Missed Music

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

The weekend mix: Here’s to new parents

I’m an uncle. Very exciting stuff. Little Rainey was born into the family yesterday. My own daughter is 9 now. I hazily remember the first few weeks after she was born. We didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a stretch for 6 weeks. You don’t know problems from normal baby stuff. Having a baby can be hard adjustment for the body, the bank balance, and the bedroom. It’s a tough job.

Good luck with that.

Of course, there is no greater source of wonder, joy, and fear than your own baby. You can have an academic understanding of how having a baby will change your life, but until you actually do it… It’s the difference between reading the ingredients list and actually eating ice cream.

A lot of artists have been moved by their own experiences as children, lovers, and parents. Here are some I got to thinking of when I heard the news.

  1. Joy – Phish
    Phish has written a lot of songs about nothing in particular (“Stun the puppy, burn the whale. Bark a scruff and go to jail.”) and about fictional situations. This is a heartfelt song Trey wrote to his daughter. “We want you to be happy, ‘cos this is your song too.”
  2. Mama’s Always on Stage – Arrested Development
    These guys were talented and had a positive message. I wish they could have kept it together. This track has it all: a fast, danceable groove, rocking harmonica, exuberant backing vocals, and praise for mothers from Speech. It’s a must-have for your collection.
  3. All U Can Eat – Ben Folds
    In this song, a father advises his son not to be an ugly American.
  4. Isn’t She Lovely? – Stevie Wonder
    From one of my top 5 desert island discs, “Songs in the Key of Life.”  This is one of Stevie’s most celebratory songs. Every second of the 4-minute harmonica solo is worth close attention.
  5. Three Is a Magic Number – Blind Melon
    15 years later, I’m still sad about the untimely death of Shannon Hoon. Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Nico, and shortly before he died, Blind Melon covered this Schoolhouse Rock classic.
  6. You’re My Girl – Neil Young
    Neil Young visited Motown on his album, “Are You Passionate,” and wrote this great song about taking his daughter out into the woods to show her some things.
  7. Wild World – Cat Stevens
    Old school. Before he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and called for the murder of Salman Rushdie for insulting Islam and Allah (may he be praised eternally), Cat Stevens was a loving father and great songwriter.
  8. Daughters – John Mayer Trio
    “Try!” was fantastic live album, which I just realized I should write up this week. Some of the pop Mayer writes loses me, but he’s a tremendous talent and rocked that album. This is a live performance at the GRAMMYs.  “Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too.”
  9. Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
    This wonderful, soothing John wrote for Sean is part lullaby, part fatherly advice and also contains a favorite lyric of mine, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
  10. Mother Mother – Tracy Bonham
    Ms. Bonham writes a letter to her mother about going out into the world. The gutsy and honest vocal performance makes this track rock.
  11. A Father’s Son – Citizen Cope
    Greenwood laments a man’s life gone wrong because he didn’t grow up like his father.
  12. When You Dream – Barenaked Ladies
    This is a surprisingly sober and beautiful song from these goofballs. He wonders what a child with so little experience could dream about.
  13. Robots for Ronnie – Crack the Sky
    This 70’s rock band that almost made it big reminds me of Phish in their goofy lyrics and brilliant, often jazz-influenced music. This ballad is about parents buying a robotic friend for their fat loser of a son.
  14. To Zion – Lauryn Hill
    People advised her to think of her career, but she decided to have the baby. She says, “Now the joy of my world is in Zion,” referring to her son, Zion David-Nesta Marley (grandson of Bob Marley).
  15. New Mistake – Jellyfish
    They wound up sounding an awful lot like Queen on their second album, but since I like Queen, that’s not a problem for me. This is a cool power pop examination falling in love and having a baby.
  16. Alligator Pie – Dave Matthews Band
    Dave Matthews is still putting out great music. His daughter, Stella, asked, “Daddy, when you gonna put me in a song?” 2009, apparently.
  17. Kooks – David Bowie
    My all-time favorite song written by a father for his child. Bowie invites his child to “…stay in our lovers’ story.” Listen and read along.
  18. Sons & Daughters – Decembrists
    I like the hopeful tone of this song. He promises a better world for our children, which is what we all hope for.

I may return to this topic, because I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of songs inspired by artists’ children. Enjoy this song with a coke because, you know, we have to stay straight for the kids.

March 6, 2011 Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

The weekend mix: Happy days are here again

2011 is shaping up. I landed a job I applied for late last year. It looks like a good one, too. So at last I’m leaving the ranks of the under-employed and I’ll be making some money. Things are going swimmingly with my girlfriend too. (What is the genesis of that odd expression, anyway? Swimmingly?) I’m going to a posh wedding tonight that promises to be fun. All in all, I’m feeling pretty damn good.

Working again and pretty happy about it.

On that note, I put together a mix of songs that are either about good times or have happiness in the title.

  1. This Will Be Our Year – OK Go
    You remember their treadmill video for ‘Here It Goes Again’ and you might remember their awesome Rube Goldberg machine video for ‘This Too Shall Pass.’ These guys are about a lot more then gimmicky videos, though. They are about joyful, inventive pop music like this.
  2. It’s About Time – The Lemonheads
    I’ve always been a big Evan Dando fan. He writes the most pleasing melodies and he has a great vocal delivery.
  3. Finally Made Me Happy – Macy Gray
    A lot of people took notice of Macy Gray’s debut album and then she faded a bit, but I don’t thing she’s lost a step. I always check out her albums when she releases one. This is from her 2007 release, “Big.”
  4. Joyful Noise – Derek Trucks Band
    This aptly named nearly-all-instrumental composition is such a high-energy, upbeat song. This is a good live performance, too. Trucks is an amazing guitarist and a heck of a bandleader.
  5. Happy Hour Hero – moe.
    Go out and pick up “Tin Cans and Car Tires.” Oh, and go see moe. next time they come to your town. Give a listen to the lyrics in this great Rob Derhak tune.
  6. Awesome – Satellite Party
    Satellite Party is a Perry Farrell project. This is a surprisingly pretty love song. It’s almost cheesy, but somehow Farrell sells it to me.
  7. Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy – The Kinks
    Vintage Ray Davies. Thank you once again to John Cusack for turning me onto this great song I may not have found otherwise.
  8. Stupidly Happy – XTC
    I love XTC. This is nearly a silly filler track for them but many songwriters would kill to be able to generate infectious guitar riffs and vocal melodies that they seemed to toss off so effortlessly.
  9. Joy – Bettye LaVette
    LaVette has been in the business a long time and has come to mainstream success comparatively late in life. Check out this live performance and you’ll wonder why it took us so long to notice her.
  10. Happy Feet – 8 ½ Souvenirs
    These guys play fun, jazz-influenced music with a throwback feel, kind of in the mold of Squirrel Nut Zippers, but more polished.
  11. Action Figure Party – Action Figure Party
    This is the title track to one of the coolest party jazz albums I own. Listen to the great lyrics as you groove to the funky jazz.
  12. Wonderful Night – Fatboy Slim
    I have never heard of Lateef the Truth Speaker, but he really lays it down on this track. The energy is great, but watch out for the lyrics, parents.
  13. Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
    This song has been used in many TV shows so you’ve probably heard it before. If not, though, don’t miss it. Honestly, I think it’s better than Judy Garland’s version of ‘Rainbow’ and as good as Satchmo’s version of ‘Wonderful World.’
  14. Happiness – Built to Spill
    The fantastic slide guitar on this track makes it my favorite from Built to Spill’s great release, “Ancient Melodies of the Future.” As always, Doug Martsch gives a great vocal performance, too.
  15. I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello
    No one did bitter like Elvis Costello. The instruments play an upbeat, poppy song, but the lyrics contain sarcastic gems like, “But you make him sound like frozen food, his love will last forever.”

You may have noticed that I only got two posts up this week and the “Friday Mix” got posted on a Saturday. I think I’m going to be busier now that I’m working. I will still try to get up a least a couple album reviews during the week, but I may start calling these the Weekend Mixes instead so I can get them up on Saturdays when I will have more time. Enjoy this mix with a glass of champagne and let the good times roll.

January 22, 2011 Posted by | Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Celebrating the end of a very strange year.

It’s been a weird year for me, particularly the last month or so. I have been dealt some tough blows this year and I’ve had some tremendous breaks. Some things that were begun this year aren’t over yet and the relative merits of their outcomes have not been revealed. I’ve done things this year I never thought I would do. Never contemplated doing, actually.

It's been that kind of year.

So 2010 did not go according to my plans, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Or as Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” So we make plans and hope things go our way, but it’s important to roll with the punches and simply enjoy the time that is given to us. With that in mind, this end-of-year post celebrates the strange and bizarre. Hey, it’s better than a boring life, right?

  1. Stranger than Fiction – moe.
    This is from my favorite moe. album, “Tin Cans and Car Tires.” Bass player Rob Derhak is a great songwriter and here’s a gem.
  2. Weird – The Sebadoh
    “Paranoia’s contagious. I’m coming down with it too.” It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
  3. Stranger – Draven
    These guys do throwback metal. I’d put it in the early 90s, maybe, but they do it really well. This nearly 9-minute epic has brooding verses and ass-kicking instrumental bridges.
  4. Strange Groove – World Party
    This is from the little known but brilliant World Party album, “Egyptology.” This one is strange, but it’s funky.
  5. Strange Times – The Black Keys
    God bless Carney and Auerbach. OK, the song is great, but this video concept is the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.
  6. Stranger Things – Soul Hat
    “Stranger things have happened. Won’t you explain how I can keep from tripping on the acid rain.” This was a pretty obscure album my brother turned me on to. They are/were an Austin-based band that I saw many years ago. They had a rocking single that hit #25 back in the 1990s, but this song was from a prior album that was a little gentler.
  7. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi – Radiohead
    Radiohead started to lose me for a bit, there, but “In Rainbows” is a beautiful, rocking album. Here is one of the gorgeous tracks from this album.
  8. Strange – R.E.M.
    “There’s something going on that’s not quite right.” I’ve felt this way all year.
  9. Strange Condition – Pete Yorn
    I only discovered about a minute ago that Yorn did a collaborative album with Scarlet Johansson in 2009. The single isn’t that bad and the album apparently went platinum in France already. I’ll get back to you on that. This song is from his solo debut “Musicforthemorningafter.”
  10. Crazy Dream – Los Lonely Boys
    These guys can sound a lot like Stevie Ray Vaughn, but then they’re also out of central Texas so I suppose they come by it honestly.
  11. Very Strange – Gomez
    I’ve recommended Gomez in the past. They are great songwriters and versatile players. Ben Ottewell drops a good hook and some moving lyrics on us here.
  12. Strange – Built to Spill
    The muddy guitar, harmony vocals, and tambourine backing Doug Martsch’s whining delivery somehow create a broadly appealing combination.
  13. Nobody Told Me – John Lennon
    “Nobody told me there’d be days like these. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama.” Lennon wrote this for Ringo Starr, but died before Starr recorded it. Lennon’s demo take was released 3 years after his death on “Milk and Honey.” It was the last John Lennon song to reach Billboard’s top 10, hitting #5.
  14. Strange Apparition – Beck
    Beck gets up to some strange shenanigans musically, but this one is a pretty straightforward piano-based pop tune. The video, on the other hand, is another matter.
  15. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed – David Bowie
    This year has left me feeling somewhat slightly dazed. So here is some seriously vintage Bowie from way back in nineteen hundred and sixty-nine. The intro is pretty spacey, but it soon ramps up into some sweet country rock.

Enjoy this mix with a gin martini garnished with pickled octopus Or, if your year has been weird enough already, just some bubbly. Have a safe holiday and a great coming year.

December 31, 2010 Posted by | Blues, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Metal, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: Winter is here and I’m pretty happy about it

I was driving around today and was treated to the first snow of the year here in the Land of Cleve. I know it’s not for everyone, but since I was a little kid, the sight of snow in the air invariably lifts my mood. It put me in a mind to pull some songs related to winter, snow, and cold for the mix today.

Here it comes.

  1. Snowblind – Minus 8
    This is a very pleasant chill out tune with some electric piano, rave percussion, and wailing vocals.
  2. Snowman – XTC
    This is from one of their early albums, “English Settlement,” and it’s typically catchy and clever.
  3. Snowball – Devo
    Mark Mothersbaugh went to my high school, but years before me so I never met him. This is one of my favorite songs from their best album, “Freedom of Choice.” Oddly, this studio version is not from the album, so I don’t know where it came from. It’s close to the one I grew up with, though.
  4. Lost in the Snow – Bruce Hornsby
    This is a touching and seemingly true song about an 8 year-old Bruce getting lost in a snowy woods. The song is kind of scary but the piano work in this is joyfully brilliant.
  5. Stone Cold Crazy – Queen
    This is the sick original version of this song. The Metallica version is not nearly this good. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails did a great remix of this song using Freddy’s vocals and Brian’s guitar and I wanted to post it, but I can’t find it anywhere. If you can find it, buy it.
  6. Shiver – Coldplay
    Something about Coldplay bothers me sometimes, but I really like this song. It’s a beautiful and inventive vocal melody with cool lyrics and the band does a nice job backing Chris Martin.
  7. Cold Brains – Beck
    I only ripped two tracks off this follow-up to “Odelay” and this is one of them. The mellow vibe reminds me of the melancholy and beautiful work he did on “Sea Change.”
  8. Cold Hearted Old Times – (Smog)
    John Cusack is a brilliant appreciator of music like I aspire to be. He put this on the High Fidelity soundtrack, which is a brilliant romantic comedy about a professional musical appreciator.
  9. Cold Hard Bitch – Jet
    This is a great rocker by Jet. I was frankly disappointed by most of their follow-up work, but ‘Cold Hard Bitch’ has a great classic rock feel.
  10. Chilly at the Crib – Ugly Americans
    Honestly, I can’t understand how Bob Schneider’s great, funky work has mostly flown below America’s radar. It’s hard to get a taste from this sample, but I’ve been a fan for almost 20 years. You should check him out.
  11. Walking in the Wind – Traffic
    I haven’t collected a lot of vintage Traffic discs and the retrospective collection “Smiling Phases” is probably the main reson why. I feel like I already have most of the really great tracks, like this one.
  12. The Hounds of Winter – Sting
    Well, this is one of Sting’s more self-indulgent, melodramatic songs but, God help me,  I really like it.
  13. White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
    This is the first song I ever hear from Fleet Foxes when NPR’s All Songs Considered spun it for me. It’s beautiful. One of the things that impresses me about these guys is when they do it live it sounds exactly like this.
  14. Time of the Season – Big Blue Missile & Scott Weiland
    The original of this song is cool, but I was knocked out by the arrangement in this remake from the The Spy Who Shagged Me Soundtrack.
  15. It’s Ice – Phish
    This is a clever non-Trey song about a guy battling his own reflection in the ice on a pond.
  16. White Mystery – Minus the Bear
    OK, so ‘White Mystery’ isn’t necessarily wintry. It IS from their “Planet of Ice” album, though, so I went with it. Plus it’s cool.

Enjoy this mix with a hot toddy or, I suppose, any straight booze sipped from a hip flask on a cold day. Have a great weekend.

November 6, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

Well-rounded rock from famed jam band Widespread Panic

I frequent some music festivals and I enjoy live music. As a result, I have seen Widespread Panic many times. They put on a tremendous live show and I recommend catching them when they come to your town. I remember first hearing about Panic in the late 1980s, so the boys have been at it a long time. Over the years, Panic has put out 11 studio albums and 8 live ones. It is an impressive body of work with some truly classic songs. Today, I want to turn you on to what I think is their best studio effort, “’Til the Medicine Takes.”

They're known as a live band, but they nailed it in the studio on this one.

“’Til the Medicine Takes” was produced by John Keane, who has done a lot of work with Widespread Panic, as well as R.E.M., The Indigo Girls, 10,000 Maniacs, and others. I mention this because I find the production on this album to be fantastic. The guitar sound is big and driving, the percussion pops and fits nicely, the keyboards are sick, and John Bell’s trademark wail sounds beautiful. And for this album, Panic even brought in a guest turntablist, Colin Butler. Listen to the production when you get to the songs so you can get what I’m talking about.

The songs themselves are fabulous as well. There are a few love songs, but they always come at the topic from an odd direction. There are other songs about celebrating nature, hard times and drugs, and some that I frankly don’t understand. The players pull off some great individual performances and everything blends seamlessly, even synergistically. And to cap things off, the packaging is among the best I have ever seen in a CD, with silvery, psychedelic images of the band members in multiple fold-outs.

Because they are famously so good live, studio versions are impossible to find on YouTube. You’ll have to settle for these Amazon samples, but do go buy the disc. You won’t regret it.

  • Surprise Valley – Listen to how the various instruments all leap to the fore as appropriate. Even the bass solo rocks. The percussion is complex and impossible to ignore, but it doesn’t dominate the song. This rocking track ends with a 1-minute beautiful instrumental denouement.
  • Bear’s Gone Fishin’ – The lyrics are a little impenetrable, but Bell has always had a knack for turning a cool phrase. Even if you don’t understand what the song is about – which I don’t – it’s fun to listen to. Great backing vocals in this track, too.
  • Climb to Safely – This is the song that came on my iPod today and inspired me to write up this album. I love the keyboard work in this rocker that eventually turns out to be an odd love song.
  • The Waker – Bell has always been a prolific songwriter, but I really love the songs penned by the late, great Michael Houser. The melody is beautiful without being sleepy and the lyrics are deep and evocative. Producer John Keane adds the banjo on this track.
  • Dyin’ Man – This is my favorite song on this album and the reason I bought it. The scratching and production effects decorate a clever and hard rocking song about how losing a woman has ruined his life.
  • One Arm Steve – The crowd all gets up and dances when Panic breaks this one out in concert. It’s got a great groove and again the lyrics are cool as hell.
  • All Time Low – This song reminds me of some of The Rolling Stones bigger, more rocking tunes. It starts off pretty modestly, but by the end the drums and guitar are enormous, the piano sounds like a carnival, and the last few available square inches of sound are filled by gospel choir backing vocals. Fantastic.

In September of 2010, keyboardist John “Jojo” Hermann said in an interview that after one final studio release and one more summer of touring, the band is planning on going on hiatus. One can image that after this many years and the sad, untimely death of founding member Michael Houser in 2002 from pancreatic cancer, a “hiatus” may be permanent. That said, I urge you to look for their tour dates and catch them if you can.

http://widespreadpanic.com/

October 6, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: pack your suitcase

Travel. There is nothing like it to broaden the mind, heal the soul, and make you appreciate home. My wife is on a plane to Korea right now. I also have an old friend who just got back to the U.S. from Thailand. He visited me this week and is driving back home to Texas via Chicago this weekend. This put me in a mind to assemble a mix of travel related songs.

Oh boy. I still have another pair of shoes to fit in there.

  1. Stay Where You Are – Ambulance Ltd.
    Everyone needs time off. I have friends who take “staycations.” I don’t do that very often. It’s affordable, but why do you work if not to be able to go cool places. No, you have to get out and…
  2. See the World – Gomez
    This is why everyone leaves home, right? OK, business occasionally, but everyone likes to see someplace new at times. This is a sweet acoustic melody about traveling and finding yourself a mate.
  3. Leaving Home Ain’t Easy – Queen
    One of the things that makes Queen so fantastic is all four members are great songwriters. This is one of Brian May’s songs about how setting out into the world is hard on you and on the people you leave behind.
  4. Go Outside & Drive – Blues Traveler
    If you want to travel, this is inevitable. This is from “Save His Soul,” which was always my favorite Blues Traveler album. In BT’s typical sunny pop fashion, John Popper is overcome by inertia in this song.
  5. Setting Forth – Eddie Vedder
    Vedder did the soundtrack for Into the Wild and it is fantastic all the way through. My favorite song on the album is a cover of “Hard Sun,” but this one is also great.
  6. The Bed’s Too Big Without You – Sting (feat. Rankin Roger)
    Sting does a much more up-tempo version of this song without The Police. The version released on The Truth About Cats and Dogs soundtrack features Rankin Roger (of The English Beat and General Public). Sadly, this sample doesn’t give you much, but here is a mediocre live version with Rankin Roger.
  7. Woman Driving, Man Sleeping – Eels
    Well, instead of missing your significant other, bring him/her along. I love a road trip. E completely captures the feel of a late night drive on this track. Love it.
  8. The Way – Fastball
    I included this for the chorus, “Where were they going without ever knowing the way?” The downside of driving is getting lost. This tune always makes me think of Smash Mouth. I like the retro feel and the keyboards.
  9. Airline to Heaven – Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Well, you can always fly. You can’t get to most places without doing it. This is a fantastic track from “Mermaid Avenue Vol. II” that features the winning combination of joyful acoustic guitar and handclap percussion.
  10. Plane Crash – moe.
    This is the genius of Rob Derhak, the bass player. The song is towering, with several distinct passages, but the lyrics are just perfect. And I have to confess, I think about this song most times I get on an airplane.
  11. Mr. Cab Driver – Lenny Kravitz
    If you flew – and didn’t crash – you need a cab. Kravitz tells us of the difficulty a dreadlocked black man has getting a cab. It’s from his first album and the energy is unbelievable.
  12. Camping Next to Water– Badly Drawn Boy
    OK, so it’s not how you get there, but what you do when you get there. One of my favorite reasons to travel is to go camping. Damon Gough has a delicate hand with this pretty acoustic tune from “Hour of the Bewilderbeast.”
  13. Homesick – Kings of Convenience
    If you’re gone too long from home, no matter how cool your vacation is, you miss it. Seems like more than half the songs the Kings write are melancholy, but they are nearly all beautiful. They’re very Simon and Garfunkel, but that’s OK with me.
  14. Many Rivers to Cross – UB40
    UB40 does a fantastic job with this old Jimmy Cliff song about struggling against adversity to find your way home. Both the lead and backup vocal performances are wonderful.
  15. Souvenir – Neil Finn
    “It’s nice to go traveling, but it’s so much nicer to come home.” — Frank Sinatra. Hopefully, you picked up a souvenir to remember it. Finn has a great talent for pop songs. This is a pleasing melange of strings and guitar with well-mixed percussion.

As I put this mix together, I discovered it is a rich topic and I imagine I will put together a few more mixes along these lines in the future. Enjoy this with orange juice from a can and a teeny tiny bottle of airline vodka. Have a great weekend.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Alternative, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, reggae, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: cool and mellow pop

My brother is a musician in Texas. He travels all over the South a lot, but doesn’t get back up north as often as he’d like. I also haven’t been down to Texas to visit him in many years. We talk on the phone a lot, but haven’t seen each other in a long time. What can I say? We suck.

Let's face it, I'm tired.

Well, he was in town this week playing a gig and I had dinner and some drinks with him Wednesday night. Then I had a beer during his show last night and then a couple more with him after the show. Not too much because I had an hour drive after the show. But enough.

It was very good to see the man, but after 2 nights out drinking with my brother I’m moving a little slow. No metal today. Today, I’m in the mood for something a little more relaxing. Many of these songs feature acoustic instruments, though there is plenty of electric stuff too. It’s not sleepy music, but it is on the mellower side.

  1. The Bull and the Goat – Annuals
    So it’s a lower-energy and acoustic mix. You still have to kick it off with something at least a little up-tempo. All of the instrumental parts are well-written to work with the vocal melody. I particularly like the work by the rhythm section (which includes the bass).
  2. Preacher’s Sister’s Boy – Blitzen Trapper
    While I wasn’t knocked out by their live show, I love their new EP, “Black River Killer,” and this is a great track from that release.
  3. Me You and Everybody – Gomez
    I would listen to Ben Ottewell sing the ingredients list on a bag of Doritos. I love his voice and this is a typically great, evocative song from the band.
  4. Resurrect Me – Jon Foreman
    This isn’t mellow; it’s an acoustic rocker of a pop song. I think I hear a little sitar ringing between the hand claps.
  5. Wind It Up – moe.
    Listen to one of my all-time favorite moe. songs, though all of the best parts are missing from this sample. It’s an 8-minute epic that builds from a quiet keyboards and clean guitar through several movements until it is a towering love song that declares in triumphant harmony, “Be on my side. I’ll be on your side.”
  6. Crosseyed Beautiful Youngunz – Love As Laughter
    Gentle guitar and some vibes set the mood as vocalist Sam Jayne takes his time dropping the notes of this pretty melody.
  7. Fieldtrip USA – Moonbabies
    Moonbabies are a Swedish pop duo. On this track, keyboards accent the plucked acoustic guitar as Ola Frick and Carina Johansson sing harmony in the pretty verses and the energetic chorus.
  8. Check the Meaning – Richard Ashcroft
    When Ashcroft (formerly of The Verve) misses, I am left completely flat. When he hits, however, the result is brilliant and well-arranged tracks like this one.
  9. Hang On – Guster
    I’m not sure which Guster is better at writing, pop melodies or emotional lyrics. Either way, here is a fine example of their great songsmithing.
  10. Stuck – Norah Jones
    I like the new direction Jones has taken on her latest release. Less sleepy lounge music, more electric pop. I think I even almost hear a couple electric power chords in the chorus.
  11. Weather to Fly – Elbow
    They assemble a relaxing groove of ambling percussion behind descending chords, mellow horns, and smoky vocals.
  12. Man in a Shed – Nick Drake
    Some of Drake’s songs haven’t aged well. They’re either too melancholy or just too much a product of the times. This one, however, is one of many that really hold up. The happy piano work sounds almost like something Vince Guaraldi (Peanuts music) could have written.
  13. The Search – Dolorean
    This has a mellow southern rock / Appalachian country feel to it, like some stuff you might have gotten from The Eagles. I like it as a closer.

Oh, and this is completely off-topic, but I’m a Clevelander and I want to respond briefly to the LeBron James defection. Hey, Cavs fans. Yes, we’re disappointed. And yes, LeBron looks like a douchebag for arranging a one-hour special to announce he’s putting his house on the market. But let’s show a little backbone, OK? This town has seen worse and we’ll see better.

I hope you enjoy the mix with a Dortmunder or an Eliot Ness from Cleveland’s excellent Great Lakes Brewery. Or if you’re like me and have had too much beer lately, how about a tall glass of ice water?

July 9, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Folk, Indie, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

The Friday mix: gibberish

I got a twofer out of my iPod the other day that inspired me to make this mix. Sometimes I’m sure the words just flow off the pen for musicians. I’ve read interviews with musicians who say certain songs were just a gift from their muse and appeared fully formed in their heads. In other cases, I think the music is there, but they may not have much to say. Or perhaps they’re in a goofy mood and the song concept involves nonsense lyrics. Either way the songs today all involve titles – and sometimes entire songs – that are gibberish. I’m not sure how well this will hold together as a mix, but the individual tracks are all on my iPod and I like ‘em.

De do do do, de da da da is all I want to say to you.

  1. Gotta Jibboo – Phish
    This is from one of my favorite Phish albums, “Farmhouse.” The whole disc is full of fun, accessible songs with great grooves. I love it when the guys work in some horns.
  2. Hoodoo Voodoo – Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Crazy honky tonk music and lyrics that barely make sense. I think Woody Guthrie wrote these lyrics for his kids.
  3. Itche Koutche – Angelique Kidjo
    OK, so I’m sure Itche Koutche means something in Kidjo’s native tongue – I’m assuming not “itchy coochie” – but I don’t know what it means and it’s a cool song with great horn and vocal work.
  4. A Minha Menina – Band of Bees
    I’m not sure what language he’s singing in, but it sounds cohesive enough to be actual words, not scat. Still, it sounds a little silly and I love the Bees.
  5. Boo-Wah Boo-Wah – Cab Calloway
    The great Hi De Ho Man himself. What a brilliant bandleader. This one is as much fun as any of his songs with some great big band jazz.
  6. Mahna Mahna – Cake
    Maybe this version isn’t as funny as Jim Henson’s original, but it’s a brilliant choice for a cover and they have a lot of fun with it.
  7. Chamchu – Cornershop
    I’m pretty sure this means something in Hindi or Punjabi, but the way it is used in the song makes it seem a little nonsensical, so here it is. I was tickled that Cornershop came back with another album and particularly that it was this good.
  8. Ya Ya Ya (Looking for My Baby) – The Detroit Cobras
    She’s going to find her man and drag him back to town by the balls. I have to say I hope she doesn’t find the poor sap.
  9. Oo La La – Edie Brickell
    Yes, Brickell continued writing music after 1988 and she’s still a talented songwriter and musician.
  10. Bow Wow – The Fiery Furnaces
    The Furnaces’ music is hard to describe. It’s catchy and it grows on you.
  11. Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap  – Gabin
    What a great choice for an old jazz standard to regroove. They do a nice job with it too, layering the vocals and samples.
  12. Wah-Wah – George Harrison
    George wrote this while the Beatles were still together, but didn’t release it until “All Things Must Pass.” 4 out of 5 Internet commenters agree that this song is about fighting with Paul.
  13. Fa Fa – Guster
    I just realized I’ve never written up this great album, but I’m going to next week. “You’re always saying something you swear you’ll never say again. Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa. Never be the same again.”
  14. Izzy Izzy Ahh – Missy Elliott
    Misdemeanor and Timbaland are like peanut butter and jelly: they’re both good doing their own thing, but together they are more than the sum of their parts.
  15. Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz – Mr. Bungle
    This is the weirdest song on this mix. Maybe the weirdest song on my iPod. I can’t even explain why I have it. Something this strange and creative just reaches me. This sample barely scratches the surface of this song’s many distinct parts. You can hear a somewhat different demo version here, but be aware of the profanity in this version.
  16. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) – Otis Redding
    The King of Soul died in a plane crash at just 26 years of age. You hear the expressiveness of his voice in a track like this one and you realize what a loss it was.
  17. Uh, Zoom Zip – Soul Coughing
    I freaking LOVE Soul Coughing, so even though this isn’t my favorite of theirs, it gives me another chance to spread the word.
  18. Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day – Stevie Wonder
    No longer Little Stevie Wonder, we get a little Motown from Stevie Wonder, the man, in 1968.
  19. Zwing Ting – The Streamers
    Bending strings and horns, heavily sampled vocals, and a cool beat make this chillout track interesting to the ear.

Enjoy with a Tim’s Ridiculous Concoction (beer, ice cream, vanilla, and tomato juice), or something else that makes no sense whatsoever. Have a great weekend.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jam Bands, Jazz, Mix CD, Motown, Popular, Rock, Soul, World Music | Leave a comment

Jazz & southern rock meet psychedelic jam rock from moe.

I have been a fan of moe. for years. I’ve been to moe.down, their annual Labor Day music festival in up-state New York, several times. I’ve seen them at Bonnaroo. I have a bunch of their albums. They are outstanding musicians: they write cool songs, are individually talented on their instruments, and are fearless improvisers. I went downtown to the Rib Fest in Cleveland to see moe. play today. Brief early afternoon thunderstorms nearly kept me from going, but the weather turned just in time and I went down. I got in before 3:00, so admission was free. So for the price of a $5 all day rapid pass, plus beer and a half slab of ribs, I got to take in an outstanding moe. show. It  made me want to recommend my favorite moe. album to you if you aren’t a fan already.

This is my favorite studio effort from moe., but the live show is where it's at with these guys.

moe. is a jam band from New York that plays all of the psychedelic stuff you would expect, but with influences from southern rock and jazz. I first found out about moe. when a friend handed me “No Doy” back in 1997, though that was actually their 4th album. It had some great music on it, particularly ‘St. Augustine’ & ‘Four,’ but I really feel like the band knocked it out of the park on their next album, “Tin Cans and Car Tires.”

I ripped 6 of the discs 12 tracks to my iPod. Give them a listen.

  • Stranger than Fiction – This is straight-ahead, stomping rock ‘n roll and it’s a great track to kick off the disc.
  • Nebraska – They lay back a bit on this groove, but it’s still an up-tempo song with more brilliant lyrics from bassist Rob Derhak.
  • Hi & Lo – At least 3 of the guys write songs for the band. This one is by one of the guitarists, Chuck Garvey. I’ve been watching Chuck for a long time and I have to say after seeing him today, he just keeps improving as a guitarist. He was always the more melodic of the two guitarists, but his technique has gotten stronger.
  • Plane Crash – Derhak treats us to an examination of the morbid thoughts that pass through his head when he flies. I guess it’s universal, because it captures my thoughts exactly.
  • Letter Home – The third songwriter, Al Schneir, is kind of an odd guy and he writes some quirky songs. But then he also pens some beautiful ballads like this one.
  • Happy Hour Hero – This one is a crowd favorite, particularly at moe.down where they sell Saranac beer, mentioned in this song. “Forget about the pretty girl. A Saranac will do just fine.”

moe., like Phish, is a band that people follow, tape nightly, and trade live recordings of. Guys like these who do the extended improvisation thing for a daily living get veeeery good at putting on a rock show. Go see them if you get a chance.

http://www.moe.org/

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Jam Bands, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Southern influenced psychedelic rock from My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket is a band out of Louisville, KY that plays pretty traditional southern-influenced psychedelic rock. They fit into the whole jam band scene and, not surprisingly perhaps, I have seen them at Bonnaroo more than once. Since their formation in 2000, they have been very busy and incredibly prolific, having released 5 studio albums, 3 live albums, 2 compilations, and a slew of EPs and singles. They have appeared at Bonnaroo, as I said, SXSW, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show (Leno), The Late Show (Letterman), and more. I would be surprised if you haven’t heard of them because they’re great and they work hard.

Evil urges make for good music, apparently.

That said, you may not yet have picked up their newest studio album and today I am encouraging you to do so. “Evil Urges” came out in mid-2008 and it represents a further evolution in the band’s sound. Their major label debut, “It Still Moves,” was full of simple, good-time melodies, warm harmonies, and lots of reverb (vocals and guitar). “Z” boasted more complex percussion, some really interesting keyboard work, and more complex arrangements. “Evil Urges” has moved a little further away from their southern rock roots. They range around more, flashing a bit of funk here, some strings there, but generally attain a more mainstream rock sound.

There is a lot of great music on this album, but these are my favorites.

  • Evil Urges – Some falsetto vocals and a lot of synthesizer wrap around a simple guitar hook. The chorus almost sounds like it could be Lenny Kravitz, but the powerful bridge is all their own.
  • I’m Amazed – I am impressed with the production on this album and this song is a perfect example of why. The arrangement is not complicated, but the song is well mixed. The drums pop, the guitar and keys mesh for a powerful sound, the vocals swell. It’s very clean and it sounds great.
  • Look at You – Well, at the live show, when they did this one people went to get a beer. It’s a sweet and pretty ballad, which often loses a crowd but on the disc it works really well. They handle this change of gears delicately, playing back on all the solos and nicely setting up the uplifting vocals.
  • Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Part 2 – This is probably my least favorite of these four, but it is a cool song with a great animated video.

You really can’t go wrong picking up any of the 3 albums I mention above. “Z” in particular is a brilliant album. My Morning Jacket won’t be at Bonnaroo this year, sadly. I would go see them yet again; their live show is not to be missed. Go see them if they come to your town.

http://www.mymorningjacket.com/

May 5, 2010 Posted by | Jam Bands, Popular, Rock, Southern Rock | Leave a comment