Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mano a Mando Diao

Mando Diao first came together in 1995 in Borlange, Sweden. Talking about his hometown, Gustaf Noren (singer, songwriter, and guitarist) says, "Our town is dangerous and cold. It has the highest drug and murder rate of anyplace in Sweden. You had to be bad if you didn't want to get hit by some gang of fools in school. And if you could survive all that, then life became boring as well as dangerous." Gustaf's answer to this connundrum, gather up some of his friends and form a band.

Since then, they've released several albums and a handful of EPs. Their latest, Ode to Ochrasy, will be available April 24th. Below are a few tracks to give you a taste of the flavor of their high octane, Franz Ferdinand feel, crank it up loud type of rock and roll. Don't feel like waiting or paying $25 for the import, pick up their teaser EP Long Before Rock N Roll, available now.

Mando Diao - Welcome Home, Luc Robitaille : Ode to Ochrasy

Mando Diao - Tony Zoulias (Lustful Life)
: Ode to Ochrasy

Mando Diao - Cinderella : Long Before Rock N Roll

Visit their website, their label EMI, and become their friend on MySpace.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Smile...for All Smiles

With the demise of Grandaddy last year, Jim Fairchild (former guitarist for the band) has set his own course to release his own album, Ten Readings Of A Warning, next month (the 24th to be precise) under the guise of All Smiles. The album features an assortment of guest drummers: Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse, Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, Solon Bixler of Great Northern, and Danny Seim of Menomena, otherwise all of the instrumentation is handled by Jim.

In his previous incarnation as acoustic guitar guy, Jim got to strum and not much more. On this album, he gets to show off his musical chops: playing acoustic sure, but also tinkling the ebony and ivory (i.e. playing piano), as well as singing some tunes that have a down home feel to them that make it seem he's sitting in front of you. His vocal style and sound remind me a lot of Ben Kweller (which is a good thing).

The first track below, Summer Stay, has a wonderfully catchy chorus that snags you hook, line, and sinker. I guarantee you'll catch yourself singing along with Do Do Do....Do Do Do....Do Do Do Doooo. The second song, Of Course It's Not Up To Me, is a slower number that gives you a taste of Jim's piano playing.

All Smiles - Summer Stay : Ten Readings of A Warning

All Smiles - Of Course It's Not Up To Me : Ten Readings of A Warning

Grandaddy - Summer Here Kids : Under the Western Freeway

Visit his label Dangerbird Records and become his friend on MySpace.

More songs to make you smile

Elastica - Smile
: Elastica

Jeremy Enigk - Dare A Smile : World Waits

Josh Ritter - Bright Smile
: Hello Starling

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Scandinavian Gem

For a debut production, part of which was recorded in a bedroom closet, Melankton (Norwegian for black rose) comes across as an incredibly bold, spirited, and well produced album. Also quite impressive is the fact that it was completely written by Kate Havnevik, even the string section pieces, which were eventually performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra.

How is such a impassioned album born? By age 13 Kate was composing piano pieces of her own. At 14 she decided to chart a different course as the guitar player for an all female punk rock band. Put the two together and you get Melankton.

Almost immediately upon hearing Kate's voice, you are reminded of another Scandinavian beauty - Bjork. Even looking at her picture one can see an uncanny resemblance between the two. Although the two voices carry similar hints, Kate's voice loses some of Bjork's childlike charm, instead conveying a more mature note.

Backing up Kate's crystalline voice is a sometimes soaring, sometimes dramatic, lush orchestral sound that weaves in and out of electronic effects without any sense of unnaturalness between the two (much like Moby) and indeed is danceable at some points.

Look for the complete album, which is due out March 27th. In the meantime, enjoy the following morsels:

Kate Havnevik - Unlike Me : Melankton

Kate Havnevik - Kaleidoscope : Melankton

Visit Kate's website, her label Universal Republic Records, and become her friend on MySpace.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

...And the new Page France

While everyone has been proclaiming their excitement concerning the release of the new Arcade Fire album Neon Bible (which amazingly is already available on eMusic - for which many kudos should be given to the band and Merge Records), I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Page France's new album ...And the Family Telephone, scheduled to be released May 8th.

This release, the group's third, show's much more growth and maturation compared to their development between their first and second. Don't get me wrong, I loved both, but their newest flaunts more instrumental intricacies and just more oomph in general to back up Michael Nau's distinctive vocal range. As much as you can say this about any Page France songs, there are a few on this album that really rock out! Although I'm still undecided about whether it's for the best or not, gone also are many of the biblical allusions so evident in the group's previous releases. Instead Michael is celebrating animals of all shapes and sizes with songs like Hat and Rabbit, Pigeons, The Belly In the Fish, and many others (I was prepared for a song about Noah's Ark at the end of it all).

I've had the disc on heavy rotation since I got in earlier this week and I really can't say enough good things about it. If you've liked Page France's previous albums, you're really going to enjoy this one. While you're waiting for its release, let the following songs satisfy your hankerings.

Page France - Hat and Rabbit : ...And the Family Telephone

Page France - Wet Dog Afternoon : ...And the Family Telephone

Page France - Who Cracked Your Egg? : Tomato Morning Tour EP

Visit their website, their label Suicide Squeeze Records, and become their friend on MySpace.

Check out the gang on tour:

03-21 San Diego, CA - Che Café
03-23 San Francisco, CA - Café Du Nord
03-26 Portland, OR - Doug Fir
03-27 Seattle, WA - Crocodile Café
03-28 Boise, ID - Neurolux
03-29 Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
03-30 Denver, CO - Hi-Dive
03-31 Omaha, NE - Sokol Underground
04-02 Fargo, ND - Aquarium
04-03 Duluth, MN - University of Minnesota
04-04 Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry
04-05 Milwaukee, WI - Stonefly Brewery
04-06 Champaign, IL - Cowboy Monkey
04-07 Chicago, IL - Schubas
04-09 Lexington, KY - Mecca Stuido
04-10 Gambier, OH - Kenyon College
04-11 Cleveland, OH - Beachland Tavern
04-12 Buffalo, NY - Mohawk Place
04-13 New York, NY - Pianos
04-14 Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
04-15 Boston, MA - Middle East Upstairs

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day!

Although it's probably not marked on many of your calendars, today is international Pi Day! No, I'm not talking about apple pie, pumpkin pie, or even banana cream pie; I'm talking about pi, that seemingly never ending string of digits that starts out 3.14159 and is part of the relationship between a circle's diameter and circumference.

Rock on all you math geeks out there!

Don McLean - American Pie - Parts I & II : Rock Is Dead, But It Won't Lie Down

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Petootie Pie : Vocal Duets

Warrant - Cherry Pie : Cherry Pie

Led Zeppelin - Custard Pie : Physical Graffiti

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Win a Porsche!

OK, so maybe I'm not giving away a Porsche, but you can go here if you're looking to win one.

Over the last week I've posted up two contests; one for Let's Go Sailing's debut album (which two people have entered) and the other for a collection of three albums including Albert Hammond Jr., Robbers On High Street's EP and a Midnight Movies' 7" (which no one has entered).What troubles me about this is that many many people have downloaded songs from both posts, yet only two people actually would like copies of the albums.

Frankly, this confuses me somewhat. I'm not sure if no one is actually reading anything other than the links to the songs (maybe I should camouflage them within the text), or they just don't care enough to get real copies of the albums because they feel they can just download it for free from here and there. I assume that if they're downloading the songs they enjoy the songs and don't have the album already.

I mean, they're free CD's ... and we're not talking about Columbia House music club free CD's. There aren't any hidden costs. I'm not offering the albums for free but charging $5.99 for shipping and handling with an obligation to buy 10 more at full price.

Can anyone out there help me understand?

They Might Be Giants - I Don't Understand You
: Apollo 18

Tanya Donelly - Mysteries of the Unexplained : Lovesongs for Underdogs

Liz Phair - Explain It To Me
: Exile in Guyville

Muddy Waters - I Don't Know Why
: The London Muddy Waters Sessions

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Swede strikes again

Just released Wednesday: Kristoffer Ragnstam's latest full length album Sweet Bills. You might recall me sharing my thoughts on his last EP, Do You Want A Piece of Me (read about it here), the teaser for fans waiting for Sweet Bills' release.

For those of you not familiar with Kristoffer's handy work, get ready for music that shifts speeds and styles faster than you can say "I Saw the Sign."

Kristoffer Ragnstam - Man Overboard : Sweet Bills

Kristoffer Ragnstam - If This Is Life! : Sweet Bills

Kristoffer Ragnstam - Beauty
: Do You Want A Piece of Me EP (available on iTunes)

Visit his website, his label Bluhammock, and become his friend on MySpace.
If you haven't already entered to win Let's Go Sailing's debut release and T-shirt, go here and if you're feeling really lucky head this way to win a 3 pack of albums (Albert Hammond Jr., Robbers On High Street, and Midnight Movies).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

SXSW Contest

For those of you fortunate enough to be attending SXSW, head over to the Blender Bar on Thursday, March 15th to check out an evening full of some sweet tune-age from some bands I've been listening to and posting about the last few months including Albert Hammond, Jr. (read here), Robbers On High Street (read here), Office, Midnight Movies, The Sights, and Eugene.

For those of you who CAN'T make it down (and even those of you who can regardless of my jealousy), post a comment (or e-mail me) with your name, e-mail address, and favorite Tex-mex food to be eligible to win the following prize pack:

  • Albert Hammond, Jr.'s latest release "Yours to Keep"
  • Robbers On High Street's EP "The Fatalist and Friends"
  • Midnight Movies' new 7" that comes out this Spring
I'll pick a winner at random at 8 PM (Eastern time!) on the 15th and notify them via e-mail.

In the meantime, here are some tunes from the before-mentioned artists:

Albert Hammond, Jr. - 101 : Yours to Keep
and check out the video...

"101" Video Streams

Robbers On High Street - The Fatalist : The Fatalist and Friends (available via iTunes)

Eugene - Circles : Circles EP


And if you haven't entered to win Let's Go Sailing's new album and T-shirt, head this way now.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Let's Go Sailing...with Shana Levy

Although it's been available for a few months from Let's Go Sailing's website, their debut album The Chaos in Order is scheduled to be released nationally through GR2 Records on March 27th. LGS originally formed back in 2002 when Shana Levy (pictured above) decided to strike out on her own after serving as the keyboardist for the band Irving. Having written some material of her own, Shana felt that it would best be showcased through the formation of a group of her own: Let's Go Sailing was born.

When asked about the name of the group, Shana replies,
"When I was a kid we had a sailboat. My brother and I would drag these little plastic boats along in the water next to our boat and pretend there were little people in them. My dad put a bumper sticker on his Ford Elite that said, “Let’s go sailing.” A few years later there was a hurricane and we had to leave our house. When we came home, the backyard was trashed. I found a dead baby alligator in the roots of our ficus tree. And the boat was ruined; only half of it was sticking out of the water. I didn’t realize how fondly I’d look back on those times when we took the boat out.”
Armed with a background in classical piano, Shana brings forth a delicately tender voice that is backed by bittersweet yet upbeat music flavored with pianos and strings. Listening to the first part of the album brought back memories and sent me back into the past to listen to Ivy's debut Realistic. Delving deeper also brings with it playful spunk flavorly similar to Pony Up!. If you haven't given Shana a chance yet, try these tracks:

Let's Go Sailing - Icicles : The Chaos In Order

Let's Go Sailing - We Get Along : The Chaos In Order

Irving - L-O-V-E : Good Morning Beautiful

Like what you hear? Leave a comment with your name, e-mail, and the name of your favorite sailing vessel (or e-mail it to me) to be eligible to win a free copy of the album as well as a super-cool LGS T-shirt! I'll choose and notify a winner at random next Thursday.

Visit her website, her label GR2 Records, and become her friend on MySpace.

Check Shana out in a town near you:

03/14: Austin, TX @ 11:30 SXSW Showcase-Blender Bar at The Ritz
03/19: Santa Fe, New Mexico @ O'Shaughnessy with Elvis Perkins
03/20: Tucson, Arizona @ Solar Culture with Elvis Perkins
03/21: San Diego, California @ The Casbah with Elvis Perkins
03/22: Los Angeles, live on KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic
03/24: Los Angeles, California @ Largo with Elvis Perkins
03/25: San Francisco, California @ Cafe Du Nord with Elvis Perkins
03/26: Santa Cruz, California @ The Attic with Elvis Perkins
03/29: Portland, Oregon @ Doug Fir Lounge with Elvis Perkins
03/30: Seattle, Washington @ The Tractor Tavern with Elvis Perkins
04/03: Denver, Colorado @ Soiled Dove with Elvis Perkins
04/04: Omaha, Nebraska @ Sokol Underground with Elvis Perkins
04/05: Minneapolis, Minnesota @ 400 Bar with Elvis Perkins
04/06: Chicago, Illinois @ Schuba's with Elvis Perkins
04/10: New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge with Youth Group and Aqueduct
04/11: Brooklyn, NY @ Union Hall

Other songs to chart your course with:

Styx - Come Sail Away : The Grand Illusion

David Gray - Sail Away : KBCO Studio C Volume 17 (original version appears on White Ladder)

The Chieftains - Setting Sail/Muineira De Frexido : Santiago

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The one man show: Keller Williams

Usually when you picture one man on stage with a guitar, you imagine a smoky dive with a guy playing acoustic covers of popular songs. To think that one man could fill an entire theater with a sound that carries the weight of a four man group is hard to imagine. Enter Keller Williams.

Sunday night I was fortunate enough to catch Keller play at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, MA. The stage was set up as if a group of musicians would be manning all of the instruments. There was a keyboard set up, four different microphones, and two guitars (one of them a bass) perched on stands similar to microphone stands. Instead of a group though, Keller was the only one to take the stage.

What followed was a singing, guitar strumming, bass thumping, beat-boxing, whistling, keyboard playing, non-stop, one man show. Keller's energy, exuberance, and instrumentational skill were evident from the beginning as he proceeded to jam seamlessly from one song to the next with no breaks to catch his breath in between. Using looping techniques Keller would slowly piece together a song layer by layer and then strip them away to build up into something else.

Although I describe Keller as a one man show, technically speaking that was not entirely correct this evening. At one point in the evening he was joined by Martin Sexton, who provided a guest appearance on Keller's latest album Dreams (read about it here). The due proceeded to play tracks from Keller's repertoire as well a few of Martin's songs.

Above the proceedings was an oval screen which reminded me of the mirror from Snow White. On it played psychedelic swirls and kaleidoscopic images interwoven with footage from a camera which focused on Keller and later Martin. All in all, it was quite amazing to see, and hear, such complicated compositions being built right in front of my eyes and ears.

See him on one of his upcoming concert dates.

Keller Williams (with Martin Sexton) - Rainy Day : Dreams

Keller Williams - Crispy Critters : Live at Horning's Hideout, North Plains, OR 6-20-04

Martin Sexton - Freedom of the Road
: Austin City Limits Music Collection 2003

Visit Keller's website, his label SCI Fidelity Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mystery Train

Talk about a song with history; Mystery Train was first recorded by Elvis Presley way back in 1955, and since then has been covered by numerous artists including The Doors, Neil Young, Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats, The Band, Bon Jovi, and now Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

Head over to YouTube to watch Grace and company perform the song live at the 8 X 10 club and download the audio version of it right here:

: Live at the 8 X 10 Club in Baltimore, MD 9-14-06

Visit their website, their label Hollywood Records, and become their friend on MySpace.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Put up your Dukes

Sometimes you find the strangest things in the darndest places. For example: the other day I was at the mall with my cousin who was getting an eye exam for a new set of glasses. While he was busy I wandered into f.y.e. to peruse music, not expecting much. Not wanting to pay a ridiculus $19.99 for a new CD, I was scoping out the used section when I came across something I couldn't have found if I was looking for: the original soundtrack for the Dukes of Hazard TV show! I'm not talking about the recent movie with Jessica Simpson in it; I mean the TV show from the early 80's!

The album is an entertaining mix of narration from several of the characters (primarily Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane) and mostly painful cheesy 80's country music (with a few exceptions).

Starting off the album is, what else, the full length version of the theme song sung by Waylon Jennings (who also was the voice of the narrator during episodes). Important to note, this is not identical to the opening number played at the beginning of the show. Although quite similar, there are some changed lyrics. If anyone has the original TV theme, send it my way and I'd be happy to post it.

Waylon Jennings - Good Ol' Boys (Dukes of Hazard Theme)
: Dukes of Hazard Soundtrack

The second track on the CD is probably the most listenable and worthwhile; the Man in Black, Johnny Cash, singing about the General Lee, that sweet bright orange Dodge Charger the boys loved to jump over creeks with.

Johnny Cash - The General Lee : Dukes of Hazard Soundtrack

This last track is something of a gag. It's James Best (i.e. Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane) singing about that lovable Basset Hound, Flash.

James Best (Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane) - Flash
: Dukes of Hazard Soundtrack