallow you whole if you don't pay attention.

If I become a millionaire, the only extravagant thing I would actually purchase is Clapton's '56 axe "Blackie," sold not so recently for almost $1 million. I don't even play guitar, but just knowing I could pick that beast like on "Key to the Highway" would be enough for me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fun to the Power of 3

I go to Austin, TX for two reasons: 1) To see live music. 2) They have an enormous Whole Foods there. A couple of weekends ago I went to Austin for both these reasons. The live music that I was going to see was courtesy of the second annual Fun, Fun, Fun Fest, which is put on by some local folks, probably because they think that other music festival in Austin is a little too commercial.

Anyway, the festival takes place in Waterloo Park, just north of Ironworks Barbeque (which my girlfriend’s dad can tell you how to get to from Minneapolis, Minnesota). The park is quite small…think of your town’s town park and that is about what it is. For that reason, the festival was incredibly intimate, which I’ll talk more about later. The festival is set up with three stages, and as far as I could gather, the acts on these stages were split up into three categories: Stage 1 was dance/dj/mash-up music; Stage 2 was the indie rock stage (guess where I was); and Stage 3 was the punk stage. And when I say punk stage I don’t mean like the Blink 182 kind of punk, or the Clash’s brand of punk, but instead I mean black t-shirt, multiple piercings in uncomfortable looking places, screaming your head of type of punk. My friend Will ventured over to Stage 3 at one point and was visibly shaken when he came back. The best punk-band name by far was Angry Samoans. A distant second was Viva Hate. (actual band names)

Anyway, here’s who I saw at my nancy-pants indie-rock stage.

3:50-4:30 – White Denim
-First of all, sweet band name. Second of all, really exciting band live. Their lead singer had a permanent smile on his face, their drummer randomly yelped, and their bassist looked like he was 12 and was wearing a shirt that he probably wore when he was 12. Myspace describes their music as visual/grime/fusion, which, although I have no idea what that means, seems to be accurate. At the show they basically played minute and a half spurts of songs, seemingly no beginning or end, just a barrage of drums and guitars, and then once they hit something resembling a song, they would stop, talk to the crowd for a little bit, and then say something like “Okay, here’s crazy-sexy-rainbow.”

4:35-5:20 – Final Fantasy
-The crew I was with was all about Final Fantasy, but I personally thought he was kind of not that sweet. He basically just plays the Andrew Bird game, quite literally. He’s got a piano on stage, a violin, and a looping pedal. And while it was neat to see him thread some tunes together all on his own, I didn’t think the songs themselves were all that strong on the whole. Also, the name of his album is “He Poos Clouds,” which I can’t really respect.

5:25-6:25 – Okkervil River
-Okkervil River is really the whole reason I went to the Fun Cubed Fest. I bought their newest album, Stage Names, a couple of months ago, and I like it a lot. This band brings a lot of intensity with both their up-tempo numbers and their slower tracks. Thumping drum beats, catchy tunes, and they utilize the piano nicely. The intensity only intensifies (?) live, with lead-man Will Sheff flailing about in a suit that was too small for him. It was also the end of their tour, and Sheff looked like he could have keeled over at any moment. One fun fact I just found out about the band is that in their liner notes, the lyrics to their songs are written in paragraph form…take it for what you will. The top track is “Unless It’s Kicks.” Try listening to this song in your car and not punching your steering wheel when the drums finally kick in…honestly, try it.

6:30-7:30 – Of Montreal
-I don’t know much about this band…but I really liked what I heard. Sweet bass-line on almost every song…almost like some sort of alt/disco/pop. Half-way through the lead singer came out in some very revealingly chaps sort of garment…the guitarist was wearing large wings the whole show.

7:35- 8:35 – The New Pornographers
-I thought this band was good, not great, which I think seems to be the general consensus regarding the New Pornos. I think the main thing that I can’t get over with this band is that Neko Case is the CO-lead singer…and that “other guy” she sings with actually gets the bulk of the mic time. The whole time I’m just like, “shut-up and let Neko sing.” And, I don’t know, maybe their songs don’t fit Neko’s vocals as well…but if that’s the case, maybe they should just write folk/alt/country songs that are in Neko’s wheelhouse. I’m quite serious about this. You wouldn’t ask Michael Jordan to share more of his shots with Horace Grant…why is Neko sharing a mic. (author’s note: I realize the Michael Jordan/Neko Case comparison is overstating the case just a bit. And I’ve actually thought about this a great deal, and in the realm of folk/alt/country singers, Neko would be more like a Chris Mullins (still a dream-teamer) with Lucinda Williams being Scottie Pippen, Patty Griffin as Larry Bird, and EmmyLou as MJ. Sheryl Crow would probably be Cristian Laettner.)

8:40 – Girl Talk
-We actually left New Pornos early to get up fairly close for Girl Talk…and for good reason. For those unaware, Girl Talk is a dj that creates “mash-ups,” where he combines bits and pieces of different songs (i.e. Biggie rapping over Tiny Dancer) into some dope dance tracks. Before the show there were a bunch of people on stage connecting various wires and whatnot, and we were trying to guess which one of the guys was Girl Talk. Then this shaggy haired skinny guy with a hooded sweatshirt who we thought was a roadie came out and carefully unwrapped two computers and set them on a table on the stage. Then, he just said, “Hey, my name’s Greg and I’m gonna play some songs for you guys.” Then he went off stage for a little while, before some sort of intro music came on and he re-emerged, this time charged with energy, and he just started mashing up some tracks on his computers. The best part was that he invited as many people as could fit on to the stage and people were just going crazy…you couldn’t even see Greg/Girl Talk. The show was really something; unfortunately I had to leave early to go watch BC lose to Florida State.

On Day 2 I only got to see one show because I had to get back down to the border town I call home, but the show I got to see was The Cave Singers. Just about every review of the Cave Singers I’ve read refers to their music as this type of folky punk-rock, or punk-rock folk music. I would just say that it’s somewhat dark, somber folk-music. It’s a 3-man outfit, consisting of the finger-picking of guitarist Derek Fudesco and the unique voice of lead-man Pete Quirk, and the multi-instrumental percussion laid down by Marty Lund (including a washboard). It was a good show, albeit a little boring. I think there was about 20 people there since it was one of the first of the day. After the show we met Mr. Fudesco, who is quite tall.

We had to head out after that, unfortunately missing Ted Leo and Cat Power (playing separate shows…not together…although that would be neat), but still, the Fun Fun Fun Fest lived up to it’s name.

Notes:
*Pictures and Links will have to come later because it's late and there is a cloud in the sky so my internet is going very slowly.
*Little D, you're so right on with Cold Roses. I would also like to say that "Now That You're Gone" is one of the most haunting beautiful songs Adams has every written.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Little Dynamite's Music Corner: Cold Roses revisited

Inspired. Focused. Tight.

These are the adjectives I would use to describe Ryan Adams’ 2005 double disc, Cold Roses. Not the traditional words one would think of when listing ways to asses a still-addicted Adams, this recording was something that signaled his permanent place in folk history for me. Alongside The Cardinals, Adams’ backing band and collaborators, he finds himself among nature and whatever utopian peace that can be found within a cloud of drug and alcohol induced euphoria.

I took a new listen to this album recently after reading Adams’ newest write-up in the uber-cool indie magazine Paste. Now I've listened to his most recent Easy Tiger many, many times already, so it was nice to delve back into his older collection to see where he came from, where he has been, through to what he has become. Much of the article was devoted to his relationship with The Cardinals, who I often took for granted or outright dismissed. However, it's clear that these guys have a special relationship with Adams that grounds the notoriously fickle artist.

I put this album on at work for a few days in a row and was pleasantly surprised that I still enjoyed it as much as I did. Songs such as "Meadowlake Street" and "Beautiful Sorta" seem to have taken on a new mood on my newest listen -- something that I've never heard in their original plays. When "Meadowlake Street" begins, it seems like any other Adams ballad in that it is a solo acoustic recording with a hauntingly soft vocal track. However, when the band breaks through, Adams' vocals become a frantic, almost pleading spectacle that looking back, highlights his growing paranoia in the real world.

Classics such as "Let It Ride," "Rosebud," and "Dance All Night" do not go unnoticed, but they stand out less now than they did way back when. Maybe it's just the circumstances, but as a whole, this album functions soundly, in stark contrast to his critically disastrous double disc, Love Is Hell.

While it's nice to see Adams supposedly kicking his habit, it's interesting to look back at his older stuff and see what his experiences have done to him. From "Easy Plateau(s)" and natural peace to today's contentedness, Adams seems to have achieved what he always wanted.

I just hope he isn't content with his music already.

Martin Sexton is the new Sonic Death Monkey

I know nothing about Martin Sexton. Ok, almost nothing. I know I love "Glory Bound" but who doesn't? On the repeated recommendations of Jack the Rabbit, I blindly bought tickets to see Martin Sexton at the Roseland Ballroom the other night. It's extremely rare that I go to a concert without a solid knowledge of the artist, but the last time I took JTR's advice on a new band, I ended up awed at the Wood Bros. with him, so I figured Sexton might come through.

Well, yes and no.

If I were to give the night one word, it would be inconsistent. It seemed like every time I started to feel one of his songs, I was pulled right back out by a weaker track. It was like watching a great movie that continually addressed the audience. Totally interrupting. I rarely talk at concerts but I found myself talking to my friend most of the night when things got boring.

That's a bad sign...out of the entire night however, my biggest complaint was the lighting. Yes, I know: who pays attention to the lighting at a concert? Which is exactly why that's a bad sign. It was so bad that I was constantly annoyed by it. Good lighting is like good editing in a film -- you should never notice it. I was angry that whoever was in charge of the spotlight couldn't hold it on Sexton while he moved 6 inches this way and that while he was solo for the first 3 or 4 songs of the night. What could they possibly be looking at? And then, when the rest of the band came on stage, the lighting genius decided to continually flash the horrifically bright audience lights at us throughout the night. If you don't know what I mean, these were two sets of 8 lights that are blindingly bright that will sometimes go up at fantastic concerts like U2 and Pearl Jam when the audience is supposed to participate. When used sparingly at certain times, the audience will responded with the necessary "Oooo" or "Ahhhh" as the song dictates.

But here, they were just flashed indiscriminately, offbeat, and at very inappropriate times. I was actually getting angry.

Now, on to the good parts of the night. Sexton's voice is amazing. It's rare to hear someone with the range he has, a la M. Ward or Feist. Yet he sings with such a smooth and enjoyable presence that it's almost contagious. The audience was one of the most supportive and fervent crowds that I've seen and I was pleased with the energy that was in the venue. Sexton does need to work on how and when to use this following, however. At one point, he asked the audience to clap along, but he made the most complicated clap-along I've ever seen in my life. Without drinking even one beer at the show, I spent the entire 2+ minutes trying to figure out his rhythm to no avail. Obviously, the audience fared much worse. Sing-a-longs proved similar in some instances which was embarrassing for the audience as much as it was for Sexton.

Alright, alright. Way too many negatives. It's easier to write of the negatives than to explain the positives but I'll do my best.

After a lackluster and reggae-esque "Glory Bound," (the entire reason I came to see him) I turned to my friend and apologized for the night. I said that I had no idea what to expect and that the last song was my last hope.

And then they went unplugged.

I rarely am surprised at live shows, but this was truly a great idea. Sexton pulled out his acoustic guitar and the rest of his band crowded with him around a single microphone. After explaining that they would perform the next few songs "unplugged" and that the audience needed to be quiet to enjoy it, they busted into a few amazing songs that brought the house down. Featuring Sexton on acoustic and the rest of the band on stand-up bass, percussion on a bar stool, and something that I-completely-forgot-the-name-of-but-that-sounded-like "harmonium," they basically saved the night. With an enjoyable performance of "Way I Am," they made way for a tremendous cover of "Folsom Prison Blues" that blew me away. I was jumping and singing right along with them, even with the "please be quiet" restrictions in effect.

I think this might be the last time I buy tickets for a Martin Sexton concert, but I do have to say that there were many times throughout the night where I was enthralled by the show. His enthusiasm was never doubted and his encore performance left a good taste in my mouth as I walked out of the Ballroom. Sexton played keyboard and sang his brains out, just like I knew he could, instead of dancing and gesturing around like Jack Black as he did the rest of the night. Literally, you could have substituted Black in for Sexton and never known the difference. Haircut, dance moves, voice, banter, you name it -- it was uncanny. See for yourself:













If I had any influence, I think Sexton could do an unbelievable cover of Animal Libertation Orchestra's "Maria." Just listen to his voice vs. ALO. Anyways, here's some video evidence as to how amazing the unplugged portion of the night was:

Way I Am:


Folsom Prison Blues:


And just in case you were looking, here are some samples to get you going:

Martin Sexton -
*Glory Bound.mp3

ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) -
*Maria.mp3

Johnny Cash -
*Folsom Prison Blues.mp3

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Shins - Live at Terminal 5, NYC 10/23/07

I love The Shins. I never get sick of their albums and I find their style unique and easy to listen to in just about any setting. I've tried to see them live a few times but have just never made it until a few weeks ago. This was not only my first Shins show, but my first trip to the new Terminal 5 venue in Midtown West. A little bit hard to get to, its warehouse feel was pretty cool and it definitely had an older feel (even thought it's brand new).

I had always heard that the Shins played great live shows and I really enjoyed their performance. The audience wasn't totally into the concert, since their sound really doesn't lend itself well to a raucous atmosphere anyways, but I liked everything I heard. They played all the songs I wanted to hear and surprised me with what has become their staple cover on this tour, Pink Floyd's "Breathe."

After the show, I read a ton of reviews online about how people have ripped their live shows - forgetting words to "New Slang" (my friends saw their second show the next night and confirmed this as well), humming lyrics, and giving lackluster performances all around. To be honest, I didn't see any of this and I really did find the show to be entertaining. My advice, check 'em out. If they're on like they were for my show, awesome. If not, then don't go see them again.

Check out a few videos from the night to see for yourself. The first one is "Sleeping Lessons" which also leads off their latest album Wincing the Night Away. A perfect opening song, its music video is also a thing of beauty. The second video is "Australia," my favorite Shins song in their collection. The video's audio is not so great, but the video is better than "Sleeping Lessons." Enjoy!

Sleeping Lessons:


Australia:


The Shins - Live at Terminal 5
1. Sleeping Lessons
2. Kissing the Lipless
3. Mine's Not A High Horse
4. When I Goosestep
5. Turn A Square
6. Girl Sailor
7. A Comet Appears
8. Sea Legs
9. Girl Inform Me
10. Saint Simon
11. Gone for Good
12. New Slang
13. Australia
14. Turn on Me
15. Know Your Onion!
16. Pam Berry
17. Phantom Limb

Encore:
1. Breathe *Pink Floyd cover*
2. The Past and Pending
3. Caring Is Creepy
4. So Says I

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I hang out with lead guitarists...no big deal

First, a little back story: One of the perks of hosting trivia nights at the Pourhouse on Thursdays is that I get to create my own playlists for the music each week. A few months ago, I played "Aftermath" by one of my favorite new bands, the Alternate Routes. As soon as the song started my friend Joe, and trivia regular, started sprinting up to the front, asking me if I picked out the song. As it turns out, Eric Donnelly (far right), lead guitarist and vocalist for the band, is one of Joe's best friends.So when I met up with Joe to go to the Pourhouse for some food and a few beers last night, I was introduced to Eric who was hanging out for the night. After Joe explained that I was a big fan, I tried to act very nonchalant about the whole deal, but it wasn't long before I was asking questions about the band. I should also note that while we were ordering pitchers of Bud Light for the table, Eric quietly drank Jameson on the rocks. Well played.

They're winding down their tour for the holidays but will be coming back to NYC to play a show in Gramercy at the same place I saw Mason Jennings play. Turns out Eric's a fan of Mason - score one for Eric. As we got talking, he asked me what music I listen to, which caught me off guard. I recommended The National, who he had not heard of yet - score one for Little D.

I was actually taken aback that he didn't know them. I always figured all musicians know the obscure music scene better than any of us (even though the National is far from obscure anymore) but it made sense that someone could not be as deep into new music if they're on the road all the time and trying to write new music themselves.

Anyways, Eric was a quiet, cool guy and he said he's going to put Joe and me on the guest list for the show in December. Sweet.

Check out four of their best songs on their myspace page, including the previously mentioned "Aftermath."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem - Live at Randall's Island, NYC 10/6/07

Little Gun has finally gotten to me. I saw Arcade Fire live and let me tell you something: they enjoy playing music. A lot. The energy that came out of their live show was something you just have to experience for yourself.

Before I delve into Arcade Fire's performance, I'll give a brief overview of LCD Soundsystem's opening act. I missed all but the last half of LCD's set as it took a while to get to the island, and the Texas-Okalahoma game was still too close to leave. While we may have missed some of their stuff, what I saw was just great. The one song I wanted to hear, "All My Friends," was fantastic. Here's a video of their performance of "Yeah," one of the night's highlight songs:



I didn't expect the look of a middle-aged high school science teacher when I saw LCD, but they put on a great performance. I really enjoyed everything they played, even though I'm way less-versed in their catalog.

Aracade Fire, on the other hand, I know quite well. Their performance, while entertaining and enthusiastic, was a little disappointing to me. For one, I could not stop looking at Régine Chassagne and her annoying, over dramatic posturing. Now don't get me wrong, I think she's great and adds a lot to the band, but she also takes away a lot of the attention with her Bjork-like antics and distracting activities. For example, her performance on "Haiti" was incredible, but then she had to go and run around stage whenever she wasn't playing an instrument or singing. I have to admit, even when she was singing, she would turn her head and look sideways at the audience with this ridiculous smirk...I know, I'm crazy, but it drove me absolutely nuts.

However, her husband and lead member of the band, Win Butler, was amazing. He announced that this would be the last time they play here for a few years so I'm going to guess this was a pretty epic show for them. His stage presence and command of the band was felt throughout the audience as he cycled through favorite after favorite (although, what's not a favorite off their first two albums?). To finish this great night, they played the crowd pleaser "Wake Up," which was as amazing as I had hoped. Someone caught it with some pretty good audio, so enjoy:



Overall, it was a performance to remember and one of the most beautiful nights of the year in New York City. Here's to hoping it won't be years until Arcade Fire returns.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - Live at Madison Square Garden, NYC 10/18/07

The word of the day is expectations.

I make this the word of the day because this is all I had going into this show. Expectations. You see, this was the last concert I wanted to see before I die. Seriously, the only one left. I saw Clapton. I saw U2. I saw Pearl Jam. This was it. And you know what? It didn't disappoint. Pretty amazing for the only concert I could ever want to see. This has been a quest of mine for years. I'd heard of the legendary live Bruce shows, but I wanted to make sure I saw him with the entire E Street Band the first time I saw him. This led to years of waiting - I skipped the Seeger Sessions tour, the Devils and Dust tour, and countless other shows...waiting.

And finally Magic came along. The CD itself blew me away and I knew seeing Bruce live was now or possibly never at the rate I was going. After finagling tickets through multiple mutual friends, I got two seats at MSG - one for myself and one for Jack the Rabbit who made the trek down for the night.

The night was amazing. He opened with "Radio Nowhere" which elevated the song's credibility for me after hearing it live. I had a few requests, a few far reaches, and one demand. Overall, I couldn't have been happier with the set list. My one demand, "Born to Run" was dutifully played in the encore, leading to frenzied dancing, fist pumps, and screaming by JTR and myself. I would say the only surprise non-play was "Thunder Road." I really expected him to play it, but he may have played it the night before.

That disappointment fell by the wayside as he surprised the hell out of JTR and me when he broke into "Jungleland" out of a serene "Meeting Across the River." Easily one of my all-time favorite songs, "Jungleland" was totally unexpected since it's such a lengthy song, but nevertheless, Bruce and Clarence dove right in and played the hell out of it. Easily the highlight of the night for me. Other great songs: "She's the One," "The Promised Land," "Badlands," and "American Land" (pattern?). Some may already know my affinity for Celtic music so ending the night with an Irish song I could drink to all night was the perfect way to cap it all off.

Again, this was my first Bruce experience live and I knew all the hype that went along with it, raising my expectations to a new level. Yet by the end of the show, I was more than satisfied. I still don't understand how a 58 year old man can run around stage screaming all night, night after night, and still bring the energy and passion that he exudes. I was exhausted and hoarse by the end of the night and I was stuck dancing within my 2 sq. ft. seat area. Bruce was all over the place, howling at the crowd and increasing the intensity of the show.

Everything I wanted at this show was there. From the homo-erotic doubling up of Bruce and Van Zandt on the same mic to Clarence blasting away on his horn in his oh-so-cool manor, I was so happy.

(Side note: old people need to let loose. This just made me so sad when Bruce was rocking out and half the crowd was only standing because they couldn't see over the people in front of them if they sat. Sing! Dance! Go crazy! It's The Boss for chrissakes! See Pearl Jam if you want some crowd involvement...)

To validate my love for this show, I'll let you decide for yourself what you missed out on. Below is the entire concert, provided so nicely by our friends at nyctaper.com. Please visit their site and catch some other great shows. This show was originally lossless and I know it's a no-no, but for us Mac users and for the good of everyone else out there, I converted the files to .aiff for easier use. Enjoy!

*songs currently uploading...check back soon!*

**Nevermind, these files are huge...go to nyctaper and grab them for yourself in .flac format...there are free programs out there for converting them if you want to, just google it**

The Boss is Back

(note: these were my thoughts immediately after buying the new Bruce Springsteen album, Magic. I'm posting this post prior to my review of his amazing concert)

******

Well it's been less than 24 hours since I purchased Bruce's new CD with the E Street Band, Magic, and I can already tell you I'm impressed.

Very impressed.

There isn't a weak track on the album, starting strong and finishing smooth, reminiscent of Born to Run, the ultimate Bruce album in my opinion.

From the opening track and single, "Radio Nowhere," we are immediately drenched in classic Bruce sound. His growling voice signals a return to the original E Street style of thumping drums and wailing guitars, something missing for the last 20-odd years.

Now don't get me wrong, I loved The Rising, but it didn't bring me back to good old Bruce; for me, it was like Clapton's Pilgrim - an enjoyable project, but not exactly what I expect to hear when throwing on Springsteen (save for "The Rising" and "Lonesome Day").

So far, my favorite tracks have to be the hauntingly beautiful "Gypsy Biker" and "Livin' in the Future," a political rocker and a standout for Clarence. The harmonica on "Gypsy Biker" immediately sends me to a lost highway at night somewhere in Nebraska or Wyoming. Awesome.

"Girls in Their Summer Clothes" is a fun one and something that will no doubt be a great addition to Bruce's live repertoire. The one song I'm not a big fan of is "Your Own Worst Enemy." It's bearable, but not something that I would ever play outside of listening to the album straight through. The vocals just die on me and it's frankly a little annoying, but I wouldn't say it's a bad song (or course, this is about as close as I can come to ragging on a Bruce song).

Also, make sure to catch "Last to Die." An emotionally frantic tune that pierces your soul, this is exactly the type of song I had hoped to hear on this album. Well played Bruce.

I'm not going to post any songs from this CD since you should buy it anyways...if you don't buy this CD, you're letting the terrorists win. So ante up folks and purchase what you've been waiting for: a legendary album by one of today's last great legends.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thunder Road - Pt. II


A lot of people think that Thunder Road is the greatest song of all time. They're wrong; but they aren't off by as much as people who think songs like Two Step by DMB and Stay by Jackson Browne are the greatest.

Anyway, Thunder Road is an incredible song. It's a beautiful moment of hope for two young Americans. The future of their lives lies in the balance of those long seconds between the screen door slam and the (potential) car door slam. I can sene their quickening hearts during the stand-off. The scene is remarkably genuine. Will our young Romeo take off alone, or with company? What will the future hold?

The Boss left the decision up to us for a while. What did we think happened? Our own life experiences probably dictated our thoughts.

But what most people don't know is that we have the second piece of the puzzle. We can see how it all panned out. There is a Thunder Road Pt. II song. It's called The Promise.

Enjoy. I'll say hi to Mr. Springsteen at MSG for you all tonight.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

You Ain't No Picasso

JTR played me the song "You Ain't No Picasso," by Bishop Allen a while back, most notably, I presume, because the chorus is "you ain't no picasso." And I haven't thought of them much since. However, I just read a little piece about them (of course it was in Paste) saying that last year they made 12 EPs (one for each month), and have just come out with a new album that Paste gave four stars (out of 5). So I thought I'd check out a track or two...and I think you should too.

http://www.bishopallen.com/music/ClickClickClickClick.mp3

Iron & Wine, Josh Ritter etc.

Excuse me if I'm all over the place on this post, but I get internet one day a week when I go over to my buddy Alan's place to watch football, so I've gotta make this one count. To better organize my thoughts, I'll go to bullet form (To close, switching to guns).



*Iron & Wine Little D, the concert sounds amazing. I'd really like to see the show, but last I checked, Austin-based Iron & Wine is not coming to Austin...awkward. Also, I applaud you for your diction (you know you got out your thesaurus for "cacophony"); you'll ace the GRE...not that you'll need to take it, seeing as how all you do is make major motion pictures. Which segues me back into Iron & Wine (Beam has an MFA from FSU). I also really enjoyed the new album. However, while the broader arrangements on this album is definitely a natural progression for Beam, there were times when I missed the vintage Iron & Wine sound. This is never more true than in the song "Wolves," which reminds me of one of those songs of Bob Schneider's where he tries to rap, with equally mediocre results. And I think Beam is aware of this too, which is why he follows it up on the album with "Resurrection Fern," the most classically Iron & Wine song on the album, featuring some pedal steel and Beam's voice coming to the forefront so we can hear the lyrics. Also, while I really like "Boy With a Coin," doesn't it kind of sound like Nelly Furtado could have collaborated on that song.

Anyway, if you're eager for some vintage Beam after hearing his new album, pick up his first album Creek Drank the Cradle. I realize that many of you may already own the disc, but I heard it for the first time the other day and thought it was fantastic. It's just Beam cooing his poetry over banjo and acoustic finger-picking. Recorded in his basement on a four-track, apparently singing so softly so as not to wake his daughters. A great ying to Shepherd's yang.



*Has anyone checked out Josh Ritter's back catalog? After Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, when Josh Ritter became my favorite artist of all time, I decided to do just that. Of course I already owned Animal Years, so I bought the album Hello, Starling, Ritter's second effort following The Golden Age of Radio (which somehow costs $15 dollars on itunes...if that's not arrogant...). It's really fun to see Ritter's progression from a collection of mostly sparsely arranged, pretty folk songs (Starling...it's fantastic by the way) to the classically Americana Animal Years, to the epic that Historical Conquests is.

4 random notes on Ritter: 1) Brian Howe from Paste magazine, gave Historical Conquests 4 1/2 stars (out of 5), and called Ritter "the most gifted interpreter of Americana, as an arranger and a lyricicst, working today." 2) Joan Baez covered the song "Wings" off of Starling. 3) Also according to Paste, Ritter created his own major at Oberlin College called: American History Through Narrative Folk Music...raise your hand if you would not have majored in that if it was offered. 4) How arrogant of Ritter is it to put two versions of the same song, "Wait For Love," on his album...and how much do you love him for it?

*Is there any doubt that Little D used drugs at the Flaming Lips show he went to?

*The Sunday version of my ACL post should be up by Christmas.

*I just complained that BC is rated 3rd behind South Florida...I think I'm getting spoiled.

*And speaking of BC, can we all speak sometime about where Craig Finn went to college...I think it's time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Arrogant Names Etc.

Leave it to a Brit to have two unnecessary letters in his name -- the "h" in Thom and the "e" in Yorke. From here on out I will refer to him only as Tom York. That sounds more like a guy you'd go drinking with, and less like a pretentious artiste. I mean, as arrogant as Jeff Tweedy is, at least he doesn't spell him name Geoff Tweadey.


By the way -- wonder how far your 7 quid went towards covering the 1000s of people who will pay 1 American cent for the album. Also I wonder who will pay the most for it. If I hear about some idiot paying $350 grand I will not even be shocked. Also, my bet is that Little Gun will pay $9.99. He always plays it by the book.



Finally, great call on the Clay Aiken thing.



Out.

€7 Does NOT Equal £7

So I guess Radiohead made $15 instead of $10 off me...that doesn't make Thom Yorke look any less like Clay Aiken...