Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

The Friday mix: Not sleepy, but sleep-related

I haven’t been sleeping. First off, I seem to have trouble actually going to bed. I putter around and I mean to get to bed, but I don’t actually lay down until it’s already pretty late. Then I often have trouble actually falling asleep. Last night I actually was sleeping and I had a dream that woke me.

It's not working.

I was on a hillside somewhere and noticed that I had sat down next to a little garter snake. Harmless little fellow. Well, then it pulled its head out from its coils and I noticed it was quite a larger snake than I had thought. Not a python or anything, but maybe a 5-footer of some kind. I scooted about 3 feet away from it figuring it wouldn’t be interested in me. It looked at me and then struck suddenly. I was so startled that I jumped and woke myself. It was 4:30 AM and I was wide-awake, heart pounding. I didn’t get back to sleep last night.

As I lay there contemplating the vague outlines of my dark room, it occurred to me that a sleep mix might be a good topic for today. This isn’t sleepy music, but all of the songs have sleep in the title (save one). Sleep has inspired some great music. I hope you enjoy them.

  1. Sleep – Crack the Sky
    These guys were a classic 70s act that never quite broke through, but I was into them back in the day and they’re still great. A lot of their songs are tongue in cheek, but this alternately energetic and beautiful song is one of their more serious tracks.
  2. Sleeping Beauty – A Perfect Circle
    Well, you’d never fall asleep with this one on but it’s fantastic. Guitarist Billy Howerdel wrote songs for Tool’s Maynard Keenan to sing and their album “Mer de Noms” is packed with winner after winner.
  3. Majik City / Sleep Logging – Glocca Morra
    Glocca Morra’s vocalist spends a fair amount of time screaming on this album, but the melodies are pleasing and the arrangements are interesting. I like this two-parter.
  4. Can I Sleep in Your Arms? – Willie Nelson
    I’m not a big country music guy, but Willie’s “Red Headed Stranger” is a masterpiece. Give a listen to this gorgeous track. Most of the album has this emotional, mellow feel.
  5. Sleeping Lessons – The Shins
    This is apparently what I need. Kind of a cool fan-made video for this song of two distinct halves. I really like how the unusual melody Mercer sings plays with the repeating keyboard and guitar arpeggio.
  6. A Song for Sleeping – Stone Temple Pilots
    This was the best song on “Shangri-La Dee Da.” My daughter just aked me to put it on her mix, too, for anyone still looking for more kid’s music. Incidentally, how many hundred times do you have to play this song on Guitar Hero to nail it like this?
  7. Sleepless – Soul Coughing
    “I got the will do drive myself sleepless. Skeedunt. Stunt the runt, smoking Buddha blunt.” Where do the lyrics come from?
  8. Sleepwalk – Santo and Johnny
    What a fabulous vintage instrumental, circa 1959. I can see the bobby soxers slow dancing with their letter-wearing boyfriends now.
  9. Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased) – Radiohead
    Radiohead kind of lost with Amnesiac / Kid A but, man, they came roaring back on Hail to the Thief. These guys remain the best current band I have never seen live.
  10. A Pillow of Winds – Pink Floyd
    Out of their entire impressive body of work, I believe this is the most beautiful song they ever wrote.
  11. Sleepyhead – Moke
    These guys only put out a few albums before they broke up in 2001, but the one to pick up is “Superdrag,” which has this one.
  12. Sleep to Dream – Fiona Apple
    Apple was only 19 when this was released so presumably she was even younger when she wrote it. It’s a remarkably mature song to come from such a young woman.
  13. Sleep on the Left Side – Cornershop
    “When I Was Born for the Seventh Time” has a bunch of fascinating, irresistible songs like this one and, sadly, some weird stuff that is hard to listen to. This one always makes me happy when it comes up.
  14. Sleep Comes Down – The Psychedelic Furs
    Not the typical sound you expect when you think about the Furs. It’s a cool track, though, that has aged really well.

Enjoy this with a Daylon’s Bedtime and get to bed. Have a great weekend.

December 3, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Country, Indie, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

Lush bluegrass/rock/folk from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

Today I have to write about an album you have probably already heard. But on the off chance that there’s someone out there who missed it, I want to add my voice to the chorus of people praising “Raising Sand” by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

He got the money and she got the honey.

“Raising Sand” won album of the year in 2009 and it seems to me it could hardly miss. You start with Allison Krauss, who has won the 3rd most Grammy Awards of anyone all-time (behind conductor Georg Solti and performer/composer/producer/conductor Quincy Jones). Then you add rock legend Robert Freaking Plant of Led Zeppelin. Then Grammy winning producer T-Bone Burnett steps in and they recruit a host of jazz and bluegrass legends to back them up. The result was a platinum selling, critically acclaimed masterpiece.

Clearly, the focus of “Raising Sand” is the amazingly sweet pairing of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Krauss has a lovely voice, obviously, and a great feel for the bluegrass and folk that permeates the album. Plant is versatile and also quite comfortable singing folk music. Plant’s slightly rougher voice works incredibly well with hers and they harmonize beautifully. Krauss’ pure-as-ringing-crystal voice keeps them grounded while Plant’s loose style and rock fills keep things from getting sterile. It’s a potent combination.

Meanwhile, the musical textures of the album are wonderful. As the producer, Burnett gets credit for the overall sound of the album. It is at times warm and comfortable, at others driving and danceable. The musicians include men like Marc Ribot, Mike Seeger (half-brother of Pete), and bluegrass legend Norman Blake. These guys know their business and Burnett uses them brilliantly.

I often cherry pick albums so I don’t have to listen to some tracks I’m not crazy about. “Raising Sand” goes right in the CD player. They set a consistent mood throughout the album and the whole thing is great. I like these 7 in particular.

  • Rich Woman – They open “Raising Sand” with this track. Oozy guitars, smoky percussion, and effortless harmony vocals ease you right in.
  • Killing the Blues – John Prine’s original version of this song is slow and soft, but it sounds harsh next to the sanded smoothness of Krauss and Plant’s sweet crooning and gentle slide guitar.
  • Polly Come Home – This is one of two Gene Clark songs on this disc. If they played it any slower it would stop altogether, but somehow it is quietly compelling.
  • Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – This is an old Everly Brothers tune and the original hops. Krauss and Plant do it credit with their energetic version and the close harmony work on this is as good as any song on the album.
  • Please Read the Letter – The composers of this were actually Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. This is an old Zeppelin song that never made the cut. Plant was delighted to dust it off and get Krauss’ voice and violin in this new interpretation for its release.
  • Fortune Teller – Allen Toussaint wrote this cute song back in 1962. Since then it has been covered by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Hollies, and now these two.
  • Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson – Plant takes a seat and Krauss sings this without him. The studio musicians are hot, though, and they swing this blues classic by Little Milton.

I saw Robert Plant and Alison Krauss perform at Bonnaroo last year when they toured on this album. I think it had been a long time since Plant had played in front of quite so many screaming fans. He was very obviously blown away and having a great time. It was fun to watch. Plant and Krauss actually started working on a follow-up to “Raising Sand,” but Plant said in an interview published in USA Today that those sessions never found their groove and they apparently gave up on it. Too bad. Interestingly, Plant hung around in Nashville and put together another project, “Band of Joy,” which I only discovered today. I have ordered it, of course. I’ll let you know.

http://www.robertplantalisonkrauss.com/

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Country, Folk, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

Bonnaroo 2010 recap: Sunday

I think a lot of artists get frustrated with some of the crowds at Bonnaroo. Bands who are used to wowing the crowd and rocking the house are sometimes perplexed that they don’t get as much energy back from the audience as they’re used to. There are two reasons for that. The main thing is that people are spent. By the time the big evening shows come on, people have spent 9 or more hours in the June Tennessee sun, they’ve danced, maybe drank during the day, and probably didn’t get that much sleep the night before to begin with. The other thing is that a live show, which is usually a highlight of your week, becomes almost commonplace. I had seen over 20 shows before Sunday kicked off.

The rest of the pics I took with my camera weren't great, so thanks to 20watts.wordpress.com/ for the great Bonnaroo image.

I have heard front men ask the crowd, “Are you digging this at all?” And we are. The crowds are very appreciative. That’s why we brave the traffic, expense, and elements to see the shows. We’re just tired and a little jaded. I remember festival veteran Jeff Tweedy of Wilco saying, “I know you’re hot and tired and enjoying the music. I’m not going to ask you to sing or clap with me. Just be comfortable and we’re gonna play some music for you, alright?” That probably got the biggest hand Wilco had received thus far in their set. It was with a mixture of sadness and relief that I set out to see the shows on Sunday.

I have been a long time fan of Calexico and theirs was the first show I saw Sunday. They were in fine form playing their slippery blend of rock and mariachi Tex-mex. The songs are often mellow, but surging with controlled energy. Here is a good recording of great performance of a representative track. I loved “Feast of Wire” and have another on order right now. Check them out.

I stopped by Lucero’s show, not having done any homework on them and not knowing what to expect. Turns out they play deep southern rock that is almost country. The songs are heartfelt and kind of cool but definitely not my thing. I will still recommend it to folks who lean that way. Check out this track, for example. I like this one. I just didn’t enjoy the show too much and I left. Sorry, Lucero. It’s not you; it’s me.

After that I had to go check out Blues Traveler. They’re not as hot as they were in the 1990s and I have seen them before. Still, I love their songs, what’s left of John Popper remains the most impressive harmonica player I have ever seen, and their first 3 albums were the soundtrack to my fun post-college years. The guys still have it. It was an energetic and fun show, in spite of the fact that my attempts to claw and elbow my way into the tent for some shade failed.

I had to pass on They Might Be Giants, Dropkick Murphy’s, and saddest of all Ween because I needed some shade, food, and beer at my tent for a little while. I returned to the venue much refreshed and ready for the last two shows of the weekend.

Phoenix is a band from Versailles, France that has been at it for about 10 years now. I really enjoyed their set of ear friendly pop with elements of electonica. The first minute I walked up, I didn’t think I was going to like it because radio pop usually has a little bit of a hill to climb with me, but they won me over by keeping most of their songs either a little edgy or surprising.

The final show of the week was Dave Matthews Band. I have been a big fan of DMB since I saw them at Red Rocks in 1994 (before the official release of “Under the Table and Dreaming”) opening up for Los Lobos who were in turn opening up for Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Judging from the number of platinum albums under their belt, there is a great chance that everyone reading this has at least 1 DMB album. I am pleased that their new album, “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” is great and has some tremendous music on it, particularly because they played a lot of songs from it. Matthews himself seemed either a little goofy or maybe just drunk, but it didn’t stop him or any of the band – including former Flecktone Jeff Coffin, filling in for the untimely deceased LeRoi Moore – from putting on a powerful rock show. DMB has been at this for 20 years and had no problem engaging the 50,000+ in the field.

Another Bonnaroo come and gone. Nothing left but to finish the beer back at camp and get ready to pack it up in the morning. It’s always strange to head back to civilization, where people wear the full complement of clothes and don’t drink beer at 10:00 AM. Throughout the day when we encountered grungy, weary people in gas stations and fast food restaurants on our way home we would look for the bracelet and share a nod or a smile. I wonder who is going to headline next year…

June 22, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Country, Popular, Rock | 1 Comment

Bonnaroo 2010 recap: Thursday and Friday

Well, it’s been a long week away. I apologize for the long delay between posts, but I was at Bonnaroo since Wednesday last week and I have been incredibly busy since I got back so I just haven’t had time to post. Like last year, I wanted to recap some of the bands I saw. Ah, Bonnaroo. It’s a 9-hour drive from my town to camp in the dust or mud, depending on the week’s weather. In spite of this, the crowd is young and beautiful, the scene is relaxed and peaceful (I’ve been to 5 or 6 Bonnaroos now and still have never seen a single fight), and the musical lineup is unparalleled. I love going.

The stages are What Stage, Which Stage, This Tent, That Tent, and The Other Tent. Thanks, guys.

I started out Thursday by catching The Entrance Band. They hit the crowd with psychedelic roots rock. Some of it was bluesy, and some had a frat party feel. The music was rough and heartfelt. On the binary scale, they get a 1. Check out this single, ‘Lookout!’ if you’re interested.

I went from there to Baroness. I have written up Baroness in the past and was excited for their show. There is a lot to like about this band and they did not disappoint live. The sound was complex and heavy with a melodic core, bristling with major power chords and minor arpeggios. Check out ‘Grad.’

Next I caught Local Natives. The Natives achieve a full sound with several multi-instrumentalists, allowing them to put up 2 drummers or occasionally 2 guitarists at need. They play energetic hard pop and every note is sung with accompanying harmony vocals. Their indie-pop sound was pretty good, and I made a note that I was reminded of the Talking Heads. Check out this single, ‘Wide Eyes.

I didn’t catch all of the Natives and left to hear some Manchester Orchestra. Their studio stuff is often kind of mellow, but live their sound was dominated by heavy pounding guitar and usually screamed vocals. They were surprisingly good. Here you can hear the album version of ‘I Can Barely Breathe.

The last show I saw Thursday was Blitzen Trapper. I was really excited to see this show, because their 2009 release was fantastic. Sadly, I must report I was a little disappointed in their live show. The energy I was looking for wasn’t there. There also wasn’t great variability in their songs and after a while they started to all sound the same. I definitely recommend you pick up “Black River Killer,” though. This was followed by a long walk back to camp, a beer, and a sleeping bag.

Music began Friday at noon with a show by Trombone Shorty. A friend of mine saw him at Jazz Fest (I was there also, but missed Shorty) and told me not to miss his set at Bonnaroo. That suggestion was right on target. Trombone Shorty is a virtuoso on his instrument. My brother plays trombone and I know enough about the instrument to recognize some of the things he was doing are extremely difficult. His band played tight funk and he had several great horns accompanying his trombone. Great set. Here’s a live performance.

Next I took in some from the Carolina Chocolate Drops. These guys are a surprising Appalachian bluegrass three-piece. Banjo and fiddle with percussion provided by spoons, jug, or just beatbox. The female banjo player has a tremendous voice and I really enjoyed their set. Give a listen to this one for a taste of what they do.

I went to see OK Go not exactly reluctantly, but with low expectations. I have seen some of their brilliant videos (treadmillsRube Goldberg,  etc.) but to be honest I only liked a couple of the songs off their albums I had heard. Their live set changed my mind. They completely won me over. You could hear the energy and intention behind the songs when they performed them. They did some cool stuff, too, like bringing out a table loaded with hand bells and performing a song with all four of them singing and playing the bells. That isn’t easy; clearly they rehearsed it a lot. I liked their songs and the way they approach their music. I’ll be giving their albums another listen.

I dropped by Tori Amos on my way to another show but could only stay for one song. I only like a handful of Amos songs anyway and I find a lot of her breathy, melodramatic songs kind of annoying. That’s what she was doing when I blew through her show. On I went.

You may not be aware that Steve Martin is an excellent banjo player. In fact, he won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Bluegrass Album. I caught his bluegrass set with the Steep Canyon Rangers. The music was great, for the most part (I wasn’t crazy about the children’s song he played, but then I wasn’t the target demographic). He is a talented songwriter – all the songs they played were penned by Martin – and he and the Rangers played a tight set. Martin’s patter was funny too. You can take the comedian out of the comedy club, but… “It has been a long time dream of mine to play bluegrass at Bonnaroo,” he said. “Tonight, I feel one step closer to that dream.” Here they are tearing it up on the Orange Blossom Special.

I have seen Michael Franti and Spearhead several times and I caught their set again this year. Franti is a relentlessly positive force, a great songwriter, and a compelling performer.  If you have a chance to see his show, check it out. Like chicken soup, it’s good for what ails you.

I have a friend who inexplicably hates Kings of Leon. He says it’s pop crap, though I suspect he only says that to mess with me. They headlined Friday night and I watched their show. It was definitely NOT pop crap. The Kings put on a really great rock show. Their new album is fantastic (I ripped all but 2 of the songs) and they have honed their live show. It was a great set and I will catch them next time they come to my town.

I caught a few minutes of Daryl Hall/Chromeo (yes, Daryl Hall of Hall and Oats). There was a terrible triple conflict at midnight so I only gave them 2 songs to grab me. They didn’t. I went over to see Akron’s own Black Keys next. I love the Keys (and I’ve written them up) and they were rocking the field as expected. Still, I had to leave to go see The Flaming Lips performing Dark Side of the Moon. The Lips didn’t open with Dark Side, however. Their first set was all Lips songs, which was great because I didn’t see much of their show last time they were at Bonnaroo and it was extremely cool to see them doing their thing. The live show is a spectacle. The thing was they took the stage at midnight and Wayne Coyne promised that they would do a few Lips songs, take a break, and come back for a second set of Dark Side. After every song, Coyne would say, “We’re just doing a couple more, then we’ll do our second set.” I began to realize that with no one taking the stage after the Lips that night, he could continue doing that until, say, 2:30 AM, launch into Dark Side at 3:00 AM, and wrap up at 4:00 AM. With the sun making tents unbearably hot and impossible to sleep in after 7:00 AM I could potentially be wrecked for Saturday. At a little after 1:00 AM I gave up. A 30-minute walk back to my tent already had me getting at most 5 hours of sleep with at least 14 hours of concerts facing me on Saturday. I loved their set of Lips music, but I had to bail on Dark Side. Probably a huge mistake, but Bonnaroo is a marathon, not a sprint.

On a side note, I feel compelled to ask who are the people who litter in a field they want to hang out in tomorrow? I just don’t get that. I managed to do the entire 4 days without leaving a plastic bottle anywhere but there were hundreds of drink cups and bottles strewn all over fields and under trees every day, often by people who you know want to hang out under that same tree tomorrow. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

It was a great couple days of music and tomorrow I will post about Saturday and Sunday. There was some exciting music those two days, so stay tuned.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Blues, Country, Hard Rock, Jazz, Metal, Popular, Rock | 3 Comments

The Friday mix: songs for the dumped

It comes to us all at some time in our lives. The end of a relationship you didn’t want to end. It’s a sick and helpless feeling and a sad time. Plus the older the relationship is, the harder and more complicated the process is. Still, there’s nothing to do but carry on. As Janeane Garofalo noted, “You can’t argue your way out of dumped.”

Ouch.

At times in my life when I have felt hurt and lonely, I have found sympathy, camaraderie, forgetfulness, and healing through music. Here are some songs that might help you through a tough breakup, if they don’t make you want to stick a fork in your neck.

  1. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? – Al Green
    When you’re mourning the end of a relationship, you don’t want bouncy, happy music. You want the reverend to tell you how it is.
  2. Love Is a Losing Game – Amy Winehouse (featuring Mos Def)
    Winehouse is a woman who has had some love troubles and though you might not think Mos Def would fit in well with her sound, it’s an inspired pairing.
  3. Breakin’ Down – Ben Harper
    There’s a certain joy to Harper’s music, even when the lyrics are as heartbreaking as these.
  4. Bad Luck City – R.L. Burnside
    “It’s a problem when you love them womens and they don’t love you.” The great R.L. Burnside wails and moans, his guitar cries right along with him, and somehow you feel better.
  5. I Miss You – Blink 182
    This is the only Blink 182 song I like. I don’t think it’s about a breakup, but it is about missing someone.
  6. Again and Again – Bob Mould
    This is the sound of marriage breaking up. The song is heart wrenchingly honest and beautiful.
  7. Sideways – Citizen Cope
    “Whenever you come around me these feelings won’t go away. They been knocking me sideways. I keep thinking in a moment that time will take them away. But these feelings won’t go away.” Well spoken, sir.
  8. Coast – Eliza Gilkyson
    I believe Gilkyson wrote this song after the death of her father, but it’s about taking some time for yourself to figure out your feelings are and what is next.
  9. I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello
    If there’s anything harder than losing someone, it’s losing someone to someone else. The black humor with which Costello meets this makes it a little easier.
  10. Knowing Me Knowing You – The Lemonheads
    Turns out this is a good song, but I didn’t realize it because I don’t like Abba. Dando and company do a good job with it, though.
  11. Let It Die – Foo Fighters
    The Foos rock, so you can viscerally feel the anger behind the lyrics in this song.
  12. And the World Turned – Gabe Dixon
    I have written up Gabe Dixon before. He is a gifted piano player and songwriter who respectfully declined an offer to tour in Paul McCartney’s band. This song is about turning the corner after a hard breakup.
  13. Find Another Girl – The Hives
    This song is a bit goofy, but it’s somehow uplifting just the same.
  14. Guess I’m Doing Fine – Beck
    Beck wrote this album in the aftermath of a breakup so it’s full of emotional songs of loss and recovery. He is a real craftsman, too, so it’s not the quirky fun of “Odelay.”
  15. Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
    The lyrics to this song have it all: the knowledge of something special going away, the lingering desire, the sadness, the anger… and it’s a beautiful song to boot.
  16. Divorce Song – Liz Phair
    Disentangling from an entrenched relationship is fraught with unexpected complications, like the ones Phair encounters in this song.
  17. Always See Your Face – Love
    John Cusack turned me on to this gem about being unable to escape the memories of a loved one who is gone.
  18. Song for the Dumped – Ben Folds Five
    Simply the best breakup song ever written. God bless Ben Folds.

Enjoy with 6 or 7 salty gin and tonics. Have a great weekend.

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Blues, Classic Rock, Country, Hard Rock, Hip Hop, Indie, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock, Soul | 4 Comments

Good time country and southern rock from The Mojo Gurus

You can take the band out of the bar...

This one was an AltSounds review. I was hoping it was going to be an up-and-coming jam band. Turns out it’s an aging bar band. They have their moments, but it’s a pretty specific niche they do well. The name of the album is “Let’s Get Lit With…” (The Mojo Gurus), which ought to tell you something. Read the whole review here: http://hangout.altsounds.com/reviews/113170-the-mojo-gurus-lets-get-lit-with-album.html

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Country, Rock | Leave a comment