Tuesday, June 27
Every now and again, life'll surprise you. Pull the rug right out from under you. Slap you silly. Or sadistically. But, either way, it gets your attention.
Which is a good thing. Because here I've been bitching about how few 2006 record releases have truly impressed me and, all along, I had an absolute gem gathering dust on my bedstand. That record is Dog Problems. And the band is the Format.
So color me somewhat crushed when I ran a search at the Hype Machine, only to discover that I'm only about the 19th or 20th blogger to happen upon these two young Phoenix musicians (Nate Ruess and Sam Means, both in their early 20s). Dog Problems is the band's second full-length effort after their 2002 EP (logically entitled: EP) and the 2003 LP Interventions and Lullabies. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), those recordings were not exactly embraced by the record companies that released them, and Ruess and Means were freed to craft Dog Problems on their own terms. And those terms are exceedingly good.
You can hear a bit of XTC in the Format's sound. Also: Ben Folds and the Flaming Lips. But there's something of the '70s burbling up in there, too. A heaping helping of Harry Nilsson, perhaps? A sliver of Supertramp? Well, why the hell not.
Dog Problems is quite simply the best record I've heard all year - track one through 12. For the love of all that is holy in the world of "indie" music, I hope that you'll give it a listen. The record will be released by Nettwerk on July 11, but you can purchase it [here] in MP3 form (just 79 cents each) or in total (just $7.99). Believe me, you'll want the whole kit 'n' kaboodle on this one.
The Format's MySpace page is [here].
[MP3] "Dog Problems"
[MP3] "Time Bomb"
Monday, June 26
Saturna is a Portland, Oregon three-piece who list Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Dandy Warhols, and Catherine Wheel as some of their influences. Indeed, you can get a pretty good idea of the sonic range of the band from the two songs below. Both appear on their debut EP ...All Night, which will be out July 11 (though you can buy it from CD Baby right [here], right now).
Saturna on MySpace.
[MP3] "Pop Rocks"
[MP3] "Chasing the Unpredictable"
Just in time for your manic Monday - your road-rage and pothole-confounded commutes - comes the blood pressure-leveling album The Dawnseeker by Sleepthief.
Sleepthief is the brainchild of Justin Elswick, an attorney and music critic who creates lush, cinematic electronica very much in the vein of Delerium. The songs here are sung (beautifully) by a roster of female vocalists who are clearly comfortable working in this milieu. They include Caroline Lavelle, Kristy Thirsk, and Kirsty Hawkshaw, amongst others.
Sleepthief's The Dawnseeker will be released tomorrow in the U.S. and Canada on Neurodisc. And, of course, you can check out more sound samples on their MySpace page [here].
[MP3] "Just Say It" [w/Kyoko Baertsoen]
[MP3] "Fire from Heaven" [w/Roberta Carter Harrison]
Sunday, June 25
As I've been grooving to the '60s-styled music of artists like the Pipettes and Lucky Soul lately, it only seems sporting to go back to the source.
Please left-click [here] to grab the following tracks...
01 The Mamas & The Papas/California Dreamin'
02 Petula Clark/Downtown
03 The Archies/Sugar, Sugar
04 Tommy James & the Shondells/Crimson and Clover
05 The Seekers/Georgy Girl
06 Del Shannon/Runaway
07 Strawberry Alarm Clock/Incense and Peppermints
08 Nancy Sinatra/These Boots Were Made for Walkin'
09 Elvis Presley/Can't Help Falling in Love
10 Judy Collins/Both Sides Now
11 The Monkees/I'm a Believer
12 Brian Hyland/Sealed With a Kiss
13 Dionne Warwick/I Say a Little Prayer
14 Frankie Avalon/Venus
15 Henry Mancini/Moon River
16 The 5th Dimension/Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In
17 Classics IV/Traces
18 The Turtles/Happy Together
19 The Shirelles/Will You Love Me Tomorrow
20 Percy Sledge/When a Man Loves a Woman
21 Aretha Franklin/(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman
22 Marvin Gaye/What's Going On
23 The Zombies/Time of the Season
24 Skeeter Davis/The End of the World
25 Barry McGuire/Eve of Destruction
26 Peter, Paul & Mary/Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Friday, June 23
I'm primarily familiar with Mission of Burma through R.E.M.'s cover of their song "Academy Fight Song" (as well as Moby's cover of their "That's When I Reach for My Revolver.")
Mission of Burma was a Boston art-punk outfit that lived but briefly in the early '80s. They resurrected themselves with 2004's Onoffon, and now are back again in '06 with the LP The Obliterati. Alas, I don't have much more information to share than that, but here are some sounds...
[MP3] Mission of Burma/"Good, Not Great" [from The Obliterati]
[MP3] R.E.M./"Academy Fight Song"
[MP3] Moby/"That's When I Reach for My Revolver"
Wednesday, June 21
I contacted the UK's Archie Bronson Outfit a couple months ago to request an MP3 so that I could post on them at the time. Alas, I never heard from the bastards. Good thing I am a highly forgiving fellow.
Truth is, I'd already used the band's song "Cherry Lips" in my Best of March mix (still available [here], last I checked). I may have purloined that groove-y gem from Scatter o' Light (no doubt on a slow news day for Bono's latest coif and/or the international state of soccer). (I kid! I kid!) (Though, honesty, SOCCER?! Give me futbol americano or give me death.)
These gentlemen have a slightly "dirty," perhaps slightly "bluesy" quality to their rock. Now, I'm not generally partial to the blues in any way, shape, or form, so one should not be dissuaded from giving these guys a listen based on that description. Think of them primarily as a neo-Britpop group that's taken a two-day tour of pre-Katrina Louisiana. Or something.
Archie Bronson Outfit's second full-length album, Derdang Derdang, has already been released in the UK. It should be available everywhere on July 25.
[MP3] "Dead Funny"
Tuesday, June 20
Former (and sometimes still) Pixie Frank Black has been a busy man. Less than a year after releasing the laid-back, blues-infused LP Honeycomb, he's back with another, bigger effort (out today). Once again, he makes use of top-drawer Memphis musicians and sings a lot like Van Morrison on a number of the tracks. And there are a LOT of tracks - like Teenager of the Year, Fastman Raiderman is a sprawling double disc. This one (more so than THAT one) would go down well with a bottle or three of wine.
From the double LP Fastman Raiderman, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "In the Time of My Ruin"
[MP3] "Seven Days"
From the LP Honeycomb, 2005 >>>
[MP3] "Sunday Sunny Mill Valley Groove Day"
From the double LP Teenager of the Year, 1994 >>>
[MP3] "Freedom Road"
Monday, June 19
Today's post comes from Russia, with love. I received an e-mail a while back from Olga, who had some very nice things to say about this here blog, and also generously supplied me with some sound samples from the St. Petersburg band the Vertigo. I liked a number of the songs and am happy to be sharing them with you today.
The Vertigo started out as a three-piece (Iliya, Lesha, and Anton) in 2004, before being joined by second guitarist Sasha earlier this year. They have performed in both St. Petersburg and Moscow and plan to record their first official EP sometime before the end of '06.
The Vertigo, unlike many Russian artists, look to the rest of the world for their inspiration - everyone from Joy Division, the Velvet Underground, and the Cure to Interpol and Franz Ferdinand. I also think that lead singer Iliya has a bit of Placebo's Brian Molko in his voice (but minus the whine).
As I was curious about the seeming lack of Russian indie artists in cyberspace, I asked Olga about the current state of the music scene in the former "Evil Empire" (which, by the way, as a kid I always thought made them sound uber-cool; Death Star/Darth Vader-type stuff). Regardless, Olga informed me with a certain note of sadness and regret that indie music in Russia is not exactly going great guns, as the more mainstream (read: bland) pop artists get almost all the investment and exposure. A sad state of affairs, to be sure (though I know that if I turned on American radio right now I'd likely be assaulted by some turgid turd of a tune by Nickelback or any number of karaoke-whore castoffs from American Idol). So, it's bad all over, Olga (well, maybe not so much in Sweden....). We most definitely feel your pain.
So I hope you'll all give the Vertigo a listen today, and perhaps keep an open ear to the overall indie Russian music scene, wherever it may be able to break out from the mundane mainstream. Hell, I almost feel like I have a personal stake in this. I love "Crime and Punishment" (and find myself attuned to Raskalnikov in more ways than is probably healthy). I don't much care for Tchaikovsky's symphonies, but his celebrated piano and violin concertos are timeless and grand. And, finally, though I am actually Polish-Irish, I share the Russians' love-of and weakness-for vodka. It is, after all, what my body uses instead of blood.
[MP3] "(Is There) A Place"
Sunday, June 18
This could have just been endless remixes of "Cat's in the Cradle." Instead, it'll be a zipped mix appropriate to the day. Ironically, perhaps, my father would not be particularly fond of this collection. After all: no Enya.
Please "right-click/save as" for this [one].
01) Gavin Friday [w/Bono]/In the Name of the Father
02) The New Pornographers/Your Daddy Don't Know
03) Noblesse Oblige/Daddy (Don't Touch Me There)
04) Madonna/Oh Father
05) The Divine Comedy/Your Daddy's Car
06) Sort Sol/Daddy Howard in Queens
07) Bob Dylan/Father of Night
08) The Violent Femmes/Gone Daddy Gone
09) The Mighty Roars/Daddy Oh
10) Morrissey/Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice
11) Tori Amos/Father Lucifer
12) Placebo/Daddy Cool
13) Toni Childs/Daddy's Song
14) The Magnetic Fields/Papa Was a Rodeo
Friday, June 16
Toronto's eternally quirky the Hidden Cameras have a new album coming out later this summer. AWOO will have a staggered release, with the earliest date being August 15th (Canada); the latest, September 19th (the U.S.). More queer-as-pop fun for the whole family.
From the LP AWOO, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "Follow These Eyes"
From the LP Mississauga Goddam, 2004 >>>
[MP3] "Music is My Boyfriend"
From the LP The Smell of Our Own, 2003 >>>
[MP3] "Boys of Melody"
Thursday, June 15
Following hard on the heels of yesterday's Essex Green time-capsule, today we're going to do the way-back-machine-thing on Tilly and the Wall. While I'm quite liking that band's 2006 album Bottoms of Barrels (especially the songs "Bad Education" and "Sing Songs Along"), their 2004 release Wild Like Children was at least as good, maybe better. Need proof?
[MP3] "Nights of the Living Dead"
[MP3] "You and I Misbehaving"
[MP3] "Shake It Out"
Wednesday, June 14
The Essex Green's Cannibal Sea ranks as one of my favorite records thus far in 2006. But, too often, we MP3 bloggers are guilty of wielding our megaphones solely for an artist's newest release (or PRE-release, as the case may be). So - for today, at least - let's rectify that by recognizing a couple gems from the Essex Green's debut LP Everything is Green (from the dim 'n' misty distance of 1999).
[MP3] "Mrs. Bean"
Like the Detroit Pistons, more near-misses from the month of May...
[MP3] [SaveFile] The Submarines/"Peace and Hate"
[MP3] [SaveFile] Chris Koza/"View from a Pier"
[MP3] [SaveFile] Ricochets/"Cold Outside"
[MP3] [SaveFile] Caroline/"Sunrise"
[MP3] [SaveFile] Persephone's Bees/"Nice Day"
Tuesday, June 13
A couple weeks ago, when I compiled my Favorites list for May, there were a full ten songs that just narrowly missed the list. It only seems fair to give them a little love now. They deserved better.
[MP3] [SaveFile] Yeah Yeah Yeahs/"Sealings"
[MP3] [SaveFile] Chad Van Gaalen/"Clinicly Dead"
[MP3] [SaveFile] The Auteurs/"The Rubettes"
[MP3] [SaveFile] Gus Black/"Certain Kind of Light"
[MP3] [SaveFile] Parks and Recreation/"Maybe the Moon Knows Something"
Slow Learner is the band name taken by Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist Michael Napolitano, who "wrote, performed, recorded and produced" his debut full-length, In Their Time They Are Magnificent.
Amongst his influences, Mr. Napolitano lists both Bob Dylan and Black Sabbath; Neil Young and Elliott Smith. He also has a rather unique voice that - nevertheless - somehow reminds me of another, better-known vocalist (that I can't quite put my finger on; maybe you can).
The songs below are the first two on the album, and I would have to rate them as my favorites. I would also recommend "The Better the Lonely," which can be sampled at Slow Learner's MySpace page [here].
[MP3] "What a Beautiful Day"
[MP3] "Come On"
[MP3] "One Way"
Saturday, June 10
Friday, June 9
Thursday, June 8
Adam Green is one of those love-him-or-hate-him sort of artists. Whether performing with Kimya Dawson as the Moldy Peaches, or as a solo artist, he's a guy who seems determined to jar his audience from any and every angle. His primary weapon in this endeavor is his lyrics, which tend toward the scatalogical and the profane. One could, at times, almost mistake Mr. Green for a horny, 13-year-old boy - except for the fact that he has a decidedly adult knack for creating sophisticatedly simple pop arrangements. Call this his saving grace.
On his latest solo disc (available for download at iTunes), Green leans heavily on his affected croon, and it's difficult to know how seriously to take both him and his music. Still, there's something undeniably beguiling about it - especially in the small doses of his two-minute songs. In the first three songs below, one can listen to him morph from easy '70s, Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb mode to Scott Walker to Jim Morrison.
Yes, it's a freakshow he's running, but he at least has the decency to do it while wearing a tuxedo. Albeit powder blue.
From the LP Jacket Full of Danger, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "Party Line"
From the LP Garfield, 2002 >>>
[MP3] "Dance With Me"
Wednesday, June 7
Bradley's Almanac has the entire June 5th show from Boston.
Kwaya Na Kisser has a complete set of Radiohead demos from the summer of 1990. (Not only did I not have most of these, I also didn't know that the band was, for a time, called "Shindig." Yikes. How history could have been different. Kind of like if R.E.M. had gone with their runner-up choice... "Negro Eyes.")
Tuesday, June 6
Well, don't I feel like a dummy... here I've been enjoying the hell out of the Camera Obscura song "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken," and I didn't even realize that it was a shout-out to good ol' Lloyd Cole and his good 'ol golden oldie "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" Duh.
All of this is triggered by the fact that Camera Obscura's latest disc, Let's Get Out of This Country, comes out today in the U.S. I find it highly worthwhile, and am fairly certain that I offered up some songs from it at some earlier date. Regardless, if Belle and Sebastian can show us the way to Camera Obscura, then why the hell can't Camera Obscura lead us back to Lloyd Cole?
Okay, a brief bio: Lloyd Cole is a Brit who formed Lloyd Cole & the Commotions in the early '80s. They had a modicum of success with their relatively gentle brand of folk-rock and Cole's literate lyrics. Then he blew the whole thing up and went solo. Things have been somewhat sketchy for him since. But the man can still write a pleasant tune from time to time, as I hope today's offerings will attest.
[A somewhat related but essentially pointless "6 Degrees of Michael Stipe" (sort of): 1) In 1990, Lloyd Cole recorded his first solo album with the help of a then-unknown Matthew Sweet. 2) In 1983, an even more unknown Matthew Sweet recorded the song "Tainted Obligation" with Michael Stipe. 3) In 1998, Michael Stipe sang the title song to the Todd Solondz film "Happiness." 4) In 2001, Todd Solondz enlisted Belle and Sebastian to provide the soundtrack for his film "Storytelling." 5) In 2002, Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch produced Camera Obscura's first LP, Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi. 6) In 1984, Michael Stipe wrote the lyrics to the R.E.M. song "Camera" and... um... well... his lyrics have often been said to be "obscure." So there you have it.]
From the compilation Collection, 1998 >>>
[MP3] [Myshare] "Fool You Are"
From the LP Love Story, 1995 >>>
[MP3] [Myshare] "Baby"
From the LP Don't Get Weird on Me Babe, 1991 >>>
[MP3] [Myshare] "Weeping Wine"
From the LP Rattlesnakes, 1984 >>>
[MP3] [Myshare] "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?"/Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
From the Camera Obscura LP Let's Get Out of This Country, 2006 >>>
[MP3] [Myshare] "Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken"/Camera Obscura
Monday, June 5
[Nearly forgot that it was a year ago yesterday that I started this here blog. So I thought I'd re-post the five songs that started the ball rolling...]
Crash Vegas is a Canadian band that, to the best of my knowledge, has not released anything since their 1995 LP Aurora. I first heard "On and On (Lodestar)" on a Windsor, Ontario radio station while summering in my native Detroit (all the best people summer there, don't you know). A few years later, while visiting Toronto, I specifically sought out the album and this rather haunting track. For me, this has an autumnal, nostalgic quality to it, and it reminds me somehow of The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'."
[MP3] Crash Vegas/"On and On (Lodestar)"
Like Crash Vegas, Knoxville, Tennessee's Judybats haven't released anything since the mid-'90s. This track appeared on their second record, Down in the Shacks Where the Satellite Dishes Grow, in 1991. It is, to be sure, a product of its time - as R.E.M.-esque jangle-pop was then a very big thing, indeed. This baroque little gem proceeds pleasantly, then ratchets itself into a different stratosphere for the coda. Again: haunting.
[MP3] Judybats/"Lullaby (Weren't We Wild)"
More jangle-pop, circa 1993. This one can be found on the Connells' album Ring. Apparently, it was a fairly big hit in Europe in its day. I guess grunge must have kept it off the American charts. Too bad; it's a beauty.
[MP3] The Connells/"'74-'75"
Eels, of course, is essentially the one-man show of Mark Oliver Everett. "Climbing to the Moon" remains my favorite track of his - from 1998's Electro-Shock Blues. Such a gentle, graceful song. And, as a bit of bonus, Grant Lee Phillips gives an assist.
[MP3] Eels/"Climbing to the Moon"
Radiohead supplanted R.E.M. as my favorite band somewhere around 1995. I liked "Creep," loved "Fake Plastic Trees," but it was this song - heard first on MTV at three in the morning - that inspired me to buy The Bends and begin what has been an intensely satisfying journey. Now, a decade later, "Street Spirit" is still one of my favorite Radiohead tracks. (And, is it just me, or does the ghost of Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" lurk somewhere in its shadows? Yeah, okay... probably just me.)
[MP3] Radiohead/"Street Spirit (Fade Out)"
Sunday, June 4
I'm not entirely sure why I've decided to go on a bit of an Erasure jag today (and a couple days to come). Maybe the process of compiling my two recent '80s mixes got me back into that sort of nostalgic headspace. Or maybe it was posting the two new Pet Shop Boys tracks that gave rise to the idea, as I've always linked these two groups in my own mind (in each case: two gay Englishmen creating dance-pop from the '80s till today). Then again, maybe I just wanted to capitalize on all of the Thom Yorke/Eraser buzz from last week. After all, just a simple misspelling or typo at the Hype Machine could send any number of unsuspecting searchers my way. Yes, 'tis true... I am a genius of self-promotion.
So, if you're of a mind to, why not take my hand and skip along as I make my journey down the yellow brick road of Erasure's career. You can be whoever you want to be - Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion. But no matter how you slice it, you'll be a Friend of Dorothy.
From the LP Wonderland >>>
[MP3] [SaveFile] "Oh L'Amour"
Friday, June 2
You may already have many of these, but where else will you find them so attractively packaged? (Ha.) (Enjoy.)
Please left-click [here] for said attractive package.
01) Delerium [w/Sarah McLachlan]/Silence (Airscape) [remix]
02) Stina Nordenstam/Parliament Square (The Knife) [remix]
03) Boy Kill Boy/On and On
04) The Pipettes/Pull Shapes
06) Camera Obscura/Let's Get Out of This Country
07) Mojave 3/Breaking the Ice
08) Tilly and the Wall/Sing Songs Along
09) Brendan Benson/Gold Into Straw
10) The Channels/Lizard Fish Skull
11) The Charlatans UK/Blackened Blue Eyes
13) The Mystery Jets/You Can't Fool Me Dennis
14) The Ark/This Piece of Poetry is Meant to Do You Harm
15) Bic Runga/Get Some Sleep
16) Bjorn Kleinhenz/Pocket of Gold
17) Hello Saferide/Long Lost Penpal
18) My Life Story/Sparkle
19) Asobi Seksu/Thursday
20) The Upper Room/Kill Kill Kill
21) McAlmont and Butler/Falling
Thursday, June 1
Don't look now, but we're rapidly approaching the mid-point of 2006. This realization has depressed me a bit, as I remain disappointed by so many of the '06 album releases thus far. I mean, lordy, how's a boy to put together his beloved year-end Top 10 list? (Oh hell, let's face it... when the time comes, it won't be a problem.)
Despite not being much of a fan of their previous work, I decided to check out Pretty Girls Make Graves' '06 effort, Elan Vital. Let's just say: I remain not much of a fan of their work.
Even so, I did find myself drawn - moth-to-flame - to a couple of the songs, though the first of them is more of a sound/moodscape. Kind of irresistible and haunting, though - what with that piano-and-bassline thing going on. Give in to the off-kilter groove...
From the LP Elan Vital, 2006 >>>
[MP3] [SaveFile] "Pictures of a Night Scene"
[MP3] [SaveFile] "Pearls on a Plate"
From the LP The New Romance, 2003 >>>
[MP3] [SaveFile] "This is Our Emergency"