Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Roots of Powerpop

While casting about eMusic.com looking for something interesting to download, I came across a compilation from 1996 called The Roots of Powerpop put out by Bomp! Records. It collects some great late-1970's power pop from the likes of acts I was familiar with like Flamin' Groovies, The Romantics, 20/20, Shoes, and the Plimsouls, in addition to other less known groups. Some of the songs are classic power pop, some have a Nuggets feel to them, and some have more of a new wave/punk feel. I don't know of any free MP3s but you can listen to samples at eMusic or at Amazon.com. If you're into this genre, this collection is a must-have! I will probably also check out a similar Bomp! compilation called Destination: Bomp!, which appears to include some good power pop, punk, new wave, and garage rock.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Futureheads


The Futureheads, one of my absolute favorite bands of recent years, is putting out a new single entitled Area. You can download an advance copy here. I like the song but it remains to be seen if the Futureheads' new work will match the brilliance of their self-titled debut from 2004. That album remains in heavy rotation on my iPod, and I believe I'll be listening to it for years to come. Any band that takes early XTC and the Jam, mixes them up in a blender, and then adds their own original touch (including a willingness to sing a capella in delightfully thick Scottish accents), is alright by me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ballad of El Goodo

I really haven't bought into all the hype this year over the Decemberists. Nevertheless, I came across a great live cover by them of The Ballad of El Goodo, one of my favorite Big Star songs. Check it out here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Editors


Editors is a new band from the UK that has been hyped as the British Interpol. Let's ignore the irony of that statement, which ignores the fact that Interpol basically has been making a decent living for the last few years pretending to be British and copping the sounds of British groups like Joy Division and the Chameleons. And let's ignore the fact that Editors' great single Munich is basically Interpol's Obstacle 1 sped up (seriously: check out that staccato rhythm guitar part playing 1/8 notes on the 1 and 3 beats - ching-ching! ching-ching! verrrrrrrrrrrrry similar). The fact is, the song rocks and is catchy as hell; I highly recommend it. And frankly, wouldn't it be rather jingoistic of me to applaud Interpol for channeling Joy Division but criticize Editors for doing the same? At any rate, currently, the Munich single is all that's available on iTunes. Unfortunately, Back Room, their full-length debut can only be bought as an import. Still, it seems to be available used from Amazon.com and others for a reasonable price, so I'll probably buy it soon.

Follow-Up, 11.28.2005
As promised, I did buy Editors' Back Room and am enjoying it immensely - dare I say more than the 2nd Interpol album? I'd recommend buying it. There seem to be many relatively low-cost used import versions out there. On a side note, mine arrived in great condition very promptly from an Amazon.com merchant. My only complaint, if you can call it that, is that some of the text on the back of the CD appears to be in Russian (just the legal/record label related stuff - all of the track names, liner notes, etc are in English). I knew that it would be an import but I foolishly assumed it was being imported from England. Oh well, I've always said that the Russian mob/black market does great work...

The Exit

The free single on iTunes this week is Don't Push by The Exit, a band that Steve Jobs (or his minions, anyway) compares to the Clash mixed with Bob Marley. I don't really get that... The song does have a vaguely reggae beat in a few sections. Nevertheless, I like it. Get it for free before next Tuesday.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sun Kil Moon

One of my all-time favorite bands is the Red House Painters, San Francisco slow-core rockers of the 1990's with a penchant for unusual covers. Witness their dirge-like cover of Kiss's Shock Me, as well as covers of songs by AC/DC, Yes, the Cars, and Paul McCartney, to name a few. The band - basically a vehicle for serotonin-challenged Mark Kozelek - split up several years ago, but Kozelek's new band, Sun Kil Moon, carries on the Red House Painters' sound, as well as a flair for radically re-interpreting songs. Their 2nd album, Twin Cities, consists entirely of covers of Modest Mouse songs. It's an impressive work, at least from my perspective. I love Kozelek's work but am only a casual fan of Modest Mouse. The 2songs I know from the only Modest Mouse album I own (Lonesome Crowded West), are both good: Convenient Parking, and Trucker's Atlas. You can get a free download of Ocean Breathes Salty. Steve and any other San Francisco residents should check out this review from SF Weekly. And if you see Kozelek on the street (you might recognize him from the movie Almost Famous - he played the bassist in the band), wave for me...

And although this post is nominally about Sun Kil Moon and their kooky covers, I highly recommend that you check out their first album of originals, as well as the Red House Painters canon (start at their 2 self-titled albums from 1993 and work our from there, if so inclined).

Friday, November 18, 2005

Big Star - Lost In Space


Let's assume that John Lennon and George Harrison were still alive. Does anyone REALLY think it would be a good idea for the Beatles to get together and make another record at this late date? Or maybe the Velvet Underground would be a better comparison? After a silence of 30 years or so, can any incredibly influential band hope to surpass their seminal work(s)? Certainly not Big Star. I knew all that, and yet I couldn't help it: I downloaded In Space, the first Big Star studio album since the mid-70's, from eMusic.com last month. As expected, it was a disappointment, despite the presence of Ken Stingfellow and Jon Auer of the Posies, a band which is my personal favorite heir to the Big Star legacy. Don't get me wrong: there are some good songs like Dony (in particular), Lady Sweet (basically a Posies song), Best Chance We've Ever Had, February's Quiet, and Mine Exclusively, most of which sound like vintage-Big Star. But the album is uneven at best, riddled with the kind of fuck-around, mess-with-our-expectations crap that's marked/marred Alex Chilton's post-Big Star work (or even Sister Lovers/Third, for that matter). Love Revolution is just plain embarrassing ("Shake that funky thing," my ass!). My advice: start with Dony and the other songs I mentioned, but don't feel obligated by nostalgia to be a completist.

The Subways

The iTunes free-single-of-the-week is Rock & Roll Queen by London group the Subways. I don't know anything about the band other than what Steve Jobs tells me, but I hear a strong debt to Nirvana in their snotty sound. It would fit in fairly well on Incesticide. Get it while you can. I believe the free single changes on Tues so download it before 11/22/2005.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Giant Drag

A combination of My Bloody Valentine guitars and PJ Harvey vocals? Not exactly but there is plenty of distortion and gritty singing by Giant Drag. Started a couple of years ago in LA, their on of their first songs was a cover version of Who's Crying Now by Journey, which I would love to actually hear. They have just released Heart and Unicorns. You can find cuts from their album as well as other bands at the label Wichita Recordings. This is a great album all the way through and you can listen to the rest of the album at the bands website.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blood on the Wall

Blood on the Wall is a Brooklyn-based group that evokes the Pixies and Sonic Youth. You can get free MP3s courtesy of their record label, The Social Registry. Of those, Mary Susan and Reunite On Ice, both from the band's new and 2nd album Awesomer (gotta love that title) are especially good. I wasn't familiar with them but heard one of their songs in the car just now on Radio K. It's not one of the aforementioned free MP3s so I'll need to track it down. Looks like eMusic.com has their first, self-titled album, so I'm hopeful that they'll carry the new release as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Antony and the Johnsons

Another Mercury Prize nomination this year was Antony and the Johnsons for the album I am Bird. Haunting with sparse piano and guitar much like another favorite band the Tindersticks, the music is just incredibly emotional. His voice, which has been compared to Brian Ferry and Nina Simone, definitely knocks you off your feet. He has all sorts of random guest appearances on this album - Lou Reed, Boy George, Rufus Wainwright. You can listen to sound samples online (not full length songs) and the whole thing is on Rhapsody. The song Fistful of Love feels like an Otis Redding song and is my favorite on the album.

The Go! Team

Again always a step behind, I have just stumbled onto a legally challenged well reviewed group who combine shouting cheerleaders, trumpet solos, funk and orchestral TV theme songs. You can listen to the Mercury Prize nominated The Go! Team on their website or on Rhapsody. The opening song Panther Dash is fantastic.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bottom of the Hill - November Shows

Here are downloads of bands that are playing at my favorite venue in San Francisco in November...

Cerberus Shoal - Wyrm, Pie for Presidents, New One
The Drift - Streets, Invisible Cities
Chow Nasty - Ungawa
Black Furies - Killer Inside, Murder City Shakedown, Hard Luck, No Money Down
Why? - Rubber Traits, Sanddollars, Daria
The Life on Earth - Woes of the Unisured, Skeln, Your Karma is Coming, Pronnesetic, The Ladybug
The Welcome Matt - In San Francisco, Love Too Much?, Intro, A Rise and Fall
Candy From Strangers - I've Got You, Strange Ride
The Girlfriend Experience - Thumb, Katy, Gonorrhea
Great Lake Swimmers - Various Stages, Bodies and Minds, Moving Pictures Silent Films,
I Will Never See The Sun
Cushion Theory - In the Dust, Bad Eyes, R.O.H.a., Get Close, Star and eye
The Standard - A Year of Seconds
The Kingsbury Manx - Pelz Komet, Grape to Grain, Over the Waves
The Lucky Stiffs - Black, S.S. Shipwreck
Lonely Kings - Subderal Hematoma
Try Failing - Sleepless City, I Don't Believe, No Side
Inverness - Miller Does A Body Good, Are You Listening?
Gogogo Airheart - So Good, The Ideal Weight, The Last Goodbye, Mi fi

Here are the myspace sites of a couple of other bands...

Street to Nowhere
The Plus Ones

Nine Horses

A post from another website Silence is Rhythm about Nine Horses a collaboration of a number of artists including David Sylvian. The post includes a link to the song Serotonin. I will leave the review of this album and track up to Mike...

Monday, November 07, 2005

Saxophone Colossus

In my effort to continue to find more about jazz I bought Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins and I cannot believe I did not have this album already. The opening song St. Thomas, with the calypso beat laid down by Max Roach, is frankly incredible. Then to the seductive You Don't Know What Love Is, onto the finger snapping Strode Rode, then his take on Mack the Knife, here called Moritat, and ends with Blue 7. This album is absolutely a must own.

Nada Surf

A new Nada Surf album has appeared and the song Do It Again can be downloaded. Like everything I have liked recently they are from Brooklyn. The album seems less contemplative than the previous album Let Go which featured the unbelievable song Blonde on Blonde. Listening to Dylan on headphones while walking in the rain strikes me as a good idea. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat is as cool a song as Dylan ever wrote...

New Cat Power

Cat Power is coming out with a new album in early 2006. A new song has been posted on Matador's website called The Greatest. More gruff voice, spare piano, and country guitar. Definitely looking forward to this. You Are Free was one of my favorite albums of 2003.

The Constantines

The third album Tournament of Hearts from the Toronto band The Constantines is out and it reminds me alot of The Afghan Whigs with desparate guitars, driving drums, and urgent singing and that is high praise since The Afghan Whigs have long been one of my favorite bands of the 90s. They also remind me some of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Here is the song Love in Fear. Here is an inteview with the lead singer.

CocoRosie

A new album also from CocoRosie which was one of my favorite new acts of last year with their indie/trip-hop/electronica combined with Billie Holiday vocals. Here is the Title Cut from the album Noah's Ark and for those worried that they would tone down the strangeness, you need not. They are strange once again.

Bobby Womack

Have also been listening to alot of Bobby Womack recently. Womack had a long and varied career working with people like Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Sly Stone. But his solo releases in the early 70s are what has captured my ear. The songs Across 110th Street, Woman's Gotta Have It, and That's The Way I Feel About Cha' have been in heavy rotation.

Rapper's Delight

Cool article about the song Rapper's Delight and the Sugarhill Gang on Vanity Fair's website. A must read for those curious about the beginnings of hip hop. Seems like a long way away from today where everything is much more corporate...the part about Sylvia Robinson seeking out rap talent though living in New Jersey and knowing nothing about the whole genre is very interesting...

R&B / Hip Hop

So I was up in Minneapolis over the weekend hanging out with Drew talking about how I have been listening almost exclusively to hip hop and R&B throughout the fall, so a little about what has been on the playlist. First and foremost, I have been listening to the new Common album Be a ton. Standout songs include Chi-City, The Corner, and Go!

In addition, other songs that have been on the playlist include

Jay-Z - Heart of the City
TLC - Creep (much older I know but it is a great song)
The Game - Love It or Hate It
Common - The Sixth Sense
Angie Stone - U-Haul
Kanye West - Heard Em Say