Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Jens Lekman, Ladies and Gentlemen

It has been three long years since we have heard from Swedish songwriter Jens Lekman, but he has finally posted a new song. It's called "The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love" (figures, eh?), and you can grab it below. If you are a regular visitor here, you know that one of his songs, "Rocky Dennis Farewell Song To The Blind Girl," took the No. 1 spot on my Top Tracks of the Decade list. High praise, indeed. So, needless to say, I'm pretty excited about this one. Lekman's label, Secretly Canadian, has a lot of good music cookin' right now. I'm completely in love with the Here We Go Magic tune "Collector." If I would have heard it earlier, it would have been on my best songs of the year (so far) list that I put out at the beginning of the month.

One last thing. You may have noticed I have not been checking in as much lately. My family is in the midst of a 2,000-mile move. So, I'm going to have to disappear for a bit. Come back in a couple of weeks for more great music discussion. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cover Me Impressed: 'Prairie Rose'

I just finished reading Rob Sheffield's 'Love Is A Mix Tape,' and I give it my highest recommendation. I initially picked it up because of my mutual admiration for the lost art of the personal cassette compilation, but I stuck with it because his telling of a lost love was so beautiful, funny and, ultimately, sad. Here are a few of my favorite lighter lines:

Upon seeing Pavement for the first time:
-- Afterward, we staggered to the parking lot in total silence. When we got to the car, Renee spoke up in a mournful voice: "I don't think The Feelies are ever gonna be good enough again."

-- The spring of 1994 was marked by two key events in rock history: the death of Kurt Cobain and the birth of Zima.

When he was a kid, Sheffield joined student council so he could DJ the dance...
-- I was a regular Dr. Johnny Fever in the body of a Les Nessman.

-- Heidi from Algebra pulled me aside in the hallway and handed me a copy of the Rolling Stones' Hot Rocks. She didn't even crack a smile. "Wild Horses," she told me. "It's a slow dance. The girls like it." She wouldn't let go of the record until I gave her a "Wild Horses" guarantee, and then she disappeared down the hall. It was the only conversation we ever had.

I could go on and on. Just buy the book. Sheffield begins each chapter with a mix-tape cover (complete with song titles) from the time period in his life he is about to describe. One of those songs is Roxy Music's "Prairie Rose," from their 1974 album 'Country Life.' Since I read the book, I think the mix tape in my head has had this song recorded over and over on both sides. I love Big Country's 1984 take, too. I wrote about it last year. I think it is Big Country's best take on another artist's work. I hope you agree.

Roxy Music - Prairie Rose (mp3)
Big Country - Prairie Rose (mp3)

More Cover Me Impressed:
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tunes Inspired By 'Toons: Part 3

Your silence has been deafening. 'Tunes Inspired By Toons' hasn't been one of my more popular features. Very few of you have taken advantage of the mp3s, and I haven't received any emails... not even complaints. I can take criticism, but I cannot handle indifference. So, I'm going to put this one to bed today with the compilation 'Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits.' I don't listen to this one much these days. The bands involved were all about time and place. As you will immediately be able to tell, it's all about mid-'90s alt heroes singing their favorite '60s-era cartoon theme songs. Commercially, this was alternative music's brightest days. It was a glorious time when a band like fIREHOSE could be signed to a major. 'Saturday Morning' was a pretty big hit. It peaked at No. 67 on the Billboard album chart.

I have 'Saturday Morning' for Matthew Sweet's take on 'Scooby Doo.' Throughout my childhood I used to tell my best pal Jeff that a band should do that song. After I went away to college I kind of lost track of my friend. When we met up again years later, the first thing he told me was that he heard Sweet covered it. The five songs below are my favorites from the collection, but I could have featured Butthole Surfers doing 'Underdog,' Violent Femmes covering a song from 'The Jetsons' or many others. If you don't know remember Tripping Daisy but think they sound familiar, it might be because the band's leader, Tim DeLaughter, went on to form the Polyphonic Spree. 'Saturday Morning' is still in print, and you can purchase it right here. OK, I'll grow up now. Done.

Matthew Sweet - Scooby Doo, Where Are You? (mp3)
The Ramones - Spider Man (mp3)
Tripping Daisy - Friends/Sigmund And The Seamonsters (mp3)
Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly - Josie And The Pussycats (mp3)
Liz Phair and Material Issue - The Tra La La Song (One Banana Two Banana) (mp3)

Tunes Inspired By 'Toons: Part 1
Tunes Inspired By 'Toons: Part 2

Friday, July 16, 2010

OMD Unveils A Wee Bit More...

I would rather have one actual complete song to preview than parts of two songs, but I will take what I can get. As I seem to mention quite often, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's 'History of Modern' will be released in the UK on Sept. 20. The reunited lineup of Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes sure sound great. You can pre-order from their site right here. Give a little listen below...

RootMusic BandPage by OMD Official

More on 'Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin'

Note to the folks at Disney... mission accomplished! I'm even more excited for this one than I was a couple of weeks ago. Pre-order for the Aug. 17 release right here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Live Aid: Well Fed on '80s Nostalgia

Wanna feel old? Live Aid was 25 years ago today. About 1.4 billion watched Bob Geldof's gift to the people of Ethiopia, and I was glued to to the whole thing. It may be best remembered for reuniting the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, the Who and Black Sabbath. An argument can also be made that an up-and-coming band named U2 stole the show and became a global phenomenon. Some will recall Phil Collins (with help from the Concorde) playing in front of 74,000 at Wembley in London and 90,000 at JFK Stadium in Philly. Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! points to Madonna telling the world she "ain't taking sh*t off today" (nude photos of her had just appeared in Penthouse). Nearly everyone remembers Simon LeBon's voice cracking during Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill." Paul McCartney's all-star jam of "Hey Jude" was certainly a highlight.

My favorite moment was David Bowie performing "Heroes." With the possible exception of Elvis Costello, Bowie was my favorite artist at the time. You can find all of these performances online rather easily. Instead of celebrating the moments we all remember, let's look at some of Live Aid's forgotten scenes. Most of these are bands of that moment, July, 13, 1985. They don't stand the test of time, and that's precisely why I love them. What one band from the Live Aid lineup didn't belong with the likes of McCartney and Bowie? I'm voting for the Hooters, but you might choose from the videos below.

First Listen From the Walkmen

NPR is streaming the first song we've heard from the Walkmen's upcoming album, 'Lisbon,' out Sept. 14 on Fat Possum. I hope you aren't searching for something like "The Rat". "Stranded" is a slow burner that's horn heavy and sounds right out of a funeral march along some side street in New Orleans. Weird and kinda cool. Here's a little bit more about the song and the album from lead singer Hamilton Leithauser and the label. As Michael Nesmith would say, "and the hits just keep on comin'."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Crowded House Arrives Tuesday

Calling all Crowded House fans! Don't forget 'Intriguer' finally makes it to America on Tuesday, and my UK peers seem to think the extra month we had to wait will be well worth it. In case you didn't get a chance to download 'Saturday Sun' from Crowded House's Web site a while back, here's a second chance to do it for free... this time on Amazon. Neil Finn and the lads traded in a little bit of their trademark pop sensibilities for something more cutting edge and, obviously, I have really enjoyed the results. You can pre-order 'Intriguer' right here. Is it Tuesday yet?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New Music From the Clientele

The Clientele have a knack for releasing vital EPs between full-length albums, and this post-'Bonfires On The Heath' period is no different. 'Minotaur' is an eight-song mini coming out on Aug. 31 via Merge. You can pre-order it here. Check out one of the new songs below. It's vintage Clientele, to be sure. Merge has an impressive stable of stars, and the Clientele are among their best. The band made nearly every "top" list I assembled last year, including my 17th favorite song of the entire last decade. So, I guess you could say I'm looking forward to 'Minotaur.'

The Clientele Make the List:
Top 20 Albums of 2009
Top 50 Tracks of 2009
Top Tracks of the Decade

The Clientele - Jerry (mp3)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jay Bennett Foundation Preps New Record

It has been more than a year since we lost a real musical treasure. The late Jay Bennett will be remembered most as the former Wilco multi-instrumentalist, but there are those of us who believe his album with Edward Burch, 'The Palace at 4am,' is a virtually ignored classic. As time and more Wilco albums are released, I also believe Bennett's contributions to his former band will become more and more appreciated. I have argued about this ever since I started this blog. So, I'll stop here.

Today is about the exciting news that the Jay Bennett Foundation is releasing 'Kicking At The Perfumed Air.' This is the album Bennett was working on at the time of his death. The foundation says: "While this is a posthumous release, it is exactly the album Jay wanted to make. Working from his own detailed production notes, we have made every effort to reflect his vision, from recording to sequencing." The free digital download will be available here beginning this Saturday (July 10), but JBF (headed by Jay's brother, Jeff, and Jay's mother, Jan) is hoping for a charitable donation from you. Give if you can. Here is a song from the new one to set the mood. Jay, thank you for all of the great music. You will not be forgotten.

Jay Bennett - Twice A Year (mp3)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nick Lowe's Crooning Trilogy LP Bound

If, like me, you think Nick Lowe has had a fabulous second career as a crooner, this will come as welcome news. On Sept. 21, Yep Roc is releasing 'The Impossible Bird,' 'Dig My Mood' and 'The Convincer' on vinyl for the first time ever. This may cause some of you to gasp, but I think 'The Impossible Bird' is Lowe's best album. OK, arguably not better than 'Pure Pop For Now People,' but it's right there. You can get all three 180 gram LPs bundled together for the fabulous price of $39.99, or you can purchase them separately for $17.99 each. Digital downloads of the records are included in the price. Here are my favorite songs from each record. I hope listening to them inspires you to try this trio... really good stuff.

Nick Lowe - True Love Travels On A Gravel Road (mp3) (from 'The Impossible Bird')
Nick Lowe - You Inspire Me (mp3) (from 'Dig My Mood')
Nick Lowe - She's Got Soul (mp3) (from 'The Convincer')

In other news, Lowe is touring America with a full band throughout October. Here are the dates:

Oct. 3 San Francisco @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Oct. 5-6 Minneapolis @ The Dakota
Oct. 7 Milwaukee @ The Pabst Theater
Oct. 9-10 Chicago @ Old Town School of Folk Music
Oct. 12 Ann Arbor, MI @ The Ark
Oct. 13 Toronto @ The Mod
Oct. 15 Somerville, MA @ Somerville Theatre
Oct. 16 Tarrytown, NY @ Tarrytown Music Hall
Oct. 17 Philadelphia @ World Cafe Live
Oct. 18 Alexandria, VA @ The Birchmere
Oct. 20-22 New York @ City Winery
Oct. 23 Mount Tabor, NJ @ The Tabernacle

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 30 Songs of 2010 (So Far)

Today marks the halfway point of 2010. That's the perfect excuse to make a list, and you know how I like assembling these things. Here are the caveats: I won't include a band more than one time (so that She & Him don't take up 10 spots), and preview songs are acceptable even if the album won't be out until later this year. It's always fun to compare this list with the one done at the end of the year. Last year's lists turned out to be quite different. I have posted most of these songs during the year. I can't repost them all, but here are about 10 mp3s. Now on with the countdown:

30. Interpol - Lights
No, It's not 'Turn On The Bright Lights,' but at least this song is in the neighborhood. The self-titled new album will be out Sept. 7.

29. The Like - Fair Game
These gals shuffled the lineup and created an album that is worlds better than their debut.

28. Lucky Soul - A Coming Of Age
A solid followup to the even stronger 'The Great Unwanted.' What's left of the Pipettes should take note.

27. The Coral - Butterfly House
I lost track of these guys a few years ago, but this song brought me back into the fold.

26. Crowded House - Saturday Sun
'Intriguer' isn't out yet here in America, but I like what I have heard so far.

25. Surfer Blood - Swim
This single came out in 2009 to much acclaim, but the album didn't come out until January. So, this one sneaks in through the back door. Plus, I only started listening to it a couple of months ago.

24. The Futureheads - Heartbeat Song
I'm starting to think these guys are getting a bad rap just for the sake of it. 'The Chaos' won't quite take you back to their stellar debut, but it's good, people!

23. Paul Weller - No Tears Left To Cry
"The Modfather" has done it again... and he has turned up the volume again.

22. The Divine Comedy - Assume The Perpendicular
This was a tough choice. Strong album has no clear-cut single.

21. Elf Power - Stranger In The Window
Elephant 6 vets will release their 10th album in September. This song indicates it will be a mellow affair.

20. The Postelles - White Night
Debut album hits the streets July 27, but the band gave away this single earlier this year. Thank you very much.

19. Tracey Thorn - Oh, The Divorces!
Oh, that voice! The Everything But The Girl singer goes it alone with satisfying results.

18. Blur - Fool's Day
The band threw this together as a very limited-edition 7" in honor of Record Store Day.

17. Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun
With last year's leaks and an early January official release date, it's difficult to even imagine this is from 2010.

16. Wild Nothing - Chinatown
'Gemini' is in the running for album of the year. See you guys again at the end of the year.

15. Modern English - It's OK
No joke. The band that did "I Melt With You" more than 25 years ago is back, and this is their best song since "Ink And Paper."

14. The Drums - Forever And Ever Amen
What can I say? The hype on these guys is unbearable, but the music is too good to ignore.

13. Freedy Johnston - The Other Side Of Life
It's so good to have him back.

12. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - I Learned The Hard Way
I love this whole old-school funk/soul revival, and these guys are the best in a crowded field.

11. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
The album will be out Aug. 3, but many seem to be disappointed with the songs that have leaked so far. It's more understated, to be sure, but I like it.

10. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Say No To Love
One of two bands (The Drums are the other) to make this list a year ago today. They just keep putting out catchy singles full of fuzz.

9. Devo - Fresh
From another album that will certainly make my best list come December... so much fun.

8. The Apples In Stereo - Dream About The Future
The album has been a bit disappointing, but this is one of a couple of keepers.

7. The Lodger - Have A Little Faith In People
Three for three, lads. You haven't put out a bad LP yet.

6. The New Pornographers - Crash Years
For some reason, 'Together' just hasn't done it for me like the band's previous albums, but their worst is better than just about anyone else.

5. Kid Canaveral - Good Morning
Their debut album comes out next week. Thankfully, a few Scottish bloggers have been touting them for several months now. Gotta love the Internets.

4. Mates of State - Laura
What? A cover? Yep. It's rare that a redo can live up to (or even surpass) the original. This is not lip service. Girls' 'Album' was my No. 2 album last year.

3. Harlem - Friendly Ghost
Austin still produces great bands, and Harlem is the best of the latest crop. I never heard of these guys until January. Now I can't get them out of my head.

2. She & Him - In The Sun
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward produced my favorite album of 2008, and the duo are frontrunners to repeat in 2010.

1. Club 8 - Shape Up!
It took seven albums, but these Swedes have finally stolen my heart. David Byrne fans take note of 'The People's Record.' That's an order!

Top 30 of 2009 (So Far)
Top 50 Tracks of 2009
Top 20 Albums of 2009
Top 100 Tracks of the Decade