Saturday, September 6, 2008

News and Notes

*While we're making grand, definitive statements, as we tend to do, I will say that the best single out right now is "Lost Coastlines," by Okkervil River. Give it a listen at their myspace.

*I don't know how into Ratatat everyone is, but I just got into them, and this song is one of the top 7 things that happened to me this summer. Turn up the volume.

*Last Christmas I got a record player for my parents and one for Maggie. I got one for my parents due to their ridiculous record collection that has gone unused since their old one broke some time in the 80s; it was pretty fantastic pulling out albums like "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs," and "Exile on Main St." on vinyl. I got the one for Maggie so that we could build up our record collection from scratch (pun intended); it's really fun for a few reasons. First, records sound amazing. Second, the process of actually putting a record on is a joy. And third, building a record collection allows you to weed out all the tunes you don't really want in your library. With records, you can't exactly skip tracks, so the albums you buy have to stellar throughout. Therefore, your record collection becomes only your favorite albums...a true reflection of who you are, musically speaking. We currently own five albums, with plans to expand. Those five are:

1) Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cold Roses
2) Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
3) The National - Boxer
4) Feist - The Reminder
5) The Arcade Fire - Funeral

I plan on buying some more vinyl tomorrow...I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Greatest Album of 2008


Yes, it's only September (and barely so). Yes, Ray LaMontagne still has yet to release his new album of songs about getting his feelings hurt. No matter; the greatest album of 2008 has already been released.

On March 17, 2008 Van the Man released his THIRTY THIRD studio album. And it is a masterpiece. It's a carefully crafted set of new originals that are both catchy and thoughtful. It's clear that Van was inspired to write, and the material is flawlessly executed. It's almost frightening when a guy who has:
1) the greatest voice of all time (distant second: Stevie Nix)
2) 40+ years of recording experience (1968's Astral Weeks is 40 this year)
decides that he has something fresh to say.

Stand out tracks are:
  1. How Can A Poor Boy
  2. School of Hard Knocks
  3. That's Entrainment
  4. Don't Go to Nightclubs Anymore
  5. Lover Come Back
  6. Keep It Simple
  7. End of the Land
  8. Song of Home
  9. No Thing
  10. Soul
  11. Behind the Ritual

It's too bad for Jackie Greene (see: Giving Up The Ghost) that this album was released in 2008, because otherwise Mr. Greene might have had a good shot at greatest album, but it's really just not a fair fight when a juggernaut like Van puts his mind to it.

That's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment, that's entrainment....

Noun: entrainment (plural entrainments):

1. Any of several processes in which a solid or liquid is put into motion by a fluid.
2. The carrying away of droplets of liquid during violent boiling
3. The movement of sediment in a stream of water or in a glacier
4. The mixing of air currents
5. (biology) The alignment of an organism's circadian rhythm to that of an external rhythm in its environment

If you don't own this album you don't care about music or science.

- JtR

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

This album is great. Do you need to hear anything more? I'm sure by now you've heard that MMJ is the new savior of contemporary rock, so I won't bore you with the details. Ok, at least not all of them.

To be honest, I still have not bought Z. I regret it still, but funds are tight and priorities have to made so I skipped over it in my MMJ collection and bought Evil Urges. However, after a brilliant spectacle like Evil Urges, I think I'll have to find the pennies in my couch to purchase Z.

Jim James' voice soars over each track in perfect harmony as the guitars float seamlessly through the songs, no matter how different they are. "I'm Amazed," the lead single and best track on the album, blends oddly with "Highly Suspicious," a growly, hard-banging song that diverges wildly from the usual "voice in a subway" sound of previous albums. Instead, it features James doing his best Prince impersonation.

The more traditional MMJ sounding "Sec Walkin'" is hauntingly beautiful and more of what you would expect from James. However, even this simple song leaves you wanting more in an early Wilco-like moment. The mellowed out "Smokin from Shootin" blends a nice Ryan Adams sound as James soulfully croons.

I put on Evil Urges to write this post and had almost finished when "Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2" came on. It would have been a major oversight on my part if I hadn't included it here in some way. Easily a close second to "I'm Amazed," "Touch Me..." is a great track that gets you involved from start to finish. The Coldplay pop sound is there without the cheese and James speaks so honestly and emotionally that you just want him to let loose and scream by the end (which happens...sort of).

Evil Urges will definitely be in my crowded running for "Album of the Year" with its eclectic and progressive sound. Hopefully I'll get a chance to see them perform live someday because that is truly the test of a band's greatness. Until then, I'll rock out on my iPod and enjoy what I've got so far.

My Morning Jacket
-
*I'm Amazed.mp3

*Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2.mp3

myspace link

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Jump on the bandwagon, people. If you haven't heard of Fleet Foxes yet, you still might be drinking Crystal Pepsi. This CSNY-cum-Appalachian sounding group is taking the indie world by storm.

I got hooked on their excellent Sun Giant EP a few months ago, playing their signature track "Mykonos" over and over again. However, I never saw coming such a rich and thorough album follow-up as their self-titled debut provides (only $7.99 on Amazon mp3!).

As excited as I was for their full release to come out. I was actually expecting them to fall on their face a bit. It would be easy for a band like their's to overdue their sound. Instead, the feelings are almost understated as the listener is invited to sing in his or her own head (or out loud...) as a sixth member of the band.

At one point, lead singer Robin Pecknold was quoted as saying he liked being in a band where everyone sings because it provided a family-like atmosphere where everyone participates. I wholeheartedly agree with that philosophy and I hope it serves them well in the coming years.

It's hard to pick out favorite songs from the album because each track has its own endearing quality and sound, but the opening two tracks "Sun It Rises" and "White Winter Hymnal" should give you a pretty good idea about what this band is all about...but also check out the appropriately named "Blue Ridge Mountains" and the My Morning Jacket-esque "Your Protector."

Fleet Foxes -
*Sun It Rises.mp3

*White Winter Hymnal.mp3

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Josh Ritter - Live at Williamsburg Music Hall, NYC 4/28/08

Before I even get into Josh Ritter's performance, I have to say that I'm in love with Williamsburg Music Hall. The Bowery Ballroom attracts most of the best acts, but they would be much better served to play WMH on any given night. An intimate, yet sizable venue, WMH provides exactly the type of experience you would want from Josh Ritter.

It had taken me until April to see Ritter in person when he played a riveting solo acoustic performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Hilary Hahn, a famous violinist. His absolutely stunning version of "Idaho" sold me for good on his work (check out "Girl in the War" from that night on his myspace page). Not that I needed any convincing - see here and scroll to the bottom.

At WMH, Ritter played a great set list with a full band that truly seemed to enjoy playing with him. Unfortunately, Jack the Rabbit met Ritter a few days prior and officially dubbed him as arrogant and aloof (sounds like the perfect JTR artist if you ask me...), but I respect JTR's assessment. However, it was hard to not be moved by Ritter's on-stage presence.

His night managed to capture most of my favorite songs while keeping everything fresh. He didn't just run through The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter absentmindedly as so many artists do nowadays. Instead, he played quite a bit from his entire catalog, including songs like "Come and Find Me" from the Golden Age of Radio and a slew of songs from The Animal Years, including a fantastic "Lillian, Egypt" to close out the show.

One thing I found interesting was Ritter's decision to swap his opening songs from their order on THCOJR. On the album, "To the Dogs..." leads into "Mind's Eye," while in concert, he flipped the two to open the show. Was this a post-release realization of Ritter's or was he just trying something new? Anyone who's ever made a mix knows that the order of songs means just as much as the songs played so it's interesting to see Ritter switch it up so soon after an album's release.

You should probably own The Animal Years and THCOJR at least by now so I won't get into how great his performance was on those songs (and it was amazing...), but I will suggest you go see him live at some point. It's rare to see an artist seemingly enjoy their work so much that they can't help but smile throughout their show. At one point, Ritter asked the crowd to turn around and sing an a capella version of "Empty Hearts" to the sound man on tour. It was fun and definitely a highlight of the night.

Check out the set list below, but I highly recommend buying a few of his albums to get into his body of work if you haven't yet.

Set List:
  1. Mind's Eye
  2. To the Dogs or Whoever
  3. Wolves
  4. Open Doors
  5. Good Man
  6. Come and Find Me
  7. Snow Is Gone
  8. Here at the Right Time
  9. Wings
  10. Rumors
  11. Right Moves
  12. Real Long Distance
  13. Thin Blue Flame
  14. California
  15. Empty Hearts
  16. Kathleen
***
Encore:
  1. Temptation of Adam
  2. Lilian, Egypt

*Side Note*
Check out Langhorne Slim. They opened and were so good I bought their self titled album on the spot. Cool sound, great stage presence, and a lot of fun.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jack the Rabbit: This Bud's for You

An email from JTR (italics added by me for emphasis):
"We like the new ray lamontage single that’s been leaked, right? Sounds like it’s harkening back to the heart of the matter.

Worst albums I’ve ever bought:

The Weepies – Say I am You

Martin Sexton – Seeds

The National – Boxer

Ray – TTSTB"

JTR, in response to the last two albums, I have asked Harland Williams to best express my feelings at exactly 0:59 from the clip below. That is all.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Raycharles

You'll thank me later:

http://tracychapstick.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/373/

Also, if you haven't heard it yet, head over to Heather's blog to check out Ray's new single, "Let It Be Me," off his upcoming Gossip in the Grain. I'm more than excited. It sounds like it could have come off of Trouble (quiet, backing instrumentation and lots of Ray's vocals) and I've already listened to it 5 times at work today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Huckleberry Flynns



As promised a million years ago, I've found my version of The Huckleberry Flynn's A Lost Duet. This is not the version off of their EP Live in Rathmines, but rather off of a live bootleg set from 2006.


It's raw, but you can sense the burgeoning talent. Latest I've heard, the group added a Bristol, CT guitarist. They are currently giging in central Connecticut under their latest reincarnation, "The Bob Dylan Motorcycle Incident" but have plans to begin a recording effort dubbed the Red River Sessions before the end of the summer.


I will keep you posted as best I can as events develop.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

I've got about six other posts that I'm three months late on, but I couldn't wait on this one. After anxiously awaiting The Hold Steady's new release, Stay Positive, for so long, I was finally able to buy it late last Tuesday night. Needless to say, I listened to it three times before lunch the next day.

The only thing that would do it justice is to say that it is good. Really freaking good. Like 'I want to dance around like I'm in convulsions because Craig Finn does it and I can hear it in his voice as he spills his tales of drunken debauchery and youthful mistakes in love and life' good.

"Sequestered in Memphis" is the lead single from this album, and while entertaining, it's not the standout track for me. "Lord, I'm Discouraged" brings me into a Cream-esque daze that I want to climb into and never come out. A soaring guitar solo that lasts a full minute and soulful lyrics combine to make this song a memorable one in my book.

"Both Crosses" is Craig Finn's closest attempt at making a Springsteen song. Dark and dreary, it delves into the emotions of Christ's crucifixion - not happy stuff. Then again, nothing on this album is overly joyful. While some of the songs sound decently upbeat, the album title serves more as a warning than anything.

If I were to pick one song, I'd say "Magazines" is the front runner for a back to basics Hold Steady track. Wry lyrics, piano, and hard guitar riffs cover all their usual bases on this uptempo tune that is sure to please.

Overall, I have to say I really like this album. I don't think it will have the same staying power as their previous releases, but I think it will give them greater exposure as a band. I needed a new Hold Steady fix and this fills the gap nicely for now. I don't know how many times I can listen to "Party Pit" but I was beginning to test the limits, so this comes at just the right time.

I think Finn is branching out just enough to keep things interesting. While not reinventing himself, he is working with different styles and I like that (check out the Frampton sounding guitar work on "Joke About Jamaica"). The Hold Steady know what their sound is and they know that it works. While they might never achieve Springsteen status - and I know the analogy is overused, though accurate - I don't think an artist like Springsteen could flourish in today's market. Cream would never score and Van Morrison could take his pipes and go home. However, I think in 20-30 years, we'll have an interesting discovery of great music that got lost in the mix and never was able to fully develop.

Here's to hoping The Hold Steady find their Miracle-Gro.

The Hold Steady -
*Lord, I'm Discouraged.mp3

*Both Crosses.mp3

*Magazines.mp3

Monday, July 21, 2008

Get On Board with Pela

Pela is an American rock band from Brooklyn, NY that represents all that's good about music and America. Please spend some time on their myspace
(listen to "Lost to the Lonesome" first), and then read their bio. If you don't love them, that's your choice, but it's the wrong one.

Remember when Little D. used to post seven times a day...those were the days.

Required Listening

Little Gun - Maybe in your letter to Ray, you really just wanted to ask him to be a bit more like Kreg Viesselman. - Jack the Rabbit

Well, Oh well, Jezebel
The friends that you made
They're headed for hell
Lazy old fools
The sheep and the mules,
For doing it just like you tell

The sailors come
Between the storms
And they use you like a tool
They make promises now
When they're hungry some how
Just to break them when they're full

Well, oh well, Jezebel
There's a bird in your hand
And there's two in the well
No one knows why
The sparrow won't fly
And nobody blames you he fell

He came to you like a newborn calf
And he left you like a bull
And you lost your hold
On your heartstrings, I'm told
Before you felt the pull

The Pull, The Pull
Out on the end
You'd think I'd have learned
But down I descend
The Pull, The Pull
Back on the mend
Breaking my spirit Again

Well, oh well, you ragged girl
I guess that you gave it a whirl
Squeezing so hard
On that broken old shard
It's like to turn into a pearl

Listen

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"She was just like Jesse James"



D., Little

G., Little


Hoping you guys can help me out. I'm looking to expand upon my iPod playlist which includes only songs that mention Jesse James.


So far I have:

Jesse James by Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band
Jesse James by The Pogues
Crazy Face by Van Morrison
Western Plain by Van Morrison
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me by Warren Zevon


Thanks!


The Rabbit, Jack

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Letter to Ray LaMontagne





Dear Ray,

First off, I consider myself not only your fan, but your friend.
We've met once. You remember. It was at the Austin City Limits Music
Festival. It was 100 degrees outside and you were dressed in a
flannel shirt and jeans. I walked up to you and asked if you were Ray
LaMontagne, and you said, "Yes. Yes I am." You were watching Tristan
Prettyman, your future flame, perform. I asked you when you were
going to perform. You had no idea. I think we really hit it off.
I'm sure you remember the conversation like it was yesterday.

Due to our friendship, I think I owe you my honesty. And frankly,
with honesty comes some tough talk. So here it comes. Your last
album, Till the Sun Turns Black, was not very good. I'm sorry if that was
harsh. Your first album, Trouble, was unreal. It immediately slid
you into my top ten artists of all time. I could listen to Trouble
forever and not get sick of it. The songs are simple, classic,
emotional, raw. It was a classic album. Till the Sun Turns Black was
the exact opposite. It was over-produced. Your powerful voice was
somehow smaller. The normally raucous, powerful "Three More Days,"
sounded like elevator music. You turned the heartbreaking, hushed
"Can I Stay," into something that should be on a Zales commercial.
You where flannel shirts in 100 degree heat. You're a man who buys
hard packs of cigarettes and swings 9 pound hammers. Your music
shouldn't sound like a Zales commercial. And I don't even know what
to say about "Barfly;" what was that?

However, I have a solution. I'm going to tell you how to make your
next album. You need to follow these instructions word for word. You
can thank me later.

First, you need to get away from any type of studio. I need you to go
and rent a cottage on Prince Edward Island. Preferably on the
seashore. If there's a lighthouse around, that's even better. In
fact, if there's a lighthouse, you should probably record there, the
same way that Jim James of My Morning Jacket used to record in a grain
silo. In fact, that's not a bad idea. If there's a grain silo, get
yourself into one of those. You should take your pick-up truck (I'm
sure you own one) and pack in it these things: one beat-up guitar, a
four-track recording device, once violin, one trumpet. Maybe a
ukulele. No, leave the ukulele, that would be ridiculous. I don't
care who plays trumpet or violin, but it should probably be someone
from Calexico. Actually, it should be definitely be someone from Calexico…those fuckers know what they're doing. Nowhere on this album should you
have "lush orchestration." Your last album was filled with "lush
orchestration." Your first track should feature no instrumentation,
just your pipes; maybe a little guitar. Take a page out of Josh Ritter's book and listen to the song "Idaho." I want the guitar barely audible. You should title
it "Spokane." Please title the album "Can I Stay?" and re-record the
song "Can I Stay." Make it hurt this time.

That's it. Don't forget about the silo.

Little Gun

Author's Note: Apparently Ray did not listen to all of the advice I gave him, but if you go to his website, it'll tell you a little bit about his new album Gossip In The Grain set to drop (as the kids say) on Sept. 9th. I'm a huge fan of this "railroad blues" talk.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Nada Surf - Live at Terminal 5, NYC 4/11/08

Remember Nada Surf? A staple of my adolescence, their first single in the mid-90s was the teenage rock anthem "Popular" - a blend of witty spoken word and hard rock guitar riffs that exploded through my speakers for well over a year.

Well contrary to popular belief, Nada Surf never left. Much like Semisonic, they were a trio that was defined by one song in the 90s but actually held quite a substantial catalog of quality songs. Unlike Semisonic, Nada Surf has continued to put out new music, including their new album Lucky, which is currently in the running for my album of the year.

I was fortunate enough to catch Nada Surf here in NYC at a recent show that they co-headlined with good friends Superdrag. While Superdrag lived up to their live show reputation (and graciously played "Sucked Out"), Nada Surf blew the night open. They played everything I could have asked for except "Imaginary Friends." However, as a special treat, they played "Popular" which they do not play very often. Matthew Caws prefaced the song by explaining that "contrary to popular opinion, we don't hate playing this song." This was news to me and my friends since we had heard for years that they didn't play it live anymore because they were sick of it. Instead, they played an inspired performance much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd.

After rolling through favorites such as "Happy Kid," "What Is Your Secret?", and "Killian's Red," Caws asked the audience to get into a Motown feel for "Inside of Love." After a quick demonstration, everyone in the crowd was stepping right and left with the beat while clapping over our heads. It was a beautiful moment and a highlight of the night.

One surprise on the night was the addition of Calexico member, Martin Wenk on keyboard, synthesizer, and horns. He was amazing and especially fantastic in the encore.

After playing most of their old favorites and almost everything off Lucky, the band finished off their first set with a great rendition of "See These Bones." As the band strode off the stage, I was already formulating my encore wish list. I knew they would play "Blizzard of '77" and "Blankest Year" but I still wanted to hear "Imaginary Friends." Caws and Co. came back on stage after a short break to explain that they wanted to play 4 songs in 15 minutes so they had to hurry.

Of course, they opened with "Blizzard" but then strategically moved into a well played "Blonde on Blonde." To follow, they played the fan favorite "Always Love" to a great response. And in a classy move, they squeezed in "Blankest Year," much to my own happiness. Wenk was absolutely awesome during this song and added a great horn to this already uptempo tune.

On the whole, the night was absolutely phenomenal. It has been so long since Nada Surf has held much mainstream relevance, but I could feel their resurgence with the 2,000+ fans who packed Terminal 5 to rock out with them.

It's nice to see them getting the recognition they have deserved all along and once again, getting back on top of the indie rock scene.

I've got two songs for you below, one old and one new, but make sure to check out the video captured by a fellow fan from the night. And of course, go buy Lucky. It's got the Lil' D stamp of approval.

Nada Surf -
*Popular.mp3

Nada Surf -
*See These Bones.mp3

"Popular" - Live at Terminal 5, 4/11/08


"Killian's Red" - Live at Terminal 5, 4/11/08


"Blankest Year" - Live at Terminal 5, 4/11/08

Friday, April 11, 2008

Austin TX Can Really Go To Your Head

Chuckleberry superstition brought on by the dead / Got inside my constitution ate up all my head / Take me down to nowhere that's where I belong / Keep it going beautiful don't try and get me wrong / Sideshow snakebites got me in the mood / Switched over to decaf hate to be so rude / Operating allnight need some quick relief / Released in the ocean with your sharklike teeth

She'll use all the closet brass in her little pipe / Smoking in those wingtips kissing it goodnight / Damage done soliloquy highwater gash / Firehose nosewater need a little cash / Swimmin in her boxcar her scents in my beard / There's gonna be a fireworks display everyone is weird / Sperm kitchen headache everywhere I turn / Shallowwire snakeskin maybe I’ll never learn

She got the gun she got the gun again / Sippin on a pipe razor packed and smokin Indochina / She got the gun that refunked the fire / That refunked my redirectory

Jabberwocky pignut caramella White wall disaster ocean surf chumps

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New Matt the Electrician Song

This news makes my heart happy. Head on over to this blog to hear/download Matt the Electrician's new song "Got Your Back." It's exactly what you would expect from MtE - a simple acoustic arrangement complimented by his raspy but sincere voice. A little whistling and soft horns are thrown in for good measure.

MtE is another Austin staple and one that I would love to see more of out here in NYC. Apparently he'll be making a trip some time in late May. Last time he came out, he only did a 30 minute set at the Living Room. Luckily, the first time I saw him open at the Saxon Pub for Bob Schneider in Austin, he had a full set to impress me enough to buy three of his CDs. Hopefully the new one comes out soon.

I think he and Norah Jones should get together and start creating something. Their sounds would be perfect together!

Check it out his MySpace page for further proof. He's got a great playlist going on there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Bad Plus - Live at the Blue Note, NYC 3/20/08

So if you haven't heard of The Bad Plus yet, you should really jump on the bandwagon. A contemporary jazz trio that really brings the house down, they guys are incredibly talented at each of their respective instruments.

(photo of the guys backstage before playing Late Night with Conan O'Brien)

Ethan Iverson, pianist, is the ultimate intellectual nerd. Funny and utterly amusing, Iverson tells elaborate stories that introduce and explain the following song - but always dressed in his usual suit and tie. One great story in particular was about a 1980 Olympic ski jumper who won the gold medal and then did a spontaneous dance in celebration on each of the next 365 days. The song was "1980 World Champion" off their newest album, Prog.

Reid Anderson, bassist, is an extremely talented musician, driving the songs forward and providing a unique texture to the band's sound.

The real gem of the band however, is drummer David King. King is originally from Minneapolis, so you know he's legit. When Brian McLeod left Mason Jennings' band to play for Atmosphere, King stepped in to record Boneclouds with Mason. King's abilities are only explained through first hand viewings, as his ridiculous control and energy seem to be from some superhuman entity, not a regular man from the Midwest. He can be playing incredibly fast but as quiet as you could imagine when, unexpectedly, he leaps from his chair to reach over and tickle the underside of his drums in one fluid and mind boggling motion. Without a doubt, I have no qualms about crowning him the best drummer in the world that I have ever seen or heard.

On the night I saw them, they were on fire from the first note. After playing two songs, including "Let Our Garden Grow," Iverson first addressed the crowd. Throughout the course of the night they played a slew of amazing tunes like "Cheney Pinata" and "Dirty Blond" ("in reference to the hair color" - Iverson).

And of course, they played one of their trademark rock covers. While some of their more famous ones are "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "We Are the Champions" and Aphex Twin's "Flim," we were lucky enough to catch Blondie's "Heart of Glass." An incredible arrangement, the guys took the song to a new level.

Unfortunately, about five drunk 20-somethings thought the Blue Note would be the perfect place to come after a pregaming session. Thanks for that.

However, the night was a great experience and I can't recommend a live show highly enough. The only way I can truly relay their performance is to leave you with a live clip of them playing Aphex Twin's "Flim." It's better quality sound and picture than the one I posted last time, so I hope you enjoy it. Make sure you check out King at around 1:44 and 3:00 - pure genius - and don't miss the drum tickle at 3:30.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gnarls Barkley Is Back with a Vengeance

I didn't buy Gnarls Barkley's new CD The Odd Couple right when it came out because I was skeptical that it would hold up to their surprisingly fantastic St. Elsewhere. Boy was I wrong. With their first single, "Run," Gnarls Barkley have proven their staying power.

If you've been hiding out in a spider hole in Iraq and don't know Gnarls Barkley, they could be described as a mix of Outkast and Black Moth Super Rainbow - a combination of innovative beats, instruments, and creativity.

From front to back, The Odd Couple scores big with a vast array of songs that won't get old anytime soon. Check out the seizure-inducing (but kickass) video for "Run."

You'll dance to it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

New Raconteurs

Even though I just realized that Heather already posted this clip, I figured I'd do it anyway. This new Raconteurs song will make your nipples dance:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

iTunes Sucks - Amazon.com Is the Balls

I admit it. For years, I was an illegal music downloader. The RIAA would probably have had a good case against me if they caught me, but in my defense, I was a principled downloader. I railed against the selfish and conservative recording industry and their $18.99 Sam Goody CDs and their terrible digital stores that only provided a fraction of a fraction's worth of available music. I swore that if anyone ever came out with a comprehensive legal downloading site, I would renounce my ways and purchase music again.

Luckily, iTunes came along and satisfied my demands. After using iTunes exclusively for a few years I was able to buy most of the music I wanted at reasonable prices with little inconvenience. However, after a time I time I became annoyed: limited burnability of purchased music (only 7 burns in one playlist? wtf?), lower sound quality, and .m4p (.m4a if you're lucky) formatting of songs. iTunes had become ruler of the market and it seemed like no one was able to secure contracts like they had with so many different labels.

That's when I turned to Amazon. Amazon has an incredible used CD collection that you can buy at dirt cheap prices - I've bought amazing albums for as low as $1. I still like buying the physical CD since it allows me to rip the songs at a higher quality and also have a permanent backup in case something should ever happen my computer and 2 backup external hard drives. I'm a bit paranoid.

As if I didn't like Amazon enough, they go and roll out an iTunes-crushing mp3 store that rocks harder than Zach de la Rocha on fire (I don't know, I just picture him screaming "Bulls on Parade" louder if he's on fire). Slowly but surely Amazon is accumulating an incredible library of mp3's for purchase.

Instead of iTunes' $.99 songs, Amazon's are $.89. Instead of iTunes' average $9.99-10.99 ablums, Amazon's are $6.99-8.99. Instead of iTunes' 128kbps quality, .m4p format with DRM-protection that only plays on iPods, Amazon gives you 256kbps quality in user friendly .mp3 format that is DRM-free all the time and compatible with all players.

iTunes tried to do DRM-free music at higher quality, but they called it iTunes Plus and charged you like $1.19 a song. F*#@ that. Now with some stiff competition, iTunes is trying to do iTunes Plus for $.99 a song on some of their new music. Sorry iTunes, too little too late. I've taken my business elsewhere.

So buy your music at Amazon. And here's me getting off my soapbox.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My South-by-Southwest



I went to SXSW in Austin, TX for the first time this year. Here’s what happened.

My buddy Will and I arrived late. There was supposed to be a dance celebrating spring break at the end of our school day on Friday, and I was going to take off early from school so we could get up to Austin in time to see Basia Bulat at 9 PM, followed by the famed Vampire Weekend at 11. However, at 1:30, the power went out in our school, the dance was canceled, and Mr. Little Gun was stuck in a non-air-conditioned room with 22 13 year olds who haven’t all gotten behind the idea of deodorant just yet.

After being released at 4, we made the best time we could, but didn’t get to Austin until 11. Apparently Vampire Weekend is a popular band, because when we got there, there wasn’t a seat to be had. So we focused our attention on the 12 o’clock shows. At 12 we checked out the White Rabbits. I found the White Rabbits to be very legit. First, they have 2 drummers with full kits on stage, which is usually a positive. They also feature a keyboard, another positive. The band sounds a bit like the Cold War Kids, only with vocals that don’t soar as high as Nathan Willet’s. You can check out their whole album at their website. If you don't have time to listen to the whole album, listen to "While We Go Dancing;" in my opinion it's far and away their best song. If you like the Cold War Kids or The Walkmen, I’m betting you’ll like these guys. (side-note: I always enjoy when random band members walk around stage during songs banging on random percussion instruments…this band does that. 2nd side note: I’m hoping that a lot of you have never heard of the White Rabbits of The Walkmen so that I can sound really edgy by comparing a band you’ve never heard of to another band you’ve never heard of.)

After the White Rabbits, we caught Blitzen Trapper, out of Portland, OR. They were good, but not awesome. Their music was kind of bluegrass/psychadelic/rock/jam-band-leaning-ish, if that makes sense. Requirement for being in the band was that you had to have an unkempt beard; unless you’re the lead singer. The next day we met the bassist downtown, and he was a really cool guy…he was a big fan of my hold steady t-shirt…apparently they’ve opened for them…propers. The title track of their album "Wild Mountain Nation," is ridiculously good.

Before I move on to day two, let me explain SXSW real quick. First of all, its absolutely nuts. Walking down sixth-street at night you’re not sure if there are a lot of people out having fun, or if the world is ending. You can’t walk without knocking into someone. People are banging drums and dancing in the street, and there is loud music emanating from every bar you pass. There were 1,700 (I think) bands in Austin this year, and there is live music in just about every bar in town. Most places will charge a cover, but the max cover is about $15 dollars, so conceivably you can pay $15 dollars to get into a bar at 7 and watch ridiculously good live music by some very legit bands until 2.

On Day 2, that didn’t exactly happen with me. We got up a little too late and missed Paste 4 to Watch artist Lightspeed Champion. However, we did make it to The Whigs show at 1:00 PM (no cover). The Whigs are a power-trio that pretty much play straight rock n’ roll in the same vein as the Replacements. They rocked pretty hard, and I thought they were good, but I don’t see myself buying their album. After The Whigs I took a long hiatus to drive my buddy to the airport, go for a run, take a dip in Barton Springs, and enjoy some Texas craft brews before the big event of the night: M. Ward, followed by Jim James of My Morning Jacket (side note: if you don't own MMJ's Acoustic Citsuoca you must...it's beautiful), playing at St. David’s Church. So excited was I for this show that I got to the church an hour beforehand, so I’d be sure to get in. As it turned out, others had a better idea than I did and I was about an hour too late. By the time I got there, they were only letting you stand in line if you had a wristband (which costs lots of money) or a badge (meaning you were “in the industry.” Apparently my KTTU press credentials didn’t cut it). As a pretty sweet consolation prize, I caught Okkervil River at Stubbs (awesome venue). After that I got turned away from the Dirty Dog (wrist bands and badges) who had the Tokyo Police Club on at 1am, and then Buffalo Billiards (same) who had Sea Wolf on at 1am. So then I caught up with some friends at Latitude, which featured exclusively acts from the United Kingdom. I caught a British band called Scouting For Girls, with hits like “James Bond,” which featured the chorus “I wish I was James Bond/JUST FOR A DAY!” Awesome. After that I wondered over to B.D. Riley’s where through the windows I caught part of the show by a promising sounding band from Chicago called Bound Stems. If you clicked on what I just had you click on, listen to "Excellent News Colonel." It sounds like a Bright Eyes track off of Noise Floor...so clearly JTR won't be clicking that link. Check out their website, and click on South to get more favorable reviews. Anyway, next time I’m in Chicago I’m definitely going to see if they’re playing; a lot of energy.

And that was my SXSW

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kiss Me I'm Irish

Happy early St. Patty's Day! I was going to save this for Monday when it's official, but I figured I would post this now and give people some fodder for the festivities and debauchery that should be taking place tomorrow. I have a weird thing for Celtic music as it is, so I tried to limit my tastes to more mainstream tunes for your perusal.

Jack the Rabbit, I hope these are on the playlist for tomorrow. I know Afro Celt Sound System will be.

Enjoy these Irish artists as they provide some welcome energy to this holiday weekend.

**Disclaimer: I know the Braveheart song is Scottish, but the bagpipes are amazing and it gets me in the holiday mood regardless. Plus, we both hate the English. Also, Snow Patrol have been living in Scotland but they're originally from Northern Ireland. Suck it, Trebek.**

Bell X1 -
*Rocky Took a Lover.mp3

Damien Rice -
*Lonelily.mp3

The Ike Reilly Assassination -
*When Irish Eyes Are Burning.mp3

Snow Patrol -
*Shut Your Eyes.mp3

Bing Crosby -
*When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.mp3

Boondock Saints -
*Boondock Saints Theme.mp3

Braveheart -
*The Legend Spreads.mp3

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova -
*Into the Mystic.mp3

Dropkick Murphys -
*I'm Shipping Up to Boston.mp3

Van Morrison -
*Sweet Thing.mp3

The Pogues -
*London Girl.mp3

U2 -
*Sunday Bloody Sunday.mp3

Afro Celt Sound System -
*Whirl-Y Reel 2 (Folk Police Mix).mp3

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Imagine How Popular Cat Stevens Would Be If He Was First Hitting The Scene Now


These days, the bigger pansy you are, the bigger you're going to be in the indie music scene (see: Bright Eyes, The Format, The Weepies, any other band that Little Gun likes). Given this fact, imagine how successful Cat Stevens would be if he was putting out music for the first time today. The edge he would have on the field would be that he's not in the least bit angsty. So, no, Little Gun, angsty singing does not "happen to everyone." Just see Exhibit A.

Exhibit A:
Cat Stevens - On The Road To Find Out

(P.S. - I would have put Iron & Wine in the list of nancy music except that I think he's more like a Paul Simon on different drugs and with less compelling percussion. I'm actually waiting for him to start a religion. I may join.)

- jack rizzle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Can't Get This Song Out of My Head

I really don't know much about Tift Merritt, but she was the first song on this past month's Paste magazine sampler and I can't stop listening to it. Her song "Broken" combines her sweet voice with some country-twanging guitar, violin, and a steady drum beat that drives this song into your head and won't get out. I have debated whether or not to buy this album solely on the strength of this song, but I'm hesitant to get into an alt-country album like this without at least a little knowledge of the artist first. If you buy Another Country, let me know how it is.

Tift Merrit -
*Broken.mp3

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mason Jennings signs on to Brushfire Records; new album due in May

So I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to putting it up. Mason Jennings, who up until recently held the title of the current greatest singer-songwriter of our generation (Josh Ritter has a slight edge at the moment), is moving up in the world. He has signed on to Jack Johnson's record label Brushfire Records in advance of releasing his much anticipated new album in May.

I'm so excited to hear the new stuff as a follow up to his fantastic 2006 release, Boneclouds. Mason has really begun to make a name for himself, getting featured twice on the amazing soundtrack for the Dylan biopic, I'm Not There. He will be playing at Bonnaroo this summer as well as embarking on a European tour with Jack Johnson and G. Love & Special Sauce.

Mason is known for his thoughtful lyrics (even I listen to his words) and his beautiful acoustic arrangements, combining to showcase a truly authentic Minnesotan persona. Jack Johnson has taken a personal liking to Mason's work, covering Mason's upcoming song "Buddha" at the tail end of his video for "Sleep Through the Static."


Enjoy some of Mason's work off Boneclouds at his Myspace page.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Special Guest Post - Wilco's Legendary Nights in Chicago

Wilco recently put on a 5 night tour in Chicago where they played every song from their catalog. Our good friend Cherry Ghost was lucky enough to attend nights 2 and 3. Here's his review of those incredible shows.


***
In mid-February, Wilco played 5 shows in 6 nights in front of a hometown audience at Chicago's historic Riviera Theatre. Billed as the "Wilco Winter Residency 2008," five-night passes sold out in less than 2 minutes for what arguably could have been the biggest concert event to hit Chicago since The Smashing Pumpkins played their final show in December of 2000. Wilco promised to play every song from their six studio albums over five nights, as well as various B-sides and tracks off of the Mermaid Avenuecollaborations with Billy Bragg – and the band delivered in a big way.

After missing the first show that played most of Sky Blue SkyI was fortunate to attend the second and third shows of the series that played more than half of the band's catalog from their first two albums, A.M. and Being There. Night 2 opened with Jeff Tweedy quietly strumming "Someone Else's Song" from Being There(and singing an octave higher than the album version), while the full band joined after the first verse. The band smiled throughout the first song and received a loud and raucous welcome from the hometown crowd. Wilco switched gears to A Ghost is Born's "Handshake Drugs." While I never have been a big fan of the song, it sounds completely different live – and so much better. Glenn Kotche's drums and Nels Cline's ridiculous lead guitar licks drove the song into one of the night's surprise highlights. Cline brings an incredible amount of experience and a great deal of versatility to the live shows. He is, without a doubt, one of the premiere lead guitarists of the modern era. Bold statement, I know – but those who have seen him live would certainly agree. At times while he solos, Cline plays so hard that his right hand becomes blurry – something I wouldn't believe unless I saw it with my own eyes.

The first surprise came just a few songs into the set with "Via Chicago," a song many had predicted would be the closing song on the fifth and final night. After dusting off a solid version of "Hotel Arizona," which surprisingly sounded good live, Wilco fans were treated to an extremely rare occurrence – Tweedy grabbed the bass while fellow original member & bassist John Stirratt picked up an acoustic guitar and belted out "It's Just That Simple" from A.M.. It was just the fifth time Wilco has played the song since 1995. The crowd roared & thanked him with an electric ovation and, in what proved to be a beautiful moment in the night, Tweedy gave Stirratt time to receive the extended ovation, smiled, & said, "I think that's overdue, John."

After delving into Summerteeth with a lively version of "When You Wake Up Feeling Old," fans were treated to fellow Chicagoan violinist/whistler extraordinaire Andrew Bird joining the band for a fantastic rendition of "Jesus, Etc." The crowd's singing echoed nicely along with Bird's violin and Mikael Jorgensen's soulful keyboards. Bird stood in for roughly eight songs on Night II. Wilco dug deep into the archives and played phenomenal live versions of the country-based "Forget the Flowers," "Red Eyed & Blue," "I Got You," the rare Yankee Hotel Foxtrotouttake "Magazine Called Sunset," a loud electric sing-along"Casino Queen," and "Dreamer in My Dreams." Bird even appeared onstage for the dainty little A.M. ballad, "Dash 7," which just so happened to be the first ever live performance of the song. When the band walked off closing with "The Lonely 1," the house lights went up and the roadies started to pack up the equipment. "Peaches" by The Presidents of the United States of America played on the PA system, but the crowd did not leave! Instead, all 2,000+ people stayed standing, cheering wildly and clapping. After a few minutes, "Peaches" faded, the lights turned off, and the band came back & finished with "ELT" from Summerteeth and a high-energy version of "Hoodoo Voodoo" from Mermaid Avenue. It was an emotionally charged moment for all, and the band was clearly touched by their loyal fans graciousness.

The first half of Night 3's set showed why they are one of today's most talented and versatile bands by shifting from the the folk ballad "Remember the Mountain Bed" to the alt-country, twangy "Hesitating Beauty," "That's Not the Issue" led by Cline's country licks, "You Are My Face," and an electric version of YHF's "Kamera." One of my personal highlights was "Remember the Mountain Bed" from Mermaid Avenue, Volume 2 with Andrew Bird. Mountain Bed has been a staple at Tweedy's solo shows, but it is rarely played with the full band. Cline & Bird helped carry the song by trading licks on slide guitar and violin, as an inspired Tweedy sang most of the Woody Guthrie lyrics with his eyes closed. Also, I was pleasantly surprised as to how good the songs from Sky Blue Sky sounded – almost as if they were meant to be played live (Hate it Here, Side with the Seeds, and Walken – in particular). I was mostly looking forward to hearing the old Wilco classics from the early days, but I was really impressed by the SBStracks, and especially blown away by Cline-Tweedy-Pat Sansone trading guitar licks during "Impossible Germany." Night 3's finish was similar to Night 2 – the band walked off, the lights came on, "Peaches" played, the crowd went nuts, and the band returned minutes later and rocked out to a horns-driven "Can't Stand It" and "Nothingsevergonnastandinmyway(again)."

By my count, of the 160 songs Wilco played during the 5 night Winter Residency series, 96 different songs were played (some were repeated). This is more than just an impressive statistic. It's a testament to Wilco's versatility and ability to diversify their catalog. While only 2 members of the original band remain, their current lineup is by far the strongest – both in the recording studio and live. It's rare to see a band these days play six consecutive songs from six different albums – each one sounding different, but just right. In the end, the Winter Residency series showed that even thirteen years after the release of A.M., Wilco is as strong and dedicated as they have ever been. Hopefully, Tweedy holds true to his promise that they'll "do this again next year."

- Cherry Ghost

Monday, March 3, 2008

rbally Making a Comeback?

From time to time, I still click on over to rbally's site to see if he happened to make a triumphant return. Well today I was in luck. It sounds like the site is making a comeback in the form of a new owner in mid-March. However, Jennings will no longer be posting which is disappointing.

The reason I have an affinity for rbally is because it was the first music blog I stumbled across about three years ago, finally spawning this blog. Hopefully it comes back with a vengeance.

I Could Teach You, But I'd Have to Charge

Sunday, March 2, 2008

This Is An Album


A little while back, our friend Cherry Ghost sent us a track by Bon Iver (actual name Justin Vernon) called “Skinny Love.” The track was fantastic, and upon its release, I bought Bon Iver’s album. I haven’t stopped listening to it since.

It’s literally been two weeks. Vampire Weekend has gotten a few rotations, but that’s pretty much it. I have been listening to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, for two weeks straight, and I don’t see myself stopping soon.

This album is “singer-songwriter,” but like you’ve never heard a singer-songwriter before. The songs are wandering, exploring, unpredictable, full of crescendos and decrescendos (yes, decrescendos), hard to peg into a particular genre. Which is probably why his myspace describes the music as neo-soul.

This album is personal. It was written while Vernon was holed up in his father’s hunting cabin in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, alone, following the break-up of his band, and, I’m guessing, a break-up with a girl named Emma.

This album is sparse. The majority of it is just Vernon’s falsetto and his acoustic guitar. But the voice is rich and the guitar is beautiful. Horns are added brilliantly on the title track.

This album is echoes. Voices echoing for the first 40 seconds of “Creature Fear.” A single guitar echo throughout the gorgeous closing track “Wisconsin.” Echoes that call to mind a cabin in the woods.

This album is an album in the truest sense of the world. All the songs are unique, but they’re all strung together, bound together; there is a mood that is maintained throughout the album. This album is an album in the sense that Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is an album, or Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run is an album; it’s a complete piece that should be listened to from start to finish.

Here’s a video “Skinny Love.”


Pick up the album. It’s gotta have the early lead for album of the year in my book. Although…

Friday, February 22, 2008

Some Thoughts From Your Favorite Oryctolagus Cuniculus


First of all, what's the deal with Bright Eyes? Does anyone really like this music, or is everyone just too afraid to step up and say that he sucks because he's not pop? I mean, what do people like about his songs? Thoughtful lyrics? I think he truly does put a lot of thought into them, but that's completely countered by the fact that he's a total pansy. I mean, he has a song which starts out by mentioning that he cries when a certain male friend of his sings. Come on.

This is actually a bit more informed than is customary for the Rabbit, but I spent the morning listening to the 23 Bright Eyes tracks that I have unfortunately acquired ('Cassadega' and 'I'm Wide Awake...") . There are a few songs that are actually not bad. These are 'Classic Cars,' 'If The Brakeman Turns My Way,' and maybe 'First Day Of My Life.' But basically, I don't get it. The dude sounds like a sobbing nancy at an open mic night. He should add some cool members to his band. Like a horn player. And a lead guitarist. And maybe he should get someone else to sing his songs. And write them.

Anyway, someone please try to explain this to me. Maybe the Cherry Ghost can hit me with some knowledge.

Secondly, I guess The Format broke up? I'm sort of indifferent to this. I liked The Format in a maybe-you've-never-heard-of-Queen kind of way. I thought 'Dog Problems' was pretty great. I had a really great time at one of their shows. But I guess at the end of the day I would have been embarrassed to have had to go out and buy their newest album on pre-release, so I'm thankful they saved me the embarrassment. Maybe it turns out I never really believed in them, despite the 'Caravan' cover.

Finally, if someone told me that 'Evil Empire' was the greatest album of all time, I would probably not argue. You can't argue with Rage Against the Machine fans anyway, but choosing that as the g.o.a.t. is a respectable choice. I mean, if I could kick it in a Havana speak-easy with Che Guevera, smoking a cigar and drinking rum, I'd probably want 'Year of tha Boomerang' rocking over the Bose sound system.

Bonus - I dare you to tell me that Conor Oberst is not singing lead in this song by Wild Sweet Orange called 'House of Regret.' Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vampire Weekend: Believe the Hype

This NYC-based Afro-reggae-punk-rock band is absolutely worthy of all the praise you have heard. One of the most blogged about bands of the past few months, I already felt like I knew Vampire Weekend before their self-titled album was even released. However, I was not fully convinced until I heard the entire thing through as a whole.

Consider me converted.

These guys have a unique sound that instantaneously gets you moving. Their music is more varied than you would initially think, but it is gripping in its raw sincerity and emotion. I dare you to listen to this and not feel something deep down inside your gut. Forget my beloved Bedouin Soundclash. Forget Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Forget Sublime. Forget Orchestra Baobab. These guys are the real deal.

Enjoy.

Vampire Weekend
-
A-Punk.mp3

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aberfeldy Makes Catchy Music

So I'm out in L.A. finishing up our film - hence the lack of posts - and the Lighting Supervisor starts telling me about this band called Aberfeldy. Besides enjoying their name, I am really digging their sound. They've been around for a few years and I've only listened to their 2004 debut album Young Forever, but they really have found a niche with their catchy pop sound.

A Scottish band led by two brothers, Aberfeldy does not give the impression of a unique sound. Yet, as you listen to them, you can't help but get into their music. Much like Jack Johnson, even though the tunes are not groundbreaking or experimental, they are easy to listen to and enjoyable. Check out their myspace page here for a taste of what they have to offer.

And I'm pretty sure I've heard "Summer's Gone" in a commercial somewhere...

P.S. I'm convinced L.A. only plays the Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. In the past week, I started a tally and I'm up to 10 RHCP songs and 5 Pearl Jam songs played at any given time (and most likely right after the other). Also, 311 has made three appearances with "Love Song" and "Amber." I didn't know they were still played on the radio (not that they don't deserve to be...).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aster - Some Things Seldom Heard Of

So Austin, TX is legit. Apparently I like anyone who is from there, records there, or has visited there. This obviously includes the amazing new band Aster and their debut album Some Things Seldom Heard Of. A feast of instrumentation and rolling vocals, this CD is so pleasing to listen to that Van Gogh would've thought twice about messing with his left ear if he had heard this first. I first heard of these guys through our friend C, and I couldn't stop listening to the album that they are still streaming online for free.

With an abundance of piano and solid drums, "Stop the Parade" sounds like a rolling sea of tunes that make you run down a beach at dusk as the tide rolls in on your bare feet.

"We Won't Remember" is probably the premiere track on the album. With a Strokes-esque "12:51" impression, it really is a wonder that this is just a two-man band.

The singular, staccato piano keys of the title track definitely lend themselves to comparisons with The Postal Service. For further definitive evidence, check out "Attempting to Multiply." In short, these guys are good, their album is solid, and you need to buy it. Check out the album for free now, and then make the right decision and go pick this up. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

James Moore Will Serenade You with Mandolin

I've discussed many times how much I love the mandolin in any song, but James Moore takes it to a new level. His song "Barely in Love" is an emotional treat that will draw you to this reserved and up and coming artist. His album Past Miles is chock full of gems that are perfect for chilling out and enjoying some sweet tunes with a beer in hand.

Speaking of beer in hand, Moore is playing the 169 Bar this Friday night here in NYC. He'll just be doing a 30 minute set at 7:30, so come check him out. I know I'll definitely be there.

Sample a few of his songs including his newest, "Crows," at his MySpace page.

James Moore MySpace

Friday, January 18, 2008

Joe Pug - Dylanesque


Good singer-songwriters, I find, are often described as "Dylanesque." In most cases, however, I don't think it's because they sound like Bob Dylan, but instead, they are just good singer-songwriters...just like Bob Dylan. For example, I saw a reviewer refer to Brett Dennen's album as "Dylanesque." However, while a great singer-songwriter, Brett Dennen's music, in my opinion, does not sound like Bob Dylan's.

That being said, Joe Pug is a singer-songwriter who fits the description of "Dylanesque." My buddy Alan introduced me to his tunes using just that phrase to describe his music, and it is spot on. Joe Pug is "Dylanesque." I'm not saying that this guy is the next Bob Dylan, but in terms of his lyrics, song-structure, and his screaming harmonica, his tunes sound right off of "The Freewheelin." And the guy sure can write some lyrics. His 7 song CD "Nation of Heat," opens with this bit of poetry:

"Well I've come to know the wish-list of my father/I've come to know the shipwrecks where he wished/I've come to wish aloud/among the over-dressed crowd/come to witness now the sinking of the ship/throwing pennies from the sea-top next to it."

It's like, if he claimed that Bob Dylan was not one of his influences, I'd call him a liar to his face. Anyway, he's got some great tunes. Give him a listen.

p.s. Little Dynamite is kicking some ass on this blog. Little D, apparently Vincent Moon has a film starring The National...but it's been "Coming Soon" since the summer...so we'll see.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bell X1 on Conan; new CD Feb. 19th

Bell X1 were on Conan the other night playing their 'new' single "Rocky Took a Lover." I use the word 'new' loosely since they released their album Flock in their native Ireland back in 2005. Finally, they're releasing it in the good ol' U.S. of A. on February 19th. Of course, I've already got it marked on my Google calendar so the countdown begins.

With their previous two albums, Neither Am I (2000 - Ireland) and Music in Mouth (2003 - Ireland), Bell X1 solidified themselves as a truly innovative group. I was turned on to them by Little Gun after he spent 6 months in Ireland drinking beer. They have only released those albums in Ireland and the UK, waiting until now to jump into the U.S. music scene. You can check some of their work out at their MySpace page, including "Rocky Took a Lover," but I highly recommend trying to find a CD online and buy it since they are not on iTunes yet.

You may recognize one song, "Eve," from The O.C. episode where Mischa Barton and the infinitely hotter Olivia Wilde make out. Yes, it is sad I know that.

Anyways, check them out because they are amazing. Formerly called Juniper, with fellow Irishman Damien Rice, these guys have sprung out on their own and created a fantastic sound for themselves.

Look out for Flock on February 19th and enjoy what you are about to get into.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

18 Tracks (Best of 2007)


In an homage to Bruce, we have decided to post our favorite 18 tracks of 2007 for you to check out. We came up with 18 since that's what will typically fit on a standard CD. We're doing this individually so you can hear more songs and, ultimately, to see that I clearly have the best taste in music on this blog (here's a guarantee: at least 4 Josh Ritter songs will show up on JtR's post).

Enjoy the best of 2007 below for a limited time (if you want to find the CD, and you should, click the link on the artist's name):

***I did not include the I'm Not There Soundtrack for consideration because they are not original songs. However, that entire album is awesome.***

1) Bright Eyes -
Four Winds.mp3

This was a fight to the finish, but Conor Oberst's standout song could not be beaten. Cassadaga barely missed my list at #11, but it was a difficult decision as well. The rich, full sounds of the orchestral ensemble alongside Oberst's unique voice make "Four Winds" the song of the year.

2) The Shins -
Australia.mp3

A close 2nd, "Australia" encompasses everything I like about music. An uptempo track incorporating great harmonizing vocals and a combination of instruments that come together perfectly, this song is one that will get stuck in your head if you're not careful...I think I played it on repeat around 6 or 7 times in a row at one point.

3) Kings of Leon -
Fans.mp3

Another album that just missed my top 10, Kings of Leon's best track comes through in "Fans" with its opening chord that lingers through the oncoming acoustic and vocal onslaught of the brothers Followill before returning to take over this fantastic song. Definitely the hit of the summer.

4) Modest Mouse -
Dashboard.mp3

MM was once a group that I was hot and cold on. Their albums were like a roller coaster of "awesome" to "terrible" songs that ping-ponged all over the place. Now, they have gotten to the point of producing albums with songs that go from "really good" to "Dashboard-tastic." Enjoy.

5) Arcade Fire -
Keep the Car Running.mp3

I wish I could have voted on a top 15 albums list, because it would not have been so difficult to leave off these albums from the recognition they deserve. A beauty of a song, this one blends about 8 instruments together behind Win Butler's dynamic voice. Emotion at its finest right here.

6) Feist -
Past in Present.mp3

While the entire album is great, this is the one song that always catches my ear. It's hard not to feel like you need to dance around by the time the first note hits your ears.

7) The National -
Fake Empire.mp3

Just beautiful. Matt Beringer's deep, clear voice sings sweetly over a piano and bass beat that is haunting. All is right with the world once the trumpets blast in at the end.

8) Bruce Springsteen -
Gypsy Biker.mp3

The lone harmonica that opens this track chills you to your soul. However, it doesn't take long for Bruce's voice to warm you right back up. A passionate story of yet another fallen soldier coming home, Bruce's opening line speaks right to the politicians who are behind this tragic war:

"The speculators made their money on the blood you shed." If that doesn't get your blood boiling, nothing will.

9) Josh Ritter -
To the Dogs or Whoever.mp3

Today's greatest songwriter (I'm so sorry Mason...), Ritter has an uncanny ability to paint grandiose pictures of Americana lore while spitting out lyrics in rapid fire. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that his musical talents are phenomenal.

10) Iron & Wine -
The Devil Never Sleeps.mp3

The shortest song on this list, coming in at just over two minutes, this track packs a punch, evoking a Ray Charles meets the Rolling Stones style that is infectious.

11) The Alternate Routes -
Aftermath.mp3

Tim Warren's vocals are a perfect complement to the sweet guitar sounds that drive this song. A song that will absolutely get stuck in your head, it's actually one time that you will not mind it.

12) Kanye West -
Stronger.mp3

Kanye's strong release on 9/11 produced a plethora of memorable tracks, but it's "Stronger" that takes the cake. Sampling Daft Punk's awesome "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," Kanye turns it and makes it his own with his wit and his Midas-touch producing skills.

13) Aesop Rock -
None Shall Pass.mp3

One of my surprise picks, this song opens without warning and doesn't let up until it finishes or you say "uncle." Aesop Rock has been producing high quality rhymes for years, but this is by far his defining work. This is hip-hop at it's finest.

14) Peter Bjorn & John -
Young Folks.mp3

The catchiest and most sung song of year for me, I couldn't get enough of this after I first heard it. To be honest, I neglected most of the album due to repeating this song so many times (which is the exact opposite of what normally happens), but I don't regret it for a minute.

15) Jay-Z -
Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)....mp3

American Gangster is in itself a masterpiece, but "Roc Boys" is where the CD reaches its boiling point. Self proclaimed "black superhero music," the song evokes a funky 70's feeling that keeps your body moving long after the song finishes.

16) Black Moth Super Rainbow -
Sun Lips.mp3

A mellow, synthesized trip, "Sun Lips" is surprisingly complex, bringing together a wide range of instruments that make one of the year's most innovative songs. This is not a one-hit wonder for these guys, by the way.

17) Dropkick Murphys -
The State of Massachusetts.mp3

Boston! Beer! Murphys! Yeah! You can't help but pound a Guinness while jumping up and down to this rocking track. Classic Murphys.

18) Radiohead -
Reckoner.mp3

In Rainbows was one of the year's best, but Reckoner is the one that stays with you after you've moved on from it. Thom Yorke's beautiful vocals resonate over a subdued and soothing instrumentation, eliciting the feeling of an abandoned row boat on the ocean at dusk as the credits to a movie roll by -- or at least that's what I feel.

*Bonus tracks*

19) Wilco -
Side with the Seeds.mp3

The Volkswagen commercials were all over the place, but this was my favorite off Wilco's even, but overall standard album. The guitar solos at the end are what really do it for me.

20) Andrew Bird -
Plasticities.mp3

Bird's incredible whistling skills are only bested by his violin proficiency. This fluttery but well crafted song gives the impression of Bird's finely tuned style with a catchy hook.