Saturday, May 31, 2008

Snacktime with Barenaked Ladies

It's hard not to love the Barenaked Ladies. I know, I know, they're mainstream to the extreme, but their zaniness is contagious. Keep them as your guilty pleasure if you will, but I'll be up front with my enjoyment of their music. That being said, I was excited to check out their newest album, Snacktime!, which came out earlier this month. It's billed as a children's album, but as with many Disney movies, there's plenty here for listeners of all ages. Take Raisins for example which opens with; Raisins come from grapes / people came from apes / I come from Canada / i came in first place / in a non-existent race / to rebuild the Parthenon / the Parthenon is in Greece / or was it in Grease 2?

Although some tracks clearly appeal to younger ears (the album opener 7 8 9, for example), there are also some tracks here which might escape their attention if they're not close listeners. I spun the disc for my four year old daughter, and her favorite was Popcorn, a very They Might Be Giants'ish track (in fact much of the album feels inspired by TMBG) which musically is very kid-friendly, but again, not all the tracks are, which might make the album more suitable for older children.

You can get the album along with an illustrated book full of stories and illustration inspired by the songs. Head here to check it out and order it (it comes with a copy of the disc).

Visit their website and become their friend on MySpace.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gotta Move Faster

You're probably familiar with Miami born artist Sean Kingston and his fusion of rap, reggae, pop, and doo-wop through his Ben E. King sampling big hit Beautiful Girls from last year. The song brought him a lot of attention from radio, listeners, and now corporate sponsor Intel. He's penned and performed a new track, Gotta Move Faster, that not only favors his personal style, but also puts out a healthy dose of advertising for Intel. Check out the track (and its video) here and you'll see what I mean.

It's always a conversation starter when an artist allows their song to be used for advertisements of various sorts and whether or not they are selling their soul. So what's to make of this, the seemingly logical next step in corporations trying to connect to a market share? Just a question to ponder as you get ready for the weekend. And of course, some music to enjoy while doing so.

Sean Kingston - Beautiful Girls : Sean Kingston

Ben E. King - Stand By Me : Stand By Me Soundtrack

Visit his website, his label Sony Music, and become his friend on MySpace.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Let's Hang the Landlord

Today's just a sneak peak at the first finished track from The King Blues' new album coming later this year (Octoberish or so) titled Let's Hang the Landlord. You might remember me writing about them earlier this year back here. If you're not familiar with the band, they're a youthfully exuberant mix of punk and ska (Dropkick Murphy style but Brit-dub-reggaeish instead of an Irish front). According to the lead singer Itch, this here track is the story of his childhood, tatoos, red wine, and all. Enjoy.

Visit their website, their label Field Recordings, and become their friend on MySpace.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Take a ride with The Fairline Parkway

I'll be honest with you, when I first gave A Memory Of Open Spaces a spin, it didn't immediately hook me. As sometimes happens, I had to set it aside for a little while and come back to it, and when I did, this time it stuck. I think part of it had to do with when I listened to it. It's absolutely a summer sounding album. I found myself listening to it on hot, hazy, humid days and it clicked. Just like that. I've always believed that music we listen to reflects much about us as individuals. Oftentimes it reflects the moods we find ourselves drifting through. Occasionally it has the power to shift us out of one mood and into another. Well, it can also reflect what is around us; in this case, the summer atmosphere which I've found has taken hold.

The album is the second from The Fairline Parkway, and just came out yesterday, six years after their debut. As you might surmise from my musings above about the reflections of music, the album really offers a soft languorous groove that you'll find yourself immersed in. If forced to make a comparison, I would suggest their sound resembles Luna meeting another band which I wrote about around this time last year, The Western States Motel. As the title of the post suggests, and as I've found returning to the album and listening to it in the car, it just begs for you to give it a spin while driving around with the window down and the sun beating down on you. I won't belabor the point, just suggest you try listening for yourself.

Visit their label the Kora Records and become their friend on MySpace.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nothing But (part of) the Best of Frank Sinatra

"I adore making records. I'd rather do that than most anything else."

-Frank Sinatra

Just a quick note about the latest Frank Sinatra release - Nothing But the Best. Although it's 22 tracks of Frank's classic material remastered (and a new rendition of Body and Soul), there should be a little caveat added on to the title: *of the Reprise years*. Don't get me wrong, there are some really smashing tracks here, although a few I might have switched out for a few personal favorites. Missing are Let's Fall In Love, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Pennies From Heaven, I've Got You Under My Skin, The Lady Is A Tramp - I could go on and on, but heck, how can you narrow down his best to 22 tracks?

I guess with a catalog as deep as Frank's, you're never going to hit it dead on for everyone though. That being said, if you're really looking for a more comprehensive collection from this period of his career, go with The Reprise Collection Box Set. Don't want to shell out that much dough or can't imagine listening to four discs of Ol' Blue Eyes? This disc is what you should go with.

It's release on May 14th coincided with the tenth anniversary of his passing and the initial batch of them includes a free United States postage stamp honoring him and bearing a first-day cancellation from Las Vegas, Nevada on May 13.

Visit his website and this compilation's label Reprise Records.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rockin' it Old Skool

Although I've admitted before that my very first concert ever was to see Motley Crue, old skool hip-hop was the first music that I discovered and fell in love with on my own (i.e. not in my parents' record collection or on their radio stations). This was back in '85 / '86, right before and as The Beastie Boys broke the barrier to prove that even (some) white boys could rap. I'll be straight up about it - I grew up as a middle class white kid in suburbia U.S.A., and my mom was less than enthusiastic about my musical exploration. Needless to say, we're talking about rap before Gangster rap really hit and most of the songs were tame compared to the rhymes their present day counterparts lay down.

Cut to Saturday night when I checked out what's labeled as The No Profanity Tour. I literally just found out about it Tuesday of last week, and was pumped to see it all week. The tour assembles an entire line-up of early old skool hip hop artists (and a few more recent - meaning 1990'ish) including Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force, Dana Dane, The Force M.D.s, Grandmaster Melle Mel with Grandmaster Caz, Grand Wizard Theodore (credited as one of, if not the, inventors of scratching), Chubb Rock, and Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. The purpose of the tour was twofold - to reassemble some of the men (sadly, no women on the tour - no Salt-N-Pepa or MC Lyte) who were influential in the creation and development of hip-hop as a musical genre which survived all the nay-sayers, and to try and remind people what the music was all about at its inception - to have fun without all of the masculine, intimidating, violent, and degrading posturing that is associated with much of the music nowadays.

Keeping in mind that some of these guys are pushing 50, it might be simple to dismiss these artists as has-beens who should be sitting at home on the couch making room for the up and comers. That's not the case at all though (especially Melle Mel - who's cut like a shorter version of the Terminator), and even if you don't give them some props for their past accomplishments, they put on a damn fine show. Not all of the acts got the crowd's hands in the air for their whole set (I think Chubb Rock and Kurtis Blow got the strongest reaction that sustained throughout their time on the stage), but if 80's hip-hop is your thing, it was flowin' for about four and a half hours. Kurtis even had some breakers poppin' their moves during his set.

Check out the tour's official website, and head to this article to see the upcoming dates (although I wouldn't completely rely on it - the Hartford, CT show was actually in Agawam, MA). While you're waiting for the tour to get to you, throw on your Kangol, slip on your Addidas (not tied of course), plant that monster boombox on your shoulder, and spin these fresh cuts.

Kurtis Blow - The Breaks
: The Breaks 7"

Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin' (Part 2) : The Breaks 7"

Check out 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kurtis Blow for a solid collection of his contributions.

Afrika Bambaataa - Bambaataa's Theme (Assault on Precinct 13) : Beware (The Funk Is Everywhere)

DJ Grand Wizard Theodore - Military Cut : Wild Style - 25th Anniversary Edition (Original Soundtrack)

Dana Dane - Cinderfella : Hip Hop Essentials 1979 - 1991 Volume Two

Melle Mel - Vice : Miami Vice TV Soundtrack

Grandmaster Caz - South Bronx Subway Rap : Wild Style - 25th Anniversary Edition (Original Soundtrack)

Chubb Rock - Treat 'Em Right : The One

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Spotlight + Contest - Strut Records

Today’s Sunday Spotlight is something new. Instead of focusing on an artist as I usually do, today I’m focusing on a quasi-new label that has been pumping out some incredible releases lately. I’m talking about the newly re-opened Strut Records. Strut first formed back in 1999, but closed its doors in 2003. Just this year, it has been reactivated and has joined up with German label !k7 to continue its mission: to bring forth dusty gems from the past and share them with new ears.

Strut’s primary focus is on music from the fringes and the dance floors of old (and new in many cases as this music is brought back to life) – disco, funk, old school hip-hop, as well as taking it a step further back and looking at its African roots. Since coming back to life, the diggers at Strut have given us Disco Not Disco, Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story, Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump, and Going Places: The August Darnell Years 1976-1983 (click on each title to read what I had to say about them). What they’ve got lined up for the near future is just as good, if not better: Disco Italia: Essential Italo Disco Classics 1977-1985 and an as-of-yet unnamed NEW Grandmaster Flash album.

Personally, I really enjoy well done compilation discs like these for several reasons. First, it gives me a chance to listen to some music that I missed the first time around for whatever reason: be it I was listening to something else at the time or I wasn’t even born yet. But these discs represent more than just a trip down memory lane. There is some seminal work here that is too easily forgotten in this day and age of connecting to the internet and downloading the latest buzz. Secondly, reading the well written (both in an informative fashion as well as entertaining) liner notes is like peering into the past. Sitting down, listening to the album, and reading the liner notes just makes my day. It’s an insider’s perspective that makes you feel as if you were sitting in the corner of the recording studio, watching music happen.

That being said, please do yourself a favor and check out Strut’s catalog. Their productions are available digitally via iTunes and eMusic, but consider picking up a physical copy as well, as the liner notes really do go hand in hand with each album’s experience. Keep your eyes open here as well for future reviews of some of their upcoming releases.

To give us an insider's perspective on what is happening at Strut, Quinton Scott was kind enough to take some questions. Questions in black are mine, answers in red are his.


Can you introduce yourself and your role at Strut?
I’m Quinton Scott and I work on the A&R for the label. My role is coming up with the ideas for the releases and working on all aspects of each album up to the finished item.
Were you involved with Strut in its first go-around between 1999 and 2003?
Yes, I originally set the label up in 1999 and ran it during its first incarnation.
What brought about the reorganization of Strut?
I made the decision to close down the original company in Summer 2003 – we had hit cashflow problems and it was the right move at the time. I had talked on and off with Juan Vandervoort, one of the main label managers at !K7, about doing something with the label again at some point and !K7 eventually bought up the brand and logo last year.
Where does the inspiration for new projects come from?
From DJs, diggers, chats in the pub and from general hunches about types of music that will work well at a certain point in time.
Where do such diverse ideas come from?
Strut was never really designed as just a soul, funk or collectors’ label. I suppose we’re always trying to be open-minded – there’s a general link to dance music and black music but an idea is often about timing as much as anything. Something like the August Darnell album came about because a few different people had mentioned it and we kept hearing different DJs playing his early music.
As of now, Strut has about a half dozen albums either released or in the pipeline. Is there one in particular that stands out as most enjoyable for you?
They’ve all been great to do – I’d say the Funky Nassau album documenting Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point studios has probably been the most rewarding so far. All of the artists and studio people involved were really helpful and we were lucky to find some incredible unseen archive photos. And, personally, I love the music.
Were there any that were particularly easy or difficult to assemble?
None are particularly quick, mainly because of the work involved in the licensing, sleeve notes and all the archive research. The licensing’s often the trickiest area – the latest Nigeria 70 involved some obscure ones to track down and we have a Caribbean album on the way which has been even more complex. None of the original labels still exist and we have had to track down original artists or producers for most of the tracks.
What are the stand-out tracks that you particularly enjoy from this year’s releases, either already out or upcoming?
Love the rolling funk of Ify Jerry Krusade’s Everybody Likes Something Good on the new Nigeria 70 and, from the new Caribbean comp, Lancelot Layne’s Chant is a belter, a no-nonsense ghetto commentary over a heavyweight percussive groove.
Do you ever find time to listen to current releases and artists, or are you always digging in the past, even on your own time?
Always discovering older records but I listen to a huge variety, both new and old. Of the new stuff, currently really like Mala’s Unexpected, kind of cosmic dubstep, and Daniel Stefanik’s mix of Gregor Tresher’s Break New Soil which is more techno-based but funky as hell.
What’s your own record collection like?
It’s a really mixed bag. A lot of original soul, funk, Afro, disco as you’d expect, pockets where I’ve honed in on particular labels and styles. There’s a large section of ECM label CDs in there, a huge amount of original early ‘80s electro and hip hop. A few dark secrets too – quite a bit of, ahem, old skool hardcore…
Where do you go to find obscure material to listen to?
Definitely spend less time digging since I became a Dad. Still scour second hand shops and collections for sale but check in with online music sources more and more. Dealer sites like Diaspora Records and Casbah, Dusty Groove of course and the deeper blogs like Frank Conakry’s Voodoo Funk are always an education.
Can you name a favorite album that you think everyone should have that almost no one has heard of?
Mr Andrew’s Magic Planet is a recent favourite. Quite dark early electro / new wave on the Base label from ‘82. Slightly better known now since it appeared on the Mutant Sounds blog last year.
Mr. Andrew - The Bats : Magic Planet

Any pet projects or interests percolating in your brain that you’d personally like to eventually work on for the label in the future?
Have been after doing a wide-ranging Giorgio Moroder compilation for a long while with his management but he’s too busy doing music for the Beijing Olympics. One day, hopefully….
With the increasing ease of finding, sharing, and downloading previously hard to find music as it grows increasingly digital, how do you see Strut faring in the future?
Strut will certainly have to adapt but I think it’ll still have a place. The album ideas and all the background info and photos will work digitally – I’m guessing that people who don’t have the time to dig deep to find music will still look to labels like ours to do the dirty work. Digital’s exciting, not as restricted by album formats and the mindset of the modern day record store.

Well, there you have it, a look behind the scenes at Strut records. Not only was Quinton kind enough to take us on a tour, but the label has generously provided a copy of each album they have put out so far this year (Disco Not Disco, Funky Nassau, Kid Creole, Disco Italia, and Nigeria 70) for me to give away. That's right, one lucky winner will walk away with the complete Strut catalog from the first half of this year - all five discs! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment (or e-mail me) with your name, e-mail address, and your vote on which of the 5 comps is the best in your opinion and you'll be in the running. I'll choose a winner randomly Saturdayish and send them the good news via e-mail.

In the meantime, here are some tracks to get you salivating over the 5 albums up for grabs!

Delta 5 - You : Singles And Sessions 1979-1981

(Their big hit Mind Your Own Business is one of the tracks on Disco Not Disco)

Tom Tom Club - Wordy Rappinghood : Tom Tom Club

(You'll find the 12" version of their mega-hit Genius of Love on Funky Nassau: The Compass Point Story 1980-1986)

Kid Creole & The Coconuts - There But For The Grace Of God Go I (12" Mix) : Off The Coast Of Me

(You'll find a whole album's worth of the Kid on Going Places – The August Darnell Years 1974 - 1983)

Sir Victor Uwaifo - Guitar Boy : Greatest Hits Vol. 1

(Sir Victor is one of the artists you'll find on Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

If you're diggin' Portishead...

By now I'm sure you've heard that Portishead finally got around to releasing their fourth album (ironically titled Third) after a ten year hiatus last month. It appeared just as unexpectedly as their disappearance so long ago, but listening to the album one believes that they never really went away. It's got that distinctive discomforting sadness permeating it, but it also feels new in a way that's hard to put a finger on. It's hard to keep your balance while listening to it, with unpredictable shifts occurring from track to track as well as within tracks (in a Fiery Furnaces sort of way).

So if you're diggin' Portishead, I've got another band to send your way: The Atomica Project. TAP is headed up by a female vocalist, Lauren Cheatham, with a voice much like Beth Gibbon's, perhaps a little warmer. They've also got that feeling of cinematic largeness which sometimes spreads wide behind her vocals and at other times dwindles down to a dark note. Taken as a whole, the album (it's titled Grayscale and it's the band's second) feels like the positive inverse of Third. It still has its melancholy moments of tender expression, but in general it employs some brighter instrumental components that lighten it up somewhat.

Both albums are available now, so pick them up and listen to your dark heart's content.

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

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


Friday, May 23, 2008

Altered States

You might not have heard of Robin Danar, and that’s absolutely fine. You can still enjoy his debut Altered States. You won’t hear his voice on the album, but you’ll certainly hear his influence. As the title suggests, it’s an album of alterations, of taking artists that you’re familiar with and giving them a song and a style that’s well outside they’re usual stomping ground, of letting them fly. Of the thirteen tracks on the album, eleven are covers, with the remaining two new songs penned specifically for this collection.

Covers can be a tough territory to travel through. Most either soar or crash and burn. What is interesting about this album is the wide choice of material that is re-interpreted by new artists, some of whom were not even familiar with the original.

It starts with Inara George (one half of The Bird and the Bee) with a very Patsy Cline’esque take on an old Johnny Mathis tune, Chances Are. As with almost all of the material here, Inara is taken away from the sounds you’d normally associate her with and does a marvelous job breathing life into the composition and making it her own. Up next on the album is one of the original numbers, Yell, which is performed by Jesca Hoop. It’s got an almost Middle-Eastern feel to it (listen to it below).

Other highlights of the album include Pete Yorn and Kinky taking Bill Withers’ funky classic Use Me and modernizing its texture with a guitar driven techno-light feel to it that brings it onto the dance floors of today. Then you’ve got Lisa Loeb working with Steve Reynolds on the classic punk track Video Nasty from The Damned. Didn’t see that coming for sure! Another stand out is Julian Corywell’s smooth take on Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (check it out below).

Like I said before, covers can go over like a lead balloon sometimes, and while you might not catch on to every remake here, there’s certainly enough here to pay attention to.

Visit Robin's website, his label Shanachie, and become his friend on MySpace.


Bill Withers - Use Me : Starsky & Hutch Soundtrack

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Kinsella Clan

Tim, Mike and Nate Kinsella make more music under so many bands names, I'm not sure if they know what band they're playing with on what day. Seriously, it's almost as confusticating as a soap-opera. That being said, if you're a fan of the family, then you've got a lot to be happy about right now. The trio have their various hands in a pair of albums that have come out recently.

The first album, which involves Mike and Tim, just came out yesterday and is the new one from Joan Of Arc, titled Boo Human. After the Orchard Vale Soundtrack, this album comes off as hum-drum ordinary top 40 in comparison. The group has returned to the avant-garde experimental style, but this time making it a little more digestible. Not ones to do anything by the book, they invited a whole slew of guest musicians to come in and work with them, or I should say, they posted a sign-up sheet and welcomed in whoever hopped on board. Supposedly the album was recorded in one week, and at times that's clearly evident (take for example the studio chatter that was left on the beginning of Laughter Reflected Back). The album retains a project-in-the-works kind of feel to it while still managing to feel complete.

The other album that Tim and Nate had a hand in, which came out last month, is from their band Make Believe. It's the group's third album, and at one point it seemed that Tim had bowed out for the family life. He didn't remain absent for long though, and you'll find him present on what became his 58th record, Going to the Bone Church. Unlike Joan of Arc, this line-up hits a little harder, and the texture of their material is a little more abrasive. There's still that element of unpredictability (try For Lauri Bird), but in the long run, this album will pump out a few more decibels.

So, chalk two more albums up under the family name. You can catch Mike and Tim together on tour, dates are listed below.

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

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

Joan Of Arc Tour Dates

05.28 Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
05.29 Denver, CO @ Hi Dive
05.30 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
05.31 Missoula, MT @ The Badlander
06.01 Seattle, WA @ The Vera Project
06.02 Vancouver, BC @ Media Club
06.03 Portland, OR @ Holocene
06.05 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
06.06 @ Los Angeles, CA @ Knitting Factory
06.08 Los Angeles, CA @ Pehrspace
06.09 La Jolla, CA @ Che Cafe Collective
06.10 Phoenix, AZ @ Modified
06.12 Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
06.13 Fort Worth, TX @ Lola's
06.14 Tulsa, OK @ Continental
07.26 Chicago, IL @ Wicker Park
07.27 Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Last Minute Ticket contest - Air Traffic in Boston

OK folks, last minute contest to share a pair of free tics to see Air Traffic play at TT the Bear's Place tomorrow night (Thursday the 22nd) in Cambridge, MA. The rules are simple: first person to e-mail me before 6:00 AM tomorrow gets them (teachbreed [at] Keeping that in mind, please don't e-mail me if you can't make it. Openers are Senor Happy and The Douglas Fir, show starts at 9:30.

Ready. Set. E-MAIL!

Visit their label Astralwerks and become their friend on MySpace.

Langhorne Slim Contest

"I’m not sure that there’s any other kind, but the songs I write are love songs. Some are literal, about specific events, people and relationships in my life; a form of therapy, self-help for the flowers and the shit along the road of life. Others come from a place far more mysterious. Either way, I’m in it to capture the feeling, the truth of an emotion, changing only names and events to protect the innocent.

This collection of songs represents our most comfortable, cohesive and soul-shaking music to date. It has been a great pleasure for me working with Sam, Malachi and Paul on this. And after all the good, bad and not so pretty all I can say is—please enjoy.

Love and Peace, Langhorne"

If you've been enjoying Langhorne Slim's self-titled album, he's practically giving up his entire summer to bring it to you live. And if you've really been enjoying his album, here's a chance for you to win a vinyl copy of his new 7" single for Rebel Side of Heaven (b/w Sometimes), a sticker, and a poster. All you need to do is leave a comment (or e-mail me) with your name and e-mail address, let me know if you want to be added to the Langhorne Slim e-mailing list, and you'll be in the running (US residents only, sorry). The contest will run through Saturday and I'll choose a winner Saturday eveningish and send Ed McMahon and the Prize Patrol to their door (or maybe just e-mail them).

(watch the video)

Langhorne Slim - Oh Honey : Langhorne Slim

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

Upcoming Tour Dates

May 22 2008 Urban Lounge Salt Lake City, Utah
May 23 2008 Hi-Dive Denver, Colorado
May 24 2008 Replay Lounge - Outdoor Stage Lawrence, Kansas
May 25 2008 400 Bar Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 26 2008 High Noon Saloon Madison, Wisconsin
May 27 2008 Mad Planet Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 28 2008 Schubas Tavern Chicago, Illinois
May 29 2008 The Hideout Chicago, Illinois
May 30 2008 Club Cafe Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
May 31 2008 Music Hall of Williamsburg - Headline Show!!! Brooklyn, New York
Jun 4 2008 NPR’s World Cafe with David Dye Radio or Internet
Jun 5 2008 WTMD Summer Concert Series - West Mt. Vernon Park Baltimore, Maryland
Jun 6 2008 World Cafe Live Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jun 7 2008 TT The Bears Cambridge, Massachusetts
Jun 17 2008 Le Divian Orange Montreal, Quebec
Jun 18 2008 The Horseshoe Toronto, Ontario
Jun 19 2008 Grog Shop Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Jun 20 2008 Pike Room @ Crofoot Pontiac, Michigan
Jun 21 2008 Ruby Tuesday Columbus, Ohio
Jun 22 2008 Off Broadway St. Louis, Missouri
Jun 24 2008 The Aquarium (Dempsey’s Upstairs) Fargo, North Dakota
Jun 26 2008 Sled Island Music Festival Calgary, Alberta
Jul 3 2008 High Sierra Festival - Day 1 Quincy, California
Jul 4 2008 High Sierra Festival - Day 2 Quincy, California
Aug 1 2008 Pickathon - Pendarvis Farms Happy Valley, Oregon
Aug 2 2008 Pickathon - Pendarvis Farms Happy Valley, Oregon
Sep 19 2008 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Bristol, Tennessee
Sep 20 2008 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Bristol, Tennessee

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Lately, it seems that piano driven power-pop is all the rage. The latest tasty dose I'm listening to now is from a Denver based quartet named Fiance. They're putting out their second EP, Please Ambitious, Please, which is a quick jolt of five songs headed up by the vocals of Patrick McGuire (whose voice at times reminds me of Michael Nau of Page France). The affair starts with a piano pulsating rocker, Super-Soft Knife, but before jamming themselves into a corner, the group is quick to show their soft, contemplative side on the next song, Pretty Model's Hands (which strangely, for a power piano ballad on a 5 track EP, is over 7 minutes long).

The EP's tempo goes up and down quicker than a roller-coaster in its 5 songs. That being said, you kind of need to be in a funky mood to listen through it and connect with every song. It would be interesting to see of the band could extend it out to an LP, where the change in emotions wouldn't feel so abrupt. There are 5 solid songs here though, which you might visit individually depending on your day; here's one of the more depressing ones (if your day hasn't been so bad, save it for a downer).

Visit their website and become their friend on MySpace.

Summer Shows

No new music to share right now, instead I'm going to share how excited I am to be seeing two great shows taking place this summer. Not to rub it in or anything but...

The first show I've already made plans to see is in mid July to see a triple decker of a summer tour: John Mayer, Brett Dennen, and Colbie Caillat. Yea, you read that right. You've got an accomplished guitarist who's tackled everyone from Radiohead to classic blues men (whose last album Continuum was just re-issued with an additional track, Say - stream it here), a young folksey pop singer with wisdom beyond his years (and who I've seen and enjoyed before - albeit in a MUCH smaller club - hopefully he won't lose his personality in such a big venue), and a guilty pleasure that's hard to resist. All of this wrapped up in one tight package that spells summertime fun. Check out dates for the tour below, and look for me in Mansfield on the 12th.

John Mayer - Gravity : Continuum

Brett Dennen - The One Who Loves You The Most : So Much More

Colbie Caillat - Bubbly : Coco

Tour Dates:
7/2 Milwaukee , WI Marcus Amphitheater (Summerfest)
7/3 Maryland Heights , MO Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
7/5 Noblesville, IN Verizon Wireless Music Center
7/6 Rothbury , MI Rothbury Music Festival
7/7 Toronto , ON Molson Amphitheatre
7/9 Wantagh , NY Nikon @ Jones Beach Theater
7/10 Camden, NJ Susquehanna Bank Center
7/12 Mansfield , MA Tweeter Center
7/13 Columbia , MD Merriweather Post Pavilion
7/15 Holmdel, NJ PNC Bank Arts Center
7/17 Cuyahoga Falls, OH Blossom Music Center
7/18 Tinley Park, IL First Midwest Bank Amphitheater
7/20 Denver, CO Soccer Fields @ Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
7/21 Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheatre
7/23 Paso Robles, CA Mid-State Fair
7/25 Marysville , CA Sleep Train Amphitheater
7/26 Mountain View , CA Shoreline Amphitheater
7/27 Irvine , CA Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
7/29 Chula Vista , CA Coors Amphitheatre
7/30 Phoenix , AZ Cricket Wireless Pavilion
8/1 Dallas , TX Center
8/2 Houston , TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

The second is a weekend festival, the Green River Festival, which takes place at Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts shortly after on July 17-19. It's an Earthy-crunchy sort of weekend with all sorts of activities for kids and adults alike. In addition, there's some eclectically wide music playing all weekend including Jimmie Vaughn (older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughn), Forro in the Dark, Los Straitjackets, Eilen Jewell, Lucinda Williams, and the artist I'm most excited to see, Mavis Staples, former member of the legendary Staple Singers and accomplished singer in her own right. I got a weekend pass to see all these acts (plus a few more) for the insane price of $35! I'm already crossing my finger hoping the weather will be perfect that weekend.

Mavis Staples - Down In Mississippi
: We'll Never Turn Back

Lucinda Williams - Main Road : Sweet Relief

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dimitri From Paris From the Playboy Mansion

“The whole decor of the place, the furniture, the light switches, it was like something out of a James Bond movie.”
Dimitri From Paris, on playing at the Playboy Mansion

There are tons of DJs out there, but Dimitri From Paris stands out as something unique. Born in Turkey, grew up in France (hence his stage name), Dimitri does an incredible job of spinning new cuts with tracks dug up from who-knows-where while keeping the flow as smooth as a baby's bottom. He's been spinning vinyl since the mid 80's, and his well of music runs deeper (and wider) than many of his cohort.

Last month, he put out the double disc release Return to the Playboy Mansion, a follow-up to his 2000 album A Night at the Playboy Mansion and the 2002 After the Playboy Mansion. Similar to what he did with the 2002 release, the first disc is titled Partytime, and as the name suggests, it's designed to get you moving on the floor, with nineteen tracks of retro booty-shaking goodness. The second disc is titled Sexytime, and as you might guess, things get smoother with a downtempo mix designed for you to get some of that booty that was shaking from listening to the first disc. The entire disc isn't entirely Barry White type material (although he does make an appearance early with the second track), but things do get a little more sensual.

As one could expect, although there a few names here you'll recognize (Jamiroquai, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, etc...), there are even more that will be unknowns to all but the deepest crate diggers. These discs are exactly what they look like - collections of cuts that can be thrown on to play straight through that you don't have to worry about skipping tracks to get to a good song.

and one from his debut

Dimitri From Paris - Love Love Mode : Sacrebleu

Visit his website, his label Defected, and become his friend on MySpace.

Check out an interview over at Uncensored Interview.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Soul - Brothers of Love

i can't take it
all this love you're pulling down on me
i ain't complaining
cuz i want it so desperately

we make good harmony
oh together honey just wait and see
oh listen baby

i, you, we
go together so perfectly

Brothers of Love - I, You, We (Go Together Perfectly) : I, You, We (Go Together Perfectly) 7"

Brothers of Love - My Heart's In Trouble : I, You, We (Go Together Perfectly) 7" B-side

Sunday Spotlight - The Watson Twins

Today I have a super special early-bird look at The Watson Twins' new album Fire Songs, which is coming out next month on the 24th. Normally I wouldn't post about something coming out so far away, but I was really excited to check this album out and to share it with all of you. I've been consistently listening to it for the last couple of weeks.

Chandra and Leigh Watson were kind enough to share their thoughts and ideas on Old Ways, the tenth track on the album, reveal why the new album is titled Fire Songs even though there's no track by the same name, and admitted wearing matching poodle skirts. As always, text in red is theirs, questions in black are mine.


This song was one of the first written for our new record, Fire Songs (Vanguard Records, June 2008). It actually started forming on the road when we were on tour opening for Matt Costa In comparison to writing at home, there is a different kind of inspiration found out in the world, playing shows, meeting new folks, long late night drives and a whole lotta bars. Traveling in a van with your band mates, eating together, sharing hotel rooms, sound checking, let’s just say there isn’t a lot of "alone time"… so when writing this song I’d often sneak away to a back hallway of a club as we were waiting for the doors to open and just play the song and sing the lyrics over and over… committing each line to memory as it formed, building each verse slowly day by day.

Once it was done, the vocal harmonies that Leigh (my sis) and Russ Pollard (drummer/producer) brought to the table just immediately solidified the vibe… as well as the sorghum sweet lead on the instrumental verse from J. Soda (Guitarist/Producer) and the solid/soulful bass line of Matt Fitzell. It just naturally fell in to place and that always brings a special attachment to a song.

Old Ways was originally titled Fire Song because of the chorus "you’re always on fire, your old ways being wild"… as we started working on the record the title of the song changed, but we still liked the visual imagery of the words Fire Songs and since it was the first written it only seemed fitting to title the record this, marking the beginning of our writing adventure.

And a few questions for the twins (C=Chandra, L=Leigh):

1.) You do a beautiful job of taking The Cure's Just Like Heaven [it's the fourth track on the new album] and making it your own, although it takes on an almost wistfully melancholic tone to it. What inspired you to cover the song?

C: We were at home in Kentucky for Christmas and WFPK, the local station there, was doing a count down... top "1000 songs of all time"..."Just Like Heaven" came on and Leigh and I were singing along with the radio, talking about what a great song it was and Leigh suggested that we try and cover it. After we got back to LA, Leigh learned it on the guitar and brought it in to rehearsal giving it her own spin. We started playing it with the band and it just all came together. We played it a handful of times live and the crowd was in to it, so we decided to put in on our new record "Fire Songs".
L: It was pretty cool how it all came together. I always loved the original version of the song, and covers are definitely dangerous, but this one just came so easily it seemed like the right thing.

2a.) Working with Jenny Lewis on Rabbit Fur Coat obviously helped bring your own music into a larger listening public’s ear and brought you more recognition. Did you find while working on this new album that you were affected musically by working with Jenny?

C: Of course, I think every musical collaboration affects you, it becomes a part of your creative life and that's where each song begins.
L: Agreed, its all part of your own personal history. You are always learning, absorbing, growing. I think experiences like what we had with Lewis and RFC changed us not only as songwriters, but just as people. You spend a year on the road traveling and going to amazing places you find inspiration and you evolve.

2b.) Do you think the sound of this album would have been different if you had not collaborated with her?

C: The sounds on our album "Fire Songs" come from the music that has influenced us... country, indie, classic rock, jazz, R&B, soul... and I would say Jenny, my sis and I have similar records in our collections and get inspired by those, so the fact that we share a similar taste in music probably has more to do with our sound than our specific collaboration on RFC.
L: For sure. The sound comes from a pretty specific place, it's something we have been moving towards for years. It's a reflection of all of our musical experiences.

2c.) Any future plans to record another album together?

C: Not currently, we all have a lot on our plates but the future is full of possibilities and we do have a lot of fun singing together.
L: Never say never.

3.) Growing up as identical twins, you must have some great stories. Can you share one that stands out as either particularly funny or embarrassing (for one or both of you!)?

C: wow... that's a tough one... Leigh?
L: Funny and embarrassing...we performed It's My Party (...and I'll cry if I want to) for our middle school talent show in poodle skirts that our mom hand made with choreographed dance moves. If only we had made it to Star Search. hahhaha.


The album opens up with How Am I To Be, a track that will serve as a bridge for those listeners who caught on to the twins through their work with Jenny Lewis. It's got a feel to it that would have blended right in with Rabbit Fur Coat. The sisters don't just try to copy what they did with Lewis though, and on the second track, Lady Love Me, they quickly head off on their own direction, staking claim to musical ground that is distinctly theirs.

It's clear once you listen to their own work what the influence the Watson Twins had on Jenny Lewis and Rabbit Fur Coat, an album that is quite far away from her work with Rilo Kiley, and much closer to what you'll find on Fire Songs. Most immediately evident will be the sisters' voices, at times warmly welcoming and at others displaying that distant melancholy I mentioned on their cover of Just Like Heaven. Regardless of the tone though, their two voices work together seamlessly and beautifully, and carry a depth to them that will pull you in.

I've really been enjoying the album, and am eager to check out the twins on the supporting tour (although dates haven't been announced). I think that this album is going to prove that the sisters can make music of their own that is equally deserving of your ears' attention. Enjoy the following early peek and start counting down to June 24th, when the album will be available.

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

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nanny's World

Just a quick track to share. Give it a spin and tell me it doesn't have Fiery Furnaces written all over it? (that's a good thing by the way) It's from an artist named Rose Kemp (no, I don't know a single thing about her), and is being released as a single next month (on the 30th). Head here to check out her previous releases.

Rose Kemp - Nanny's World : Unholy Majesty

Visit her label One Little Indian and become her friend on MySpace.

"I think we're outnumbered"

So last night I checked out Uh Huh Her at Pearl Street in Northampton, MA, and the highlight of the night actually happened before the show even started (no offense to the fine musicians who played - I loved the show, honest!). It went down like this. The show was supposed to start at 8:30, so I got to the venue around 8:15 only to find the doors hadn't been opened yet and there was a much bigger line than I anticipated. Not only was the line bigger than I anticipated, but it's make-up was somewhat unexpected, but I'll get back to that in a minute.

So I'm waiting in line, and one of the guys who works for the venue drifts over to me (if you've been to Pearl Street or the Iron Horse, I'm talking about biker-Santa Claus) and says to me, "Let me tell you something - I think we're outnumbered tonight." Honest, those were his exact words! This is where the composition of the line comes in. Let me put it this way, there were more guys at the last Indigo Girls concert I attended. I just sort of chuckled (as quietly as possible) and looked around to make sure there weren't any eyes glaring at me due to my unwilling complicity. "I think we're outnumbered tonight." Absolutely classic! 'Nuff said about that though.

Come to find out, there was massive amounts of traffic, causing the bands to arrive late, but when the show finally got rolling, opening for the evening was Angie Mattson (MySpace). She played some original tunes (which I wasn't familiar with) on her guitar, and a killer cover of The Black Crowes' song She Talks to Angels.

The Black Crowes - She Talks to Angels (live) : Freak 'N' Roll...Into The Fog (Live - The Fillmore, San Francisco)

The big draw of the night though was Uh Huh Her, whose newest album's (Common Reaction) release date has been pushed back to August. If you're not familiar with the quartet, they play an peppy electro-80's, synth-dance fiesta that feels like it should be the soundtrack for a remake of a Brat-pack film. I was only familiar with the five tracks off of their debut I See Red EP, so much of the material they played during the evening was unknown to me, and presumably off of the upcoming album. Suffice to say, if you enjoyed the EP, the new material carried on in the same tradition.

Thankfully, even though I was in fact outnumbered and one of the minority, I made it out alive in order to share this post with you. they have a few shows left before the end of the month, and I would assume will be hitting the road again during the summer in preparation for the release of the album in August.

Uh Huh Her - Say So (Thom Russo Mix) : I See Red EP

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