Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quickie Concert Alert: The Magnetic Fields with opener Laura Barrett

Alright, like i explained to the Missus the other night regarding something else entirely, tonight's just going to be a quickie. Of course, we were talking about a game of speed Yahtzee, you sick freaks, but now i mean the following post.

The Magnetic Fields are getting ready to drop a new CD, Realism, which is supposed to act as a counterpoint to their previous Distortion. Whereas the former was all about fuzzed out power jams, the latter deals in much softer palates. Of course, all of that really is tangential to today's topic. As most new releases are apt to promote, the band will be touring and hit D.C. on Feb. 4 (the day before my birthday for all you record A&R folks looking to bribe, er, wish me many happy returns of the day). You can stream the entire thing here.

Which brings me to the actual point of this post, which is to talk about the MF's opening acts. i caught the band the last time they blew through town (at the Birchmere a few years back) when they had one Mr. Darren Hanlon in the opening slot. i'd never heard of Hanlon prior to that show, but he's been a fave of mine ever since. The gentleman from Down Under is a kick ass lyricist, deftly blending humor into his heartfelt lyrics. As it is with some of my favorite performers, it was his in-between-song banter that really pushed his show up a few notches. When he related how he met a guy who claimed his grandfather had invented the kickstand and how that experience demanded he write a song about it, i damn near lost it.

This tour, the Fields have employed the services of Ms. Laura Barrett. Her weapon of choice is the kalimba (an African thumb-piano, literally translated as "little music"), and from the little bit of her i've heard, she's a pretty fierce competitor. Oh, and she's also a member of the Hidden Cameras. i still need to snag some tickets to this show myself, but assuming that happens, expect a report to see if she can achieve the same rarefied status as Hanlon. Because let's be honest, most people go into music so they can be listed prominently on a blogger's list of "fave bands/artists you've probably never heard of." i'm pretty sure that's what motivated the Beatles.

mp3: The Kickstand Song (Darren Hanlon from Hello Stranger)

mp3: Punk's Not Dead (Darren Hanlon from Hello Stranger)

mp3: Bluebird (Laura Barrett from Victory Garden)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Spectacularly Off-Topic: Roll Tide

As you may or may not know, yours truly is an extremely proud Alabama alum. I'm also seriously obsessed with college football, which is practically a graduation requirement at UA. Naturally, I'm totally thrilled with Alabama's win last night in the BCS National Championship game. Sure, Colt McCoy got hurt, but I guess that's what happens when you play an actual tough defense. After all, 'Bama QB Greg McElroy and Heisman winner Mark Ingram (see them both in the photo here) both played hurt, so there are no excuses. Descending from my soapbox, I say Alabama was the best team all season, and was totally deserving of the title, and even if McCoy hadn't been knocked out of the game, the end result probably would have been the same. So there whiny Longhorn fans and absurd sportscasters.

And so, in honor of my dear crimson-clad football team, I'd like to post a little celebratory Skynyrd.

For those not in the know, at every 'Bama home football game you'll hear "Sweet Home Alabama." It just goes without saying. So here you go, friends. Also included is a video of the fantastic song "Rammer Jammer," the song we 'Bama fans will sing at the top of our lungs after a victory. It's enough to bring a tear to my eye. Roll Damn Tide!

mp3: Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd from the album Second Helping)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Syd

Today we honor the memory of one of rock’n’roll’s dearly departed, greatest of wacky gentlemen, Mr. Syd Barrett. These days he exists in the legend category of musicians, a status attained by many by virtue of not only their reputation for mentally residing on another planet but also their incredible talents.

Personal imbalance aside, Syd was a talent, both in the early days of Pink Floyd and in his own right. The Madcap Laughs is a great encapsulation of what great music instability can create, and can be found the world over in the record collections of the hipper-than-thou. As with many bands of his generation, Syd and early Floyd paved the way for dozens of bands, inspiring creativity and far-outness.

In honor of the life of Syd Barrett, here’s some music by, and inspired by, the man himself.

mp3: Late Night (Syd Barrett from the album The Madcap Laughs)

mp3: My Man Syd (The Brian Jonestown Massacre from the album Take It From the Man!)

mp3: I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives (Television Personalities from the album And Don’t the Kids Just Love It)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Album Review: These United States - Everything Touches Everything

It’s no secret that Chris and I each have a few bands apiece that we’ve loved fiercely and ferociously for years. To put it bluntly, they’re our pets and we love them. On certain occasions, we’ve been lucky enough to be around these certain bands from virtually the beginning. And when it comes to These United States, well, we go back a ways. I think, and have thought for some time, that they’re one of the best bands around, and not just in the locality sense. There are few bands in the country, let alone in DC and Richmond, who can keep up with them on an artistic level. Not many bands can impress me on a regular basis as much as these boys can. And friends, this third album very well could be that last, biggest push into world domination (and coincidentally, it’s one of the best damn records of 2009). I’d say it’s their finest work so far, but since everything they’ve released is so amazing I really can’t go there.

To refresh your memory, These United States has released three records in their history thus far. Album number one was the ethereal, floating introductory record. Album two was the brilliantly thematic country-fried space folkish one, garnered them quite a lot of attention to boot. But album three, well, it’s probably going to be the one that makes them famous.

The band has expanded from a three-piece to a five-piece, and the added heft of the new and improved lineup favorably adds to the fullness and breadth of the album. Everything Touches Everything is definitely the most accessible These United States record, and darned if it doesn’t sound downright poppy at times. For example, opening (and my favorite) track “I Want You to Keep Everything” is a slick, spotless, nearly perfect pop song, though of course it contains none of the meaningless pop treacle prevalent in bad pop. Jesse Elliott probably couldn’t write a bad song if he tried, bless his heart. Further into the record, the most excellent “Conquest & Consequence” has a robust guitar sound and an almost 60s feel, as though it might have been plucked from right around the dawning of the psychedelic era, and naturally there’s a deeply political slant to the lyrics. Another gem, “Good Bones,” is just warmth and glory blended together. It feels hopeful and triumphant, choc full of vim and vigor. The album closes with the opus “Good Night Wish,” a dreamy track that ebbs and flows along the rhythms of nighttime in the city, bringing things to an end in a most magnificent manner and punctuated by a bang on a guitar at the bittersweet finale.

I don’t believe that all that many people are really, truly gifted at what they do. But that Jesse Elliott, dears, is gifted. I could smell it years ago and he just keeps proving me right, along with the help of some rather special co-stars. His songs can confound and astound and leave you just about breathless and teary/starry/wide-eyed. The band is constantly growing and changing, at once and never quite the same. And most importantly, this band and the music they make has soul. Yet again, here’s another fantastic record, and it doesn’t sound like anything else that anyone else is doing. Each track has its own distinct, unique personality, though they all fit together beautifully and completely, creating a full, cohesive sound that could only be made by These United States. And what a glorious sound it is.

mp3: Good Bones (These United States from Everything Touches Everything)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Michael

Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I was an impressionable youth, tearfully watching Brenda and Dylan breakup to the sounds of "Losing My Religion" on the original version of "Beverly Hills, 90210". So too does it feel like only yesterday that R.E.M. was breaking into mainstream music, and subsequent hugeness, so many moons ago. There was a time they seemed to rule the world, and while those days have passed their shadow still looms very, very large over much of music since.

Today we celebrate the birth of one of Athens' finest, Mr. Michael Stipe. His, and R.E.M.'s, longevity is an achievement indeed. Long hath their sound permeated our lives, and long may they continue to do so.

"E-bow the Letter" is still probably my favorite of their canon, but I enjoy this little ditty almost as much.

Here's to you, Mr. Stipe. Many happy returns!

mp3: Radio Free Europe (R.E.M. from the album Murmur)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quote of the Day: #3

ou probably know by now that Oasis has split...yet again. Once again it was some serious in-fighting betwixt the brothers Gallagher that did the band in, though I'm in the camp that couldn't actually believe they were still together. Mind you, Noel Gallagher did know his way around a good pop song, and I'd still vote "Wonderwall" as one of the finest songs of the 90s, if not of, well, ever. Yes, I said it, and I stand by it.

In any event, the NME website has collected 50 Noel Gallagher quotes, along with some great photos, and made a wee feature out of it. The quotes themselves are, as always, priceless, though I certainly did get a kick out of seeing that 1996 photo of Noel hanging out with a peroxided Robbie Williams.

This quote selection, given the circumstances between the recent, and evidently final, Oasis split, seems rather apros pos, as it's Noel discussing the downside of his dear brother Liam:

"He's rude, arrogant, intimidating and lazy. He's the angriest man you'll ever meet. He's like a man with a fork in a world of soup."

And in honor of the split, here's some "Wonderwall" for your enjoyment.

mp3: Wonderwall (buy)

Best of 2009: Where Art Thou?

By now, dear friends, you might have noticed that something is missing from our little site. Well, you're right. Last year we huffed and puffed and got our Best of 2008 posts done in December. This seemed well and good at the time, but then we had a wee think about it over this past year and decided that we were going to be rebels, if you will.

To recap the winners and losers of the year 2009, we would not start until January of 2010, so as to let all of 2009 shake out (and give us more time to listen to the year's offerings and work on other amusing and fabulous year-end categories). We wanted to give the year a chance to get its last gasps in, and so rest assured we are getting down to the nitty-gritty as you read this very post.

So don't fret. Our lists are coming, we promise.