A New North Woods Legend

There are many myths, legends and stories that come from the North Woods of America. The wood spirit of Wendigo which could only be seen when facing it head on…the little people who lived among the trees and distracted many a traveler…and, of course, that giant bearded man whose pet was on Ox named Babe.With no need for any hammers from gods, The Stereo Pirates are wielding the full power of Paul Bunyan’s Ax, poised to make their mark in the musical zeitgeist of Minneapolis and beyond.

When I first heard them play a few weeks ago at the Nomad World Pub on the West Bank, the first thing that struck me was how catchy and accessible their music sounded. The song “Fall Back Man” is a great example of this.

The pen of lead singer and chief lyricist Bryan Pertinen is matched only by his voice that cuts through the coldest of North Woods winters, soothing the scenesters as if they were in front of an open flame. Fire continually flies from the fingers and fret board of lead guitarist Jon Wefel as he takes his flower covered flock on many Kesey-esque journeys.

Yet the key to this voyage into pure pop heaven lies in Bryan Rubbelke‘s black and white ivories that happily dance for the various denizens of pubs and clubs, scooping them all up for the ride. The rhythm section of Mark Thoreen (bass) and Jeremy Krueth (drums) provide the kind of foundation from which aural skylines are constructed in Rock City, USA.

The Stereo Pirates have just released their self titled debut and it is a corker. It’s been in constant rotation on my iPhone, my home stereo, my computer and even my minivan as I haul kids around town. In fact, I can imagine soccer moms around the country re-embracing, and perhaps re-imagining, Twin Cities Pop with tracks like “Blue Eyes”, “Crooked Smile,” and “Painted Ladies.” The latter track nods wonderfully to Motown with a totally fab horn section that actually drove me to skipping as I was working out at the gym the other day. And I can’t help but chuckle at the obvious Zep influenced “She Cut Me.” This one gets my son’s nod for best track of the album as he always yells at me to crank the van stereo when it comes on. “Rock and Roll should be LOUD, Dad,” he reminds me and that’s exactly how this tune should be played.

But the album’s true gem and the one that will ultimately write their fire in the sky is “Take Me Home.” Ranking right up there with “Fix You” by Coldplay and “Bedshaped” by Keane, “Take Me Home” is the classic rock anthem in every sense of the word. I can already see former cigarette lighters and now cel phones lighting up arenas as this is one of those show closing songs that will simultaneously existing at every point in music history-adding another mythic and brilliant note to the infinite lexicon that comforts me every single moment of my life.

The Stereo Pirates will be playing live at the Fine Line Music Cafe on Thursday, March 8th. If you live in the Twin Cities area, I highly recommend seeing this band live. Click here to friend them on Facebook for all their latest news!

IckMix 6: Move

I put this together for my brother a few months ago as a running/exercise companion. Since then, I’ve listened to it quite a few times on my runs, and quite simply, it pretty much kicks ass.

So download, throw it on your iPod/iPhone/SmartPhone of choice, and move! (Or, sit back in a La-Z-Boy with a strong cocktail. You do what you want, I’m not your daddy).

IckMix 6: Move (mp3)

[audio:ickmix6.mp3]

1. “Month of May” – Arcade Fire (3:51) | The Suburbs
2. “Bushwick Blues” – Delta Spirit (3:44) | History from Below
3. “Seaside Bar Song” – Bruce Springsteen (3:35) | Tracks
4. “Run Runaway” – Slade (5:01) | The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome
5. “Now It’s On+ – Grandaddy (4:08)  | Sumday
6. “When My Time Comes” – Dawes (5:08) | North Hills
7. “A More Perfect Union” – Titus Andronicus (7:10) | The Monitor
8. “The Leader” – The Clash (1:42) | Sandinista!
9. “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)” – Pat Travers Band (5:06) | Pat Travers Band…Live! Go For What You Know
10. “Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix)” – Prince (7:37) | Ultimate
11. “Freedom Park” – Marah (4:35) | 20,000 Streets Under The Sky
12. “I Do (LP Version)” – J. Geils Band (3:08) | Monkey Island

The Friday Five: February 24, 2012

On the sixth day of every week, Michael Parr shuffles through his library to bring you five random tracks.

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:

“Always and Forever” by Heatwave (from Can You Dig It? The ’70s Soul Experience, 2001)

During the nomination process for the recent Popdose 100: The Greatest Love Songs of All Time there were only a handful of tunes that I could’ve smacked myself for forgetting to include, this is one of them. I don’t know about you lot, but when I was growing up this tune was a staple of the high school dance.

“Tell Me (Go Go mix)” by Groove Theory (from Tell Me – The Remixes, 1995)

Here is one of the things that I love about doing the Friday Five: after doing a quick background check on Groove Theory I discovered that principal players Amel Larrieux and Bryce Wilson have reunited. There isn’t much in the way of details, but damn if that isn’t exciting news.

“Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” by The Beatles (from The Beatles, 1968)

This one is a little less ‘Beatles’ and more ‘McCartney’, much in the same way “Julia” is more ‘Lennon.’

“Under the Cherry Moon” by Prince & The Revolution (from 1986-08-02: Madison Square Garden, New York, Ny, USA, 2012)

Okay, two things to discuss here:

This soundboard recording was recently unearthed and is nothing short of excellent. The band did two shows at the Garden to prep for the European tour, and these performances are fiery and loose. This one is well worth seeking out.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the benefit gig that The Revolution —that’s right: Wendy, Lisa, Bobby, Mark, Dr. Fink and Dez!— performed at the legendary First Avenue in Minneapolis last weekend. The skinny motherfucker with the high voice didn’t show his face, but after listening to the tapes from the show he should be listening, and thinking about taking this band out on tour. Hell, they don’t even need him! Viva la Revolution!

“I Have Loved You Wrong” by The Swell Season (from Strict Joy, 2009)

Did you know that Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová made a second movie chronicling the recording of Strict Joy? I didn’t know this until earlier this week, and now it’s all I can do to try and find a way to see this film. If you haven’t watched the film Once, I cannot recommend it more. All that said, I hold hope that the duo will reconvene for another record in the near future.

What’s on your shuffle today?

The Friday Five: February 17, 2012

On the sixth day of every week, Michael Parr shuffles through his library to bring you five random tracks.

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:

“Armageddon It” by Def Leppard (from Vault: Greatest Hits 1980-1995, 1995)

It’s not my favorite Def Leppard song, but it is as catchy as VD at the Jersey Shore (or, somewhat ironically, a Def Leppard show during the Hysteria tour.)

“Candy Store Rock” by Led Zeppelin (from Boxed Set, 1990)

The Zeppelin box set was standard issue for high school students in the early ’90s.

“Nobody But You” by The Apples in Stereo (from Travellers in Space and Time, 2010)

Phew, I was getting worried that Matt Wardlaw had somehow possessed this week’s shuffle.

“Wrapped Up in Books” by Belle and Sebastian (from Dear Catastrophe Waitress, 2003)

I’m suddenly getting sleepy.

“Come Up to My Room (feat. Tha Dogg Pound)” by Jodeci (from Murder Was the Case, 1994)

Whoa, that is like puling the emergency break while speeding—albeit rather gently—down the highway.

What’s on your shuffle today?

(Not So) Guilty Pleasure of the Moment: B.o.B. – Play the Guitar

Don’t know much about B.o.B., except I see his name on the charts or around the media in the form of “B.o.B feat. ___” or “___ feat. B.o.B.” credits we’re accustomed to seeing in modern day R&B/hip-hop.

His 2010 debut album, B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray [Explicit], hit #1 on the Billboard 200, and spawned three hit singles.

Fast forwarding to this year, in which B.o.B. will release his 2nd album, Strange Clouds.
The second single is “Play the Guitar,” and features another Georgia resident, Outkast’s André 3000.

I heard while I was out running, listening to Sirius XM’s Hip-Hop Nation. And this is exactly why I’ll drop into different stations and genres from time to time – to discover something that clicks with me.  “Play the Guitar” has a great rhythm, sort of a Caribbean undercurrent running through it. And the presence of Andrè 3000 adds that instant cred. Just a fun tune, and really good loud.

Lenny Kravitz Live in Phoenix

Lenny in Phoenix (from Lenny's Facebook)

This is short and simple. Last Sunday night, I saw Lenny Kravitz in concert at Comerica Theater in Phoenix. Is there a cooler motherf*cker than Lenny Kravitz? Not many, bud. Swagger, sex appeal, and pure and unadulterated rock star cool.

A set list full of hits, past and present…
An intimate rapport with the crowd of 2,200, which included a trip through the seats for some high fives and hugs during “Let Love Rule.”

“Are You Gonna Go My Way” was my personal highlight, as populist or cliche as it might sound. The whole crowd was whipped into an absolute euphoria. It was one of those otherworldly moments I experience in very few live shows – Springsteen, Prince, Tom Petty being among the few. A musical moment in time that lifts an entire audience out of reality into some dreamlike state. Pure rock & roll.

It’s been 4 full days and I’m still coming down.

During “Let Love Rule”, Lenny invited the crowd to come close to the stage. My friend Jen and I accepted the invite. I shot some quick video to capture the moment.

Lenny Kravitz: just an absolute rock & roll badass.

Sunday was also the day after the world lost Whitney Houston. Lenny dedicated “Push” to her and posted it to his YouTube channel after the show…

Recap: Beats, Rhymes & Life – The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

 I just finished watching the Michael Rapaport-directed Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. Like a lot of folks around my age (early 40’s – same age as Rapaport & the Tribe), I spent a lot of quality time back in the day with A Tribe Called Quest. In my case, it was the first two albums that really resonated with me – particularly 1991’s The Low End Theory. Songs like “Excursions”,  “Can I Kick It”, and “Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts)” helped provide a soundtrack for my late college years in Colorado. I have great memories of driving through the mountains from Colorado Springs to Telluride bumpin’ those Tribe beats (in my beat up ’85 Jeep Cherokee).

By the time Midnight Marauders was released in late 1993, I was distracted with other genres and busy being young and irresponsible. Other than “Award Tour”, I’m ashamed to say I didn’t hear the full album until the new millennium. Forget about the last two Tribe records – Beats Rhymes & Life and Love Movement – I’m just getting around to ’em now.

So the documentary was fantastic, a real learning experience for me, someone who loved those early records but checked out of the scene in the early 90’s.

Other than the music, it’s the love/hate dynamic between childhood buds Q-Tip and Phife Dawg that is the central theme of the doc. Phife has struggled with Type 1 Diabetes throughout his adult life, even undergoing a kidney transplant a few years ago (a donation from his wife). What the film suggests is that Q-Tip hasn’t really been there for his pal during these struggles. Tip’s focus has always been on the music. When the time came in 1998 that he didn’t see a future for the group, Tip disbanded the group and embarked on a successful solo career.

Since then, A Tribe Called Quest haven’t released any albums, but have reformed for live performances on occasion (for the money, they’re not ashamed to admit). The film covers a couple of these live gigs over the past several years, and there’s plenty of drama still alive and well among the group to make it all the more compelling.

I recommend this film for music lovers anywhere – whether you’re a hip-hop head or not. But if you dug those early Native Tongues albums – Tribe, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers and such – you will especially enjoy this.

BuyBeats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

The Friday Five: February 10, 2012

On the sixth day of every week, Michael Parr shuffles through his library to bring you five random tracks.

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:

N.T., Parts 1 & 2” by Kool & The Gang (from Cutmaster Swift Presents: The Breaks, Volume 2, 1999)

Prior to penning the wedding band anthem “Celebrate,” Kool & The Gang dropped some of the funkiest instrumental breaks this side of Parliament-Funkadelic. Originally featured on 1971’s Live at PJ’s, the “N.T.” actually stands for “No Title.” No points for originality there, but it more than makes up for it’s lack of an original title with its sprawling funk movements.

O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature (from Tommy Boy Presents: Hip Hop Essentials, Volume 11 (1979-1991), 2006)

I dare you to listen to this record without bobbin’ your head.

Pastime Paradise” by Stevie Wonder (from Songs in the Key of Life, 1976)

Seems as if we’re shuffling between the bedrock of hip-hop breaks and a hip hop classic. Where Kool & The Gang’s nameless jam supplied the breaks for Kool G Rap’s “Truly Yours” and Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” Stevie’s “Pastime Paradise” was the bedrock of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

Gratitude” by Beastie Boys (from Check Your Head, 1992)

Ha! Here’s a funky bit of irony: track 16 on the Beastie’s Check Your Head, it’s a groovy little track called “Live at P.J.’s.” That aside, I’ve always loved this track.

So Alive” by Love and Rockets (from Sounds of the Eighties: 1989, 1995)

Dammit, iTunes! You had me going.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Pete’s Music Charts: January

Hi.

It’s 2012, and I’ve yet to put finger to keyboard to whip up a post on this, my site, my IckMusic. No, music hasn’t taken a back seat to anything. It’s still at the forefront, ever accompanying me on this journey I’m on.

I am, however, focusing on thinking differently, and trying to undo some of the mistakes I’ve made up to this point, this fifth decade of my Life on Earth. I came across an Albert Einstein quote a couple weeks ago (at least that’s who it was credited to).

It reads: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

That hit home, and that’s exactly how I’m approaching the year. A fresh outlook. A realization that some serious tweaks are needed in my life – in all areas, but mostly in the financial realm.

Most significantly, I’m trying to get my ass – and therefore my family’s collective ass – out of debt. I’m fully ingesting the Dave Ramsey Kool-Aid. His Total Money Makeover is a challenge, to say the least, but it also makes a lot of sense, and that’s what I’ve embarked on. So, my very unglamorous but very much needed focus this year is debt reduction. Laser focus, “gazelle intense” focus, as Dave puts it.

But I can’t stay completely quiet here. I have to chime in at least every once in a while, right? To start, I had an idea about leveraging the detailed music charts available on Last.fm. Like a lot of you fellow music geeks out there, I track the music I listen to on Last.fm. It not only captures everything I listen to on iTunes and my iPhone, but also Rdio and Spotify. So that pretty much has it covered top to bottom. I’ve been “scrobbling” on Last.fm since December 2004 – the same month I started this blog, coincidentally.

So why not take a look each month at my previous month’s listening habits. What artists and tunes are doing it for me from month to month?

You’re totally into this? Awesome. Here we go…

January 2012 Charts (from Last.fm)

Top 5 Artists:

1. Wilco

Well this already makes sense. On January 21st, I had the opportunity to catch the band at Tempe’s Gammage Auditorium – their first Phoenix area show since 2004. Two and a half hours long, in a small, intimate venue, and each member of the band in prime touring form – just two shows into their West Coast swing.

“Via Chicago”, from their great 1999 album Summerteeth has taken a sinister turn. You really have to see & hear it to believe it, but at a few different times during the tune, the entire band goes absolutely, evilly ballistic for about 20 seconds. A cacophony of sound, Glenn Kotche going apeshit on the drum kit, the stage drenched in blood red lights… and all the while, there’s Tweedy, who continues strumming on his guitar and singing “Via Chicago” like nothing’s happening. It’s brilliant, and could drive a sane man mad.

They played tunes from their entire catalog, and focused heavily on their latest album, The Whole Love.

I admit to not spending near enough time with the record since its release. But like all great live bands, their showcasing of new material on tour will pull you right in, and have you rushing home to press Play. And that’s exactly what I did.

I virtually wore out my digital copy of The Whole Love.

2. Prince

Huge surprise, I know. In January, I can attribute my heavy Prince listening to the release of a fantastic new bootleg called The Parade Demos. It includes not only the tunes we’re familiar with from the Parade – Music From The Motion Picture Under The Cherry Moon album, but in their early configuration. “Christopher Tracy’s Parade”, the Parade opener, is “Wendy’s Parade” here.

And the collection includes some unreleased gems from the era: “Others Here With Us”, “Old Friends 4 Sale” (the bluesy, stripped down version, not the overproduced one from The Vault – Old Friends 4 Sale release), and the trippy and fun “All My Dreams”, a psychedelic slice of funk/pop. These are tunes that Prince geeks have been hearing for a while, but never like this. The quality is pristine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7viBZck7JiA

3. Bruce Cockburn

I find comfort in Bruce Cockburn.

With a lot on my mind this year, and a lot of energy devoted to positive changes, it’s nice just to wind down with Mr. Cockburn. This time around, it was a fantastic 2002 compilation called Anything Anytime Anywhere (Singles 1979-2002). Great tunes like “A Dream Like Mine”, “The Coldest Night of the Year”, “Wondering Where the Lions Are”, and “Pacing the Cage”. Also, two new tunes released with this collection: “My Beat” and “Anything Anytime Anywhere”.

4. David Bowie

I admit to being largely ignorant of Bowie’s overall body of work. I’ve been familiar with the radio hits over the years as a casual fan, and that’s about it. But I do recognize this as a fault – a serious gap as a music fan, especially as much as I love the era of 60’s and 70’s rock & roll. So I’ve been trying to correct some of this behavior by listening to albums like Aladdin Sane, Low, Heroes, and Space Oddity.

One tune I’ve loved since it came out is “New Killer Star” from his 2003 album Reality. Once again, I’d heard the single, but never the album. So I’ve dug into Reality as well. A long way to go, but it’s a start.

5. Girls

Probably, no, definitely, my favorite band in the land right now. Front man and songwriter Christopher Owens makes music that connects deeply with me. It’s hard to explain, but every nuance, every chord and vocal structure of his songs just feels right to me. Since their latest album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost came out last year, I’ve been consistently drifting in and out of obsession with their small but powerful catalog.

If I can recommend one thing to you, it would be to pick up their 2 full lengths and their EP, Broken Dreams Club (I guess that’s three things).

Best of all, they’re touring in the next couple months, and stopping at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on March 3rd. Yeah I can’t wait.

Top 5 Songs

1. Wilco – “Capitol City”

This is one of my favorites off their album, The Whole Love. Really dig the fun, poppy, carnival-atmosphere vibe…

2. King Charles – “Mississippi Isabel”

I listened to this because of a new music recommendation from Rdio. Really catchy stuff from this young British artist – part Adam Ant, part Gary Glitter, part Edward Sharpe. Although the novelty has worn off a bit, it’s a catchy tune, and your kids will like it.

“She kissed me once I took her out for lunch and she never kissed me again.”

3. Wilco – “A Shot in the Arm”

I never tire of this tune from Summerteeth. After beholding it live once again, it was time to spin it a few times…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjdQ9VO1ho4

4. Prince & the Revolution – “I Wonder U”

I’ve been listening to the Parade Demos version, which features Prince on vocals (along with Wendy & Lisa). Prince doesn’t sing on the regular album version.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld3IuaNSmoA

5. Bruce Springsteen & the Seeger Sessions Band – “This Little Light of Mine”

This comes from the amazing Live In Dublin CD/DVD. It’s Bruce and his Sessions Band cranking it up gospel style.

It will lift you right up outta your seat.
It will inspire you.
It will make you believe that you can do anything.
The perfect song for any new year.

The Friday Five: February 3, 2012

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:

“Like a Virgin” by Madonna (from Celebration, 2009)

Goddamn it, Madge. I want to run that Seth Myers skit where he rattles off a rapid-fire salvo of insults followed by the quizzical “really?” So, tell me, Madonna: why do you find it necessary to include your name in your lyrics, is it because you are worried someone might mistake it for an Avril Lavigne or Gwen Stefani tune? Oh, and M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj? Really? REALLY?

“Picture in an Exhibition” by Death Cab for Cutie (from Something About Airplanes, 1998)

Is anyone else looking forward to the next Death Cab for Cutie record?

“Deep” by Pearl Jam (from Vault #1: 1992-01-17: Moore Theater, Seattle, WA, USA, 2011)

This is an amazing show. Well worth seeking out.

“1901 (Alan Wilkis remix)” by Phoenix (from 1901, 2009)

It’s been awhile since we’ve visited with Alan Wilkis! If you haven’t been keeping up, he is in the midst of a new project called PRINTS, where he shares his funk with the likes of Bay-area rapper, Lyrics Born. Hit the link and dig in!

“A Letter to Elise” by The Cure (from Wish, 1992)

“And every time I try / to pick it up like falling sand / as fast as I pick it up / it runs away through my clutching hands” No one, but no one, does resigned desperation like Robert Smith. i can’t quite say why, but I’ve always held this song as the example of why I love The Cure as much as I do. Along with the equally forlorn “Pictures of You,” it ranks among my favorite songs, period.

What’s on your shuffle today?