Thursday, January 31, 2008
As March gets closer, it's exciting to see the lineup that is gradually released for Austin's South by Southwest Festival (especially since it'll be my first). One band that I just noticed is set to play SXSW is a group that I actually heard about after last year's festival. I've liked them ever since, and haven't had a chance to check them out live just yet. If their shows are half as awesome as their band-designed one-of-a-kind shirts for sale on their website, then it should be a great time. If you've never heard them, I'd recommend starting with the song below.
Mp3: Mittens on Strings - La Cartel
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Just about one year ago to the date, Andrew Bird had a fantastic appearance on the children's show Jack's Big Music Show as stringed-instrument-fixer Dr. Stringz. Some songs fade with time, but how can this song (and guest spot as a whole) not be an instant classic? Let's take a trip back in history, all the way to January 2007.
Here is the video, in all its glory:
Thanks go out to CSVMIAD for the stellar Mp3 from the show. You can check that out below as well.
Mp3: Andrew Bird/Dr. Stringz - Dr. Stringz
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I've heard the argument that Ryan Adams' problem is that he produces too much music, and as a result, he ends up having some sub-par releases. While I'd disagree with that assessment, my problem is that it is easy to miss a really high-quality song or two in the shuffle of all of Adams' albums. One of my favorite new discoveries is the song "My Love for You is Real," off of his latest EP, Follow the Lights. The song's first official studio release can be found there, although earlier live versions exist. The version below is actually from a show back in 2001, and it rivals the studio track in terms of likability. I think this song is a perfect example of a track for which a case can be made as being better live or better in-studio. The studio version has a much fuller, produced sound (with the aid of Adams' backing band The Cardinals), while the live version is bare bones but lets you have a truly authentic, sincere performance.
All said, the Follow the Lights EP is definitely worth picking up, which you can do right here.
Mp3: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - My Love for You is Real
Mp3: Ryan Adams - My Love for You is Real (live)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
With the release of Metric's new live dvd imminent (pre-order on their website here), I've been revisiting the group's older albums, and rediscovered one of my favorite older tracks. For fans that have never heard Grow Up and Blow Away, the band's first full-length album, "The Twist" will probably seem to be a departure from their guitar-driven recent work. The track, though, is fairly representative of their early sound, with a slight bit of added edge.
Mp3: Metric - The Twist
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Pretty sure I'm a bit behind on this one, but hey, It's new to me. The marriage of The Shins and Peter Bjorn & John in some form seems fairly inevitable in hindsight, as both have risen to the top of indie pop bands in terms of critical acclaim and public recognition. You can hear Peter Bjorn & John's distinctive quality in this track; gone are the "la, la, la's" of the original, and the vocals are more isolated (along with more prominent echoing) in the remixed version. Thoughts?
Mp3: The Shins - Australia (Peter Bjorn & John Remix)
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Stephen Malkmus is my hero. There really is no other way to say it. From Pavement through Real Emotional Trash, the forthcoming SM & the Jicks album, the man can not miss. To paraphrase the "Bobs" from Office Space (when they were discussing their love for Michael Bolton), it doesn't get much better for me than when he sings "Jenny and the Ess-Dog." "Gardenia" should please most Malkmus-followers, as it falls within the more accessible end of his classic work.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Gardenia [link removed]
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Regardless of your opinion of the movie Vanilla Sky, it's hard to deny the accompanying soundtrack. The entire film, in fact, is tied closely to its music. Many scenes focus heavily on a backing song, and there are even several direct music-related references, such as the shot above, which emulates one of Bob Dylan's classic album covers. Perhaps the most fitting song in Vanilla Sky is the song "Where Do I Begin" by The Chemical Brothers (featuring Beth Orton on vocals). It has a terrific, dream-like opening, and it devolves into a strange amalgam of criss-crossing beats and noises. If you've seen the movie, you may agree that for better or worse, the film parallels the song's strange path. Check it out and see for yourself:
Mp3: The Chemical Brothers - Where Do I Begin
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Back when it was released, I remember David Byrne's 2004 album Grown Backwards getting a decent amount of press, but it seemed that most reviewers were concerned primarily with its operatic moments and for the track, "Glass, Concrete, and Stone," which was featured in several films that year. While both aspects of the album are worth noting, it seems that it may have been easy for the general public to overlook a great cover song within the 15 tracks. "The Man Who Loved Beer," which was originally written and performed by the band Lambchop, has a great deal of added production along with Byrne's unmistakable vocal style. Both great versions in their own right; both worth checking out.
Mp3 - Lambchop - The Man Who Loved Beer
Mp3 - David Byrne - The Man Who Loved Beer
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Over at YANP, a great ongoing feature is the annual "12 Days of Mixmas," in which artists put together endearingly-specific mixes for the listening public. David Crane of one of my favorite new bands, BOAT (who I'll no doubt post about in the near future), has a mix that is catchy, upbeat, and unconventional (three traits I'd say BOAT themselves share).
One of my favorite tracks from the mix is "Humans Extinct," by Pacific Northwesterners The Elephants. It comes from a subgenre of music that I won't begin to try and come up with a name for, but in which I would put other favorites like Islands/The Unicorns, Danielson, and YACHT. Either way, it should be stuck in your head the rest of today.
Myspace: The Elephants
Mp3: The Elephants - Humans Extinct
Monday, January 07, 2008
"Coffee & TV" combines four elements that I hold dear to my heart:
1) witty lyrics
2) simple, yet unique instrumentation
3) insane, creative music video
4) an ampersand in the song title
Hammer & Tongs, the credited directors of this video, have actually made a few of my favorite videos (R.E.M.'s "Imitation of Life," Supergrass' "Pumping on Your Stereo," to name a few) and directed the film adaptation of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which I still have yet to see)." Definitely head over to their site and check out some of their work (http://www.tongsville.com).
Video: Blur - Coffee & TV
Mp3: Blur - Coffee & TV
Friday, January 04, 2008
Favorite albums of the year:
Full of sweeping melodies, great instrumentation, and a sound that wouldn't feel out of place in an earlier generation of music. A great band that I'm excited to hear more from in the future.
Video: Great Lake Swimmers - Your Rocky Spine
Mp3: Great Lake Swimmers - I am Part of a Large Family
9) Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Andrew Bird is, in my opinion, simply one of the most talented musicians today. We're lucky that he's also a productive guy. ...& the Mysterious Production of Eggs was a fantastic album, and one that surely was going to be a feat to follow up, but Bird came pretty close with this record.
Mp3: Andrew Bird - Heretics
8) M.I.A. - Kala
Even as a fan of M.I.A.'s previous work, this album caught me off-guard, mainly because it is much more consistent than I would have expected. Basic breakdown: love 60%, really like 30%, 10% not my thing. Pretty solid, and my favorite hip-hop album of the year.
Mp3: M.I.A. - Bamboo Banga
Forget the whole Outback thing, the real news is that Of Montreal put out their best album to date this year. Hissing Fauna... combines the best elements of its predecessors, and you could make a strong case that this album has more lyrical depth than any album prior. Here's hoping that the 2008 follow-up is just as strong.
Mp3: Of Montreal - Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
6) Le Loup – The Throne Of…
Every year, it seems that there are a handful of terrific surprise albums that pop up. Le Loup's debut was one such record, and is a pretty remarkable work considering that it was recorded by just one person. I've yet to see how the record translates live, but they are one of my most anticipated acts to see at SXSW 2008.
Mp3: Le Loup - We Are Gods! We Are Wolves!
So, alright, Funeral was better. Neon Bible is still a fantastic album, and certainly one of the best of this year. Each song that was released in the lead-up to this album surpassed my expectations, and I think it works great as a whole. It's hard to believe that this band has only been around five years or so. Another act I can't wait to see live some day.
Mp3: Arcade Fire - Intervention (Live)
4) Peter Bjorn & John – Writer’s Block
Sometimes when the first song I hear from a band is some great single, I'm a little weary of listening to the rest of the record, since it's hard to live up to that first impression. "Young Folks" definitely grabbed me right off the bat, but once you place that song within the context of the full album, you see that it is only one part of the whole. I'm glad to say I can't decide on a favorite track.
Myspace: Peter Bjorn & John
3) Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
When I first got a hold of this album, the tracks were actually in the reverse order from their final listing. That is the order that I got used to listening to them in, and I actually think the album goes in a better direction this way. Rather than starting on somewhat of a low note and ending on a high note, it goes the opposite direction, which made the songs resonate more with me, since many do have dark themes. This also pushed some of the singles to the back half of the album, and brought some of the dense tracks to the forefront. Give it a shot if you never got fully into this record.Mp3: Modest Mouse - Spitting Venom
2) Radiohead – In Rainbows
On first listen, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about this album. A few songs stood out, but it wasn't until I got through the album four or five times before it really started to grow on me. Dozens of listens later, I would say that this is Radiohead's prettiest sounding record. Tracks like "Nude" and "Faust Arp" are just plain brilliant. The bonus disc also includes several outstanding songs, including "Down is the New Up" and "Bangers & Mash." There isn't a single band that I hold to a higher standard than Radiohead, and they managed to put out an album that not only met every expectation, but also did so while taking their sound in a new and interesting direction.
Mp3 - Radiohead - Down is the New Up
Black Sheep Boy was my first introduction to Okkervil River in 2005, and while I enjoyed the album, it wasn't the clear-cut best album of that year that many of my friends claimed. I thought it was very good, but I also thought that it drifted too much for it to be a truly great record. The Stage Names manages to perfectly place catchy and meaningful songs into a 9-track, truly accessibly, near-perfect album from opening song to ending note. In an interview a short while back, Lou Reed named Okkervil River as one of the best bands around today, and it is hard to argue with him when you hear a record as complete as this one.
Mp3: Okkervil River - Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
Video: Okkervil River - Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
Favorite concerts of the year:
5) John Vanderslice/Bishop Allen – Club Downunder,
4) TV on the Radio – Rion Ballroom,
2) Cat Power – The Moon,
1) The Flaming Lips – Flavet Field, Gainesville, FL