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 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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

La Blogotheque: Very Legit

So I've been talking about this website for almost a year now, but I'm finally getting this out there for everyone to enjoy. There's a website where the beer flows like wine and the women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano...I'm talking about a little place called La Blogotheque (two Dumb and Dumber references in two days? I think I need to see that again...).

Housing a vast collection of videos directed by Vincent Moon, La Blogotheque's "Takeaway Shows" are stunning. The first time I heard of the site was due to an incredible performance by Arcade Fire in which the entire band crams into a service elevator to play "Neon Bible" as it travels through some building. Sandwiched between each other, they create their music by ripping pages out of a magazine, tapping the elevator walls, and playing their instruments ever so quietly. When the elevator opens, they step out into a throng of fans to play "Wake Up" inside a sea of people.

The Shins also have a phenomenal show on the streets of Paris. Basically, the band plays while walking down the sidewalk, stops in front of a cafe to play for the outdoor seating, finds an upper apartment courtyard for a quieter tune, and then rocks out in an apartment to my favorite song "Australia."

As amazing as these videos look, it's the sound that really makes me appreciate the quality of these videos. Watch the Shins' "Australia" and tell me where the mic is. No one is radio-ed up and the camera moves seamlessly throughout the apartment, even looking outside, while the audio is never interrupted. These guys are good.

I highly recommend The National's performance, as well as Andrew Bird's. There are so many videos, I haven't seen nearly enough, but explore and find some new music while you're at it.

Takeaway Shows

Monday, January 14, 2008

An Ode to Norah Jones

With the sultriest voice in the biz, Norah Jones is my favorite musician to listen to if I can't sleep. For years, I've fallen under her spell and now it looks like I might have a real shot with her (and by real I mean none). Because now my chances are one-in-a-million as opposed to absolutely nothing.

Now I hate to bring light to a breakup, but in this case, I'm hoping I bump into her in some quiet bar in the Lower East Side. I'll probably buy her a beer and she'll sing an acoustic version of "Sunrise" to me. That's probably pretty likely right?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais

On sait que le francais est une tellement jolie langue. Le chanson de Serge Gainsbourg "Je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais" est un exemple des paroles qui sont à la fois tristes et délicats, et bien sûr très belles, qui soivent possible seulement en francais (ou en italien). This is due in part to the advantage of every syllable in the language ending in an -eh sound.

Mais, remarquez que the version translated and performed by Will Sheff of Okkervil River on their Golden Opportunities Mixtape (available free at their website - and highly recommended as long as you delete the song "Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear") is so fraught with emotion that I think it trumps any french version of the song I can find on The french may be more beautiful as a lyrical poem, but Sheff really nails it with his delivery, as well as a really commendable translation which displays a bit of artistic license even before he shifts gears into "96 Tears."

A moment on the translation: Will did a couple of pretty cool things. One, he wasn't overly literal in the translations, which allow his english lines to sound natural and emotional. He pretty much got the gist of a phrase and translated not just the subject, verb and predicate, but also the feeling involved. Notably, in the french Serge writes "oui je t'aimais, oui, mais", which Will translates as "you ask me 'did I love you?', well I loved you, ok?" Nicely done. Same idea. Different words. Equally poetic and angsty. Also - my favorite move - Sheff used the same rhyming syllable. Note that French "en vais" rhymes with "away." Nice idea to take that and run with it.

Écoutez le chanson attaché ci-dessous. Et allez chercher les autres chansons de cette "mixtape". April Anne est un chanson aussi magnifique.

I Came Here To Say I'm Going Away

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Greatest Cover of All Time

There was once a really weird dude named Warren Zevon (rest in peace). He created great music.

There's also a very sensible, earthy, overly-self conscious (of late) musician named Bruce Springsteen. Bruce is a big fan of Warren's music, and I believe they were friends.

That's the background.

Listen, to be the greatest cover of all time you need a few things:

1) A great original song (not necessary to be by a prolific or consistently great musician)
2) A great and prolific musician covering it
3) It should be live, because that means at the time it blew a lot of surprised listeners' minds
4) Something to add some weight to it, like being friends with the original composer, and him having recently died.

Runners up for this title are:
1) Warren Haynes peforming 'Glory Road,' live at Bonnaroo 2006
2) Jeff Tweety performing 'I Shall Be Released,' live at Vic Theatre, Chicago, March 5, 2005
3) The Counting Crows doing Van Morrison's 'Caravan' live
4) The soon-to-be-released you tube video version of 'Me And Mr. Jones' performed by Little Dynamite

Here's the greatest one ever: 'My Ride's Here,' original by Zevon, covered by the Boss. This blog has gotten too into itself with posting thoughts and opinions, and we need to get back to sharing more music.

My Ride's Here

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bulat in '08

I'm starting the campaign right now for Basia Bulat. Her album, "Oh My Darling" is not yet available stateside (how underground is that), but when it does drop (as the kids are saying these days) on February 5th, I highly recommend you get your hands on it. I already have my hands on it (not important how) and it is fantastic. Bulat's voice is amazing, and on "Darling" it's complemented by beautiful instrumentation from guitar, to ukulele, to piano, to orchestral strings. The songs are gorgeous, ranging from waltzes to lullabies to up-tempo numbers with bongos and hand-clapping (always a plus). I got my hands on the album about a month ago and it's been my go to ever since. Check out her website, check out her myspace (Her myspace tracks are great, but they are not even my favorites on the album. I just checked her page and there is a new track called "In The Night," which I didn't even know about, but is awesome. There is also a nice little demo of her covering the Stroke's "Someday," a song that I love. Bulat's version is definitely rough and just thrown together, but there are beautiful bits in it that make you wish she would develop the cover and throw it on a record). Anyway, get on board for Bulat in '08.

I'm Having Rabbit for Dinner Tonight

I stand by my quote completely. Amy Winehouse will never again make an album as good as her not-top-10-worthy debut.

And I can't believe you brought Bruce into this equation. How dare you? You have soiled the name of the Great One and for that, you face automatic expulsion -- it's in the bylaws that you obviously haven't read:

"Thou shalt not take Bruce's name in vain or horrible analogies that cause you to discredit yourself or other members of said blog."

This immediately overrules your defenseless vote.

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
-John 8:32

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Little Dynamite: Arrogant Liar, Fascist Thief, Friend

Little Dynamite - this is for you! (it's a chaise-lounge!)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when I first mentioned that Amy Winehouse was the second best album of 2007, you said:

"she'll never make an album that good again..."

What the hell does that have to do with how good her 2007 release is? Did the fact that Springsteen put out 'Born To Run' in 1975 have anything to do with your ranking of 'Magic' in 2007?

I vote to expel Little Dynamite from the blog unless he posts a .wav file of him performing the Winehouse song 'Love Is A Losing Game.' Little Gun, if you concur then it will be official by 66.67% majority.

"So it is written; so it shall be done."
-- King Solomon