A nice surprise awaited me this morning on Rdio (and Spotify) when I was greeted with ‘Tambourine’ – a brand new release from great Canadian songwriter Fred Eaglesmith.
“Drunk Girl” is easily my early favorite – and what a surprise, it’s a ballad! Sorry, always a sucker for one. Funny name for a ballad, I know. But the gist of it is that Fred’s had his heart right ripped out of his chest by a lost lover, and tonight – dammit all – he’s looking for a drunk girl to come “sail away” with him – to “weave on down Revelation Hill, down to the old mill street”. I picture a man sitting at the far corner of a dimly lit tavern bar. He’s a couple of whiskeys in, a slight sad smile on his face, as he resigns himself to his fate for the night. You know that smile, the one Bruce Springsteen nails about 2 minutes into his “One Step Up” video.
Reverb-drenched guitar chord strikes and arpeggios, Fred’s unmistakeable vocals, all delivered in an early rock n’ roll era sweetness.
I’ve said it before – a large part of the allure of M.I.A.‘s music for me lies in the physical realm. If she resembled a Sri Lankan Mugsy Bogues, I may not have become enamored with her back in the Arular days. But indeed she does not resemble Mugsy Bogues. She’s an exotic, caramel-skinned south Asian beauty with a fuck you attitude, who puts together some of the most unique beats and sounds around.
On Tuesday, she released Matangi, only her fourth studio release in the last 8 years. Her last album, Maya (2010) didn’t do too much for me, but after a couple of listens to Matangi, she’s got me back the same way Arular and Kala had me.
It’s the creativity I love – having no idea what she’s going to bring you from song to song. The layered tracks are exotic, odd, surprising, sexy, disturbing, and completely original. A couple of tunes from Matangi have already risen to the top (for now – that’s sure to change). “Y.A.L.A.”, and this one: “Lights”… The booming bass, the tribal percussion, and the way her vocals fluctuate throughout the song – high to low, raps morphing into melodies, all winding its way through the changing rhythms.
I know if I approached 10 of my friends with this album (or any M.I.A. album, for that matter), 9 and a half of them would turn and look me in the eyes with a confused look. That’s okay. I’m not seeking validation. I gravitate to some artists just for the odd, the creative, and the adventurous. M.I.A.’s got her own thing going, and I love it.
“Pete FM” is my new personalized station on Rdio. You can choose among five different settings – from one end of the spectrum, “Familiar”, to the other end, “Adventurous.” It takes the songs in your collection and the songs you’ve been listening to, and formulates a playlist based on your choice between the two ends of that spectrum. This Pandora-like music discovery feature is nothing new, but it is another great way to get out of your musical rut and discover something new.
And wow, did Pete FM spring a great new (to me) one on me yesterday: a six year old tune by Athens, GA band The Whigs.
The song is “Right Hand On My Heart,” and it smokes! Nothing manufactured or synthetic about this one – it starts with a pounding bass drum and snare, and quickly launches into a rocking guitar/bass riff. Singer/guitarist Parker Gispert’s vocals hit the cool spot for me – especially during the verses, as the last word in each line extends just a bit and trails off. That badass vocal delivery on top of the get-in-your-car-and-crank-this-shit-up power trio groove makes “Right Hand On My Heart” one of the best tunes I’ve heard in some time.
I was trying to fulfill just a part of my domestic obligation by folding some laundry this morning, and, because laundry foldin’ also just happens to be one of the most opportune times to really listen to music, I fired up the new Guy Clark record, My Favorite Picture of You. Now, I’m only one listen through, but I can tell you that if you’re a fan of great, evocative songwriting, quality finger picking, and well crafted acoustic folk/’country’ tunes, then pick it up (it is Guy Clark after all, the legend).
It was song number two into the album, the title track, that really perked my ears – a melancholy, wistful ode to his favorite picture of his girl. In this case, the girl is his wife Susanna, who lost a battle with cancer just last year at the age of 73. Put into that context, the words that Guy put to paper for this tune are all the more heartbreaking and beautiful.
I found this video tonight, with Guy alone in his home explaining (and showing) the picture behind the song before singing it. It’ll put a lump in your throat. Bet on it.
Deer Tick world premiered their video for their new tune “The Rock” late last month, but it took me a while to get around to properly viewing/listening. I heard a handful of new tunes from their forthcoming album Negativity back in March when they played two full sets at the local McDowell Mountain Music Festival, and I’m excited for what’s in store, especially since it’s produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos (also a part of Diamond Rugs with DT’s John McCauley). Negativity releases September 24th on Partisan Records.
Here’s “The Rock”, another quality DT tune that starts out slow and introspective, but soon unleashes a rock-fueled barrage of guitars,keys, John’s raspy vocals and horns (thanks Steve Berlin!). Now, stare into John’s eyes for a few minutes…
First of all – wait, what? – Brett Dennen is 6’5″ tall? I. Did. Not. Know. That.
Second of all, I need to remind myself not to get sucked into the hateful rabbit hole of YouTube/internet comments as I did recently with this live from YouTube headquarters performance from northern California’s red-headed native son. Brett’s style, voice, delivery et al is unique, and like all music and all things in life, everyone’s not gonna like it. But me? I love this guy. I love his vibe and everything he brings to the proverbial musical table.
So good news for Brett fans this week: a new tune and a new album announcement. Smoke and Mirrors will be released on October 22nd (via F-Stop Music/Atlantic). The lead single is called “Wild Child” – a personal affirmation of Brett’s love of all things nature and his free spirit, set to a Petty-esque “Last Dance With Mary Jane” tempo.
So take a listen, and be sure to dial up his earlier albums too. Brett is the shit, regardless of what some of the YouTube brain trust will have you believe.
Jamey Johnson is a big bad bearded, former Marine country singer from Alabama. He’s only 37, but leans toward the old school “classic” country sound of Waylon, Willie and George. Now I love my twang, and there’s little I find to appreciate in the mainstream country that Nashville churns out these days. But always lurking in the shadows are artists like Jamey keeping that old school tradition alive – and I’m always happy to stumble across them.
His 2008 debut album, That Lonesome Song, makes its way back into my rotation every so often. It’s a laid back, back of the bar acoustic guitar and pedal steel ride that is great all the way through.
I always like the quieter moments, and Jamey knocks it out of the park with his cover of “Dreaming My Dreams With You”, an absolutely gorgeous tune written by songwriter Allen Reynolds for Waylon Jennings’ 1975 album, Dreaming My Dreams…
Best television discovery of late? Without a doubt, it’s Later…with Jools Holland, a BBC2 music show that showcases 4-5 artists per show in a unique way: all bands & artists are set up in studio at the same time in a circle, with each performing a song at a time (with Jools as emcee, introducing the acts). It’s really a neat dynamic, as it’s pretty easy to tell that it raises the game for the musicians, who are not only performing for a live studio audience, but to their musician peers standing feet away.
The first Jools show I watched straight through a few weeks back featured the Stereophonics, Low, the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra, Melt Yourself Down, Yasmine Hamdan, and John Grant. Two of the artists stuck out for me – the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra and John Grant. If you want a great summer album to accompany a BBQ or poolside relaxation, definitely spin Lee Thompson’s latest album, The Benevolence of Sister Mary Ignatius. Lee is the sax player and one of the founding members of Madness, so that’s an instant indicator of its ska-cool quality…
But I was really blown away by John Grant. It’s music that’s hard to describe – electronic folk, maybe? Very melodic, great harmonies and sounds, both acoustic and synthetic. His rich baritone and lush melodies that surround the entertaining yet dark humor in his lyrics does remind me a lot of Harry Nilsson (a nod to All Music’s review). John’s music has just really caught on with me.
One of the standout tunes on his new album, Pale Green Ghosts, is “GMF”, a tune whose tender and sensitive opening instrumentation unleashes into some eye opening and interesting lyrics – especially the chorus:
But I am the greatest motherfucker
That you’re ever gonna meet
From the top of my head
Down to the tips of the toes on my feet.
So go ahead and love me while it’s still a crime,
And don’t forget you could be laughing
65 percent more of the time.
You could be laughing
65 percent more of the time.
And it’s hooky enough that you’ll be singing along by the time the chorus rolls around for the second time. There’s a lot of analysis yet to be done on this record, but it’s clear that Grant, who is openly gay, does not shy away from the subject. But it’s only one dimension of this unique album and artist. The strange opening sounds of the opener “Pale Green Ghosts” pull you right in (headphones recommended) and don’t let go until the end.
For those of you in the U.S., you can catch Jools Holland on Palladia HD network.
With this being the 4th of July week, we are officially at the height of summer so it’s time for THE SONG OF THE SUMMER!! Even though it came out at the very end of last year here in America (and even earlier in Australia), I contend that San Cisco’s “Golden Revolver” has all the right elements of a classic summer song. A story of bitter love with jangly guitars that you can’t help but skip along with, this track is completely awesome!
Even better is the fact that this band from down under seems to have made one of my fave local music spots its semi-residence. Their upcoming July 31st performance will be their third this year. Their full length, self titled album is set to drop domestically in two weeks so check it out!
Man, what a night! What a thrill to see Prince in the intimate confines of the Marquee Theater in my hometown.
I’m old school, so the highlights for me were seeing Prince front and center from 20 feet away singing “Joy In Repetition” (with Larry Graham in the background on bass), “Forever In My Life (with Prince on bass, Ida on keys), and “She’s Always In My Hair.”
“Purple Rain” with P on keys was also magnificent, although I wish he would’ve started on keys and moved to the guitar for the solo..
The crowd was electric, the joint was packed, and I was one happy Prince fan after an 11 year drought since I last saw him live.
Prince Marquee Theater Tempe, AZ May 1, 2013
Start Time: 8:23pm End Time: 10:11pm
The Breakdown Let’s Go Crazy Endorphinmachine Screwdriver Dreamer (with Bowie’s “Fame” snippet) > Play That Funky Music She’s Always in My Hair The Love We Make Forever In My Life Joy in Repetition (w/ Larry Graham) Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) [w/ Larry Graham]
***sampler set*** When Doves Cry Nasty Girl Sign o the Times A Love Bizarre Housequake I Would Die 4 U Hot Thing Pop Life The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Purple Rain Adore
**Encore** Let’s Go (The Cars cover) Guitar Plectrum Electrum Fixurlifeup