Right Hand On My Heart

TheWhigs

“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.

The tune is from their 2008 album Mission Control. Listen & watch:

New from Brett Dennen: “Wild Child”

brett-dennen13

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.

Their Flag is Planted Deeply in the Ground

The very talented and thankfully local band, American Revival is back with a new lineup and new EP called Thank Ya Kindly. Folks, the lads have done it again. It’s a North Woods corker!

From the first few wonderful seconds of the opening track’s acoustic guitar, I fell head over heels in love with their new EP. “95” opens up the record by firmly planting an alt-country flag in the ground and it’s very, very deep. The track also has a Byrds-like feel to it that I found refreshing and inspiring to the point of where I really wanted to take a road trip to..well…anywhere! Ah, the magic of music…

The second track, “Japanese Shark,” reminded me of why I love the voice of Thomas Pendervas as much as I do. It’s so all-encompassing and full, towering over the music in such a unique way that it actually magnifies each track as opposed to overwhelming it.

“Texas” reminds me of Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen with its haunting pastoral of our nation’s largest state. With this intriguing track, an exploration of thoughts as they travel from season to season, Pendervas taps into his existential intelligence and paints a story that is deeply touching. The EP’s last track, “Lights,” is a rousing number that does what every good song should do: make the listener feel nostalgic for a time that perhaps they have never had.

I certainly felt that way.

For those of you lucky enough to live in the Twin Cities, American Revival is having a CD release party on March 8th at Mayslack’s and a follow up show at one of my absolute favorite venues, the Kitty Cat Club, on March 15th. I’ll likely be at the latter on as my birthday is on March 16th and it might be nice to celebrate the opening minutes of it at 12:01am with one of the best bands in the Midwest!

Mark’s Top Five Albums of 2012

For my top five albums of the year, we begin with something I didn’t think I would like but then did. And then loved. And then became obsessed with to the point of nausea. But a good nausea. Folks, I’m not ashamed to admit but I heart the Original Soundtrack to Rock of Ages. Heart heart heart!!!

Maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe I’m just that shocked that Tom fucking Cruise can carry a tune but this disc is Chock-o-Block with great tracks. My personal favorite is Cruise and Malin Akerman’s rendition of  Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” This is largely due to the scene in which it is performed being so over the top and wonderful that I could hardly contain myself.

Next up is Donald Fagen’s Sunken Condos. My first reaction was instant delight at the cover. Artists these days don’t put as much thought into album covers largely because they are seen on a small screen. Since the advent of downloads, I have opined for the days of the album cover as art (see: Yes or Pink Floyd). Sunken Condos is a brilliant piece of work by Stephen Walker and Jeff Wack. The centerfold is equally as amazing and haunting in its beauty.

The music itself is classic Fagen/Steely Dan. Slinky grooves played by stellar studio musicians with DF’s voice out front, guiding us through his unique and remarkable take on life. It’s nice to see him getting past his big, autobiographical trilogy on life (The Nightfly, Kamakiriad, Morph the Cat) and just have fun again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Epxd1v43yas&w=480&h=360

For number three on my list, I look closer to home and note the wonderful debut of The Stereo Pirates self-titled record. Since it was a January release, it was a real treat to play it all year and enjoy it through all four seasons. I found it to be a great disc to throw on while running and play from start to finish. Perhaps it’s because it’s a “journey” album and every time you listen to it, your mind goes down a new path.

Number two on my list is That’s Why God Made the Radio by The Beach Boys. Brian is back and this time, it ain’t no publicity stunt. Their twenty ninth (!) studio album is a return to heights that have not been seen since Sunflower. Honestly, some tracks are right up there with Pet Sounds. All surviving members are here, including the return of Al Jardine replacement, David Marks. The last three tracks (“From There and Back Again,” “Pacific Coast Highway,” and “Summer’s Gone”) are Smile-like in their connectivity and wonder. The band recorded 28 songs for this album so perhaps this isn’t the end for new material but if it is (they are all in their 70s, after all), what an impressive coda!

The best of album of 2012 is Sonik Kicks by Paul Weller. I make no bones about by obsession with Brit Rock and it really isn’t that much of a stretch to guess that the Modfather would be my top pick of the year. I wrote a more detailed review of it back when it was released and all of those words still apply today, if not more so. Weller is truly like a fine wine, getting more robust with each passing year. He promises much more to come in the future and I simply can’t wait. If he keeps growing like this, it’s going to be more apparent that his solo career is leaps and bounds past The Jam and The Style Council. Diehards like me already know this to be true.

Now, go buy all these fucking records….

Mark’s Top Five Tracks of 2012

Channeling my inner Cusack via Nick Hornby, here are my Top Five Tracks of 2012.

5. “Don’t Stare At The Sun” – Richard Hawley

Haunting and evocative of another time, this song has been stuck to me for the past few months and won’t let go. Certainly, it’s reminiscent of Tonight-era David Bowie but there’s something more than that here. It’s echo-y…shimmery…like memories…simply wonderful…

4. “I’m Not The Same Without You” – Donal Fagen

The more things change, the more they stay the same..a cliche, I know, but I’ve been struck how this year saw me listening to the same bands I did 30+ years ago. This list (along with new releases by Joe Jackson and Bruce Springsteen) is certainly indicative of that. It’s not that I’m old and crabby about music or anything (I have plenty of new bands that I love) but these senior farts are still making exceptional music that, in many ways, is superior to some of the new stuff coming out.

This is certainly true of Donald Fagens’ new album, Sunken Condos. This track is a great example of how the good ol’ style of music still sounds great today. In fact, no one really makes music like this anymore so it’s actually very refreshing!

3. “Take Me Home” – The Stereo Pirates

Almost my track of the year and not just because they are local boys. The LA sound here is absolutely perfect in this stunner of a track. I challenge anyone to listen to this from start to finish and not well up a little bit. A stadium anthem for 2012 if there ever was one…

2. “Summer’s Gone” – The Beach Boys

Brian finally got the remaining boys back together for one last (?) go around. This is the closing track on a truly exceptional album and it acts as a possible epilogue to the 50 year career of the Beach Boys. Brian has hinted for many years that he had a song that would be the last song on the last Beach Boys album and this is it. Who knows if this is really the end (they are all in their 70s now, after all)?

If it is, “Summer’s Gone” is a perfect track for taking your best gal for that last stroll home, past the white picket fences or through the fields or under the boardwalk, in early September right before you head off to college…with the leaves…and the co-eds in sweaters…and textbooks…and the life of the mind…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDEzqFMejzU&w=560&h=315

1. “A Study In Blue” – Paul Weller

The Modfather came up big this year, as I discussed previously, and there was never really any question after I heard this track, that it would be my top choice for 2012. The duet with Hannah Weller (his wife) is what really makes this song shine in its trippy, chill-outedness. This song has been floating next to me all year and has been a very soothing companion.

Tomorrow I’ll put up my Top Five Albums of the Year.

Autumnal Delights (Richard Hawley)

With only a few weeks left until the official end to autumn, I thought it appropriate to return to the that magic mix of music and this time of the year. It seems like kismet for today considering it hit 52 degrees in the Twin Cities with London like fog covering the area for the last 48 hours. There have been quite a number of songs released this year that have captured that feel of autumn that I speak so often to anyone who will listen so let’s get to them!

First up is a song that has been seared into my mind and heart. Richard Hawley’s haunting “Don’t Stare At The Sun” is so ridiculously wonderful that I have to play it every single day. The echo-y guitars produce that magical autumnal shimmer that takes me back to my high school years and solders an immediate connection with The Unforgettable Fire. 

Hawley’s voice on this track reminds me of the very underappreciated Tonight LP (released in October of 1984 and to be highlighted here soon) by David Bowie. Folks, this track is simply amazing and must be downloaded immediately for long walks under the Harvest Moon.

Check it out below!

We Take Care Of Our Own

Yeah, that’s right, Bruce. We sure do. Fuckin’-A right we do. That’s why you just helped us elect the right guy for president a week ago. You are amazing. You are wonderful.

You are a fucking monster.

And it was great to see you again after 25 years.

The last time I saw you was at the now giant parking lot next to the Mall of America but then the Met Center on the Tunnel of Love Tour. You played for four and a half hours and I loved every minute of it. Two days ago you played for just over three hours but I didn’t care because your set list was redonkulous.

You opened with “We Take Care Of Our Own” which was a nice exclamation point on the election. You had the house singing along early to “Out in the Street.” You delivered a powerful one-two punch with “Death To My Hometown” and “My City of Ruins,” the latter of which made me well up at not only the theme but how fucking beautiful your voice was…

Each song seemed to give you more energy just like it was 25 years ago when you were a young lad of 37. Body surfing for fuck’s sake to “Hungry Heart”…the unbridled energy of “Open All Night,” which was my wife’s fave…and I still can’t believe you were able to pull “Savin’ Up” out of your ass and play it perfectly. “Shackled and Drawn” reminded the crowd of just how good your new record is.

My personal fave was “Rosalita.” Same intensity. Same high energy. Same amount of sweat and multiple gallons of water.

The memories of the 88 year old dancing with Stevie to “Dancing in the Dark” and the various kids you pulled up on stage will be with me forever, dude. You are more than a boss. More than an icon.

You are….

For the rest of my photos, click here.

A Salve For All That Ails

It had been far too long since I’d seen a show. That’s the way it is sometimes when you have kids, school and a myriad of other things that need your attention. I have to confess that sometimes music takes a back seat in my life. Awful, I know, but it’s true.

In fact, I’d begun to notice that something was very wrong with my soul these last few months. My life just didn’t seem right. Even though I listen to music every day (especially when I run), I wasn’t letting it fully envelop me as I usually do…comfort me more in those times that are extra stressful…and remembering that this is exactly what music should be…a salve for all that ails in totality.

Of course, I knew several months ago when I bought the tickets for the Noel Gallagher-Snow Patrol show last Wednesday night that my musical spirit would be uplifted enormously. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the double bill. A Brit Rock Double Feature…what a treat! Neither band disappointed.

The evening began with Jake Bugg, a very young lad hailing from Nottingham, whose short acoustic set was reminiscient of Lee Mavers. I’d recommend picking up his disc and giving it a chance.

Noel was up next and it was an absolute corker of a set. Mixing Oasis songs with his wonderful new material, Noel showed his god like genius through 14 musical chestnuts. His first solo record, which I reviewed a while back, is so good he could have honestly played the whole thing (as his brother did when he was in town with his new band, Beady Eye) and I wouldn’t have cared. A key ingredient for me in good music is what kind of stories does the artist tell and what is their perception of the world? Noel’s lines up just about perfectly with mine and it is very evident in tracks like “Dream On” and “If I Had A Gun,” both of which were performed flawlessly with that Mancuian magic.

The real treat of the night, in terms of his new record, was “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine.” As the lyrics washed over me, the irony became very apparent. I was living in a dream about living in dream…

The Oasis tracks were great, of course. The one that really stood out was “Talk Tonight,” originally an acoustic only song, and now a full band number that sounded marvelous. Noel’s set ended with “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (of course), my soul was reset to where it should be and all was well and good with the world again.

But that wasn’t the end!

Throughout Noel’s set i kept thinking about how awesome this was that there was ANOTHER great band going on right after this. Snow Patrol did not disappoint in their 14 song set, mixing old and new songs as lead singer Gary Lightbody darted around the stage like a lanky firefly (man, is he hard to photograph!). They opened with “Hands Open” and it was obvious from the start that the band (as they always go) were going to pour their hearts into every single track.

“Crack the Shutters” was ridiculously awesome. “Run” had everyone singing along with every single word in soft and haunting, almost church like, tone. “Dark Roman Wine” was subbed in for “Make This Go On Forever” which bummed me out at first but the former is a really cool tune. “Chasing Cars” brought me to that romantic place where I can’t tell the difference between loving music and loving love. They closed the night out with “Just Say Yes,” the stand alone single from their 2009 greatest hits package.

As I filed out of the Roy Wilkins Auditorium (a perfect place to see a show, b to the w), I quietly made two promises to myself. First, to never again let music take a back seat to my daily life…allowing it always to continually heal me. Second, never let this long of time go by until my next show. This second promise was easily kept as I am going to see (ahem) BRUCE FUCKING SPRINGSTEEN (general admission tix) in eight days!

Photos of the show.

For tour info on Noel Gallagher-Snow Patrol, click here. 

 

Grandaddy live at the Independent in San Francisco (8-12-2012)

One of may favorite bands from the 90’s and early 2000’s days of yore is Grandaddy. I consider The Sophtware Slump to be a masterpiece with its futuristic space-pop, bleepy, bloopy and utterly beautiful vibe.

After a 6 year hiatus, Jason Lytle and the band have reformed for a small tour around California and Europe. As is usually the case, there is no Phoenix date scheduled, so I must live vicariously through the magic of the interwebs.

This past Sunday, the band followed up their festival appearance at Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park by playing a late night gig at the Independent in San Francisco. A kind person, “cuthere,” recorded the performance (with the blessing of the band). I thank cuthere, and you will too…

Check out this Stereogum link for pictures from the night.

Grandaddy
The Independent
San Francisco, CA
August 12, 2012

Download the Show: —

01 Intro
02 El Caminos In The West
03 Now It’s On
04 Yeah Is What We Had
05 Summer Here Kids
06 Fare Thee Not Well Mutineer
07 The Crystal Lake
08 My Small Love>
09 Levitz>
10 Chartsengrafs
11 The Go In The Go-For-It
12 AM 180 (mp3)
13 Lost On Yer Merry Way
14 Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)
15 Laughing Stock
16 Stray Dog And The Chocolate Shake
17 Hewlett’s Daughter
18 Here (Pavement Cover)
19 (break)
20 He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot