The Friday Five: May 28, 2010

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp (from The Best That I Could Do 1978–1988, 1997)

Now there is nothing wrong with kicking the Friday Five off with a little kick in the ass. This is especially true when it comes to the particular brand of ass kicking that Mr. Mellencamp circa 1984 was dealing out. Despite having a kick ass video, I still associate this tune with the visual of Lori Singer and Sarah Jessica Parker getting down at the cowboy bar in Footloose.

“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson (from Bad, 1987)

Why anyone doubted that this man had a ton of game is beyond me. Case in point: “The Way You Make Me Feel,” which finds Jackson singing the praises of his lady friend’s physical attributes with that same bravado that I mentioned last week — the difference here being nearly 20 years.

“Without You” by The Doobie Brothers (from The Captain and Me, 1973)

While this soundly fits in the ass kicking, rock ‘n’ roll mood set by the first tune in the five; I’m more of a fan of the Michael McDonald chapter in the Doobies history. That said, this definitely kicks some ass.

“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon (from Excitable Boy, 1978)

I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here, so if you are fan of Kid Rock, you may want to skip to the next track. I’ll be damned if this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard Zevon’s calling card since that lazy, half-assed, poor excuse for a rock star, Kid Rock, went and appropriated it for his own use. I swear, the first time I heard his co-opting of “Werewolves” and Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama” I let a string of obscenities fly that would make George Carlin blush.

“Dance the Night Away” by Van Halen (from Van Halen II, 1979)

Being a “drooling fanatic” when it comes to Van Halen, I could talk until I’m blue in the face about Eddie’s influence alone. But this song is my hands down, all time, without a doubt favorite Van Halen song. Oh, and it kicks ass.

What’s on your shuffle today?

John Prine and Jim James: “All The Best” on Letterman

I did a double take earlier this week when I noticed the music guests scheduled for Wednesday’s Letterman: John Prine with Yim Yames (Jim James) of My Morning Jacket. Much to my surprise, the song they sang is one of my all-time Prine favorites, “All The Best”, which was actually the song that turned me on to John Prine back in my college years. The song was included on the soundtrack for Falling From Grace, a 1992 movie directed by and starring John Mellencamp and written by Larry McMurtry (Prine also appears in the film). “All The Best” was also featured on Prine’s standout 1991 album, The Missing Years, which became one of my most treasured albums.

The duo were out to promote what looks to be a stellar John Prine tribute record called Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs Of John Prine. Other artists covering Prine on the album include Bon Iver, Justin Townes Earle, Conor Oberst, Drive-By Truckers, Avett Brothers and Deer Tick. If this isn’t worthy of a pre-order, I don’t know what is.

As for the performance itself, well, how can you go wrong? John and Jim trade verses, then share the last one. The low burn of John Prine’s voice coupled with Jim James’ higher register voice makes for one beautiful performance.


Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs Of John Prine (out June 22)


The Missing Years

Creating Nostalgia: Midlake at the Cedar Cultural Center

That’s one amazing thing about music, the way it enters people’s worlds to become part of the soundtrack of their lives–Tom Petty, 2009

I agree completely. In fact, I think it goes even further. What if you hear a band that reminds you of a time in your life long before the band was releasing music? That’s just how I felt the first time I heard Midlake.

I had read about the Denton, Texas band in (of course) NME back in 2006. They were raving about the album Trials Of Van Occupanther, specifically the track “Roscoe.” I listened to it, downloaded the track immediately, and ordered the album from Amazon. The memories it brought back made me that impulsive.

My mind was instantly transported to the late 70’s and my old Realistic radio next to my bed. I had a tiny record player before that when I was four years old but really hadn’t had my own stereo. I listened to my dad’s or my stepdad’s stereo which, with their extensive record collections, was amazing.

Still, I always enjoyed those alone moments with my crappy AM radio…listening to WLS in Chicago…going through puberty…becoming a young man….having whatever the DJ played be the soundtrack to my life. One band I heard quite a bit over the airwaves back then was Fleetwood Mac. The sounds, feelings and texture of Midlake connected me right away to Fleetwood Mac and that exact moment in time…just as Tom Petty describes above.

I missed them when they came through on the Van Occupanther tour so when my friend Brian told me they were coming back, I grabbed the extra ticket that he had. They were playing at the Cedar Cultural Center – a mellow 70’s hippie band for a mellow 70’s hippie venue…combined with that junior varsity gymnasium feel which also contributes to that 70’s aura. I had seen White Rabbits there so I knew that the whole vibe would be insanely mellow. And perfect.

The band played a fantastic set, drawing from their new record, The Courage Of Others, as well as Van Occupanther. Every song was instantly transformative and transporting. I felt like I wasn’t really there at all. It was 1977…I was 10 years old…I had just seen Star Wars for the 7th time…and a whole world of great music was opening up to me and became the soundtrack to my life. Yet, the music was from thirty years later. Why is that?

Think about the answer for a moment. And that would be why I love music.

Check out the band on the remainder of their tour.

The Month of May – New Arcade Fire

Oh, how sweet it is to a hear a new song from Arcade Fire – an energetic tune called “The Month of May” that instantly grabs hold and takes flight. I frigga-dickin’ LOVE this band and I cannot wait to see them again… Listen!!

This Band and its new song by c20917

You can also hear another new one, “The Suburbs”, over at Bravely Done. I think we should file these under Enjoy While We Can, as I’m not sure they have the blessing of the band. But “Month of May” is very hard to keep to yourself.

The Wig He Made Her Wear

I dragged my feet for a good while before I picked up the new Drive-By Truckers record, The Big To-Do. I finally downloaded it from eMusic yesterday during a nice cool Arizona morning – one of the last before the thermometer jumps over 100 and sends us all scurrying into our sealed, air-conditioned dwellings.

I especially dig the Southern drawl of singer/guitarist Patterson Hood – so I’m drawn to the songs he sings (his Murdering Oscar solo album last year was a 2009 favorite). On The Big To-Do, I’ve been loving “Drag the Lake Charlie” and “The Wig He Made Her Wear”. Yep, the lyrics are one entertaining trip too. Colorful characters and the immoral society they live in are a theme throughout their songs.

“The Wig He Made Her Wear” is the story of the preacher’s wife, who kills said preacher and high-tails it across state lines with their three kids. She’s soon caught and returned for trial. During her defense, she “[s]aid that he berated her about everything / Make her do things that made her feel so ashamed”.

I’ll let you listen to this great song to figure out the verdict, and how “The Wig He Made Her Wear” figures into the story.

I love the rhythm of this tune (has me thinking of Marah’s “Phantom Eyes” from their first record). Dig the sinister, down n’ dirty vibe of this tune, the guitars, and a story enhanced by Patterson Hood’s unmistakable drawl.

Buy Big To-Do

Visit: Drive-By

Infinite Arms

Exactly two years have passed since I became enamored with Band of Horses (the cool thing about having a music blog is the ability to track your evolution as a music geek). It really clicked when I picked up Cease to Begin, then watched this in-store performance at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. Beautiful melodies & harmonies soaked in a classic, southern, indie rock vibe – the focal point being front man Ben Bridwell and his Voice from the Heavens.

In the 24 months since, I have devoured their two albums, seen them play in Austin, and signed on as a lifelong fan. So obviously, I was good n’ ready for the release of their third album, Infinite Arms, on May 18th.

Over the last month, BoH debuted the first three tracks of the record – “Factory”, “Compliments” and “Laredo” – on their web site. Great tunes, and it’s fun to get a sneak peek, but as hard as it is to do, I wish the band would’ve held their cards until release day so I could be hearing the entire album for the first time. Of course, no one forced me to listen to the early released tracks – but come on, what’s a guy gonna do – ignore them for 3-4 weeks?

But I’ve listened enough times now that these first three tunes now seem more woven into the fabric of the album than separate entities, like they first felt. Don’t worry, I’m in a good place now.

“Factory” leads off the record, features strings, and a great opening line: “The elevator in the hotel lobby has a lazy door.” This is one of the “growers” for me – one of those songs you’re not crazy about initially, but grow on you the more you listen. There’s a definite sadness to the song. Ben Bridwell’s lyrics center around a man who has left his lady, and is shacking up in a hotel…

It’s temporary, this place I’m in
I permanently won’t do this again
My belongings scattered across the hotel floor

And any thoughts of a happy ending and a return home are squashed with this last part:

Well I feel awful, and I believe
Time gets wasted in this misery
And darling I never wanna come back home

“Compliments” is another song that reaches into deeper and darker territory. “If there’s a God up in the air / someone looking over everyone / at least you’ve got something to fall back on… I bet you get a lot of compliments down there”. Can’t figure out if Ben’s writing about a dame who turned to the dark side. But this also ain’t no love song – that’s for damn sure.

“Laredo” seems the most familiar of the bunch, which makes sense, being so similar to “Weed Party” – same rhythm, very similar riffs and chord structure. And I have no problem with that.. a spirited, get out on the road vibe. And still, another about escapism – and from what I’m gathering, about putting an end to it all.  There’s talk of kitchen knives, bullets, and getting thrown in the deep part of the lake. Shit, maybe he shouldn’t take a trip to Laredo…

“Blue Beard”. Beautiful. I’m a sucker for Ben’s voice when things slow down and his multi-tracked voice shines – and this is the first moment of the record when this happens. The first few seconds will remind you Indie-minded folks of Fleet Foxes (though every choral-type harmony these days seems to draw comparisons to FF by default). Oh yeah, there’s an underlying sadness to this one too.

The midwestern sky is gray and cold
The sun never shines but that’s alright
And I couldn’t find the letters you wrote me too
What did you write? Where’d you go?
Well I don’t know.

“On My Way Back Home” is another beauty, starting slow and picking up tempo. Ben’s voice starts in an even higher register than normal. If I was put in charge of sequencing this album (and I’m sure I’ll have my day), this would’ve served admirably as the album closer.

“Infinite Arms” starts softly with acoustic guitars and chirping birds. Pondering life’s questions, man’s mortality, and returning to the refrain: “When my thoughts drift to you”. This line stuck out to me. Simple, poignant, intense. Really cool imagery here, and so open to interpretation:

I love the morning
I like to listen
to 4am birdies begging to feed
Now there’s something here before me
a figure i think
Isn’t there a warning?
Something to drink?
My God
My God

When my thoughts drift to you

Hmm, the “figure” there before him. The grim reaper maybe? This is how it ends?

“Dilly” has a fun little groove to it. Ben co-wrote it with guitarist Tyler Ramsey. Again, open to interpretation. Take the chorus: “”It really took a tall one to see it / two to believe it / three to just get in the way”. At a loss really to what it means, but I’m going to enjoy repeat listens and try to figure it out. “Dilly” may be the most pop-oriented of the bunch.

“Evening Kitchen” is a quiet one – acoustic guitar & vocals – written and sung by Tyler Ramsey. Ben and keyboard man Ryan Monroe add harmonies. Interesting tune. Outside of the harmonies from Ben, it’s a departure from the BoH sound.

“Older”, ahh “Older”. The band played this song when I stood feet away from the stage at their 2008 ACL Festival set. I even captured some amateur vid. LOVE this song. Ryan Monroe sings the lead (he wrote the song) and plays the B3 –  and Ben kills on the harmony.  An amazing song, and I’m happy to see it on this record.

“For Annabelle”, another co-writing credit with Ben and Tyler, features Tyler’s great acoustic guitar work, the churn of Ryan’s B3, and some great harmonies with the boys.

“NW Apt.” – I was reading a review of the record on Songs by Toad, and a commenter called this song a “blatant Grandaddy ripoff.” I love me some Grandaddy, and he’s right about the similarity – it could easily be Jason Lytle singing this song.

“Neighbor” channels the spirits of Bartles and Jaymes (those fellas still around?), referencing them in the chorus. It’s hard for me not to think back to the album closers of their previous two records: the songs “St. Augustine” and “Windows Blues” – the latter song arguably my favorite BoH song of them all – gentle, sublime and damn near perfect. So while “Neighbor” is a good enough tune, it doesn’t wrap up the album like the other two songs close their respective albums.

All in all, the album is seeping into my pores with each listen. I’ll admit I bought this disk on Tuesday with some pretty high expectations. Everything All The Time and Cease to Begin were an amazing one-two punch, and I was instantly drawn to songs like “Monsters”, “Marry Song”, “I Go To The Barn Because I Like The”, “Part One”, and of course “Windows Blues” (huh, those are the slower ones, go figure). So maybe I was seeking out that same experience with this record – expecting to be promptly bowled over by some of the songs.

The dynamics, however, have changed. The supporting cast surrounding Ben is different, and it’s more of a collaborative effort, with Tyler Ramsey and Ryan Monroe contributing songs, and the band self-producing a lot of the record (along with original producer Phil Ek). If you mix up the formula, your results will be different.

The mainstay through it all, though, and frankly the heart and soul of this band, is Ben Bridwell. His voice is one I’ll be enjoying for the rest of my life, thank you very much. And it’s his presence that makes Band of Horses something very special, and Infinite Arms a solid record overall – one that will continue to evolve along with the rest of us.

Buy Infinite Arms (Amazon)

Check out the Official Web Site of Band of Horses.

Band of Horses: Laredo on Letterman

They made the record, now it’s time to sell!

Band of Horses showed up last night on Letterman to perform “Laredo”. Of note: Tyler Ramsey’s finger pickin’ electric guitar work, Ben Bridwell’s determined delivery, and Bill Reynolds’ get-up. Looks like Bill could have walked out of the Ed Sullivan Theater and straight onto the set of Boogie Knights. Slick, man!

The Friday Five: May 21, 2010

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Lenny” by Stevie Ray Vaughn (from Texas Flood, 1983)

The story behind “Lenny,” the guitar and a song, is nothing short of beautiful. I’m not sure that I’ve told it before – and if I have, humor me – but it goes like this: Vaughn finds a ’65 Strat in an Austin pawnshop that, despite being refinished and looking every bit its age, he was smitten with. The problem was the $350 price tag was out of reach for the struggling blues man and his wife. With his birthday coming up, Lenora reached out to local friends and gathered the cash for the guitar and presented him with it at a birthday gig. That night he sat down and wrote the instrumental tribute to his wife Lenny on that same guitar, the rest is history.

“Got to Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn (from The Disco Years, Vol. 2: On the Beat, 1990)

I’m a sucker for a great disco tune. Knock it all you like; but there was some solid musicians driving those tunes that still don’t get the respect they deserve. Take Cheryl Lynn’s brilliant “Got to Be Real,” for example; a peek under the covers reveals Toto’s David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, and Ray Parker Jr. performing the Paich/David Foster penned track. Okay, maybe this was a bad example. Either way, I love this tune.

“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 (from Greatest Hits, 1971)

“Aw baby, give me one more chance,” an impassioned far beyond his age Michael Jackson pleads. How the hell he was able to muster up the cojones to sing like that is a mystery.

“Just not Just” by The Guggenheim Grotto (from Happy the Man, 2008)

I’m not going to mince words here, The Guggenheim Grotto just released their new record The Universe is Laughing and you can should purchase it here.

“Almost Paradise” – Mike Reno & Ann Wilson (from Footloose, 1981)

Most of you are aware of my friend and Popdose colleague Jason Hare. If you pay close enough attention you are also aware of his plethora of musical projects, but you may not be aware of his altruistic nature and huge heart. Those two worlds came together last Saturday night, when he played a benefit show to “KICK CANCER’S A**!” to raise money to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Jason, along with his wife Jessica, is running the 2010 NYC Triathlon and raising money in the process – you can learn more, and help here. At any rate, one of the highlights of the show was the Acoustic ‘80s performance of the love theme from Footloose by Jason, along with guest vocalist Jennifer Gembs. The tune has always been a favorite of mine, and I swear I squealed like a tween girl at a Justin Bieber concert when they started playing it.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Another Gem From Kelly and the Lads

It took seven months but the fine folks at Island/Mercury finally released the new Stereophonics album here in the US. Being the absolute geek for the lads from Cwmaman, Wales, I naturally sprung for the import, released last November in the UK, and have been dazzled by it for the last six months. Now that it’s stateside, I highly recommend snagging it. Every track is fantastic and the eternally mythical Kelly Jones has outdone himself yet again on their latest effort. In all the ways that matter, it is a perfect summation of their career and an excellent starting point for people who have never heard the band.

The album opens with “She’s Alright”, another tale of an alcohol soaked encounter with a crazed member of the opposite sex. Coming from Kelly, these are always entertaining and, for me, quite serendipitous. Then we have the single, “Innocent”, a track reminiscent of the Language Sex Violence Other era. “Beer Bottle” is the third track and one of my faves. Kelly tells stories about working people that get to the very heart of the human condition and this track is a perfect example of melancholy triumph. “Trouble” is a straight on rocker that really sparkles and “Could You Be The One” is a crush-my-heart wonderful ballad. Every single thing you do is magic baby…every little thing that you do is cool, Kelly sings and we all think of that person that warmly clothes us with this feeling.

“I Got Your Number” is a nice, angry one to be played LOUD.  “Uppercut” reminds me of early ‘phonics and could easily be on Word Gets Around. In fact, each track could easily fit on one of the previous six albums style-wise, which is why I say that this record is a nice summation. “Live N Love”, with its “Helter Skelter”-ish opening, has that 70s soaked feel of “You Gotta Go There To Come Back”, as does “100MPH”,  which could easily be a thematic and stylistic sequel to “Maybe Tomorrow”.

“Wonder”, a sister song to “Dakota”, is just fucking cool and gorgeous…instantly creating nostalgia for times that never were, and regretful introspection for times long forgotten. “Beer Bottle” and this one are the best on the disc. “Stuck In A Rut” has cool soul feel and “Show Me How”, another instant classic ballad from Kelly, closes out the album with a hopeful tone.

I always laugh when NME releases their requisite ass-reaming of each new Stereophonics release (they will never forgive Kelly for Mr. Writer). I love and worship that magazine but they are way wrong about the lads from Cwmaman. Kelly’s voice is the very essence of rock and roll…whiskey, smoke, sex, and love…all wrapped up in stories you’d hear in a workingman’s pub.

That’s just how it fookin’ should be!

Super Tuesday: Band of Horses, Stones, ACL lineup

May 18th – a date I’ve have had marked on my calendar most of this year, since learning that…

a) Infinite Arms, the third album by Band of Horses, is released (check out the CD or the Deluxe Box Set on Amazon).

b) The remastered edition of the Stones classic Exile on Main Street is released (check out the deluxe version or thr Super Deluxe Edition on Amazon).

c) The Austin City Limits Music Festival – which I will be attending for the third time – releases its lineup (check out the ACL Festival site). Pre-announcement rumors are pointing to Phish, the Eagles, Muse, and the Flaming Lips, among others. In fact, USA Today posted this on Monday night.