As a dad always on the lookout for quality, fun music I can share with my kids (not to mention non-explicit), I love stumbling across songs like “I Could Be Anything.” Yep, the Violent Femmes are still alive and kicking with original members Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie. They’ve had a hiatus or two over the years, but earlier this year they release their ninth studio album, We Can Do Anything (their first in 15 years). It’s full of that signature sound we’re all familiar from their smash debut album back in ol’ 1983 (e.g. listen to Memory).
But there’s also this: the tale of King Bongo the dragon slayer. Fun for the whole family…
There’s the loss of so many important musicians these past few months. In the pop/rock realm, we mourn the passings of David Bowie and Glenn Frey. And others like Maurice White, Lemmy Kilmister, and a teen obsession near and dear to my heart: Denise Matthews, aka Vanity. Her nearly unclothed posters and magazine pages (Black Beat!) adorned my teenage-era bedroom walls (along with Mr. Prince Rogers Nelson and his merry band of Minneapolis musicmakers). My favorite:
In the music streaming world, my service of choice, Rdio, filed for bankruptcy and signed off by year’s end. I (and my close friends and family who used it) considered it the best one of the bunch – the clean, intuitive interface, the organization of songs, artists, and albums, and most importantly, the social side of it. Rdio allowed you to follow other users, whether friends or artists or brands, and get a view into what they were listening to and adding to their collection. Spotify is the only other service I can find that features any social integration, and it’s far inferior to what Rdio offered. No marketing though, and that ultimately killed Rdio. R.I.P.!
So with Rdio’s demise, I’ve gone all in with Apple Music. I have so many local files in my iTunes that have been uploaded to the Apple Music cloud, that it just made sense. People complain of its bugs and bloat, but frankly, I’m used to it. Also, you can bring your whole family on board for only $15.99 per month for everyone. I’m hoping they integrate some sort of social feature where users can follow each other. The “Connect” area is perfect for it (and so under-utilized currently).
I’ve jumped in and out of Google Play Music as well (currently signed up). I like the web and mobile interfaces, and I have it as an app on my Sony TV (although they need to work on that interface – when you’re listening to a song/album, all you see on the screen is a giant picture of the artist or album – no artist/album/song info at all. And sometimes, say with the Pogues, for example, you just don’t want Shane MacGowan’s giant mug staring at back at you).
As far as new tunes go, I stumbled across L.A. musician Julia Holter. She offers up an otherworldly, laid back, orchestral/indie vibe that I really like. The best of the bunch is “Lucette Stranded on the Island” from her most recent album, Have You In My Wilderness which you should listen to now.. it’s mesmerizing.
I also recently read John Lydon‘s autobiography, Anger is an Energy. Never Mind The Bollocks has always been a top shelf album for me, but believe it or not, I never jumped into John’s follow up (and current) band Public Image Ltd. Reading through the book and listening along as I go, discovering new P.I.L. tunes in the process, has been a fun ride. John’s as obnoxious and provoking as ever, and I like what I hear. Their newer stuff in the 2010’s is strong too. You can get a good feel for the band in this 2013 set from Glastonbury:
Any new music I should be hearing? Please recommend…
From Clem Snide’s 2005 album End of Love comes this great tune, “Jews For Jesus Blues.” It’s coming up on Christmas 2015 and this would seem to coincide in some way with the holiday, but that’s not my intention. It’s simply a great tune: witty lyrics from Eef Barzelay, and a beautifull arranged country/folk tune that I can’t stop coming back to again and again.
Take it, Clem Snide…
And Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Festivus for the rest of us!
Another cool new tune courtesy of The Loft on Sirius-XM. Another song that connected right away, made my ears perk up and take notice. There’s a pretty clear parallel to Freddie Mercury and Queen.. and that… is a good thing. There’s also great sax, background singers, and a soulful undertone.
Christopher the Conquered is Christopher Ford from Des Moines, Iowa. This song is the title track from his new album coming in February 2016, which you can pre-order right here on his site.
It was a pleasant surprise when I scanned through the new album releases last week to find a brand new one from John Grant. 2013’s Pale Green Ghosts became a favorite of mine soon after seeing John perform “GMF” and “Black Belt” on Jools Holland. Melodic, electronic, and orchestral pop/rock with an edge. I was taken in..
So in listening to his new release, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, John delivers another album full of his unique twists and turns, electro-sounds, and, shall we say, wholly unique lyrics. Have you ever heard anything near the line:
“And let’s be clear, Joan Baez makes GG Allin look like Charlene Tilton.” ?
Many of you may be familiar with all three personalities listed off in that lyric. But I couldn’t place GG Allin. 40’s movie star? Uhh. No. Not even close. And let me just warn you. If you also don’t know who GG Allin is, think twice before Googling him. And for God’s sake – don’t enter a GG Allin Youtube rabbit hole. You will be sick to your stomach (I was). I’ll say no more.
The line comes from “Snug Slacks”, which veers into Zappa-esque territory with a cool electrofunk twist. Another favorite is “Black Blizzard,” which confirms John’s appreciation for Gary Numan with those synth riffs.
I’m only a few listens in to this record, but suffice it to say it’s a fun, fresh trip worthy of many spins.. Do check it out.
“JM” by Strand of Oaks was written for the late Jason Molina, whom Timothy Showalter – the lifeblood behind Oaks – cites as his biggest influence. I know next to nothing of Molina, and granted, that’s probably a musical fault of mine. But man, does “JM” hit just the right chords with me. The obvious parallel for me, and probably many others, is Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer” and Neil’s other tunes featuring those signature Crazy Horse extended and power drenched guitar solos.
If anyone has recommendations on where to start with Molina, let me know.
“JM” comes from Heal, the latest album by Strand of Oaks. It’s one of those albums you can spin multiple times, listen after listen , and find something new every time. Be sure to check it out.
I’m always game for a 10-minute folk tale about wanderlust.. mentions of banjos, chickens, trains, hatchets, black hearts, hotel wives, coffins on the rails.. Yeah, there’s definitely a dark undertone to “The Trip,” from the brand new Dave Rawlings Machine record, Nashville Obsolete. I have deep respect for artists like Dave Rawlings and his partner in tunes, Gillian Welch, in that they’ll include a song like “The Trip” – shirking any expectations, and laying down a ten minute track, with verse upon verse of evocative lyrics interspersed with fiddle and acoustic guitar solos. So many good lines: “so what’s a bullet or two between friends”; “hotel lives and hotel wives, they come and go with the sheets”; “there’s no one waiting for them, there’s no judgment down the line”…
And the recurring refrain with Dave & Gillian’s beautiful and comforting harmonies: “So take a trip wherever your conscience has to roam / It’s much too hard to try to leave the lyin’ at home”
Songs in my head, songs in my head. Always a song in my head. Sometimes it’s an evil infestation – take the song “Cheerleader” for example – where I’m just screwed, especially if it’s the middle of the night and I’m lying in bed. But other times, and most often in my case, it’s a quality tune that I’ve had in regular rotation.
Latest case in point: Little Feat’s “Willin’,” which I just can’t get out of my head lately. Such a great singalong chorus:
I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me, weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin’
The simplicity of “Alice….Dallas Alice…”; The imagery it conjures up with its tale of driving the open roads, being “kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet,” and smuggling “smokes and folks from Mexico.”
“Willin'” was written by Lowell George while he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in the late 60’s. When Lowell went off with Bill Payne and Richie Hayward to form Little Feat, Zappa was instrumental in matching the new band up with Warner Brothers.
“Willin'” has the distinction of showing up not only on Little’s Feat’s 1971 debut album, but also their second one, 1972’s Sailin’ Shoes. They’re vastly different versions. The Sailin’ Shoes version is the one most people are familiar with, and has Lowell’s spoken word verses:
The debut version has Lowell singing the verses (vs. the spoken style), and features Ry Cooder on slide guitar:
Any way you cut it, “Willin'” is one of Lowell George’s masterpieces, and ushered in a flood of funky, soulful, and quintessentially American rock n’ roll music with Little Feat’s 70’s output. The Lowell George Little Feat era sadly ended with Lowell’s untimely death in 1979 at the age of only 34 (a heart attack likely brought on by obesity, drugs and the wear of an unhealthy touring lifestyle).
The music, however, lives on. Treat yourself why don’t you and jump into a Little Feat rabbit hole? Immerse yourself for a while in the LF groove. Start with this great live version from 1977’s Rockpalast..
Yesterday was a looooong Labor Day on the road driving back from good old Telluride, Colorado. We spent a good chunk of the day listening exclusively to SiriusXM’s The Loft channel – the most eclectic and “up my alley” station they offer. Lots of great tunes powered my drive – a lot of them new to me: songs by the likes of James McMurtry, Ula Dara, One Eskimo, and Banditos.
But this new Rickie Lee Jones cut hit me the hardest. Her new album, The Other Side of Desire, came out just a couple months ago. It was produced by John Porter, and Mark Howard, who, combined, have a résume a mile long, including Roxy Music, the Smiths, Ryan Adams, BB King, John Mayall, Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, U2, Lucinda Williams – you get the idea.
“Haunted” is buried deep in the album, track 8 of 11. Listen to how it kicks in: first drums & guitar, then vocal, then bass, then keyboards.. As always, it’s Rickie Lee’s voice that helps make the tune – meandering, sweet and unique. The second half of the tune turns downright dark and, well, haunting – with Rickie Lee moaning admonitions about L-O-V-E among the ominous atmosphere of the track.
You better be careful
Or all the bluebirds will stop flying
You better be careful
Or all the stars will stop flying
You better be careful
Or all your dreams just stop dying
You better be careful
Or all your heart will stop stinging
September 25th will bring us Gates Of Gold, the first new Los Lobos studio album since 2010’s Tin Can Trust. On Monday, the boys debuted the opening track “Made To Break Your Heart” on Billboard.com. It’s a gritty, crunchy rock number with Cezar Rojas and David Hidalgo harmonizing on vocals. And wait until the Hidalgo guitar solo explosion at 3:57. Wowee..