Missed Music

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

The Friday mix: Hitting the hard stuff

I decided today I was just going to put together a random mix of some good music I had been listening to lately. After I was done, I realized nearly all of them were pretty hard rockers. So I pulled out the mellower tracks to use another day and refined this into a mix of hard rock, heavy pop, and metal. What can I say? The holidays are over. Time to get serious.

From the looks on their faces, that had to be Jägermeister. Hopefully, you'll like this hard stuff more.

  1. If That’s the Case then I Don’t Know – The Electric Soft Parade
    This combination of electric power chords and a U2-worthy, friendly pop hook grabs me. I recommend the amusing video too.
  2. Lazy Gun – Jet
    There are people who can write a great guitar hook like this and there are people who write nice vocal melodies. These guys are on your radio because they can pair them up with each other.
  3. Parish Sinker – This Moment in Black History
    These guys are not for everyone. In fact, my dog got up and left just now while I was cranking this song. Sorry, buddy, but this is some smoking hot punk/metal. Bonus fact: these guys are from my hometown of Cleveland. This whole region has spawned some great avant-rock and we’re back with some more for you.
  4. Run Away – Staind
    Staind has been at it for more than 15 years. This gem from 2005 is heavy but ear-friendly.
  5. Rapid Fire Tollbooth – Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
    Mars Volta member and master of modern prog rock Omar Rodriguez-Lopez sounds like the musical child of Traffic and Rush in this great 8-minute track. Well, the first 5 minutes of it, anyway. Then it gets weird.
  6. Under My Feet – None More Black
    This doesn’t sound very far from the ubiquitous neo-punk I hate so much, but while they are definitely a punk band there is a certain… integrity? …creativity?  Not sure, but it keeps the sound fresh. The energy is unbelievable too.
  7. Get Down Moses – Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
    If I’m going to put some new punk on here, I feel I should include this fantastic ska groove from punk legend Joe Strummer.
  8. Why I’m Here – Oleander
    Yes, yes, I know. This song sounds like an alternate take of ‘Lithium’ by Nirvana, or something out of that session anyway. I don’t care. I like the vocal performance and the way the guitar lands after he sings, “I can’t love you anymore.”
  9. Lazy Gun – JET
    Most of the songs on this mix rock harder than this one. It’s pretty straight ahead pop/rock but it’s built around a good, hard guitar hook even if the chorus and bridge are mellow.
  10. Hooch – The Melvins
    What I love about The Melvins is that they really mean it. Not the lyrics so much, because they write some strange and ironic lyrics. But the hammering guitar, gunshot percussion, and growling vocals? Yeah, they mean that stuff alright.
  11. Destroy the Dancefloor – Skindred
    I’ve been through several Skindred albums and although I like the blend of ska/punk/metal they play, a lot of their music misses me. Every one of their albums has a few great tracks like this one, though.
  12. Love Empire – Big Collapse
    Sadly, I’ve heard other songs by these guys and they were a lot like this one, only not as good. They really hit on something here, though. Grinding pop guitar and shouted backing vocals provide a relentless energy that sets up the chorus nicely.
  13. Mr. Pink – Satchel
    I’ve been listening to Shawn Smith’s music for a long time. He’s the lead vocalist for Satchel and Pigeonhed. If you haven’t heard either of those you may have heard his work with the supergroup/side project Brad, which he formed with Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. He’s a talented singer and songwriter and his projects almost invariably rock.
  14. Psycho – Puddle of Mudd
    I think even I heard this song on the radio at some point even though I almost never listen to the radio. I read that it topped the charts for 9 weeks. Still, I had completely forgotten about it until I heard it at a friend’s house. Great song.

Enjoy this mix with a Founder Imperial Stout,  or something else surprisingly hard. Have a great weekend.

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January 14, 2011 Posted by | Hard Rock, Metal, Mix CD, Popular, punk, Rock | 1 Comment

Rock solid new material from Stone Temple Pilots

Like many people, I loved Stone Temple Pilots back in the day, particularly their first two albums, “Core” and “Purple.” The band broke up after Dean DeLeo and Scott Weiland nearly got into a fistfight during the last show of their fall tour in 2002. The members went their separate ways and released 7 years worth of other projects before Weiland’s wife made a phone call that led to a reconciliation. The band recorded some songs and the DeLeo brothers produced it themselves (against Atalntic Records’ wishes) while on tour (which is why it took 10 months to mix), with a little help from a stellar musician/producer, Don Was.

Not fresh, but hot.

The result is a self-titled album that doesn’t really break any new ground for Stone Temple Pilots, or anyone else for that matter, but reminds you of why you liked STP so much. It is not a great leap forward, but it is a bold step back. I have to confess I didn’t really like their last album, “Shangri-La Dee Da” and only ripped one song from it. “Stone Temple Pilots,” however, has a bunch of cool songs. I don’t need hot, new groundbreaking work. I’m glad to hear them back in the saddle again.

Check out these 4.

  • Between the Lines – This was the single and it has a video. The video isn’t great, but the girl is. The song rocks and I like the lyrics.
  • Take a Load Off – This one sounds straight out of 1992 at the sunnier end of grunge.
  • Hazy Daze – The lick is hot and I love the buzzing guitar sound they use on this track. The vocal melody is cool and the harmonies at the chorus are great.
  • Peacoat – This has the crunching guitars and bright vocals you remember from their early days and they still do it well.

I realized that all the songs I picked were throwbacks. They did take some chances on the album, and if you want to hear some of the weirdness you should pick up the album. It reminds me of some of the weirder stuff Led Zeppelin did on some of their albums. Kind of cool to hear, but not something I need coming up on random on my iPod. Ultimately, these guys didn’t knock this comeback album out of the park, but they did stretch it into a slide-in double.

http://www.stonetemplepilots.com/

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Hard Rock, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: (by request) Hulk smash!

A friend read my Love in the Fall post from last week and thought I was turning into a big sissy. He demanded that I follow that mix with a metal mix because “manism dictates.” Fair enough.

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!

  1. You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise – Judas Priest
    My brother sent me this disc a few months ago. I hadn’t listened to “British Steel” all the way through since a childhood friend played it for me when it was new. It blew me away then and it’s still great today.
  2. The Biggest Lie – Hüsker Dü
    The heavy chord progression of the intro is sick, the lyrics are appropriately dark, and the punk influence just makes it wild.
  3. Hemispheres – Between the Screams
    The eighth note power chords and screaming vocals give this grungy song extra power. This one goes up to 11.
  4. Farewell the Favored – Across the Sun
    These guys put out an interesting sound. Relentless guitar, pounded drums, and Cookie Monster vocals trade with pure, sung vocals and distorted arpeggios. The overall effect should be heavy enough for you.
  5. Grim Heart/Black Rose – Converge
    ‘Grim Heart’ is beautiful, in a bleeding ears kind of way. It flows straight into ‘Black Rose,’ which is also strong and even heavier.
  6. Open Your Eyes – Without Thought
    Blistering metal with a bit of neo-punk vocals. As much as I hate most neo-punk, the use of that style in metal works for me on this track.
  7. The Lotus Eater – Opeth
    Again, Cookie Monster and an actual singer take turns singing. The guitar and drums hit it hard, but you get unexpected keyboards and even a little cello in the intro (probably synthesized). It’s good.
  8. Vicinity of Obscenity – System of a Down
    These guys work really hard at being weird. They succeed. Serj Tankian sounds like Freddy Mercury’s evil twin in this song.
  9. No Quarter – Tool
    ‘No Quarter’ was always one of my favorite Zeppelin tunes. Maynard takes this already epic song and stretches it out to nearly 10 minutes and somehow manages to make it heavier and perhaps more beautiful than the original. Wow.
  10. Fan Club – Verbow
    The verses are patient, almost lurking, and they pounce on the choruses. Singer Jason Narducy doesn’t really have a metal voice but this really isn’t metal anyway. Fans of old Hüsker Dü will probably like this. In fact, Bob Mould himself likes these guys and had them open for him on tour.
  11. The Dryness and the Rain – mewithoutyou
    The guitar work is cool, the vocal performance is compelling, and the song is cleverly constructed, but this song is all about the lyrics for me.
  12. Unanswered – Suicide Silence
    Be warned, this is probably the hardest song on my iPod. Speed death metal with menacingly screamed vocals. I can only take this stuff in small doses, but damn this song rocks hard. “Where is your god? Where is your f*cking god?!”
  13. Pressure – Skindred
    They call their blend of punk, metal, and reggae “ragga metal.” I can’t believe I never posted this song before. Check it out.

I hope this will dispel any myths that I’m going soft. Enjoy this mix with some tequila, straight up. Have a great weekend.

September 17, 2010 Posted by | Hard Rock, Metal, Mix CD | 1 Comment

The Friday mix: The last travel of the summer

Labor Day marks the end of summer for a lot of people, though not for you purists who pay attention to the “calendar.” That would mark the end of the summer vacation travel season as well, so it is fitting that this looks like the last travel-themed mix I have in my collection. In case you were wondering, I didn’t already pick my favorite stuff and this is the leftovers. I pulled them at random each week from my pool of songs that would fit the theme so there is still some fantastic music in the mix this week.

One more? Alright, if you insist.

  1. Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
    To be honest, I don’t know to what place they are referring, but if they need a directory, I’m assuming it’s a place. This song was originally released by Guided by Voices, but the orignal is nowhere near as beautiful as this version.
  2. Haiti – The Arcade Fire
    The Arcade Fire doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but they are a strong pop band. I can’t quite put my finger on who they remind me of. There are elements of U2, certainly, though not in the vocals. If you can place it, let me know.
  3. Funky Nassau, Pt. 1 – The Beginning of the End
    Fantastic vintage funk/ska. I guess it really IS better in the Bahamas.
  4. California Stars– Billy Bragg & Wilco
    I am a huge Wilco fan. This is from the “Mermaid Avenue” project, in which they took lyrics by Woody Guthrie and set them to original music. This is one of the best tracks to come out of those sessions.
  5. Wyoming – Brand New Sin
    Not southern rock, but grungy southern metal. It’s actually a really good sound. They have seen some lineup changes, but they are still at it.
  6. Dracula from Houston – Butthole Surfers
    I wouldn’t expect such a sunny, happy song from Gibby Haynes, but this is a really accessible track with kind of funny lyrics.
  7. Tokyo Storm Warning – Elvis Costello
    “Blood & Chocolate” is the first Elvis Costello album I ever really got into so of course I love it. This great track was #3 on the album.
  8. Last Tango in Paris – Gotan Project
    I have this one on my Chillout mix. Like most of the songs on that mix, it’s relaxing, doesn’t go through a lot of changes, and I like it.
  9. St. Louis Blues – Herbie Hancock (featuring Stevie Wonder)
    So Herbie is on keys and Stevie plays harmonica and sings. It’s as good as you think. Better, in fact. Stevie won one of his legion of Grammys for his vocal performance on this song.
  10. Hollywood – Los Lonely Boys
    My brother, who lives near Austin, where Los Lonely Boys’ came up, sent me a disc of theirs before they hit the national scene. I could already tell they were brothers just by the way they harmonize. Even their vibrato is synchronized. They have spent many, many years singing together. This is a sweet song.
  11. Speedway at Nazareth – Mark Knopfler
    This is a fictional tale about racing, though it has the feel of one of Knopfler’s historical pieces (I know it is fictional because the album was released in 2000, one year before the first season mentioned in this song). It sports a folk feel with violins and gentle harmony vocals until the songs really starts to move, with Knopflers inimitable pocket soloing. Great song.
  12. When in Rome – Nickel Creek
    This is the first track and the single from Nickel Creek’s 2005 release, “Why Should the Fire Die?” Chris Thile (mandolin, vocals) said by this time the band was comfortable playing to their strengths and they do this kind of song very well indeed.
  13. Lake Michigan – Rogue Wave
    Acoustic guitar and handclaps set up this fat, appealing pop hook.
  14. Jacksonville – Sufjan Stevens
    I almost posted Decatur by Stevens, but I like this track just a little bit more. This is such a mellow and interesting track.
  15. Warsaw, Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up – Them Crooked Vultures
    I wrote up this entire album not long ago. It’s all killer, no filler and this is a fine example of the great, dark rock that populates the whole disc.
  16. Summertime in England – Van Morrison
    Van Morrison is simply my very favorite. This is from his 1990 release, “Common One,” long after the peak of his popularity, but he has lost nothing as a singer, songwriter, or bandleader. This is a live version, but they do a fantastic job with it.
  17. Impossible Germany – Wilco
    You get two songs by Wilco this week because one was with Billy Bragg and because Wilco is just cool as hell. Impossible Germany, unlikely Japan. I have read these lyrics over and over but I still don’t understand them. I get more meaning from the way the song makes me feel, I think.

Enjoy this mix with a mojito. You won’t be able to pick fresh mint out of your herb garden for much longer. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

September 3, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Folk, Hard Rock, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Heavy and catchy and glam rock from Sweet

Let’s step into the vault today for an album from my childhood that I feel has aged well: Sweet’s 1974 release, “Desolation Boulevard.” If Americans remember anything about these guys, it is probably either “Fox on the Run” or ‘Ballroom Blitz,’ both of which were first released on this album and both of which reached #5 in the U.S. You might even remember ‘Love Is Like Oxygen” from “Level Headed” in 1978.

I think this has held up well. The glam still pops and the rock 'n roll still rocks.

Early in their career, Sweet (or ‘The Sweet’ in the U.K.) had a bubblegum pop sound because that’s the way their label wanted it. Listen to ‘Little Willie,’ for example. The band, though, considered The Who to be a major influence and insisted on releasing harder and harder B-sides. By 1974, their glam rock sound had grown some rough edges while still retaining the radio-friendly pop that would propel some of their songs up the charts all over Europe.

The U.S. and U.K. versions of this album are very different. 6 songs on the U.K. version don’t appear on the U.S. version and 7 from the U.S. version weren’t on the U.K. release. This was done because Sweet’s previous album, “Sweet Fanny Adams,” was not released in the U.S. and several great tracks from that album were put on the U.S. release of “Desolation Boulevard.” On the downside, U.S. audiences didn’t get to hear a lot of cool music from Sweet. On the upside, our “Desolation Boulevard” is a much stronger, more concentrated album.

  • Ballroom Blitz – This song commemorates an experience they had at a show in 1973. Their sound had been evolving as a band. Fans would come to the shows expecting to hear the light pop they knew from the radio, but got much harder rock songs they didn’t know. At this particular show, the crowd turned ugly.
  • The Sixteens – This was a big hit for Sweet in the U.K. and I can see why. It’s a catchy hook with evocative lyrics and powerful, layered vocals.
  • No You Don’t – The production around the vocal work on this track is great. I like the echo put on the whined verses and the richly layered harmony vocals on the chorus. The drum work on this track is great too.
  • A.C.D.C – I would expect this kind of slightly raunchy song from…well, AC/DC. I love the lead vocal performance on this song.
  • Sweet F.A. – This is a classic early metal guitar riff. You can tell a lot of the guys who created the hair metal bands of the 80s listened to music like this in the 70s. Listen to the great percussion and bass work during the chorus, but watch out for the crazy and chaotic guitar solo that takes up the last minute of the song. This video on YouTube contains “Sweet F.A.” and “Into the Night”
  • Fox on the Run – This is the most pop-oriented, glam sounding track on the album. It was never my favorite, but it was the biggest hit from this release so I’m including it here.
  • Set Me Free – There is solid guitar work all over this album, but you really notice it on the intro to this song as he bounces through the power chords and settles into a crunchy vamp.
  • Into the Night – I love this song. The laid back percussion creates a perfect groove and the rich vocals are a great counterpoint to the dirty guitar.
  • Solid Gold Brass – Sweet gives us a nice blend of heavy glam rock and sweet pop on this one. The video is great, too. Watch the crowd dancing. They look like the Peanuts kids.

I have listened to albums Sweet released before and after “Desolation Boulevard,” but none were as good from end to end. The band saw some line-up changes but eventually broke up in 1981. Not to worry, though. 3 of Sweet’s members formed their own bands and all of them were called Sweet. Reportedly, 2 of them are still active, so you haven’t missed your chance to see them live.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | Classic Rock, Hard Rock, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The best new album I have heard in a year from Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures is a true supergroup, unlike some bands that aspire to that moniker. It’s just a 3-piece, but what pieces: Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and The Eagles of Death Metal on lead guitar and vocals, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters on drums, and John Paul Jones of Led (Freaking) Zeppelin on bass. In retrospect, I’m not sure why it took me so long to listen to their self-titled album, “Them Crooked Vultures.” I had heard about this project, but no one had played it for me or told me about the music. Last week, my brother told me I had to have it, so I picked it up.

Miraculously living up to the potential of this project.

Wow. My very first time through this album I loved it. Song after song had me checking my iPod to see the title. As is commonly noted about 3-piece bands, there is nowhere to hide. You have to be on your game 100% of the time to create a full sound. Well, all three men are notorious monsters on their instruments and they have created a sound here that is not only full, but also complex and edgy. Some of the songs hearken back to older rock, but it sounds like inspiration, not borrowing. Not to mention it’s OK for your band to remind people of Led Zeppelin if one of their members actually plays with you.

I’ve been a big fan of Homme’s for years. His twisted melodies and lyrics are the hardest, darkest, and coolest music to pump from my speakers since old Alice in Chains. Grohl is, of course, a great singer, songwriter, and guitarist, but it’s great to have him back on drums. In fact, Homme and Grohl have worked together before on the great Queens of the Stone Age album, “Songs for the Deaf,” on which Grohl played drums. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that John Paul Jones is so very impressive on this album, but I was. I guess I expected him to have lost a step, but he still has his chops and carries as much of the load as anyone else.

I could write up every song on this album, but I won’t. Just give a listen to these half dozen and you will want to go buy this album.

  • No One Loves Me & Neither Do I – I’m not sure what it is about having John Paul Jones in your band that makes you write hooks like this. The song rocks and the lyrics are fantastic.
  • New Fang – All three men are kicking ass in this song, though perhaps Grohl is hitting it the hardest on drums. It’s hard to say. One thing for sure, this song demands maximum volume from your sound system.
  • Dead End Friends – This one sounds more like something off of “Songs for the Deaf,” which is a good thing, of course.
  • Elephants – Jimmy Page would have been proud of the guitar work on this one. It is very Zeppelinesque all the way through, but not tired sounding at all.
  • Reptiles – Homme’s guitar riff is busy and jangling, Jones is relentless on bass, and Grohl keeps things moving along. Something about the vocal melody reminds me of Cream.
  • Warsaw, Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up – This has a dirty, swinging groove and cool lyrics during the verses and then odd harmonies at the chorus. I love how heavy the song feels when they jump back into the verses after each chorus.

I picked these six more or less at random from this disc and have left out a bunch of great music, like ‘Spinning in Daffodils,’ ‘Interlude with Ludes,’ and ‘Caligulove.’ This album is all killer, no filler and I hope these guys had enough fun doing this that they want to do it again. Maybe if we all go buy it and see their shows they’ll make so much money they’ll HAVE to go back into the studio.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Hard Rock, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

From the vault: influential melodic punk from Hüsker Dü

My freshman year in college, a lot of people played Hüsker Dü for me. In fact, it seems every dorm room I wandered into had “Zen Arcade” or “New Day Rising” playing. Now, “Zen Arcade” has some fine songs on it. It also has some stuff that is really hard to listen to (‘Never Forget You’ and ‘Pride,’ for example) and that would prevent me from ever putting the disc in. For years, that kept me from picking this album up. I was listening to a song by guitarist Bob Mould with his other band, Sugar, the other day and I realized that in the age of iPods, I can cherry pick “Zen Arcade” and just keep the really good stuff. That’s what I have done today.

I spent a lot of evenings in friends' dorm rooms with this playing in the background.

Early in their career, Hüsker Dü was a full on hardcore punk band. By the time they got around to their last 2 albums, “Candy Apple Grey” and “Warehouse,” they were really a pop band with Punk influences. “Zen Arcade” was their 3rd album of 7, and though punk is still the heart of this album, you can start to hear hints of the heavy melodic pop that was to come.

This is a rare occasion when I won’t encourage you to get the album I’m writing up today. I kept only 10 of 23 tracks on “Zen Arcade” and the stuff I got rid of is pretty raucous. I definitely recommend you listen to and perhaps purchase these, however.

  • Something I Learned Today – Classic punk with almost screamed vocals. There is anger in the delivery, but joy in the chord progression.
  • Never Talking to You Again – I understand Mould was occasionally booed by the harder core fans when he stepped out on stage with an acoustic guitar in his hand. It’s a pity, because they probably couldn’t hear him playing this great and honest song.
  • Chartered Trips – Mould and drummer Grant Hart both wrote songs for Hüsker Dü but I am more of a Mould man, I think. I love the energetic guitar work on this track.
  • Hare Krsna – I like some of the weirder songs on this album and this is one. The percussion is dominated by a constant jangling noise like sleigh bells, the vocals are moaned, and the guitar rips and scratches all over but the overall effect is somehow infectious.
  • The Biggest Lie – This is a heavy and slightly depressing song about almost making it and failing. “Back to your day job. Back to your girlfriend.” The power chord intro makes my teeth ache.
  • Pink Turns to Blue – The album was produced in 45 hours on cheap equipment for $3200. The roughness of the session is apparent on this track but, of course, that is a lot of the appeal of tracks like this one.
  • Newest Industry – The banging piano gives way to hard hit chords on the chorus while Mould wails about the fall of the industrialized world.
  • Whatever – “Zen Arcade” is a concept album about a kid who runs away from home. This song is about his realization that the outside world is worse and he actually had it pretty good at home. He promises to do whatever they want if they’ll take him back.
  • The Tooth Fairy and the Princess – This weird and evocative track is one of my favorites on this album. I don’t know how people come up with concepts like this or how they explain it to their band mates.
  • Reoccurring Dreams – The album ends with this impressive 14-minute jam. The chord progression is unusual and creative and the solos are blistering but I have to be honest, this becomes too much for me. Fortunately, through the magic of technology, I was able to pare this track down and fade it out after about 6 minutes. This sample is 7 minutes long, so you can hear what I kept.

As I was writing up this album, I thought about how “Zen Arcade” reminds me of “Quadrophenia” by The Who. Turns out I am not the first guy to make that comparison. As I researched this album, I saw that comment in several places. I think the themes and energy make such comparisons inescapable.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Hard Rock, punk, 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

Updates on a couple of old posts: Incubus and Bleeding Heart Narrative

Several times over the last few weeks, I have found some great music by artists who already had other albums out. I promised to look into their catalog and get back to you. Today, I’m going to do just that.

Just clearing out some old business.

The first is Bleeding Heart Narrative. I reviewed “Tongue Tangled Hair”  for AltSounds and was really impressed by the mature, experimental production wrapped around solid pop songsmithing. I saw that the artist, Oliver Barret, had another disc out called “Lung Mangled Bear” so I wanted to check out the music. I wasn’t sure what the naming convention portended, but I should have guessed that the two projects were closely related. “Lung Mangled Bear” contains some alternate takes on some songs from “Tongue Tangled Hair” and some of what appear to be toddling versions of song that were still under development. It’s also loaded with some more experimental stuff that would be right at home in the new age or electronica section of your local record store.

You can download the entire album free here, straight from the label’s website. If you do so, make sure you check out these tracks.

  • A Dialogue (Brassica’s Dark Side of the Live Aid remix) – A solid beat and ethereal backing vocals carry this song through the first minute and a half before the actual pop tune begins.
  • At The End Of It All (DJ Floorclearer remix) – This is chillout music. Not danceable at all, but very soothing and interesting.
  • Tongue Tangled Hair (The Exploits of Elaine remix) – Muddy percussion stomps on backwards tracked vocals and ringing synthesizers. I can’t articulate why I like this weird track.

When I put together a mix of Incubus two weeks ago, I confessed I didn’t have their first two albums, but that I had ordered them. I got them and spun them and the result were mixed. It turns out in their early days, Incubus sounded like a cross between The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More, with maybe a dash of Soul Coughing thrown in, but not as good as that combination sounds. I listened to “Fungus Amongus” and must sadly report that I didn’t rip a single track. I’m sure it would have been a great live show, but the energy loses something the way it was recorded. On the other hand, “S.C.I.E.N.C.E.” was worth a spin. They had nearly finished metamorphosing into the band I love by this time. I ripped these 4 tracks

  • Redefine – A raucous punk/metal tune with slapped bass, crazy turntablism, and melodic wailing vocals.
  • Idiot Box – This one has some anger in the lyrics and a hammering chorus but it isn’t as chaotic as ‘Redefine.’
  • Favorite Things – “The things that make you mad are my favorite things.” Nice to know you. Goodbye, right? The band plays their asses off behind another of Boyd’s songs about a bad relationship.
  • Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song) – Compared with the rest of this album, the band really lays back on this song, but the scratchy mix, clean electric guitar, and flute make a perfect backdrop for this love song.

I absolutely flipped for The Decembrists’ album, “The Hazards of Love”  and vowed to check out the rest of their catalog. 2 down, 2 to go. I’ll do a full write up on them once I’ve gotten the other two.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Chillout, Electronica, Hard Rock, Popular | Leave a comment