Friday, April 28, 2006

well, just cause i havent posted in a month...

dont mean i cant pimp my own radio show! (actually mugshot asked me to, so dont playahate):

3 MORE WEEKS: 4/28, 5/5, 5/12 [all Fridays, including tomorrow]
1-3PM (note new time); 4-6pm in philly
90.1FM in the bay
listen online: http://kzsulive.stanford.edu/
call in: 650 723 9010

having just read roe v. wade for the first time ever, ive been inspired to play exclusively rock by women for the next two weeks. this week (4/28) will be riot grrrl from the pacific northwest (bikini kill, excuse 17), next week will be early nineties lady pop grunge (kim deal, tanya donnely, kristen hersh). the last week who knows, but probably the foundations of chick anger (patti smith, x, etc.).

--

also, for my money, im gonna go ahead and let y'all know that there was this band. they were called clearlake. they made picture perfect depressing brit pop. a few years ago. now theyve dropped a new album, and guess what? its as good as the last one. actually, it sounds exactly the same. which is an amazing thing. for the mugshot in you, this satisfies the sweet tooth.


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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

First Impressions

Currently listening: The Twilight Singers’ Powder Burns.

Street date: May 16.
i-know-the-boss date: April 25.
Awesome-media-job factor: 21 days.
Awesome-media-job factor negated: The whole thing’s already downloadable from iTunes Music Store, including a bonus track. So there.

First-listen standout tracks:
“Forty Dollars”
“Underneath the Waves”
“Powder Burns”

Sample downloads:
"Forty Dollars" (via the totally awesomely titled The Rich Girls Are Weeping)
"Bonnie Brae" (via An Aquarium Drunkard)
"I’m Ready" (via Achtung, Baby!)

Totally lighting up the band’s MySpace comment box:
“There’s Been an Accident” (streaming there, along with “Forty Dollars,” “Bonnie Brae” and, from 2003’s outstanding Blackberry Belle, “Teenage Wristband”)

Best Beatles reference:
The “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah … ” outta nowhere chorus on “Forty Dollars”

Most imperceptible backing vocals:
Ani DiFranco on “Forty Dollars” (but glad to know she’s there anyway)

Coolest song title:
“There’s Been an Accident”

Could swear it’s an old Afghan Whigs joint:
“My Time (Has Come)”
“I’m Ready”

Proof that, now that this is the fourth full-length Twilight Singers album, it’s time to get over the fact that the Afghan Whigs broke up last decade:
“Powder Burns”
“Underneath the Waves”

Holy acoustic guitar!:
“The Conversation”

One more reason to love Greg Dulli:
The songs actually segue from one to the next! Like, you know, an album! Whatta concept.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Roadside Blues


Since neither of us is a member of Philly's WXPN radio station, neither Lowender nor I could get a ticket to the station's free noon Bela Fleck and the Flecktones concert today. And it turns out that even if we were members -- we offered to sign up and pay the exorbitant membership fee just to get tickets to the show -- the concert itself was already sold out. We begged the station representative to see if there might be spots available if we waited it out and people failed to show up -- no dice, so we left town.

It's been a while since we've seen the Flecktones, and they always put on a great show. Bela plays the banjo like a guitar, Victor Wooten plays the bass like a banjo, Jeff Coffin plays his wind instruments like pianos, and Futureman plays... well, he provides percussion. The result is a creative and original mix of bluegrass, classical, and jazz. Fortunately, today's show was on the radio, and on the drive to Maryland we heard it until the WXPN signal started to fade. So we did what any normal people would do: we parked at a diner in Perryville, Md., sat in the car, and listened to the last 20 minutes. It was almost as good as being there in person. And if the songs we heard were any indication, the new album (which I should have bought by now but haven't) is a return to the standard they set in Left of Cool, when the Flecktones found the best balance among all their styles and didn't bother with too many boring guests.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thursday Battle


As I blast Ne-Yo and Peedi Peedi's "Stay" (215, Holla!), I realize that it's time for another battle: Chris Brown vs. Ne-Yo. My vote's for Ne-Yo. Post your vote as a comment.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Advance Warning: Greg Brown


We’re about to get into a couple of amazing summer music months, and what’s probably the first of the golden opportunities this season starts in Philly this Saturday night at World Cafe Live. For non-Philly people, I beg you: see this man if he comes to your town. Philly people: Sat., April 22, 7pm. World Cafe Live. Go.

Greg Brown doesn’t come around often--every few years, at best. But each time is a major event.

Sample downloads:
"The Poet Game" (via The Late Greats)
"You Drive Me Crazy" (via Audiography)

After the jump, a review I wrote in December 2003 of a greatest-hits collection that had recently come out.

Greg Brown
If I Had Known: Essential Recordings, 1980-1996
Red House Records

There's something incongruous about listening to Greg Brown in December. It's not just his lyrics that so deftly call forth the trappings of summer. There's something about his warm, hypnotic baritone that makes you crave iced tea and sunflower seeds. His voice has a kind of darkness to it that brings upbeat songs back down to earth while making the sadder ones downright haunting. When it comes to folk music, to tell the good from the exquisite takes a special kind of closeness and patient attention. This collection, and its accompanying DVD, has worlds of both. Hacklebarney Tunes, the stellar 1993 documentary that comes with the CD, shows countless images of rolling southern Iowa: overgrown berry bushes, rusted-out cars, God's country as far as the eye can see. With fantastic concert footage, interviews (Garrison Keillor makes a few obligatory appearances) and jam sessions, Hacklebarney shows quite precisely where this music comes from, and gives a hint as to why it all sounds so warm and homegrown. On the title track, listen to Brown rumble the words "She was older than me, I guess/ Summer was invented for her to wear that dress," and damn if you don't feel the mosquitoes start to swarm.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dead Revival?


Growing up a fan of Bruce Hornsby and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, I always liked music from the same general world as the Grateful Dead. But I never got to love the Dead, and that may have been because I was wary of Deadheads; I subscribed (and still do) to the view that once Jerry Garcia died, some Deadheads invaded Bruce Hornsby concerts expecting him to take up Captain Trips' mantle. My Deadhead English teacher, who played recordings of Dead concerts every day in the classroom, even game me a tape of the The Other Ones, who were led by Hornsby and let Deadheads pretend their band still existed.

Well, while at the beach recently, I picked up a biography of Jerry Garcia for no reason other than the cover looked nice. The day I returned to Philly, I bought four Dead albums at Tower, including Live/Dead and Skull & Roses. When track 1, "Bertha," of the latter came on, I lost myself. I thought I was in 10th grade again, getting set for the start of a Macbeth discussion. As I listen, I'm impressed, giving the band a chance based on Phil Lesh's twisty basslines and the songs' generally nice, feelgood, happy springtime feel. I don't know if I'll become a Deadhead, but I do know that I'd ask Bruce Hornsby to play his own stuff before requesting "Wharf Rat."

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Princeton and Nonsuch

Benthoven here with a brief rumination on the powerful connection between music and memory. Whether it evokes images of a particular person, a place, or an event, I would argue that there are few mnemonic triggers as powerful as a song. (Proust would argue in favor of odor, but he doesn't post on this blog...yet.) Often the connections between song and event are obvious. For example, any time I hear The Kaiser Chiefs, I will remember their overlooked performance at Live 8 this past summer. Sometimes they are just incidental, a tune which just happens to be in the background or on the radio when something interesting happens.

And sometimes, these connections are more deliberate. Such was the case last week when I traveled to Princeton to learn more about their graduate programs. In between question and answer sessions with professors and dinner, a few prospective grad students who were more in the know clued me into the glory that is the Princeton Record Exchange, and its vast selection of used CD's. While my new acquaintances scurried off to look at obscure jazz collections, I scoured the shelves of classic rock seeking something new and interesting to listen to on my trip home. Eventually it came down to three albums, and despite my recent interest in The Kinks and my respect for Eric Clapton, I ended up shilling out $5 for Nonsuch, an album by XTC.

Why XTC? I have no idea really...the only things I knew about them were from discussions with Mugshot and a reference in a They Might Be Giants song. ("Beatle based pop vs. new romance!") But, hey the price was right, and the album art looked pretty sweet.

The next day, it was time to head home. I had two options. Hit the highway directly or drive around the campus a little bit more and see some parts I had missed during my short time in town. I chose the latter option and, in a semi-conscious attempt to forge a musical connection to the whole experience, popped the CD into my car stereo as I drove around. Which is why, for better or for worse, the University Bookstore at Princeton will now forever be associated with "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" and why the golf course will provoke comments about how we're the smartest monkeys.

I wonder if any album would have had a similar mnemonic effect or just a well-produced British studio album featuring innovative lyrics and medieval-themed cover art. Check it out :




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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'll Believe Anything!

Just got home from the sold out Wolf Parade show at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia tonight. In a word, it was blissful.

The five piece from Montreal played most of their LP, Apologies to Queen Mary, but experimented occassionally with some new tracks. The LP, which made lots of critics top 10 lists last year, was produced by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. A lot of people may hate me for saying this, but while the album is great, after seeing these guys play for an hour its shocking how much Brock has stripped down the energy of the band. These guys are an explosion. Like an overachiever whose seen one to many of Tony Robbin's personal power video seminars.

If you haven't had a chance to see them live this what its like: five completely unassuming guys come on stage and mumble tragically Canadian stuff like "you all are super nice." They also apologize repeatedly for not being better at stage banter,"We really suck at the between song thing guys..."

They've got one guy that plays only sound effects (the kind of stuff Johnny has been doing for Radiohead since Kid A), a drummer, one dude that rotates between the bass and an assortment of percussion instruments, and vocals exchanged between mad keyboardist Spencer Krug and explosive guitarist Dan Boeckner.

Everyone in the band is technically proficient, and they are all up for every second of the performance. The sound is at once completely chaotic, strangely melodic and under control. I can only imagine that Jerry Lee Lewis once played the piano like Krug does now, because he his stomping his feet and kicking his legs with such rigor that one could easily think he's trying to play the floor like an instrument. He claps between piano key strokes, has to wipe the sweat off his keyboard with a towel between songs, struggles to catch his breath as he sings. When Krug and Boeckner layer chorus vocals they are singing with their eyes closed with that sincerity that Nick Hornby makes fun of in About a Boy. The music isn't obvious but its extraordinarily catchy considering no one can figure out what Krug is saying but shouts the one or two words that are audible in choruses. Boeckner's songs are much more subtle 3 minute rock diddies that balance out Krugs more experimental forays, but the guy can really sing and these are well crafted songs.

The new material is....new material, not nearly as polished as the album tracks, very laden in ethereal sound effects and a lot slower than their previous work. The band is at their strongest when playing the five amazing songs that close off their debut album - all of which sound ever so much better live, particularly the standouts "This Heart's on Fire," "Dinner Bells," and "I'll Believe Anything." The latter of which was performed with about as much heart as any song I've ever seen played by a band in person.

I am glad I got to see them now and sincerely hope they never get bored of playing these songs because it'd be sad to see these guys half-assing it after what I saw tonight.

Recommend resoundingly.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Fallen Woman


This past weekend I caught Verdi’s La Traviata (The Fallen Woman). I bought tickets back in December as a gift for a fellow grad student here in Boston, and I picked up a recorded performance with FriedOreo in Chicago over New Years and had been listening to it since then. I don’t pretend to have any authoritative knowledge of the genre; I went with dual aims of entertainment and learning more about the art form. The only other Verdi opera I had attended was Aida in Philly.

I went in braced for vocal acrobatics and tragedy-tinged commentary on love. I ended up being more impressed by its depiction of Parisian party society (the opera had the hedonism of a Perfectionists concert!) and the enhanced catchiness of the melodies performed live. Many of the female lead’s most powerful numbers were delivered at parties while her character was heroically drunk, which had the unexpected effect (at least for me) of lending an under-the-influence-rock-star rawness and intensity to the songs. For much of the show I felt like I should have been standing in a sweaty t-shirt close to the stage shouting lyrics instead of in a box yards from the stage.

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