Friday, June 29, 2012

Plant Yourself for Some Early Orchids

It's tough to pick my favorite band from the Sarah stable, but there is no doubt the Orchids would make the short list. My entire basis for choosing them would be the Scottish band's first three singles and the 1989 debut album 'Lyceum.' Gotta love LTM, one of the all-time great reissuing labels, for releasing all of that work on one CD back in 2005. That's the original eight song 10", as well as 12 songs worth of A-sides and B-sides from 1988-1990. Here's the album opener and the third single. That should be just enough to get you to buy this nearly perfect piece of pop.

The Orchids - It's Only Obvious (mp3)
The Orchids - What Will We Do Next (mp3)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Get to Know Marshall Crenshaw's Little Bro

The recent news of Marshall's vinyl subscription series has me on a big Crenshaw kick, and that includes the work of his younger brother, Robert. You may remember him as the drummer on Marshall's early albums, but Robert has put together a respectable trio of records in his own right. His sophomore effort,
'Victory Songs,' is a more polished piece of work, but I feel like his debut album, 'Full Length Stereo Recordings,' is the real charmer. Honestly, there is a not a bad song in the batch. His vocals sound quite a bit like his older and more famous sibling, but there is certainly nothing wrong with that now, is there? Here are a couple of my favorites from his first album. My goodness, is this set already 13 years old? Fortunately for you, Gadfly Records still has it in print. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Robert Crenshaw - All I Want to Do Is Be With You (mp3)
Robert Crenshaw - Nobody Wins (mp3)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pluck Some Unplugged Apples in Stereo

If you were a regular visitor a couple of years ago, then you may remember the brief series I did called "Tunes Inspired By 'Toons." At that time, I covered the excellent compilation from 2000 called 'Heroes & Villains: Music Inspired By Powerpuff Girls.' One of the songs I posted was the Apples in Stereo's "Signal in the Sky (Let's Go)." Today's offering comes from the Apples in Stereo's 2001 EP 'Let's Go,' featuring "Signal in the Sky." The five-song set is a must have for fans. Among the highlights are a live take of the Beach Boys' "Heroes & Villains," as well as stripped-down versions of two well-known gems found below. If you don't know "Stream Running Over," check out the studio version on 'The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone.' Incidentally, the cartoon-like rendition of the band on the cover of the EP was drawn by 'Powerpuff Girls' creator Craig McCracken.

The Apples in Stereo - Stream Running Over
(Acoustic Studio Outtake) (mp3)

The Apples in Stereo - Signal in the Sky
(Original Demo Version) (mp3)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hallelujah! Hal Is Back!

It doesn't matter what side of the pond they hail from. If the band wears a strong Beach Boys' influence on its sleeve, I'll usually fall for it, hook, line and sinker. The High Llamas, Wondermints, early Thrills... happens all of the time. Seven years ago, Hal was the new "it" band of this lot. It must have been heady times. Labels fawned over them, and Rough Trade eventually snagged the Irishmen for their self-titled debut. Much deserved accolades and kind words followed.

I have no idea why, but it took until 2012 for Hal's sophomore effort to surface. For the second consecutive post I'm wondering if anyone out there has heard new material from a band making a comeback after many years away. For those of us in America, Hal's new 'The Time The Hour' is available as an import for a whopping $25 on Amazon. I need some feedback before I can shell out that many shekels.

If you have never heard Hal before, here are a couple of my favorites from the band's stellar debut. "Play the Hits," incidentally, was produced by Edwyn Collins. Yes, that Edwyn Collins.

Hal - Play the Hits (mp3)
Hal - Keep Love as Your Golden Rule (mp3)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Here Comes The Wake

The Wake's second (and last) album for the Factory label,
'Here Comes Everybody,' from 1985, showcases the Glasgow-based band at its very best. I strongly disagree with the following assessment, but some have criticized the Wake for being no more than a two-bit New Order. I'll let you be the judge. The album opener is below.

LTM reissued most of the Wake's discography about a decade ago (including the Sarah years), complete with the band's stellar singles as bonus tracks. These are among my most treasured albums. I was surprised when I recently read the Wake reunited. I'm curious... anybody out there hear 'A Light Far Out' from earlier this year?

Tomorrow I'll showcase another band that has made a new album after hibernating for several years.

The Wake - O Pamela (mp3)

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Pornographers Cover Fleetwood Mac

There are a couple of reasons to purchase the upcoming tribute album to Fleetwood Mac, 'Just Tell Me That You Want Me,' including Best Coast taking on "Rhiannon," but hearing something, anything, from New Pornographers is the clincher for me. Check out the tracklist below, and stream the 'Tusk'-era tune "Think About Me" from A.C., Dan, Neko and the rest of the clan. The album will be out on Aug. 14.

The New Pornographers have had a love affair with Fleetwood Mac that goes back several years. Here's Case doing her best Stevie Nicks on stage.

The New Pornographers - Dreams (Live) (mp3)

'Just Tell Me That You Want Me' Tracklist
1. Lee Ranaldo Band and J Mascis - Albatross
2. Antony - Landslide
3. Trixie Whitley - Before The Beginning
4. Billy Gibbons & Co. - Oh Well
5. Best Coast - Rhiannon
6. The New Pornographers - Think About Me
7. Marianne Faithfull - Angel
8. Lykke Li - Silver Springs
9. Karen Elson - Gold Dust Woman
10. Matt Sweeney And Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Storms
11. Washed Out - Straight Back
12. Tame Impala - That's All For Everyone
13. Craig Wedren with St. Vincent - Sisters of the Moon
14. The Kills - Dreams
15. Gardens & Villa - Gypsy
16. The Crystal Ark - Tusk
17. MGMT - Future Games

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lots of 'Fun, Fun, Fun' From Wilson in '01

I own quite a few bootlegs and other oddities featuring Brian Wilson, but this one, titled 'A Cork in the Ocean,' has special meaning to me because I attended the first concert on this two-show, two-disc set.

Wilson opened for Paul Simon before a raucous crowd at the spacious Tweeter Center outdoor theater just outside of Chicago on June 30, 2001. I have seen Wilson many times since then, but I had only seen him once before this show. That was in July of 2000 when he was on the 'Pet Sounds' Symphonic Tour. Shockingly, I was one of only about a thousand people (and that's a conservative estimate) who showed up for that appearance at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. I drove up from Washington, D.C., where I was living at the time. I knew that intimate appearance, where he played his seminal album in its entirety, would be a tough act to follow, especially as a supporting band, under the stars and in front of 20,000 folks, many of whom would be more into socializing and drinking.

My solution to the problem was to throw money at it and buy tickets as close to the stage as possible. Perhaps I could shut out the roughly 19,800 people that would be behind me. I bought two tickets in the fifth row on the secondary market for $200 each. It's the most I have ever paid for a show... by miles. Because of her job, Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! had to live in Princeton, N.J., that summer while I was working in Chicago. So, I invited my brother, and we had a ball. The handful of seats in front of us were filled with music-industry bigwigs that, seemingly, never moved a muscle. It made us feel like the show was just for us. The following are my favorites from the 23-song set. Enjoy.

Brian Wilson - Brian Wilson/'Till I Die (Live) (mp3)
Brian Wilson - Sail on Sailor (Live) (mp3)
Brian Wilson - Please Let Me Wonder (Live) (mp3)
Brian Wilson - Our Prayer/Heroes and Villains (Live) (mp3)
Brian Wilson - Surf's Up (Live) (mp3)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Marshall Crenshaw's Subscription Series Nears

Congratulations to Marshall Crenshaw... and his fans. Back in 2010, you may recall me mentioning Crenshaw's next chapter would be a half dozen 7" singles released in a two-year period. There were no other specifics. I have to admit that by 2012 I had given up on what seemed to be a lark. Regretfully, I had not checked up on Crenshaw in quite some time. Turns out, I missed quite an adventure.

Back in April, Crehshaw initiated a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a most interesting endeavor. The mad genius plans to release six 10" EPs in the next two years, complete with picture sleeves and digital downloads. Each piece of vinyl will have a brand-new composition, one cover song and one re-recorded Crenshaw classic.

The $32,000 goal of the fundraiser was a lofty one, but 378 dedicated fans helped to quickly surpass that amount. Not only do these good folks get the satisfaction of knowing they did a good deed for a great artist, but many of them are being rewarded with one-of-a-kind perks Crenshaw promised for pledges at different price levels. One lucky (and no doubt wealthy) fan has even earned a Crenshaw concert in his or her living room. Whoa!

I'm overjoyed I'll soon own new music from one of my favorite artists, and I'm thankful to the handful of peers that made sure this would happen. Thank you. Well done.

Speaking of inspired Crenshaw covers, here's one from Elvis the Pelvis, performed on Dec. 2, 1983, at Philadelphia's Ripley's Music Hall.

Marshall Crenshaw - Little Sister (Live) (mp3)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

'Altered Beast' B-Sides and Bonus Tracks

In some circles, Matthew Sweet's followup to the hugely successful 'Girlfriend' was a disappointment. I'm not in that camp. When 'Altered Beast' was released -- in the summer of 1993 -- I had just graduated from college and was delaying adulthood with every fiber of my being. I knew I was moving to Japan in the fall, but that entire summer entailed playing golf and working at a record store. I think I gave 'Altered Beast' a spin every time I worked. I bought the CD singles associated with the record, and the first album I bought when I got off the plane in East Asia was the Japanese edition... just so I could have two bonus songs.

As for Sweet's post-'Altered Beast' career, I admit it has been an up-and-down affair, but I could easily fill a Maxell XLII 90 with fantastic highlights from his more recent material. All in all, Sweet has put in a strong 25-plus years, and he will always be one of my favorites.

Note: If you already own the 1994 EP 'Son of Altered Beast,' you don't need the "Ultrasuede" download from the selections below. It's the same version found there.

Non-album tracks from Australian "Time Capsule" single
Matthew Sweet - Speed of Light (mp3)
Matthew Sweet - Thing (mp3)

Non-album tracks from "The Ugly Truth" single
Matthew Sweet - Born in Sin (mp3)
Matthew Sweet - Ultrasuede (mp3)

Bonus tracks from Japanese edition of 'Altered Beast'
Matthew Sweet - Genie (The Second Coming) (mp3)
Matthew Sweet - Swan Song (mp3)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Missing the Aislers Set

I post a lot about indie bands influenced by '60s girl groups and the Spector sound. That usually means I'm writing about a relatively new group or one from the C86 wave. What sets the Aislers Set apart, however, is the band kept that iconic sound alive between 1998 and 2003.

The first album was, more or less, a solo act. Amy Linton made 'Terrible Things Happen' in her basement on an 8 track reel to reel that was mixed to two track analog tape. That D.I.Y. aesthetic would be a hallmark of all three Aislers Set LPs, but Linton assembled a lineup of seasoned indie players from the San Francisco area for the other two albums. Today's selection is the middle child. 'The Last Match,' from 2000, was my first purchase from Slumberland Records. Don't get me wrong... all are worth owning, but I'm not alone in thinking if you can only have one of the three Aislers Set records, this is the one to buy.

With the exception of "Balloon Song," a cover by the Fourteen Iced Bears, all songs on "The Last Match" were written either by Linton or guitarist Wyatt Cusick. If Cusick sang it, he wrote it. Same goes with Linton. The following songs are my favorites from each of these fine musicians. If you are a fan of Camera Obscura, you may know "Chicago New York." The Scottish band was friendly with the Aislers Set and used to cover the song on tour from time to time. I think you'll find the the tune sounds a lot like early Camera Obscura or Belle & Sebastian. Good stuff.

The Aislers Set - Chicago New York (mp3)
The Aislers Set - One Half Laughing (mp3)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Listen to the New dB's Album... Now!

Just a few more days, dB's fanatics. If you can't wait, head to Rolling Stone. You can stream 'Falling Off the Sky' in its entirety until Tuesday. By then you should be thoroughly hooked and ready to buy it. Woo-hoo! Did I mention I'm really enjoying this?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Camera Obscura's Ode to San Fran Friends

Here's a cool tune (and deep track) from Glasgow's Camera Obscura. It's said to be a tribute to their pals, San Francisco band the Aislers Set. The song was originally on the 2004 EP 'Keep It Clean,' but it also showed up that year on the must-have compilation 'Old Enough 2 Know Better: 15 Years of Merge Records.' If you don't already own this one, it's a 61-song set comprised of Merge classics on the first two discs, followed by a third disc of rare and previously released tracks. When it was physically in print, the price was a ridiculously cheap $14. I felt like I was getting the birthday present. I play this one as a walk up to some great songs from the Aislers Set that I'll get to next week.

Camera Obscura - San Francisco Song (mp3)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cover Me Impressed: 'The Harder They Come'

In the impressive and expansive discography of Joe Jackson, his three-song 'The Harder They Come' EP, from 1980, is probably considered a minor footnote. After all, the EP didn't chart (unless you count Holland and Sweden), and the single was a cover. I'm here to argue if you're a fan of early Jackson, the 12" is well worth owning. This isn't just Jackson. This is Joe Jackson Band... a classic lineup featuring Dave Houghton on drums, Graham Maby on bass and Gary Sanford on guitar. You know them from the early albums 'Look Sharp', 'I'm the Man' and 'Beat Crazy.' The single may be a cover, but the other two songs on this EP, "Out of Style" and "Tilt," are Jackson compositions that would have fit in nicely on 'Look Sharp.'

As for the original, although I'm not really a fan of the genre, I'm educated enough to realize Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" is considered one of the all-time greats. The song, taken from the 1972 soundtrack and film of the same name, starred Cliff himself. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked the album No. 119 on its 500 greatest albums list. The song came in at No. 341 on the magazine's 500 greatest songs list. I could list accolades like this for several more sentences, but let's skip all of that and just get to the music.

Incidentally, Madness covered this song and released it as a single in 1992. Like Jackson's take, it did not chart. Nineties-era Madness is a little beyond my fandom, but you can find a live version on the band's 'Madstock!' album. It's a pretty good cover and well worth your time. Listen below.

Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come (mp3)
Joe Jackson Band - The Harder They Come (mp3)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

12 Inches of Love: 'Together in Electric Dreams'

By the time the film 'Electric Dreams' hit the big screen in 1984, my "fascination" with the Human League had already passed, but Philip Oakey had one last hurrah for me with this Oakey/Giorgio Moroder-penned song from the soundtrack. Oakey's brief involvement on the soundtrack didn't spring from any past relationship with Moroder. Rather, it was because the film's freshman director, Steve Barron, was the chap behind the brilliant video for the Human League's biggest smash, "Don't You Want Me." When Moroder asked him who he thought should sing it, Barron remembered his old mate. Oakey and Moroder must have had a fine time the day of the recording because they would go on to make an entire album together in 1985. Believe it or not, I just picked that one up for the first time earlier this year.

As for the film, I loved it as a kid, and it still holds a soft spot, but I'm quite sure it's just nostalgia. If I saw it for the first time now, I imagine seeing a wide-eyed and beautiful young Virginia Madsen would be the only thing keeping me from picking up the remote.

You can find this extended version on the Human League's much maligned import compilation 'Original Remixes & Rarities.'

Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder - Together in Electric Dreams (Extended) (mp3)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Curtain Call: Aztec Camera From '88

I know for some Aztec Camera fans the 'Love' period is a painful one, but when I listen to these two live songs from the flip side of the "Somewhere in My Heart" 12" single, I always imagine a good time was had by all. It's just Roddy, a guitar and a couple of tunes from the glory days. Enjoy part of this homecoming show from the Barrowlands, circa Jan. 30, 1988.

Aztec Camera - Down the Dip (Live) (mp3)
Aztec Camera - Jump (Live) (mp3)