Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Song of the Day: Grandaddy - The Crystal Lake

After OK Computer, and certainly after Kid A, any rock band that used a computer blip sound in a song was instantly crowned the next Radiohead. Not surprisingly, ten years later, there still isn't another Radiohead, but Grandaddy's second album, The Sophtware Slump - released the same year as Kid A - came closest to matching the dystopia of those Radiohead albums.  This song probably isn't the best representation of that sound, but for my money, it's the best song on the album.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Song of the Day: Erykah Badu - Tyrone [live]

I became reacquainted with this song courtesy of My Morning Jacket, who played it at Bonnaroo a few years ago (see You Ain't No Picasso for the epic setlist).  I'm kind of amazed I knew this song in the first place, as I have no idea where or how I first heard it.  Yet it seems like maybe everyone knows it, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

I'm looking forward to her new album, which comes out today - in fact, I'm heading to the album release party tonight at the El Rey.  Should be interesting.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Song of the Day: Rufus Wainwright - Foolish Love

It's Monday morning, which means it's either time to rock out or ease into the day. I'm choosing the latter and starting off the week with the first song off of Rufus Wainwright's first album.

Rufus has a voice that some people find disagreeable, but I love the operatic elements he brings to his songs. This song starts with just piano and voice and slowly picks up steam about two minutes in, including an excellent piano solo. If you've never heard Rufus, his first album is a great place to start - not a bad song in the bunch.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Song of the Day: Tapes 'n Tapes - Insistor

These guys were hugely hyped in indie circles at the time of their debut album, The Loon, but they seem to have faded into Bolivia after their second album. Listening to this song, I can see why they were so hyped - it's a great mix of Pavement, Modest Mouse, the Shins, the Pixies and other classic bands.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Song of the Day: The B-52's - Dance This Mess Around

"Love Shack" is a very polarizing song - people either seem to love it or hate it.  I may have just lost my three loyal readers with those two words, in fact.  But listening to their eponymous first album, they sound like a very different band.  Most notable is the guitar, which sounds a lot more like something you'd hear on a Talking Heads or Gang of Four album.  But you've still got the voices of Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider, and you still have the sense of humor (I particularly like when Schneider yells out different dances).  Even if you think "Love Shack" is an abomination, hopefully this song (or any from the debut) could change your mind about The B-52s.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Song of the Day: Foreign Born - Vacationing People

I don't know a whole hell of a lot about Foreign Born, other than they're an LA band, they're playing the Echo tonight, and I'm going.  I really love their most recent album, Person to Person, and I've been looking forward to tonight's show for months.

This is my favorite song on the album.  It kind of has an Afropop (a la Vampire Weekend) feel to it, but it's the background vocals that make the song for me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Beck's Record Club takes on INXS Kick

Love this album

Record Club: INXS "Guns In The Sky" from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

Josh Homme's Record Store Day video

Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures explains the joys of Record Store Day.

Song of the Day: PJ Harvey - Good Fortune

I celebrate PJ Harvey's entire catalog, but Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea is my favorite album. Is it that it's more rock (pop almost) than blues? Is it the 9/11 prescience of "This Mess We're In" (featuring Thom Yorke)?

Well it could be "Good Fortune," easily one of the most catchy and upbeat songs PJ Harvey has recorded. Her voice, always powerful, sounds like a cross between Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith and Karen O here.

I remember reading somewhere years ago that Flea said he would swim across the ocean just to play one note on a PJ Harvey record. I think that about sums it up for me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The story of Weird Al

Song of the Day: Translator - Everywhere That I'm Not

After cleaning and listening to more of the 45s that were in my parents' attic, I came across another gem in the collection ("gem" of course meaning "song I'm not completely embarrassed to say that I owned").  I would say that I've never heard of this band, but evidently my 8-year-old self had.  Yet of all the album guides, magazines, etc. I've read, I swear I never came across their name.  Upon hearing it for the first time in what must be about 25 years, I didn't recognize the song at all, but I instantly liked it.  In fact, I found a copy of Heartbeats and Triggers (which includes this song) at Amoeba for two bucks, and was excited to find that it's a pretty solid album. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sondre Lerche and Jon Auer cover Big Star

Yup, another post related to Alex Chilton. This was too good to pass up, as this is the guys rehearsing in their hotel room.

Song of the Day: The Who - Bargain

When I was in junior high, I started listening to a lot of Classic Rock radio. I found that my dad had a cassette of Who's Next that he copied from a reel-to-reel.  In case you don't know what that is, it looks something like this:

And the reel-to-reel was most likely a copy of the vinyl LP. I don't remember it sounding crappy, but I have to imagine that a vinyl LP recorded to tape and then recorded to tape again was probably not exactly high fidelity.  The singles from this album are still on Classic Rock radio (at least, I'm guessing - haven't listened to the radio in years), but the rest of the songs are what keep me coming back to the album.

I had a hard time picking a song from the album, but "Bargain" has all of the Who's signature sounds - Keith Moon's ridiculous drumming, vocals by both Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, plenty of power chords, keyboards (used to classic effect on "Baba O'Reilly"), and John Entwistle's basslines (check out the part when Pete is singing - unreal).  Just a classic Who song, but one that doesn't get the love of the singles.

Monday, March 22, 2010

U2's War - The Cover

Interesting article about the kid who is on the cover of U2's War (via Pop Candy)

Song of the Day: Clinic - Walking with Thee

I only knew three things about Clinic before I bought their second album, Walking with Thee:

1. They opened for Radiohead on a tour
2. Their first album received solid reviews
3. They wore hospital masks and sometimes full surgical gear on stage

I still only know those things, though I've bought a few more of their albums (including the first) since then.  I'd highly recommend the first two albums, and this title track from the second album is one of my favorites.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Song of the Day: Meat Puppets - Severed Goddess Hand

As I imagine was the case for most people, the first Meat Puppets songs I heard were when the brothers joined Nirvana on MTV Unplugged.  Around the same time, they had a pretty big hit with "Backwater" off of their Too High to Die album, which I dutifully went out and bought.  Outside of this album, I never completely got into the Meat Puppets, though I've tried (and I'm still trying - I just recently bought the vinyl reissue of II, which contains all three songs from the Unplugged sessions).  But Too High to Die is a solid and quite eclectic album, which this song (including its title) exemplifies perfectly.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Paul Westerberg on Alex Chilton's passing

From the NY Times

Song of the Day: The Waterboys - A Girl Called Johnny

Though not nearly as influential as Big Star, the Waterboys share a similar cult status - they seem like the kind of band that only music geeks know about (at least American geeks - I think they are/were reasonably popular in Britain).  And like Big Star, I have a hard time discerning why they aren't more popular.  Many of the Waterboys albums contain big, anthemic songs, but they are perhaps a bit too British (Scottish...Irish...) for us.  Second only to a live cover of Purple Rain, which will likely be seen in a future post, this is my favorite Waterboys song.  Enjoy!   

Friday, March 19, 2010

Song of the Day: Warpaint - Elephants

Here's an LA band that apparently has already made a good impression at SXSW.  Really love the lead singer's voice, and the effects they use on the vocals give it a nice detached sound (especially on the "I wonder where you are" part). Their debut EP is great but really looking forward to a full-length.

It doesn't hurt that they're easy on the eyes, though it appears to be really windy wherever they are.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton links - UPDATED

Some good remembrances throughout the Internet:

Pop Candy (with a ton of awesome videos!)
Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone (I figured he'd have one, as he mentioned Big Star in Love Is a Mixtape)
Aquarium Drunkard
Ann Powers of the LA Times
and this is a tad surreal - from the House floor

and Elliott Smith covering my favorite Big Star song

Song of the Day: The Replacements - Alex Chilton

RIP Alex
Big Star - Thirteen

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fallon celebrates the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street rerelease

And there is much rejoicing

new Between Two Ferns

can't get enough of these

Song of the Day: Wu-Tang Clan - Gravel Pit

Despite naming my blog after a Public Enemy song, I'm not a big rap/hip hop guy*.  If it was released after 1996, I probably don't know it.  That said, I really don't know Wu-Tang's music all that well - I have the debut - but something compelled me to buy the 12" single for "Gravel Pit."  I don't know if I heard it beforehand or what went through my mind when I purchased it, but I'm glad I did, because it's definitely one of the best hip hop songs I know (see: caveat).  Why is this song not more popular?

* In case you're wondering, Public Enemy and Beastie Boys are the kings for me, though I also listen to and enjoy De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z, Blackalicious and others

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Song of the Day: The White Stripes - Union Forever [live]

In 2002, NME was heavily hyping The White Stripes and The Strokes before either was popular in the States.  I was loyally buying a lot of the stuff they featured, and while a lot of the bands turned out to be all hype, these two clearly stood out from the rest.

Unfortunately for me, I went out and bought White Blood Cells the day after they played the Cat's Cradle and didn't get to seem them play live until they toured for Elephant at a much bigger venue.  Since Under Great White Northern Lights, a live double album, is being released today, I thought I'd post the live version of one of my favorite White Stripes' songs.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Songs from the first month of the blog

These are the songs from the first month since I started the "Song of the Day." Joanna Newsom's "Emily," however, is not available on Lala, but I did post a video here

Anyway, onto the playlist

Song of the Day: R.E.M. - Hairshirt

In 1988, I was in middle school, and the R.E.M. song "Stand" was all over the radio.  I got the cassette of Green, probably from BMG or Columbia House record clubs, and listened to it endlessly.  It was a monumental album for me, and I would venture to say a turning point in my metamorphosis to a teenager (another, more nerdy way of dating this album and putting it in context would be to say that I was playing a lot of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link at the time).

While I still loved "Stand," it was the slower, sadder songs that had a more powerful effect on me - songs like "The Wrong Child," "World Leader Pretend" and today's song of the day, "Hairshirt."  As a kid almost exclusively listening to top 40 at the time, this was music of a quality I had not yet encountered.

I later discovered that my dad already had Eponymous, the greatest hits album, and once I got the cassette of Out of Time, that was it - R.E.M. became my favorite band of all time.  I went back and got all of the I.R.S. albums (on CD!), and I will argue to the death that R.E.M. is the greatest.  Sure, I'll concede that the post-Bill Berry era has not been nearly as strong, but their first eight (!) albums (and even their first EP) can stand up to any string of eight Beatles, Rolling Stones and Dylan albums (sure, it's a close call).  For what is likely sentimental reasons, Green is probably still my favorite album (isn't the first album you hear from a band always your favorite?), though I can make a case on any given day for Automatic or Murmur (or Life's Rich Pageant...or Fables...)

But I digress.  It's also extremely difficult to pick a favorite song from Green, but "Hairshirt" is definitely among the best.  I have no idea what a hairshirt is, or what it's a metaphor for, but Stipe's singing in this is incredible, and the lyric "Run a carbon-black test on my jaw/ And you will find it's all been said before" is among his best.  Like Van Morrison in Astral Weeks, it's difficult to believe that this voice belongs to a guy in his 20s.  Oh, and don't want to give short shrift to Peter Buck here - the mandolin would later show up to greater effect in Automatic, but it sounds fantastic in this song.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Song of the Day: Paul McCartney - Vanilla Sky

I'd never much cared for Paul McCartney's solo work, though to be fair, I hadn't heard the majority of it. I loved "Band on the Run" (sort of Paul solo), "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Live and Let Die" (though I knew the Guns N' Roses version better), but it wasn't until I heard the title song off of the Vanilla Sky soundtrack that I realized I needed to revisit his solo catalog.

Unfortunately I still haven't heard most of it, but thanks to Aquarium Drunkard's Ram on LA, I decided to buy a used copy of Ram on vinyl, and I played the shit out of it for a few weeks and still really enjoy it.  I'm willing to try more solo McCartney, so if anyone can recommend my next purchase, I'd appreciate it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Song of the Day: Blur - Tender

In my post about The Jam, I mentioned they were an obvious influence on Blur.  I'd venture to argue that that influence is mostly felt on the early Blur albums, where they later developed a sound all their own.  Like The Jam, however, Blur were equally brilliant at writing uptempo pop songs and slower, more introspective songs.  "Tender" is a great example of the latter, as well as an excellent portrayal of how to use a gospel choir to perfection.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Song of the Day: Faith No More - Land of Sunshine

MTV probably helped make Faith No More into stars - their "Epic" video, was in fact, epic - but their music still holds up today, mainly because it's so unique and difficult to categorize. Are they metal? Rock? Alternative (whatever that means)? Rap-rock (ugh)?  Interestingly, lists Angel Dust as "Pop."

I confess that outside of The Real Thing (featuring "Epic") and Angel Dust, I'm pretty unfamiliar with their music. At some point I bought the albums before and after those records, but at they are no longer part of my collection, probably traded to the used CD bin at a local record store. I should probably revisit them, particularly given how much I like these two, but part of me doesn't want to somehow dilute my love of Faith No More.

Angel Dust is definitely the more eclectic of the two, and the opener, "Land of Sunshine," revels in that eclecticism - the high-in-the-mix bassline, the heavy metal guitar, the keyboards and of course Mike Patton's voice.  I can definitely see how some people might be turned off by his voice, because the guy is all over the place in how he sings (talking then screaming then operatic).  I wasn't surprised to read recently that he's started doing voices for movies and cartoons, and that sense of humor also shines through on this song.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Song of the Day: Big Star - Thirteen

As I intimated in my Sloan post, Big Star is the band that started my "power-pop" obsession.  Their first two albums, #1 Record and Radio City, which I originally bought packaged together on one CD, are indisputable cult classics.  Many of their songs are instantly hummable, and the best known is likely "In the Street," the opening song for That '70s Show (I believe the first few seasons it was actually a cover by Cheap Trick, but I'm too lazy to look it up).

"Thirteen" is not one of their catchy songs, but it's certainly one of their best.  The acoustic guitars and background vocals sound excellent in stereo (listen on headphones for full effect), and the longing of the lyrics and Alex Chilton's voice are devastating.  About as close to perfect as a song can be.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Allman Brothers on Fallon


My top 5 coolest looking vinyl

Quite a nice surprise this morning to see my records in Pop Candy

Song of the Day: U2 - Drowning Man

Even a U2 hater has to admit they have a number of classic songs, but the reason I'm a huge fan (at least of the pre-2000 stuff) is that they have a number of classic albums, where you can sit through the entire thing without wanting to skip a track. 

War is probably the first of their classics, and of course "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day" are probably the most well-known.  My personal favorite, however, is "Drowning Man."  I really like how the acoustic guitar is featured, and the use of strings is well done.  But the real star here is Bono's voice - the first verse is fairly tame, but in the second, he really sounds strained, and he kills the high notes.  Just an incredible performance.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

kids sing Bjork


Song(s) of the Day: The Jam - "The Great Depression" and "Move on Up"

About 10 years ago, one of my co-workers let me borrow a copy of The Jam Collection, a hodgepodge of singles and b-sides, and I was floored by how good it was. I was into The Who and Blur, bands that obviously influenced and were influenced by (respectively) The Jam, so I had been eager to hear them, but I didn't expect this. 

Fast-forward to five years later, and I owned all of their albums and a number of EPs and 45s. And frankly, I still want more. While they released some incredible singles, two of my favorite songs are b-sides - "The Great Depression" (from The Bitterest Pill EP) and a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" (from the Beat Surrender EP).  These songs actually represent the breadth of The Jam's songs - they can play it slow as the former, or tear the roof off the sucker, as in the former.

If you only buy one album by The Jam, the greatest hits Snap! is probably the best place to start. But be forewarned - you may find yourself craving more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Joanna Newsom on Fallon

Joanna Newsom was on Late Night on Friday Night, singing a song from her new album. I still haven't had a chance to listen to the entire album and was unfamiliar with this song, but like everything I've heard from her, it's fantastic.

No idea why she sings so much out of the side of her mouth, but who am I to argue with the results?

Song of the Day: Philip Bailey - Easy Lover

As I mentioned a few months ago, my parents came across a few 45s in the attic last year, and I brought them back home with me. A number of them were instantly familiar, but staring at the cover art for Philip Bailey's "Easy Lover," I couldn't think of how the song went.

Putting it on the turntable, I was delighted to find that not only did I remember it, but it still holds up pretty well. You can tell in a nanosecond that it's from the '80s - his falsetto doesn't help that cause - but it's a really good rock song. Phil Collins - an underrated drummer - and Bailey sound good together, and I was glad to find something that I liked as an eight year old still resonated with me today.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Song of the Day: Junior Boys - In the Morning

This is another mp3 that somehow made it on to my laptop, and it's a song I couldn't stop listening to.  The last few years I started listening to a lot more dance music - mainly "indie" stuff like LCD Soundsystem and Justice - and this song was really influential. Really like the breathy vocals on this, particularly the background "too young" vocals.  Just a lot of interesting sounds going on in the background, most of which sound like they were probably made from keyboards.  I'm not sure this would get people on the dance floor, but it's a good headphone record.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Song of the Day: James Brown - The Payback

I can't remember my motivation for buying it - I didn't care much for the movie - but the Dead Presidents Soundtrack has quite a few classics on it.  I knew a lot of the James Brown songs that everyone knew, but it wasn't until this CD that I heard "The Payback," now one of my all-time favorite JB songs.  His ability to riff over the same beat is second to none, and this song exemplifies that talent at its best.  I love how the intro of female voices leads into the main bassline riff, and this song contains one of my all-time favorite James Brown lyrics:

I don't know karate
But I know ka-razy

The man was a genius.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Granny DJ

This woman is my hero (via Videogum)

Song of the Day: YACHT - Psychic City (Voodoo City)

I don't know how I got it, but I have an mp3 of YACHT's "See a Penny (Pick It Up)" - from their 2007 album - on my laptop. It's a song I enjoyed, though I never sought out the accompanying album. When See Mystery Lights came out last year, however, I immediately wanted to buy it based on hearing "Psychic City."  I tend to dislike songs that involve a lot of talk-singing, but the chorus of this song is just too damn catchy.  Try to resist:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Belle & Sebastian in the studio

Best news I've heard today. Via Pitchfork

Song of the Day: The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

I first tried The Smiths in high school with a greatest hits collection, but it didn't take.  I was probably more interested in grunge or alt-rock or whatever, and Morrissey's croon just did not resonate with me.  It wasn't until after college that I gave them another try, buying The Queen Is Dead based on reviews from and Rolling Stone.

What struck me immediately with the eponymous first song was...wait a minute, this kind of rocks (well, I mean if you discount the "take me back to dear old Blighty" part).  And Morrissey's voice, which I originally found whiny, is actually quite pleasant, for lack of a better word.  It amazes me that this is a band to which people gravitate in high school, because what I like about The Smiths - and particularly Morrissey - now is that the lyrics are often quite hilarious and self-deprecating, and my teenage self just didn't understand it.  Take this passage from "The Queen Is Dead":

She said, 'I know you and you cannot sing'
I said, 'That's nothing, you should hear me play piano'

These are details I overlooked the first time through (and what Smiths/Morrissey detractors are also missing), and the lyrics are one of the many reasons The Queen Is Dead is now one of my top 10 albums of all time.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Zach Galifianakis SNL promos


Song of the Day: Midlake - Roscoe

In honor of them playing the El Rey tonight, today's song of the day is "Roscoe," off of Midlake's 2006 The Trials of Van Occupanther album.  I'm not sure how I came across Midlake, but I believe this song was available as a free (and hopefully legal) download on a lot of blogs at the time of the album's release. 
It usually takes a few listens for a song to ingratiate itself into my brain, but this one stuck with me from the getgo.  I particularly like the way the vocals are double-tracked, and the keyboard solo is surprisingly awesome.  If I were to compile a list, this would likely end up as one of my 10 favorite songs of the 2000s.
In fact, as I mentioned in my Yeasayer - 2080 post, I had the pleasure of being a guest DJ at Indie 103.1 a couple of years ago, and this song led off my hour on the air.  Within about 10 seconds of it playing, the phone in the booth rang.  TK, the DJ who was actually playing the songs from my playlist (and their best DJ not named Jonesy), picked up and chatted with the caller for a few seconds.  He then turned to me and said it was Danny Masterson, and he wanted to talk to me.
I knew he had a show on Indie, but evidently he loved the station as much as I did, because he happened to be listening at the time.  We chatted for a minute - he told me he was friends with the guys in the band, they were working on a new album, etc. - and that was it.  Really nice guy, and I thought it was cool of him to call in - the dude must really love Midlake.
Side note (as if this whole post isn't one big side note) - I love this album so much, I ordered a signed vinyl copy from Midlake's UK record label.  Unsigned copies tend to go for triple digits on eBay, but there's no way in hell I would part with this - it's one of my favorite albums of the 2000s.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Song of the Day: Deerhunter - Never Stops

I bought Deerhunter's Cryptograms (debut) album based on its review in Pitchfork, but I never really spent that much time with it.  Microcastle, on the other hand, affected me immediately and has become one of my favorite albums of the last few years.  It also confirms that I need to reassess their first album.  The first side is a murderer's row of quality songs, but "Never Stops" is probably my favorite.  The main guitar line wouldn't have been out of place on a Police album, and the chorus sounds like a catchier version of My Bloody Valentine.  Also love the way the song starts and stops (hence the title?)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Broken Bells album stream

KCRW is streaming the new album from James Mercer and Danger Mouse.  Haven't even had a chance to listen myself, though I'm happy to report I got tix to the show at the Troubadour in a couple weeks.

Song of the Day: Happy Mondays - Kinky Afro

Like the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays were part of Britain's "Madchester" scene, which I will hereby pejoratively call "indie-dance" music.  I started with the Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches album, which begins with this gem.  I love the way the lead singer slurs through the song, and like "I Wanna Be Adored," the bassline in this one is incredible.