Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year from LET!

I don't know about you, darlings, but 2009 has been both kind and oh-so cruel. The highs of 2009 were astronomical, SXSW and the NIN/JA tour immediately spring to mind. But the tail of the year has been a real pisser (most recent setback: premature iPod demise. Anyone have any hookups to Apple?!). I've been busily deciding on some resolutions, the first of which was resolving to have resolutions again. I didn't make any last NYE, and figured what the hell.

2010, you are welcomed with open arms. Please don't suck.

Another of my resolutions involves writing more. While lately this has proven challenging (another lemon 2009 has thrown my way is computer problems), now that I only have 5 more work days until the void known as gainful unemployment, I'll have plenty of time to let Chris take a breather every now and then. But I must say, as far as partners in crime go, Mr. Terrible is as good as it gets.

In the spirit of the New Year, may I present to you two wonderful NYE-appropriate tunes. The first, being from those darlings of
The Walkmen, is a driving force in the face of the harsh winter. The second is a new take on an old classic, Vandaveer's cover of "Auld Lang Syne". If you don't yet know about Vandaveer, don't worry, you soon will.

And with that, on behalf of Chris and myself I'd like to wish you all a spectacularly Happy New Year! May 2010 be limitlessly joyful, and bring you much happiness and good health. Cheers!

In The New Year (buy)

Auld Lang Syne (free Xmas EP)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Breaking News! All DC, All The Time!

Yes, friends, the rumors they are true.

Yours truly is leaving the Richmond, VA office of LET and moving back to the northern reaches of the fair Commonwealth of Virginia. I won't be covering Richmond after January 31st, when I leave my wonderful (though leaky) apartment on Monument Avenue for the last time. This means that Chris and I will both be focusing on the DC metro area, so please bear that in mind as we move forward in 2010. Your favorite DC/RVA blog will now just be your favorite DC blog (we hope!).

People have asked me why I'm leaving Richmond. While I have found my 2-odd years here full of fun and excitement, I just missed the huge traffic jams and cranky politicos that DC offers in spades. Just kidding. I missed the abundance of music, mostly, and so I had no choice but to return.

In honor of my move back, here's my oh-so-very favorite song about DC, done by the splendid, divine, incomparable Magnetic Fields.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Xmas Gift Guide 2009: Light in the Attic Vinyl Subscription

Hello dear sirs and madames. Contrary to popular opinion, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth, though it certainly does feel that way. My dearest partner has been writing up a storm, so I thought it time to show my face around these parts for the first time in quite some time. I've been up to no good as usual, and there will be a fairly big announcement coming soon. But in the meantime, it's time to indulge in a little pre-holiday wish-listing.

Over the past year and a half or so, I've become moderately obsessed with vinyl. Most of my collection is of the used (and $1 variety, from Plan 9) ilk, but I certainly do enjoy hearing that modern music on the record player. This particular wish list item would be great for yours truly, or any other vinyl-hoarder you happen to know and love. Our dear, darling friends at Light in the Attic have put together another wonderful, tempting subscription service, much like the one they did last year (including Serge Gainsbourg and Karen Dalton to name just a couple). For the sum of $130 US dollars (slightly higher for you Canucks and other international sorts), you will be subscribed to a year-long feast of vinyl delights. Among the offerings for 2010 is the oh-so-scandalous Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin opus J'Taime/Moi Non Plus, and the fun doesn't stop there.

Read all about it and get your subscriptions here. And if vinyl doesn't float your boat, the subscription is also available in CD and digital formats. Hurrah!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Live Review: Darker My Love @ DC9, October 5, 2009

Fact: Darker My Love is one of LET's pet bands (see here, here, and here). Not only is this one hell of a band, they're also one hell of a bunch of nice dudes. Sure, I'd still love their music if they were assholes, they're just that good. Digressions aside, Darker My Love is a band worth checking out, and keep those feelers up because I've been assured a new record is in the works (the sooner the better, my loves). Also, they're pretty killer when it comes to the whole playing live thing, as I have been fortunate to learn not once but twice, most recently last month at the delightfully cozy DC9. They were one piece of a rather excellent bill, sandwiched between All The Saints and A Place To Bury Strangers (note to bands: extra points for using dry ice). Darker My Love doesn't go for dry ice, but it's of no consequence.

The last time I saw these Los Angelinos live, they were seriously stealing The Dandy Warhol's psych-addled thunder at the 9:30 Club. While they certainly did well on such a large stage, I'd been dying to see them somewhere like DC9, all up close and personal like. I knew it would be special, and lo and behold, I was right. It's a miracle the five of them and all their gear fit on the stage, but despite the cramped quarters it was rock'n'roll from the word go. They overcame some initial soundboard difficulties and played a solid, saucy little set. It felt much more rock, somehow, than my first Darker My Love experience. Perhaps it was the lack of that wacky gooey projection or something, but the slightly more stripped-down sound was incredible, and really demonstrated how great a band this really is. Sure, they left "Two Ways Out" off the setlist, but I'll forgive them. The set was heavy with new songs, heightening expectations for a quick release (please?) of even more retrodelica. Happily, a couple songs from their debut made it onto the setlist, too. Sometimes you have to see a band live to really appreciate the sounds they make, and a live Darker My Love show proves just how gifted these guys are as musicians. They are simply compelling live, and command your attention. Which, of course, you'll readily oblige them with.

All in all, I left DC9 feeling totally impressed by the entire show, but especially by Darker My Love. This is a band that not only can wow you on record, but also knows how to put on a live show.

Setlist above written out by DMLer Will Canzoneri, who has so much musical knowledge it will knock your socks off. "Talking Words" is below for your enjoyment. And believe you me, you will enjoy it. For all you Euro kids out there, make sure you keep a close eye on DML, as they are on your side of the Atlantic as we speak.

mp3: Talking Words (Buy: Darker My Love)

Album Review: The Phantom Band - Checkmate Savage

Ok, so The Phantom Band is Scottish, thereby giving them an unfair edge for earning my undying love and affection. But before you start worrying that my vision is blurred by saltires and sporrans, fear not. I love The Phantom Band for a whole lot more than the mere accident of nationality.

For instance, earlier this year the band happened to put out on a record, Checkmate Savage, on the most excellent label Chemikal Underground (home to various other excellent bands of the past and current day such as Arab Strap, Mogwai, and Sluts of Trust). As a general point of reference, I like to think of The Phantom Band as being a sort of British Sea Power with a brogue, adding a little bith more northerly darkness to an already heavy and intellectual brand of music. I for one would maim to see those two bands share a stage (BSP + TPB = Happy Megan).

But what makes the record so good, you might ask? The easy answer is everything, of course, but I'll expand a little. As with British Sea Power, The Phantom Band just exudes more intelligence than most bands out there. Clinic, too, shares this smartypants, highly-educated and infinitely quirky sound. Looking at the album cover, it makes me think that maybe there's some deep symbolism behind the Shaker chairs and upside down doorways. Perhaps it's the unconventional lyrics that go well beyond the lovelorn moping or angst of many a band. And, of course, they've got fantastic lyrics. "Leave my spirit/cuz lust and sin/is all that I want" might just be my new (unofficial) motto.
The first song on the album, "The Howling," the song from whence the aforementioned lyric comes, was my introduction to the album. When I first heard it, I stopped what I was doing and just sat still. It's such a curious song, layered with unexpected sounds and ghostly choruses and driven by a very distinct, powerful voice. It's just over six minutes long and it feels like an odyssey, so much musical ground does it cover. So too can be said of the entire album. It's a mish-mash of so much that it nearly bursts at the seams. My absolute favorite track on the album is "Halfhound, " posted below for your listening pleasure (you're welcome). It's several songs in one, as with just about every song on Checkmate Savage. I love the taut riff that serves as the spine of parts of the song, bordering as it does on sounding slightly sinister. But damned if I don't adore each and every one of the nine songs on this disc. Another one to pay close personal attention to is "Island," a slower, gentler (longer) number than most of the others. But again, this is a fantastic record. Buy it now.

If the above hadn't already convinced you of the fact, you can consider it a safe bet that Checkmate Savage will be in my top ten albums of this great year 2009. Give it a few listens, and it just might make its way into yours.

mp3: Halfhound (Buy: The Phantom Band)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Newsflash: Jerry Fuchs Dead at 34

Perhaps it's an occupational hazard when you're a musician. But it just seems like far too many bright, bright lights of music leave this world far too soon, before they've contributed nearly as much as they might have done.

Sadly, add drummer Jerry (Gerhardt) Fuchs, member of !!!, The Juan McLean, LCD Soundsystem and Maserati to name a few to this tragic list. According to multiple reports, Fuchs was killed early Sunday morning in the elevator shaft of a building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he was attending a benefit party. He and a friend got stuck in an elevator, and tried to jump to the landing, which is where things went horribly wrong. Fuchs' jacket got stuck, and instead of leaping to safety, he fell down the shaft, and was pronounced dead soon after. He was 34.

I'm just so saddened by this. It breaks my heart to hear about such tragic accidents. Fuchs will be missed by many. Rest in peace, dear sir.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Myspace or Yours #1: The Sumner Brothers

While a good many of us have moved on from Myspace for our social networking needs, I still pay attention to the bands that frequent that site. You never know where and when your new favorite band will come from, and I've found enough quality bands via Myspace that I felt the site warranted closer examination. I've been toying with the idea of doing a Myspace-based feature for quite some time now, but wanted to wait until I had the right band to kick things off with. And then, one day, my wish was granted when a friend request from the British Columbia-based Sumner Brothers popped up in my inbox.

The Sumner Brothers, Brian and Bob, along with their friends Michael and Mike, sound like remnants of a time long since turned to dust, a sepia-hued time when music was simple and soulful and made by friends gathered in whatever space they could find, and not touched by computer enhancements and fancy effect pedals and studio magic. Not only that, but the foursome sounds like they should be sitting on the front porch of an ancient, rickety wooden farmouse nestled in the spectacular, magical valleys of the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia. If you've never been there, well, it's the perfect place for a band like the Sumner Brothers. There's a hint of fall to their songs, traces of burning fires in the hearth, and a stark, austere beauty the likes of which you won't hear very often. The Sumner Brothers are as precious and rare as can be, so dang good you almost can't believe it.

The band is working their way through a small West Coast tour, so all you Washington Staters and British Columbians, get yourselves to these shows. More details on the band's Myspace page, naturally.

mp3: Pain (Buy: The Sumner Brothers)

Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ Black Cat, September 30, 2009

Little-known fact about me: I love perfect pop songs. Perhaps it's a little-known fact because there are so few perfect pop songs in this world, and the bands that can craft such poppy perfection are few and far between. But one of the best, and perhaps even THE best at churning out piles of such concoctions, in my humble opinion, is the bunch of young NYC scamps known as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. And finally, finally, finally, I managed to see this delightful band live, at DC's venerable Black Cat. It was nigh on magnificent.

After ambling onstage, singer/guitarist/nice guy Kip opens with the greeting "Hey, what's up, we gonna fall in love tonight?" before launching into "This Love is Fucking Right!" The song set the tone for the evening, pulsating powerpop with less of an emphasis on fuzz and feedback than you'll hear on POBPAH records. In my notes I wrote "so so cute this band is," and it's just so true. They're so, dare I say, pure. They seem to just emit kittens and hearts and flowers wherever they go. "It's great to be back in DC," they opine, and DC seems to agree with this sentiment. Everyone is either bobbing their head, tapping their leg, or just flat out making out with their neighbor.

Songs that I already loved, like "The Tenure Itch" and "Stay Alive," sound crisp and clear, minus the fuzz the utter poppiness really shines through. Sweetly feisty, the band powers through song after song, like the jingle jangle of "Teenager in Love." Quite simply, and pardon me if I've said this before, but it's music to pinch cheeks to. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. This band is a ray of sunshine, that's for damn sure. Happily, the encore includes "Gentle Sons," quite possibly my favorite of all POBPAH songs. Sweet, sweet heaven do I love this song. When it's all said and done, I feel quite confident being able to state as fact that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a sensational live band, and that you should absolutely, definitely, positively go and see them live whenever possible.

mp3: Gentle Sons (Buy: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

LP Lust: Kind Of, Sort Of

OK, I'm a bit hesitant to lay this one out there for all the world right now, as I'm sure the news will spur activity on the stock market, change the migration patterns of blue footed boobies and pretty much just blow your mind, but I'm working on not one, but TWO updates to The Greatest Zombie Mix You Will Ever Hear. Once all three parts are complete, they will merge and form a near perfect Mecha-Gundam-Mix, kind of like Voltron. As you can imagine, I haven't had a lot of time to put together any other meaningless tributes to century old hos or musings on the sad, sad decline of beat boxing.

Whilst I was ruminating on what made the greatest zombie mix of all times and perfecting what is sure to further blow your mind, however, I stumbled across these blasts from the past and knew the universe might well collapse if I didn't share them with you, oh faithful readers.

You've probably noticed by now a lot of very cosmic happenings depend entirely upon what goes on here at LET. If that freaks you out, how do you think I feel? It's one of the many crosses I bear, I suppose. It's hard being me, you know?


Since I have virtually no clue about any of the demographics of LET's readership, let me take you all back to a simpler time, back in the late 80s, when people actually ordered LP record compilations from TV commercials. While there were literally hundreds of these bad boys out there, two somehow stood out from the pack and ingrained themselves into the minds of me and countless others. As far as I'm concerned, Soul Brothers and Stoner Dudes could go round for round with Clara Peller or Mrs. Fletcher any day of the week, kids. You can decide for yourselves.

And for the mp3 greedy amongst you, here's the only song I can think of in my collection that's actually about record collections. It's full of all sorts of country goodness, but its real strength lies in the name dropping dichotomies in the lyrics.

Oh, and while we've got the time, get off your lazy ass and write up a haiku to win TWO FREE BETTY DAVIS CDS. Based on the number of entries so far, your chances of winning are pretty near one in one.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Album Review: Nebula – Heavy Psych

You will rarely find an album with a more apt title than Nebula’s record Heavy Psych. It’s an album full of, wait for it, heavy psych. However, it’s not just that simple. Nebula, from the City of Angels and borne out of the demise of Fu Manchu, has honed a most appealing blend of the swirl of late 60s psych rock with ballsy, driving hard rock. The result is striking, and very, very loud. To give you more of an idea, they’re somewhat akin to Black Mountain, but with more of an emphasis on the rawk, and wouldn’t be out of place at a show with Dark Meat, though they’re not quite as, well, out there. While no less expansive, they seem a bit more structured.

Things get going right from the word go on
Heavy Psych. First track “Pulse” is full of intricate guitar play, from crazy frenetic riffs to more focused, studied solos. It’s just one of the tracks that demonstrates Nebula’s ability to veer from one of the spectrum to another, sounding like Motor City rebels one minute and San Fran trippers the next. “Aphrodite,” third song on the album, is a true gem. “Woman,” howls frontman Eddie Glass, “set me free/I’ve done my time,” and it is staggeringly, ferociously sexy. The song is pure rock, distorted most magnificently through fuzz and noise. I’m also pretty well enamored with “In The Depth’s,” and love the line “cuz in my head/everything’s alright/in my mind/everything’s alright.” It, and the album as a whole, is heady, disorienting, and intoxicating.

Heavy Psych is not for the faint of heart. If you’re into, say, all twee all the time, you’re probably going to be a little afraid. And rightly so. But for fans of balls-out, full-speed ahead rock, you couldn’t do much better than Nebula. They’ve pulled the best bits from all the greats and whipped up one hell of a sonic magic carpet ride. And yours truly is pretty much in deep smit. Far out, brothers and sisters. Far fucking out.

mp3: Aphrodite (Nebula)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Contest Time: Win Two Free Betty Davis CDs!

Much like a very young Ronald McDonald or a very old whore, the LET crew is delighted to announce that we've recently served our 20,000th satisfied customer! While it took us more than a year to reach 10,000 sets of unique eyeballs, we've kind of been rolling here lately, so the second 10,000 came much quicker. (I could make another very old whore joke here, but I won't. I respect us both too much for that softball.)

Obviously, the masses yearn for multiple takes on various old tunes just as much as they want to know the outcome of the Roxanne Shante vs. The Real Roxanne battle. You also seem to really like Ella Fitzgerald and zombies, in the for-whatever-its-worth category. Fortunately, these are just my lines of bullshit, so I see ours as a symbiotic relationship. I haven't decided who is the tick to the other's exposed skin in the woods, but I fear I'm running the risk of just rambling now.

To celebrate and/or bribe you fine folks to keep coming back for more, we've decided to have Contest Time! Our good, good friends over at Light in the Attic Records have kindly provided us with the two new re-releases from Betty Davis (Is It Love Or Desire and Nasty Gal) to give to you. For those of you somehow not in the know, we're not talking about the one with the eyes, we mean none other than Miles Davis' second wife. The former Miss Mabry is credited with funking up Miles' sound and thinking, acting as inspiration for both Filles de Kilimanjaro (that's her picture on the cover) and Bitches Brew (allegedly, Miles originally wanted to call it Witches Brew and she changed his mind). Legend even has it that it was Betty that introduced Miles to Jimi Hendrix. Suffice to say, the woman is so funky you're going to have to scrape the goo off your speakers every time you're done playing her grooves. Consider yourself forewarned.

While I was more than willing to accept pictures of our readers in various compromising positions and pick a favorite, it was brought to my attention that such a contest might actually cost us readers, as well as whatever legal fees arose from various lawyerly action take against us for giggling and posting the pix on your ex's FB page. Megan felt we should do a contest wherein participants described how funky they were and why they deserved these two excellent albums, but I couldn't figure out exactly how to set the parameters, so they went by the wayside. I got all meta for a moment myself, and was going to have two contests--one where the readers came up with a contest and a second where the previously mentioned winning contest actually was enacted. Then I realized just thinking about that made me dizzy, so that was dropped, too.

And so it happened
That I opted for haiku
To pick a winner

Your job is to write
A haiku describing why
You should win these discs

U.S. residents
Are the only ones who can
Participate now

Because contests hate
All you foreign-type people
Or so I am told

Drugs not required
To play along, but it sure
Doesn't hurt, either

Now have at it, kids. Deadline of whenever we arbitrarily feel we've received enough submissions and, more importantly, have enough good ones. And just so you know what you're getting for your troubles, some titular tracks for y'all:

mp3: Is It Love or Desire (Betty Davis from Is It Love or Desire)
mp3: Nasty Gal (Betty Davis from Nasty Gal)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mark Your Calendars: Lebowski Fest DC

Very few flicks are as deserving of exalted cult status as is The Big Lebowski. I can say that to me, it's one of the best-written, best-directed, best-acted movies I've ever seen. And while it may be the case that I am far from a movie connisseur, I know a damn good movie when I see it. I've watched it more times than I can count, and often find myself quoting the movie, or thinking of Jeff Bridges whenever I hear the word "Dude." But my obsession with the movie doesn't even come close to that of Scott and Will, founders of Lebowski Fest.

Since its' inception in 2002, Lebowski Fest has grown leaps and bounds. Now the festival takes its act on the road, hitting several cities every year in celebration of one of the all-time biggest cult movies. I've heard tales of epic costumes and warm comraderie among revelers, and The Dude himself even ventured forth to take in Lebowski Fest one year.

And now, my fellow Achievers, we can get in on the action.

I do hope to see you at the 9:30 Club Monday night, for a screening of the movie and live performance by Black Diamond Heavies, and at Strike! Bethesda Tuesday night for an evening of rolling. I don't know about you, but for once, I'm looking forward to Monday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Whither Festivus: All Tomorrow's Parties 2009

This past weekend, a select group of awesome bands and lucky patrons gathered in the Catskills for a weekend of music, drinking, music, and quite possibly slightly more drinking. You may recall, I was fortunate enough to attend the festivities last September, and my heavens was it sensational. I swore to myself I would attend in 2009, and sure enough the good folks of ATP put together one hell of a lineup. But sadly, this is not a review. The times, they are just too tight to find the cash needed to cough up for ATP09. O, how I wish I could have gone. If you didn't go either, you'll probably wish you had been up there in New York State, too.

Did you see the lineup???

To begin with, the Flaming Lips were curators. Imagine it. The Flaming Lips, in a small, wacky concert hall (with super fabulous shiny houndstooth wallpaper), probably one of the most appropriate locations to ever see them in live. For some, the Lips would have been enough. But wait, there was more. Animal Collective. Iron and Wine. Panda Bear. Crystal Castles. Suicide. Black Dice. Deerhunter. Sufjan Stevens. Dead Meadow. And many more. Two of the bands present are definitely LET favorites: Hopewell and the one and only Super Furry Animals. Having seen both bands several times, I can safely say they both fit the ATP aesthetic to a tee, lovably oddball and endearingly madcap. Hopewell takes more of the dreamy, thoughtfully out-there route, while the Furries constantly go where no man has gone before, pushing sonic limits and having a damn good time doing it. And who doesn't love it when they sing in Welsh?

I'm going to go back to moping about not having gone and working out a budget for next year's festival. I recommend you do the same. But in the meantime, here's some tunage. For those of us who didn't get to partake in the awesome...

mp3: Hopewell - Stranger

mp3: Super Furry Animals - Frisbee

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Say It Ain't So!: The Charlatans AND Maximo Park Cancel US Tours

One of these would be bad enough, but the news is doubly terribly regarding two of my favorite bands from the UK. Both Maximo Park and all-time faves The Charlatans were both scheduled to be in the DC area in late September and early October, respectively.

Neither of those tours will now be happening.

According to the Maximo Park sites, the tour cancellation stems from "personal reasons". A handwritten note offers heartfelt apologies and the promise to (to try) reschedule. Whatever is going on, we at LET wish the boys of Maximo Park the best during whatever circumstances they might be dealing with.

As for The Charlatans, it's much less secretive why they're calling off the tour. The Myspace offers the following explanation:

The Charlatans are sorry to announce the cancellation of their forthcoming North American tour. This is due to drummer Jon Brookes' longstanding shoulder complaint. He has been strongly advised by doctors against undertaking 23 concerts in 28 days as this could cause severe damage to ligaments in the affected area. He will start a course of treatment starting in September and in the coming months to rectify the condition.
Once again the band wish to apologise to people who have purchased tickets and those that had made travel arrangements We are as disappointed as you are, due to this unavoidable situation.
Many thanks. "

It's probably best not to mess with one's shoulders, so while I'll definitely be wearing this frown for a little while, I certainly hope the band will be able to reschedule in the near future. It's been nine long years since I last saw them, and that is entirely too long.

No more bad news, please, bands!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

LP Lust: College Football Kickoff Edition

If, like me, you're a college football junkie, this weekend is the start of the most wonderful time of the year. It's the first weekend of the college football season, and so far it's been a good one. I couldn't be happier, as my beloved Crimson Tide defeated the gobblers of Virginia Tech, and should thusly move at least one spot up in the polls. Give 'em Hell, Alabama...

College football aside, though, this is a wonderful time of year anyway. It's the last gasp of summer, shorter days and slightly cooler temps. Fall is almost upon us. It's been many a week since I last did a post on my record collection. And I've been really, really busy. I've been able to bring home a fantastic array of vinyl over the past few weeks, and despite the fact that I am definitely running out of room for records, looking at all the fabulous covers and listening to the great music, I don't regret a single one.

*Cat Stevens: Izitso
*Midnight Cowboy OST
*Stevie Wonder: Songs In The Key of Life
*Stan Getz/Luiz Bonfa: Jazz Samba Encore (Japanese Verve Pressing)
*Mozart: Symphony No. 35/Symphony No. 38 (Gurzenich Symphony Orchestra)
*The Rolling Stones: Got Live if You Want It!
*Some Call It Oompah!: German Beer Drinking Songs
*Bob Brookmeyer: Trombone Jazz Samba
*Charlie Parker: The Verve Years
*Gordon Lightfoot: The Gordon Lightfoot Story (German Import)
*Peter, Paul and Mary: Album
*Banda de Aviacion Espanola: Himnos Nacionales
*John Schneider: Too Good To Stop Now (I love Dukes of Hazzard!)
*Connie Francis: The Very Best of Connie Francis
*Bagpipe Music and Marches of Scotland
*Joan Baez: 5
*Songs of Phi Kappa Psi
*The Norman Luboff Choir: Songs of The South
*Tchaikovsky: Concerto No. 1 (Van Cliburn)
*The Edinburgh Military Tattoo: Military Bands, Pipes and Drums
*The Left Bank Bearcats: The Left Bank Bearcats
*Scotch Party (German Import)
*Maxime Le Forestier: Maxime Le Forestier
*Gene Autry: Gene Autry's Country Music Hall of Fame Album
*Lena Horne: Feelin' Good
*The Great Gatsby OST
*From the River Thames to the Sea of Tranquility...She's Called Virginia
*The Beach Boys: Little Deuce Coupe
*Dolly Parton: Just The Way I Am
*Genesis: The Soul Children
*Isaac Hayes: The Isaac Hayes Movement
*Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream (London Symphony Orchestra)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

At The Cinema: Joy Division

I saw a preview for “Joy Division” while watching my DVD copy of Control for the first time. Naturally, I felt compelled to watch the documentary version of the dramatic version of the true story of Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Finally, it arrived in my Netflix queue. And it was so good, I kept it two nights, instead of my usual “watch it and return it” process.

Where the drama starring pretty young things was pretty bloody great, so too is the doc featuring the genuine articles.

We begin with a Marshall Berman quote (from All That Is Solid Melts Into Air), stark white text on a black screen: “To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and at the same time that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.” These words ring true of so many, undoubtedly, but for our purposes, they certainly apply to Ian Curtis. But this film, unlike Control, is not just about Ian Curtis.

It’s as much about the city of Manchester as it is about the musicians she spawned: a “story of a city” as they say in the opening seconds. Vintage photos and news footage shape the impression of Manchester in the 70s as a grim, grimy, desolate modern wilderness, caked with the soot of industry and left to ruin, with giant apartment blocks going up one after the next adding to the soulless feel. It’s no wonder one of the greatest post-punk bands (and so many great, yet moody bands) emerged from the crumbling city.

Interspersed with tales of Manchester are the threads of the Joy Division story. The Sex Pistols gig did indeed inspire Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner to start a band, which they called Warsaw. Ian was next to join, followed by drummer Stephen Morris. The band was renamed Joy Division after something Sumner read in World War II-related book House of Dolls. Hearing these stories come from the mouths of those who were there really gives life to the legend, and additional testimony is added from Very Important Persons in the saga of Joy Division like Tony Wilson and Ian’s Belgian gal pal Annik Honoree. There’s tons of vintage footage from Joy Division gigs and TV appearances to hit home just how good a band this was. All in all, “Joy Division” is a touching, visually-stunning, important film about the doomed pioneers of post-punk, and a valentine to the musical legacy of Manchester.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Live Review: My Bloody Valentine @ The National, July 30, 2009

I first listened to Loveless, the seminal My Bloody Valentine record (and shoegaze record, for that matter; not to mention one of the albums that changed my life) years and years after the initial release. At the time, I often lamented the notion that I took to be fact: That I would never, ever get to experience the blistering, scrambling fuzz of wanderlust that was the MBV live show. Heck, I considered myself beyond lucky to have seen MBV's own version of Brian Wilson, Kevin Shields, play with Primal Scream, back in 2000.

But last year, this formerly iron-clad idea about never seeing MBV live was gloriously proven false, as I was privvy to what I can only describe as an awe-inspiring performance to close 2008's edition of All Tomorrow's Parties. I'm fairly certain I spent most of their set with jaw agape and eyes glazed, wondering how such an unholy noise could sound so perfectly beautiful. When it was all over, I counted my lucky stars, happy beyond belief that I could cross "see My Bloody Valentine live" off my "do this before you're dead" list. I never would have imagined that I would see them again live, and in my own backyard no less. My Bloody Valentine in Richmond? Nonsense.

Turns out, it wasn't such a nonsensical thought.

Eschewing all the traditional stops for a band of their legendary stature, Shields and co. opted to play The National, a superb venue in its own right, but hardly of the standing of any number of venues up and down the East Coast (and, for that matter, the whole of the U.S.).

I don't know that I've ever seen The National so packed, nor a Richmond audience rendered so enraptured. Walking into the place to the strains of "When You Sleep" was one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had, and as I collected my purple earplugs and read the signs cautioning me about the decibel levels and seizure-inducing strobes I felt like I was floating on a sea of splendid noise. Fairly early on, it was pretty obvious that there was something amiss with the sound of the vocals - despite the typical, mostly unintelligble muddle of MBV vocals, on this night they were at times flat-out inaudible. It wasn't enough to negate the performance by any means, but was noticeable all the same. Vocals aside, the band was glorious.

It was like being stuck in a time warp with no particular destination in sight, a lunatic whirl of feedback and distortion hell-bent on self-destruction but incapable of complete combustion. The best thing about My Bloody Valentine, in my humble opinion, is the effect they have: I feel, moreso than with just about any other band, that they can make time stop. I lost all concept of time, of space, of everything. When you're seeing MBV live, it's as though nothing else in the entire world matters. Their music is beyond hypnotic. Wave after wave of the crushing din crashes over you. It glows, it pulsates, it pulls you into places nothing else can. With MBV, I constantly think of the title of a Spacemen 3 album: Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To. Except, in this case, the music is the drug.

I kept mentally pinching myself to make sure I was awake, make sure this was all really happening. Who among the crowd didn't get a kick out of the false starts of "Only Shallow", and I think I might have even spied a smile on the face of Kevin Shields (though, to be fair, I was about as far from the stage as you can get). And there's just something indescribably wonderful about hearing songs like "To Here Knows When" in a place where you wouldn't have ever guessed you would.

I'll be a little controversial here and say that a) I felt like the set I saw at All Tomorrow's Parties was a smidgeon more impressive, and b) will agree with Laura, who said she felt like The Black Angels set we saw at SXSW was louder. Never before have I so strongly felt as though the sound of a band would literally knock me down the way The Black Angels nearly did. But it was quite probably the best show Richmond will see in 2009, and to paraphrase my friend Mark, it's My Bloody Valentine in Richmond. Be grateful. And grateful I am.

Zut Alors!: Free Rural Alberta Advantage Show in Brooklyn!

From what I understand, there is ALWAYS something going on in New York. New Yorkers might just be the most spoiled for choice folks in the US of A, given how much is going on there at any given moment.

Well, Brooklynites, this one's for you. Blog darlings The Rural Alberta Advantage are going to be playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight...for FREE. That's right, gratis, free of charge, no dinero required. They're currently on tour, but to my knowledge, this is their only free date. Soooooo I'd advise you partake of this free goodness. Because really, who doesn't love a free show?!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

LP Lust: Heatwave Edition

I don't know about where you are, but here in Richmond it's been hotter than a five-alarm fire lately. I have found that one of the best ways to beat the icky gross disgusting heat is buying records. No kidding, go ahead and try it.

This latest grouping of records comes from two different shopping sprees. The first was last Tuesday at Plan 9, during the Balkans/Carnivores instore (which, if you missed, shame on you). Thanks to that little trip, I am two records closer to my goal of having every Rolling Stones LP on vinyl. The grand total now sits at 11. The next group was purchased Friday, on my day off, at one of my favorite local thrift stores. Somehow I lucked out, finding quite a few gems after patiently rummaging through the racks and racks of show tunes and Chicago.

Here's the list of the latest entrants into my collection.

*Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble: Texas Flood
*The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones, Now!
*Martha & The Vandellas: Greatest Hits
*The Rolling Stones: England's Newest Hit Makers
*Carnivores: All Night Dead USA
*Laura Nyro: Laura Nyro
*Dionne Warwick: Valley of The Dolls
*Todd Rundgren: Todd
*The Wonder Stuff: It's Your Money I'm After Baby
*Tammy Wynette: D-I-V-O-R-C-E
*Rod Stewart: Smiler
*Deep Purple: Made In Japan
*The Swingle Sisters: Going Baroque

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zut Alors! Pixies Annouce American Tour!

Holy crap, holy crap, and holy crap.

The one the only the spectacular Pixies are hitting the road later this year for some North American dates. I'm definitely a sucker for seeing the awesome bands I missed back when I should have seen them the first time, so I'll be glued to my laptop on 9/11 trying to get some tickets for the tour-ending DC date (as much as it really does seriously suck seeing a gig at Constitution Hall). Cut to "La La Love You" being stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

Here's the full list of dates, and a big thanks to the fine folks at Prefix for the schedule:

11.04 Los Angeles, CA: The Palladium (on sale TBA)
11.08 Oakland, CA: Fox Theater (on sale August 16)
11.09 Oakland, CA: Fox Theater (on sale August 16)
11.12 Seattle, WA: Paramount Theatre (on sale August 1)
11.13 Seattle, WA: Paramount Theatre (on sale August 1)
11.14 Eugene, OR: Hult Center (on sale August 14)
11.16 Denver, CO: The Fillmore (on sale September 12)
11.20 Chicago, IL: Aragon Ballroom (on sale September 12)
11.21 Chicago, IL: Aragon Ballroom (on sale September 12)
11.23 New York, NY: Hammerstein Ballroom (on sale August 14)
11.24 New York, NY: Hammerstein Ballroom (on sale August 14)
11.25 New York, NY: Hammerstein Ballroom (on sale August 14)
11.27 Boston, MA: Wang Center (on sale September 12)
11.30 Washington, D.C.: Constitution Hall (on sale September 11)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mick

Ask me who my favorite band is, and I'll give you a list of three names: Radiohead, The Verve, and this man's band. The Rolling Stones.

To me, and countless others, they are unparalleled, without peer, and the best damn rock band the world has ever known. And o, those lips...All of this will of course amuse my mother to no end, because for years we fought over The Stones and The Beatles (I was a proponent of the Fab Four for a long time). I once spoke disgustedly about the Stones song "Under My Thumb" and the woman Jagger sang about. But one day I woke up, saw the light, and haven't looked back.

It doesn't get any better than Mick Jagger as a frontman. He is the consummate lead singer, the oversexed, overly hedonistic with bedroom eyes and a whip-smart intelligence. Sure, he fibbed when he said many years ago that he would quit when he was 30. I don't know about you, but I'm glad that was a lie.

Happy 66th Birthday to the Man, the Myth, the Legend: Mick Jagger.

Meet Balkans

Atlanta Rising, part 2.

As with the previously mentioned Carnivores, Balkans is another ATL band making some (seriously fantastic) noise. They are young, they are brash, and they kinda sorta rock my little world. It's no great stretch of the imagination to see them sharing a stage with The Black Lips at some point in the near future, as they've got the bratty snarls and devil-may-care 'tude down pat. For those of us who enjoy sharply strummed guitars, warbling vocals, and songs that promise heaving dancefloors (see "Oh Dear"), I think you'll be pretty enamored with Balkans in no time flat. I sure am.

I'd like to reiterate the Balkans/Carnivores double-header on Tuesday 7/28: first, catch the hot instore action at Plan 9 (Balkans are on at 6), and then head over to The Triple for what will no doubt be one heck of a show. Bitchin'.

mp3: Oh Dear

[Photo by Jeoff Davis]

Meet Carnivores

Thought for the day: Is Atlanta the new Athens?

Think about it, my dearests. Athens has always been the trendy pick in Georgia, the small college town with indie bands to spare. But over the past few years, thanks in no small part to The Black Lips (o, how I love them), Hotlanta's been on the brink of something special. And now, well, the floodgates might be about to open. May I present to you exhibit A, otherwise known as Carnivores. They've got attitude in spades, guitars verging on obnoxiously loud, and hilarious song titles like "Organ Trail" and "When We Met You Called Me Stoic." In other words, they're pretty goddam good.

For those of us in Richmond, Tuesday 7/28 is a double bill of awesome starring Carnivores: first an instore at Plan 9 at 5, and then a gig at The Triple (both with fellow Atlantans Balkans). I'll be there, make sure you're there, too.

mp3: There Is Evil

Friday, July 24, 2009

LP Lust: Jooooooly Edition

Hot damn it's been a long time since I went record shopping. When I first had that thought, friends, I realized it was time to make amends, and add records to my already full shelves. Obviously, it's time to buy more shelves.

The records listed here were acquired over the past couple weeks, including a no-holds barred pillaging of the record bins of several area thrift stores this morning. I lucked my way into quite a variety this time, a little bit of this, that, and then some. After this haul, I thank my lucky stars to have wandered into the stores when I did. One of the best ways I know of to beat the heat is by parking myself on my couch with a nice cold beverage, listening to one of these fabulous records all night long.

*Bay City Rollers: Dedication
*Parliament: Motor Booty Affair
*Herbie Mann: Glory of Love
*Brushfire Records 12" Sampler Volume I
*Procul Harum: Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
*The Rolling Stones: Hot Rocks
*Jeff Beck: Blow by Blow
*Duane & Greg: Allman
*The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street
*Nancy Wilson: Goin' Out of My Head
*Big Country: The Crossing
*Babar Songs & Stories
*The Umbrellas of Cherbourg OST
*A Man and a Woman OST
*Chet Atkins: Music from Nashville My Home Town
*The Dillards: Live...Almost
*Willie Nelson: The Sound in Your Mind
*The Mamas & The Papas: A Gathering of Flowers - The Anthology
*Diana Ross & The Supremes: Greatest Hits
*Kenny Rogers: The Gambler
*Charley Pride: Pride of Country Music
*Adam & The Ants: Stand and Deliver!
*The Police: Synchronicity
*Steve Miller Band: The Joker
*Muddy Waters: King Bee
*Metallica: Ride the Lightning
*Men at Work: Business as Usual
*Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Hard Promises
*Roy Orbison: The Classic Roy Orbison
*Charley Pride: Charley Pride in Person
*Barry Nesbitt and The Highlanders: Scots Wha' Ha'e
*Henry Mancini: The Pink Panther

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Live Review: NIN/JA 2009 @ Merriweather Post Pavilion, June 9, 2009

There are shows, and then there are Shows. Your average show happens every night, in bars the world over. They range from dire to nothing special to pretty darn good. Shows, conversely, Shows are something else entirely. Shows can be stunning, awe-inspiring, earth-shaking. At a Show, you might see stars, shapes, or God. Shows don't happen all that often, but when they do, you're bound to thank your lucky stars you were there. And friends, last month, I saw a goddam Show. Nine Inch Nails. Jane's Addiction. Live supremacy. Below is my review from RVA, photos by Miss Laura O'Neill. Hope you managed to catch the NIN/JA tour...

"If you’re anything close to my age (30), there’s a small collection of bands that have been a part of all our lives for a good number of years. You’ve probably spent over half of your life listening to some of them, even the ones that you weren’t necessarily all that fond of to begin with. These bands, over time, become a part of the lexicon of your days, the familiar Old Faithfuls of your record collection. When you got bored with the new or became tired of the classics, they were there, dependable. Listening to them, whether as a snippet of a chorus heard on modern rock radio or a voluntary listen at home, can bring back a flood of memories of bygone days, blurry snapshots of younger years. And it couldn’t possibly get much more nostalgic (or, well, awesome) than the Nine Inch Nails/Jane’s Addiction NIN/JA farewell tour, which stopped in the wilds of Maryland at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

When Trent Reznor announced (in his very fan-friendly way) the indefinite hiatus on NIN tours, it brought a tear to my eye. For my money, there are few bands around that can touch the intricacies, the intense spectacle, and the sheer performance value offered at a Nine Inch Nails show. Admittedly, I was slow (a mild understatement) to see the appeal of the formerly constantly black-clad and gloomy Reznor (my obsession with Britpop during my formative years being well-documented), but thanks to some jaw-droppingly spectacular live shows and a couple of the newer records, I’ve seen myself turn into quite an NIN fangirl. So naturally, then, the announcement of one last Nine Inch Nails tour was huge (another mild understatement). Throw in the promise of fellow '90s alternative mainstays Jane’s Addiction (and, I can’t lie, the promise of a shirtless Dave Navarro), and I was sold. Tickets were procured, preparations made (including a homemade cocktail I dubbed “The Ninja”). It seemed as though June 9th would never come.

When NIN/JA Day finally arrived, we jaunted up to Columbia, giggling like teenagers (the not-so-unexpected side effect of sheer giddiness, and those homemade cocktails). The glorious, sun-dappled (though ridiculously muggy) day gave way to the billowing thunderheads of a late afternoon storm, making a very atmospheric backdrop for the bon voyage party of two heavyweights. It’s as if Mother Nature wanted to see to it that the bands went out with a bang - though there were no worries there.

The farewell began with former Rage Against the Machine axeman Tom Morello’s newest band, Street Sweeper Social Club. I found them notable more for their matching epaulette-laden military jackets and huge banner than their actual tunes, though they did provide a fair introduction to the proceedings. It was loud, it was heavy, and you could dance to some of it. We already knew that Morello knows how to play guitar better than about 99% of the population, but the magic he found with Rage hasn’t been replicated. The best thing about SSSC, though, was that they sounded nothing like Audioslave.

After Morello and Co. left the stage, a certain energy began to fill the air. The thousands of us in the stands and the thousands more swathed in ponchos on the lawn all seemed to be buzzing at once. It was impatience, expectance, and exhilaration all pouring forth at the same time. After what seemed an interminable, molasses-like span of time, the lights finally went down, the crowd roared, and out strolled Nine Inch Nails for one final turn on the Merriweather stage. Trent Reznor being ever the chameleon, his approach to the final tour was in stark contrast with the last time I saw them, last November in Charlottesville. That show featured highly elaborate stage and lighting configurations, with each note of each song carefully planned with sensational effects for maximum impact. The NIN/JA tour was far less dramatic, though no less atmospheric. With the ever-approaching nightfall above, the dark lighting scheme of hazy golden browns and dark purples with strategically placed spotlights seemed somber and moody, perfect tones for a goodbye. The gloom was interspersed by fiery red lights and electric blues, but the fancy projections and mesh boxes were a thing of the past.

NIN was in rare form, though it’s pretty hard to imagine this band having an off night. They began with “999,999” and set the tone immediately. It was to be nothing but the best. The 19-song set was full of favorites, a veritable retrospective of NIN’s lengthy and noteworthy career. Two standouts were “March of the Pigs” and “Echoplex”, an old and a new favorite, the former featuring one hell of an audience singalong (though there were many), and the latter having been tweaked so that Robin Finck's saucy guitar riff was somehow even dirtier. All four band members were in fine fettle, with Reznor, as always, taking the lead. Alternating between vocals, guitar, keyboards, and fair amounts of thrashing around with boundless energy, the 44-year-old continues to put dudes half his age to shame. And hot damn, is he sexy. Every song was great, but the final four nearly induced my brain to melt: “Dead Souls” (the Joy Division cover that I never in a million years would have expected to see live), “The Hand That Feeds”, “Head Like a Hole”, and “Hurt”. The crowd singing along to “Head Like a Hole” and “Hurt” was quite possibly the loudest I’ve ever heard at a concert. And the finale, “Hurt”, was the best I’ve ever seen it, with extra poignance because of the finality of the gig. Despite the lack of songs like “Closer” or “Mr. Self-Destruct”, it was an amazing set, nearly perfect, but incredibly bittersweet. If we had to say adieu to NIN, this was the way to do it.

After the set that I didn’t want to end, it was time to take a breather before Jane’s Addiction closed the show. I’d never been much of a Jane’s fan, probably thanks to years of inherent resistance to the song “Jane Says”, which I couldn’t stand back in the day. But now I stand before you, completely converted. All it took was 14 songs to turn me into a believer. Ageless wonder Perry Farrell (50) shimmied and shook his ass across the stage, prancing around in his tight, befeathered ensemble like a preening, over-sexed peacock. Farrell is truly a consummate performer, witty and engaging, with the added charm of being overtly raunchy. Swigging from a bottle of wine, Farrell wiggled his hips and alerted us to the fact that we were making him hard. It wasn’t just the ostentatious Perry that I found so impressive. It was the entire band. They sounded legendary. After falling in love with songs like “Ocean Size” and “Mountain Song”, I found myself under Jane’s spell. I even found their last song, “Jane Says”, fantastic. And that truly is impressive, given how many years I’ve disliked it. The lighting was more outrageous for JA, as you might guess. Lots of pinks and greens and bright purple, to match the over-the-top whirlwind that is Farrell. They sure shocked the hell out of me with how much they could rock. Maybe not quite as hard as they once could, but they still know what they’re doing. And Pied Piper Perry will forever know how to keep the audience in the palm of his hand.

NIN/JA was probably the (non-festival) concert of the year for me. It would take some kinda ferociousness to top what happened up there in Maryland. There are so few bands that could withstand the test of time the way these two bands have. I mean, Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction would have been a hot ticket back in 1994, but it takes something special to keep the masses enamored for as long as they have. They always have great musicians around them, but both bands will always be known and noted for their frontmen; NIN with the awesome force that is Trent Reznor, and Jane’s with Perry Farrell, their brother from another time and place. I just hope they don’t stay in rock & roll retirement for too long. After all, someone’s gotta show the kids how it’s done."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Live Review: Cut Off Your Hands @ Iota, June 5, 2009

I have to say, Cut Off Your Hands is rapidly becoming one of my bands of the year. Having seen them at South by Southwest and at the Black Cat already, I happily drove up 95 for another chance to see some of my favorite Kiwis. Below is the review I wrote for RVA, with photos graciously provided by Adam Kissick.

"“Oh shit,” was the horrified, wide-eyed sentiment collectively chorused by New Zealand’s rising stars Cut Off Your Hands when they learned I was reviewing their performance at Iota, opening for Viva Voce. “What are you gonna say?” they all frowned and fretted, and were genuinely relieved when I promised kind words would be imparted. I wasn’t just giving them lip service, either. A Cut Off Your Hands show, regardless of whether or not you catch them after staying out entirely too late in New York the night before, will always be pretty darn great, no two ways about it.Trust me, I’ve already seen them thrice this year, and would gladly see them a dozen more times if I could.

Despite mouthpiece Nick Johnston’s wary disclaimers about the band’s NYC indulgences, you’d just about never know the band was the least bit tired (well, save for maybe a dark under eye circle hither and yon). The audience, which was a bit on the small side for a Friday night crowd in Arlington, was treated to a solid, if a bit short-ish, eight song set. As much as I love them on record, I’m convinced that COYH is an even better live band. Their exuberant, bright-eyed pop with bite is even more animated, more robust, and more appealing, not to mention of course that the boys themselves are ever so charming in the flesh.

They began the set with one of my favorites, “You & I”, a shouty, frenetic firecracker perfect for kicking things off. A trio of high-energy, catchy as can be songs followed: “It Doesn’t Matter”, “Oh Girl”, and “Turn Cold”. The first line of drinker’s delight “It Doesn’t Matter” seemed perfectly apropos on this night (“I woke up drunk once again this afternoon”), a case of life imitating art, perhaps. The sweeping, grandiose single “Happy As Can Be” was up next, and once again the band didn’t disappoint. I’m a not-so-closeted fan of a good ballad, so when the opening chords of “Nostalgia” started coming from the stage, I inwardly squealed like a fluttering-hearted schoolgirl. O, the crooning, the gentle strum of Jono’s guitar, the “oooooh” choruses. It was a dreamy, languid moment amongst a sea of delirious dizziness. Naturally, the lovely ballad was followed by one of the most danceable songs in the Cut Off Your Hands catalog, “Let’s Get Out of Here.” The summery ode to careless youthful abandon got quite a few of the increasingly less and less stoic Arlingtonians dancing (ever-so-slightly, of course). The last song, “Still Fond”, came much too soon, and just like that it was over. The boys left the stage to fairly enthusiastic cheers, including hearty hollering from the khaki-clad contingent sitting near me at the bar, and I’m pretty sure they won themselves several new fans. My one complaint was the omission of their bitchin’ cover of Split Enz’s “Shark Attack”, which when confronted with my displeasure all four vigorously assured me next time it would be back on the setlist.

After the show, as we kicked it with some drinks, I asked the band to sum up the show in one word. Nick, who was so (unnecessarily) apologetic even after a thumbs-up set, went for “hungover.” A somewhat glazed-over Phil, bassist extraordinaire, needed some time to marinate, eventually settling on “Shock Top.” Not being a beer connoisseur (hard liquor, if you please), I initially thought he was trying to stump me with some Kiwi slang I wasn’t familiar with. Only later on did I come to find he was referring to the pint in front of him. Jono, the somewhat quiet and rather tall guitarist, asked if we could throw proper grammatical caution to the wind for his answer, which was “reallyfuckinggood.” I’m definitely in agreement with him on that point, run-on and all. And Elroy, the delightful new drummer, chose the Zen-like “content” for his summation. Bottom line, though, we were all pretty much on the same page. It was a damn fine show.

All in all, the evening was well worth the $40 parking ticket left for me by the overzealous Arlington parking patrol. Perhaps if they’d seen Cut Off Your Hands, they’d have been in too good a mood to dole out infractions."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ringo

Happy Birthday to everyone's favorite drummer (yes, including mine!). What's not to love about a man called Ringo? I'll always love Mr. Starkey for penning one of my favorite songs when I was younger, "Octopus's Garden", not to mention those endearingly droopy eyes and deadpan Liverpudlian accent. Ringo always seemed to be the sanest of the Beatles, the most level-headed (yes, even while coming up with songs about frolicking under the sea with octopi). He's always seemed like a stand-up guy, and I appreciate how into the notion of harmony he is, not just musically but in terms of universal accord.

So into the idea of love thy neighbor is he that Ringo, last year, evidently wished his birthday to become something greater, something about love and happiness. So let's all wish each other a very happy Peace and Love Day, along with a very happy 70th to Ringo.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

LP Lust: Happy Birthday to Me Edition

So yours truly turned the big 3-0 last week. It shocked the hell out of me, too. In between being wined and dined (major emphasis on the wined, though several delectable meals were also had) by my beautiful friends and spending some less than quality time at the Broad St. DMV (Dear Commonwealth of Virginia, I am not a fan of the new drivers licenses), I (naturally) found the time to engage in a little birthday shopping (it's my birthday and I'll buy if I want to? Sorry, couldn't help myself). Surprisingly, I didn't go as crazy as I have on other spending sprees, which may or may not be a sign of my advancing age leading to some much-needed fiscal resolve (though I strongly suspect not). The vinyl in question came from a variety of sources, some from friends and some purchased in retail outlets. I probably missed the chance to excuse doing some major spending, but the birth month isn't over yet. Here's the skinny on the records that contributed to my milestone:

*Doves: Kingdom of Rust (Thanks, Tombo!)
*Dionne Warwick: Dionne!
*The Man With the Golden Arm OST
*The Rolling Stones: Tattoo You
*Lynyrd Skynyrd: Second Helping
*Nancy Sinatra: Movin' With Nancy
*Split Enz: Dizrythmia
*Nick Lowe: Nick the Nife
*The Guess Who: Wheatfield Soul

My collection has officially outgrown its' storage unit, thanks to this latest batch, so I'll soon be heading to Ikea to procure another cube to fill with heavenly vinyl.

Happy Birthday, Jeff

There is seemingly no end to the list of prolific, legendary, or otherwise fabulous people celebrating birthdays in the month of June (hey, even yours truly is a June baby). Obviously, June is a month inspiring creativity and beauty. And today it's Jeff Beck's turn, and as far as guitarists go, it's hard to get more legendary than the newly-minted Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famer Mr. Beck.

Whether you prefer his Yardbirds days, his golden age with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood (before they abandoned ship) in the Jeff Beck Group, or dig on his solo stuff (or any of his other projects), there's no denying the extreme virtuosity (and eccentricity) of Jeff Beck. Intense, moody, mysterious, and a little odd...just the way I like my guitarists (and my men, but that's neither here nor there).

I'll be throwing on my copy of the seriously atmospheric Truth this evening, to pay homage to one hell of a guitar player. I hope you'll do the same. Enjoy this brief interview between Jeff and good old Kurt Loder (you remember the days when MTV cared about good music, right?). Happy Birthday, Jeff.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Joe

This birthday boy has nothing whatsoever to do with music, unless there's some musical ode to his prowess on the football field that I've yet to hear. But as a graduate of the University of Alabama, I didn't think I should let this day go by without wishing a very, very Happy Birthday to the one, the only, #12: Joe Willie Namath.

Football fans, you'll probably remember him as "Broadway Joe", famous during his years as a New York Jet for his hair, his fur coats, and his affinity for the bottle. There was even a commercial for pantyhose, I do believe. But before making life interesting in New York, Joe was throwing his way to glory under the coaching of Bear Bryant down in Tuscaloosa. He's definitely one of the greats, and highly revered down among the annals of Alabama college football. And I don't think anyone can deny that back in the day he was a stone cold fox. In honor of his birthday, why not pick up a copy of his super sassy autobiography, "I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow...'Cause I Get Better Looking Every Day"?

Monday, May 25, 2009

LP Lust: Memorial Day Edition

Greetings and salutations, my fine fellows! I hope everyone has been enjoying the bliss otherwise known as the three-day weekend. I am a serious proponent of a permanent three-day weekend, though, sadly, it doesn't look like this issue is going to be addressed anytime soon.

Anyway! What better thing to do over a holiday weekend than shop for vinyl! My latest additions to the ever-growing LP collection were purchased over two different shopping trips, one to the fantabulous Diversity Thrift here in Richmond, the other this past Saturday at the Plan 9 in Charlottesville. Here's what I ended up with:

*Leon Russell: Leon Russell
*Neil Young: Decade
*Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska
*Ike & Tina Turner: Get It-Get It!
*Harry Nilsson: A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

*Gram Parsons: Grievous Angel
*Grand Funk: We're An American Band
*Various: Welcome to Tyrol
*Harry Nilsson: The Point!
*Magnavox Presents: A Reprise of Great Hits

All in all, I do believe I found some very excellent albums. I feel really lucky to be in an area that has such a wealth of good quality (and cheap!) used records.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bob

As a fellow Gemini, I'd like to wish a certain legend a very, very Happy Birthday today. I'm sure y'all are already celebrating as we speak, but it's Bob Dylan's 68th birthday.

It's hard to know what to say about Bob, and equally hard to imagine a world without his music. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I am definitely a late bloomer when it comes to his music, but the first to admit that listening to "Girl From the North Country" almost always makes me cry. Dylan is unlike anyone, and it's probably safe to assume that there will never be another like him. His music has something to say, though perhaps it says different things to different people it is the antithesis of so much of today's popular music. A world without Bob Dylan would be a very frightening place, musically-speaking.

So join me, won't you, in wishing a Happy Birthday to the epitome of legend. Here's to you, Bob.

Zut Alors!: Sharing is Caring

Dearest friends,

As we all know, the economy is still a big old nasty piece of work these days. I'm feeling it, and I'm sure pretty much all of you are feeling it.

However, there's a matter that I wish to bring to your attention, and it is my hope that at least some of you will be able to participate.

You already know how highly we think of Mr. Trent Reznor around these parts, and both Chris and I subscribe to TR's Tweets. It was one of those Tweets that alerted me to what I'm now going to bring to your attention. Here's the message that Trent posted to the NIN site:

"A Letter from Trent:

This is for something important. Eric De La Cruz is dying and needs a heart transplant. He keeps getting turned down for a transplant list because he's on Nevada Medicaid, and there are no transplant centers in Nevada. We want to get involved and hopefully so do you, so we're extending a hand. His sister Veronica (former Anchor and Internet Correspondent for CNN) has started a campaign to save his life.

Eric's situation shines a bright light on a broken health care system, and his particular set of problems are being addressed on the political front, aiming for reform in addition to the need for immediate financial help to keep him alive TODAY. I think we can help with the latter.

Here's what we're offering - three options:

If you have a ticket to a NIN/JA show: if you donate $1,000 to this cause, we'll invite you to come hang out with us before the NIN/JA show of your choice. You and a guest can watch NIN and Street Sweeper Social Club's soundchecks, eat dinner backstage with us, take pics / get autographs and watch the show from the side of the stage if you'd like.

If you donate $300, you and a friend can join us for NIN and SSSC's soundchecks and a handshaking / hug session before doors open at the NIN/JA show of your choice.

If you do NOT have a ticket to a NIN/JA show: if you donate $1,200 to this cause, we'll invite you to come hang out with us before the NIN/ JA show of your choice and provide 2 tickets (best available). You and a guest can watch soundcheck, eat dinner backstage with us, take pics / get autographs and watch the show from the side of the stage if you'd like.

100% of the money collected from this will go directly to Eric's fund.

I hope you'll consider helping out with this.

Sincerely, Trent Reznor


Like I said, I know times are super tight for everyone these days. As of now, this fundraising effort has raised over $600,000 to help Eric. We all know how completely and totally fucked the health care system is in this country, and this is a way to help someone who really, really needs it who might not make it otherwise. If you can, I would urge you to consider donating. You can even donate $10, which I know is a lot for many of us. I can't even begin to say how awesome this is, what Trent and co. have done, because if you think about it, not many bands at all would consider doing something like this (in an era in which some bands will charge you simply to meet them, with the money going to them as opposed to an actual pertinent cause). So, in closing, sharing is caring, and what better way to share than helping someone who is truly in need. It'll warm your heart, guaranteed.