Blessed [new from Lucinda Williams]

March 1st is not only day one of my favorite month (I’m in Arizona, so that means Spring Training games, a beer festival, and ideal weather), but it’s also release day for Blessed, the great new album from Lucinda Williams.

Lucinda’s 10th studio album has many folks likening it to a return to form of her stellar ’98 album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. I’ve had a few runs through it, and – as always, it seems – I’ve gravitated to the more slow burning, wistful tracks. “I Don’t Know How You’re Living”, “Born to be Loved”, “Convince Me”…

But the true stunner of a tune that stops me in my tracks is the album finale: “Kiss Like Your Kiss”. This love’s done and gone, Jack, and nothing will ever be the same…

There’ll never be a spring so perfect again
We’ll never see a yellow so rich
The grass will never be quite as green
And there’ll never be a kiss like your kiss

That’s only the first verse. It’s a thing of beauty, and may be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard Lucinda sing (right there with “Blue” for me). This song alone is worth the price of admission.

A version of the song actually appears on an episode of True Blood, and includes Elvis Costello on vocals. You can find this version on True Blood: Music From The HBO® Original Series Volume 2

The Blessed version doesn’t include Costello’s co-vocals, and as much as I admire and respect Elvis, the song rises even higher without him. This is Lucinda’s moment, and Costello only dilutes the exquisiteness of it, in my opinion. Just wait till you hear the Blessed version, that’s all I gotta say.

Blessed is another strong collection from a tried and true original still at the top of her game. Top to bottom, it can’t top Car Wheels, but moments like “Kiss Like Your Kiss” elevate it to a level that’s damn close.

Los Lobos returning to Arizona on May 5th

Last summer, thanks to the passing of Arizona’s anti-immigration bill SB1070, many artists made the decision to boycott the state. One of my very favorite bands, Los Lobos, was one of those who decided to say no to Arizona. They were scheduled to perform June 10th, 2010 at the Talking Stick Resort & Casino (located just east of Scottsdale on the Salt River Pima – Maricopa Indian Community), but cancelled the gig about a week before, releasing the following statement:

“We support the boycott of Arizona. The new law will inevitably lead to unfair racial profiling and possible abuse of people who just happen to look Latino. As a result, in good conscience, we could not see ourselves performing in Arizona. We regret the inconvenience this may have caused the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, Casino Arizona, Talking Stick Resort and our fans, but we feel strongly that it is the right thing to do.”

Not much has changed since last summer, although the most controversial portion of the bill (requiring law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest) is currently tied up in federal courts. But lo and behold, I discovered this morning that there is a Los Lobos gig scheduled for Cinco de Mayo (um, that’s May 5th, gringos), once again at the Talking Stick Resort.

So as a rabid Los Lobos fan, I’m thrilled that they’ve decided to return to Arizona. But why the change of heart? I’m fixin’ to find out.

Could it be because the Salt River Pima – Maricopa reservation is considered Indian territory, not technically part of Arizona? Or did they realize that maybe the most effective way to show their disdain for the law is to come to Arizona and speak out directly? I’m interested to find out. But regardless, my thirst for live Lobos will soon be quenched…

So Arizona Lobos fans – May 5thTalking Stick! See you there…

The Friday Five: February 25, 2011

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:

It’s another busy Friday at the office. I’ve got the iTunes shuffling away in the background, here’s the first five tunes that popped up …

“Daylight Fading” by Counting Crows (from Recovering the Satellites, 1996)
“French Navy” by Camera Obscura (from My Maudlin Career, 2009)
“Follow You Down” by The Twilight Singers (from Blackberry Belle, 2003)
“Ship Shape” by Modern Skirts (from Gramahawk, 2011)
“Heaven” by Bryan Adams (from Reckless, 1984)

What’s on your shuffle today?

The Airborne Toxic Event

A Facebook friend recently recommended taking a listen to the Airborne Toxic Event. So I dialed up their only full-length studio album (self-titled) and took a run around the ‘hood. I was seriously impressed. It’s a little bit hard-egded in some places, some 80’s alternative influences in other areas. At points, I was hearing sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place done by the Gaslight Anthem or The Hold Steady…

It’s simply a very enjoyable record front to back. Singer Mikel Jollett has a wide-ranging vocal ability that makes you question if you’re hearing the same person from song to song. And you are.

Here’s a live version of the the album opener, the explosive “Wishing Well”. They had me right out of the gate with this tune.

MP3: The Airborne Toxic EventWishing Well – live March 1st, 2008 in San Francisco

Check out this album if you get a chance. I’m embedding the Rdio album here. You Rdio subscribers can kick back and enjoy the whole thing. Non-subscribers can hear the 30 second snippets (you should really just subscribe to Rdio though, just sayin’. At least check out the free trial and see how awesome it is.).

Photo note: I’ll be damned if that drummer isn’t Ben Stiller’s character in Dodgeball.

The Makings of Rain

If I had to point to one performance that sums up everything I like about Prince, it would be his August 3rd, 1983 benefit show at First Avenue in Minneapolis (the day I turned 13!). It was not only the debut of new guitarist Wendy Melvoin (just 19 years old at the time), but the debut of many of the tunes from Purple Rain, which wouldn’t be released until the summer of 1984. In fact, some of the recordings you hear on the Purple Rain album come from this show (“Purple Rain” and “Baby I’m a Star” to name a couple). The circulating video bootleg is called The Makings of Rain, and it is essential viewing for Prince fans. It’s out there. I recommend you track it down.

This is classic Prince in every sense for me: young, vibrant, sensual, sexual, urgent, commanding…here is an artist coming off a very successful album and tour (1999), and about to unleash (what I consider) his masterpiece upon the world.

So every once in a while, part of the performance pops up on Youtube. Here’s the unreleased classic “Electric Intercourse”.

(Dead Youtube link, sorry)

The Cars are Back [Video: “Blue Tip”]

For those of us who grew up listening to The Cars, there’s something comforting about hearing Ric Ocasek’s voice and that vintage Cars sound here in the year 2011. After all, the last time they released an album of new music was 1987. Just a few things have changed in the time between.

But reunited they have – all original members (minus bassist and occasional lead vocalist Benjamin Orr, who passed away in 2000 after a battle with pancreatic cancer). Their new album, titled Move Like This, will be released on May 10th, and the lead single and video, “Blue Tip”, is now out – and it has that unmistakeable Cars sound: the new wave/rock blend and the quirky vocals of Ric Ocasek (yep, still married to Paulina Porizcova, 26+ years now).

Here’s “Blue Tip”:

Ocasek and Porizcova first met during the video shoot for “Drive”:

My favorite Cars tune? Hard to say, but “The Dangerous Type” surely ranks in the top 3…

And finally, I feel compelled to include my favorite solo Ocasek tune, “Emotion in Motion”, from his second solo album, This Side of Paradise. :

Radiohead’s ‘The King of Limbs’ [My 2 Cents]

Like a lot of you, I dropped the $9.00 for Radiohead‘s new album The King of Limbs, when it was offered up a day earlier than expected on Friday. What was it, last Monday when it was announced out of the blue that Radiohead would release a new album in the coming weekend? It’s quite a phenomenon the way this band can command the attention of the entire music industry at will. Their ‘pay what you want’ model for their last record, In Rainbows, generated all the buzz the last time around (can you believe that was more than three years ago? October 2007).

This time around, it was 0 to 60 in minutes last week as the word spread across Twitter and Facebook faster than it took for Lady Gaga to emerge from her Grammy egg. On Friday, the digital album made itself available, along with a video for track 5 on the album, “Lotus Flower” – featuring Thom Yorke’s avant-garde gyrations.

So I’ve listened a few times now, most recently during a run this overcast, dreary morning in Arizona. I think the album “hit me” most profoundly during this outing. Thing is, the band’s music – electronic, experimental, atmospheric – has a way of transforming your environment as you listen. It’s one thing to take in The King of Limbs sitting at your computer or in your living room. But it’s an entirely different experience listening to it out on the town, or running around the neighborhood. It makes you take in your surroundings differently – the cars that pass, the blowing trees, the faces of people walking by – with the filter of this album providing your soundtrack. It transforms reality… drug-like almost.

I enjoy the creativity in Radiohead’s music. It’s always an interesting listen – and it got decidedly more interesting post OK Computer, wouldn’t you say? When the 1-2 punch of Kid A and Amnesiac were released in 2000 and 2001, we knew the game had changed… or rather that Radiohead had changed up their game. We were free to come along for the ride, but don’t expect a smooth, orderly trip.

Gone are the sing along, epic, almost anthem-like songs like “Creep”, “Fake Plastic Trees”, “Let Down” and the like. Well, maybe some of you sing along to “Everything In Its Right Place”, “Like Spinning Plates”, and now “Morning Mr. Magpie”… but to my ears, the melodic stuff went adios with OK Computer.

So as someone whose musical taste spans across many many genres of music, I enjoy The King of Limbs because I enjoy bands that think outside of the box, who create completely unpredictable pieces of music that are hard to categorize.

The King of Limbs is another work of art by a band that plays by their own rules.

→ Visit Radiohead’s site to purchase The King of Limbs:

The Friday Five: February 18, 2011

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:

“Make It Mine” by Jason Mraz (from We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things., 2008)

It feels like it has been forever since I last listened to this record. (According to iTunes, the last time was September; not quite forever.) Taken in small doses, it is impossible to be in a  bad mood after listening to Mraz.

“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele (from 21, 2011)

I haven’t had a chance to dig into this album properly, yet. What I’ve heard, though gives me hope that Miss Adkins has taken her craft to the next level. With a bit of delta blues spirit, and just a touch of gospel, “Rolling in the Deep” is a slow burn that builds to a full-blown blaze at its close.

“The Game Gets Old” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (from I Learned the Hard Way, 2010)

One of my favorite live acts, Jones is nothing short of a powerhouse. Popdose’s new music editor, Ken Shane, had a recent opportunity to catch the stellar soul singer in Rhode Island, which he came away from equally blown away. If you have any opportunity to catch the Jones, do not hesitate. I guarantee you’ll have a great time.

“P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” by  Michael Jackson (from Thriller, 1982)

The King is dead. Long live the King.

“Boogie Chillen” by Buddy Guy & Junior Wells (from Alone & Acoustic, 1991)

This record, mmm-hmm. Hell, I’m not even sure I can put it into words. Two master bluesmen, hold up in a studio somewhere in Europe with just an acoustic guitar, absolutely throwing down.

What’s on your shuffle today?

My Dove, My Lamb

Today, I developed a case of the blahs. Without good reason, really. I’m blessed. Family, work, health…all great, no complaints. But sometimes, even when all’s well, that crap feeling can creep in and take hold. I think they call it part of living.

So tonight I decided to seek out some soul soothing music. Something to take me to that cathartic, introspective place that only good music can. I found it in Phosphorescent with their 2007 album Pride.

I found it particularly in the nine minute and twenty-five second “My Dove, My Lamb”. Seven of the most gorgeous and touching verses put to song. I don’t particularly like linking to those shitty, dime-a-dozen lyrics sites, but you really should listen to this song and read the lyrics. Breathtaking, really…

So even in these cities where she’s haunting me
Even when my weariness is wanting me
Even when my wickednesses want to breathe
Even in these dirty clubs counting 1-2-3
I will keep a singing til I no more can
My dove my dove my lamb

The whole album has a very spiritual quality to it – lots of harmonies, lots of reverb, and best of all, singer Matthew Houck’s voice – delicate but resolute. Definitely not a record you’d pull out and play for your friends on a Saturday night. Rather, I find it’s more of a companion record – one that a listener can form an individual bond with.

Love this band, and love this tune…

from Pride

Phosphoresccent’s Official Site