Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Song of the Day: Fleet Foxes - Mykonos

I still remember when I was 16 and had owned my first CD player for a few months, and I was telling someone how I was buying CDs like crazy. The person told me the same thing happened to them, but it was a phase that would pass. Turns out he was a liar.

I buy about 70-80 albums a year, though in 2000 I began buying vinyl when I could - now I don't buy anything on CD, because almost any album will eventually find a vinyl release. But very few of the albums I buy elicit an immediate reaction, where I become so obsessed that I want to listen to the album all the time. Usually, if it's something I really like, I'll listen to it a lot for about a month, but then it gets shelved in favor of whatever is next, making an appearance again at some point down the line.

But what keeps me buying albums is when you hear that one that does get stuck in your head, and you can't wait to get home to listen to it. Maybe it's a band that has created something new and seemingly revolutionary (Kid A), or maybe it's an album that sounds familiar and comfortable - you've heard it before, but not quite like this.

Fleet Foxes falls in the latter category - I don't think anyone would call the debut album revolutionary, as there are a number of influences even the most casual listener would recognize. But I was hooked from the first song I heard, "White Winter Hymnal." The acoustic guitars, the harmonies - they blew me away.

I played their eponymous debut non-stop for the first few months, and I was out of town when they played a tiny show in LA. But luckily they came back a few months later, playing a bigger show at the El Rey. The lead singer was giddy and amazed, claiming he couldn't believe how big the place was (the capacity is between 700-900 according to different sources).

The show ranks as one of the best I've ever seen. Five guys in the band, four of them singing in perfect harmony (and the lead singer with an amazing voice), and probably some of the funniest between-song banter I've ever heard. You could tell they were having a good time, still high off the reception their album had received.

I don't think I've been as excited about a new album as I am for their next one. I worry that it won't live up to the first album - not because it won't be as good, but because my expectations are so high. But no matter what happens, I'll always have the first album.

All of this gushing about that album, and I'm actually going to feature a song off their Sun Giant EP, released prior to the debut. It was packaged with the album in the vinyl version, so the two are interchangeable to me. While part of me felt I should be true to my first experience hearing the band and play "White Winter Hymnal," the song "Mykonos" has become my favorite, and is probably already on my list of all-time favorite songs (if such a list existed). Check out the harmonies at the end of the song - hope you like it at least a fraction as much as I do.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Song of the Day: The Von Bondies - C'mon C'mon

Unfortunately for The Von Bondies, they may be best known for the lead singer getting his ass kicked (or being blind-sighted, depending on who you believe) by Jack White.

Before that incident, I came across the band via this song, which was played often on Indie 103.1 when I first moved to LA.  I think this is a great song, though the rest of the album doesn't quite live up to it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Song of the Day: Midnight Oil - Bushfire

I was never a big Midnight Oil fan - like most people (Americans, I should say, since these guys were huge in their native Australia) I know "Beds Are Burning" and then it pretty much drops off from there. I don't remember the impetus for my buying the Earth and Sun and Moon album, but it's a remarkably consistent album, and it probably begs the question of why I haven't checked out their other stuff. I'm not sure of the answer to that, but if more of the songs were as good as "Bushfire," I'd probably be more inclined.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Song of the Day: Clearlake - Almost the Same

I think I have to give Pitchfork credit for this one, as I remember reading this review. Although I never fell in love with the Cedars album, this is a standout track, and I was pretty excited to find the 45 on eBay last year.  Perhaps Pitchfork didn't have the clout in 2003 that it does in 2010, but let's just say I wasn't bidding against anybody for this record.  It's a shame, because this is a pretty good mix of Joy Division's "Isolation" and Brit Pop.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Song of the Day: Beth Orton - She Cries Your Name

I first saw Beth Orton on a PBS show whose name I can't remember - I think it was named after a New York address, like 105th and something (not 106 and Park, thanks), but I can't remember enough about it to even figure out keywords to Google. At any rate, I thought she had a great voice, and I got pretty obsessed with her first two albums. A decade later, I'm not quite as enthralled as I once was, but I still think there are some good songs on each of her albums, and I'd love to see her live. This is a standout track off her debut album, Trailer Park.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Song of the Day: Alfie - It's Just About the Weather

Another song from my early 2000s Anglophile phase.  I still think this is a really good song (and sounds a bit like The Clientele), but it's the only one I can name from their terribly-titled album If You Happy with You Need Do Nothing.  It's probably worth revisiting, as seems to think it's the work of "masters on the rise."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Song of the Day: Suckers - King of Snakes

It took a number of listens to get into the Suckers' new album, Wild Smile, but now I'm sold.  I think the singer's voice, particularly the falsetto moments, were initially an issue for me, but the harmonies really pulled me in, and now I think the singer is a genius.  I really like the guitar part in this particular song, and is that accordion I here?  I sure hope so.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Song of the Day: Venus in Furs - 2HB

The Velvet Goldmine was a fictionalized look at glam rock in the '70s, with a soundtrack that mixed current (in 1998) artists with those who were on the scene (it also includes two actors singing classic songs, but let's skip that part). Despite a few duds, the soundtrack is surprisingly solid, particularly from the very un-glam Grant Lee Buffalo. But perhaps the most intriguing band on the soundtrack was Venus in Furs, which consisted of Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead. Considering this song was probably completed around the same time or right after OK Computer (and with members of other bands), it's surprising that there are actually quite a few Kid A/Amnesiac elements to it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Song of the Day: The Emotions - Blind Alley

I first came across this song courtesy of the Stax: The Soul of Hip Hop compilation that came out last year.  The album includes songs that are sampled in multiple hip hop songs, some more subtly than others.  I initially was hooked on how awesome the voices of the women sound together, but the sampling is from the drum beat.  Listen closely and I guarantee you'll recognize the drums from other hip hop or R&B songs, but this song on its own is just a great early '70s R&B cut.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Song of the Day: Spacehog - Almond Kisses

As I intimated in my post for R.E.M.'s Hairshirt, I'll listen to and probably enjoy anything that Michael Stipe sings.  While I think Spacehog's "In the Meantime" is a great song, they didn't exactly set the world on fire with any of their other songs.  Still, their second album isn't too bad, but for Stipe-related reasons, this song is clearly the greatest. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Song of the Day: Straitjacket Fits - Brittle

The No Alternative comp had a number of huge artists (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pavement), but this was one of the unexpected standouts on the album for me. In honor of New Zealand's 1-1 tie versus Italy today in the World Cup, here is NZ band Straitjacket Fits.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Song of the Day: Ten Years After - I'd Love to Change the World

This is a song that anyone who ever listened to Classic Rock radio probably came across, but few know who sings it. I hadn't heard the song in years, but after watching Tropic Thunder, it got stuck in my head for a while. This is a pretty trippy song, not much like their earlier, blues-heavy stuff.

If you've ever seen the Woodstock movie, you've seen the guitarist for Ten Years After, Alvin Lee, make some of the greatest guitar-playing faces of all time. Check it out below.

I'll give him credit though - the guy could play.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Song of the Day: Josef K - Applebush

I had heard of these guys before, but prior to using Grooveshark had never actually heard their music. I saw them mentioned the other day in an AV Club interview with Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub, so I checked them out. And I gotta say, this song is fantastic.  Looking forward to hearing more.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Song of the Day: Born Ruffians - I Need a Life

I'm pretty excited about the new Born Ruffians album, despite Pitchfork's tepid review. The first album, Red Yellow & Blue, is a solid album that sounds a bit like Vampire Weekend, minus the afro-pop. The chorus of this song is genius - it will get stuck in your head for days.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Song of the Day: Teenage Fanclub - I Need Direction

This Scottish band was a natural extension of my Big Star obsession, and they got a huge boost in 1991 when they played SNL and beat out Nevermind for album of the year in SPIN magazine (a decision which was and still is ridiculous).  I'm not a huge fan of Teenage Fanclub, but they do have some killer singles.
I mentioned in my Kingsbury Manx post that their eponymous album made NME's Top 50; I also remember that same issue having a feature on the best singles of 2000, which included this song by the Fanclub (how I remember this and not what happened yesterday, I'll never know).  This is a very Big Star sounding song, but that doesn't make it any less awesome.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Song of the Day: Chief - Your Direction

Just saw a blurb about Chief thanks to the LA Weekly music blog. Not only am I excited that a band from Santa Monica actually exists, but I thought this was a terrific song - kind of in the Fleet Foxes/Local Natives vein.  The video is also pretty interesting, and you can read about it by following the LA Weekly link above.  Unfortunately, I missed their show at the Troubadour last night, but hopefully more will be forthcoming.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Song of the Day: The Drones - Jezebel

This is one of the scariest songs I've ever heard. I had heard the Gala Mill album a couple of times, but when I sat down with the lyrics and really listened to this song, I was completely blown away. I'm one of those people who doesn't really pay attention to lyrics - I think I only notice when they're particularly awful or inspiring.

I wouldn't necessarily say these are the latter, but when vocalized with the vitriol that the singer exhibits here, the song really gets under my skin. This passage in particular always gives me goosebumps:

Yeah, Dan Pearl
They cut your head off on TV
But I am not a camera
A man is not an effigy
But still all this horror
Has made a trench out of my soul
I'm gonna have to fall in love with a blind girl
So she will not see the shame that I know

I saw these guys play this live a few years ago (I believe they were opening for Band of Horses), and I was watching this song with my jaw on the floor. Even just listening to it again for the first time in months, it still blows me away.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Song of the Day: Trash Can Sinatras - Obscurity Knocks

Trash Can Sinatras' 1990 album Cake is a solid collection of songs, sounding like a cross between The Smiths and James.  "Obscurity Knocks" seems like a good way to start this overcast day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Song of the Day: The Jesus Lizard - Fly on the Wall

When the Jesus Lizard albums were reissued and expanded last year, I read a lot of stuff about how influential they were. I don't remember liking them back in the '90s, though in fairness I probably hadn't heard much of their catalog. With all the renewed hype, I listened to a few of the remastered songs and ended up buying three of the reissues on vinyl. Among the songs that struck the most immediate chord was "Fly on the Wall," today's song of the day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Song of the Day: Tame Impala - Desire Be Desire Go

What would happen if Dungen sang in English? And it sounded like John Lennon in "Tomorrow Never Knows"? Something like Tame Impala, an Australian band whose Innespeaker record is, like Dungen's output, a '60 psychedelia flashback. This is a pretty solid record from start to finish, but this track is the one currently stuck in my head.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Song of the Day: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Bright Lit Blue Skies

I listened to some earlier Ariel Pink based on Pitchfork's recommendation and the ties to Animal Collective, and I kind of remember hating it. So when I saw all the blog hype the new record, Before Today, was getting (including a 9.0 from Pfork), I kind of wanted to hate it. But goddammit, it's pretty f'ing good.

Most of all, it's all over the damn place - one song sounds like an early '60s British Invasion song, another like some Ween R&B jam, and plenty of '80s synths throughout.  But I'll be damned if I didn't want to listen to the whole thing again. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Song of the Day: Liam Finn - Second Chance

Liam Finn is a badass. Skip my rambling and just watch the video below for proof of this.

Still with me? Liam is the son of Neil and nephew of Tim, both of Crowded House/Split Enz fame. Like those guys, he writes catchy tunes that aren't particularly flashy. In concert, however, the guy lets loose. I was lucky enough to see him at the Echoplex last year, and I was surprised to see what a small dude he is (I would venture about 5'4"). But like he does in the video below, he plays his instruments like they owe him money. He also loops them while playing a la Jon Brion, but my favorite part of his live show is to see him destroy the drums.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Song of the Day: The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Breaking the Girl

I'm back in LA, so it seemed appropriate to pick an LA band for the song of the day. I was a huge fan of RCHP in high school, and Blood Sugar Sex Magik was the first CD I ever bought. And by "I bought" I mean my dad bought for me, as I was 15 and it had one of those stupid Parental Advisory stickers on it.

(Side note - when I was a sophomore in high school, I made a presentation for English class about music censorship, including the PMRC and the Parental Advisory stickers. I played a few songs, including "Negative Creep" by Nirvana, and I passed around the CD booklet for Blood Sugar, which included the lyrics to all the songs. Needless to say, I was super popular in high school.)

While I no longer find RHCP as awesome as I once did, I still have a special place in my heart (ears?) for this album and Mother's Milk. Yes, the lyrics are often pretty tepid, and yes, Kiedis is not the world's greatest singer, but Flea has always been a badass bass player (nice to see him get some love as part of Thom Yorke's new band), and Frusciante is a great guitarist and background singer (and not to leave out Chad Smith, a solid but never flashy drummer).

This song is one of my favorites off the album and is one of RCHP's more understated songs (not saying much, I know).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Song of the Day: The Pretenders - Back on the Chain Gang

This song was a radio staple when I was about eight years old, and I hated it for a long time. But that guitar line, Chrissie Hynde's voice - they eventually won me over. In fact, I dare say The Pretenders are underrated by people under 40, despite two classic albums and at least a dozen excellent singles. Now I count them among my favorite '80s band, and I particularly like that they don't sound all that '80s - no cheesy synths or drum machines, just plain old rock 'n roll.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Song of the Day: Simian Mobile Disco - I Believe

I have the Simian CD We Are Your Friends and remember the title track pretty well, so I was intrigued to see these guys become a dance band. In fact, I've since heard the Justice remix of that song, and it definitely shows it wasn't too much of a stretch. This is my favorite off of the debut SMD album, Attack Decay Sustain Release.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Song of the Day: The Flying Burrito Brothers - Hot Burrito #2

As I mentioned in my Byrds post, this is ground zero for alt-country.  I thought about posting the much more country-sounding "Christine's Tune," but this song is just too good not to play.  I love the piano throughout the song, and Gram Parsons voice sounds as good as it ever did - he makes this song almost sound more soul than country.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Song of the Day: Cold War Kids - Hospital Beds

Back from the beach and back to work, this seems like an appropriate song. These guys are out of Orange County and have a few really good singles to their name, though I haven't been able to get 100% into the albums. They do put on a pretty good live show, and this is by far my favorite CWK song.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Song of the Day: Klaxons - Golden Skans

I really enjoyed Klaxons' debut album, Myths of the Near Future.  I believe I heard it attributed to some ridiculous-sounding genres like Glow-core and New Rave, but really they're not that different from indie dance bands like !!! or early Arctic Monkeys.  Judge for yourself with this single, "Golden Skans."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Song of the Day: Beachwood Sparks - Old Manatee

In honor of my last full day at the beach, today's song is from one of my favorite underrated Sub Pop albums, Once We Were Trees by Beachwood Sparks.  I saw these guys open up for pre-Garden State Shins at the old Kings Barcade in Raleigh, when Beachwood was touring for this album and The Shins for their debut,  Oh, Inverted World (also one of my fav Sub Pop records).  Although this guy isn't the world's greatest singer, the laid-back atmosphere of the album, and in particular the banjo in this song, sound fantastic.  Just a great record to listen to while chilling at the beach.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Playlist: May 2010 songs

Here are the songs from the blog in May, including my week of North Carolina artists.

Song of the Day: The Pharcyde - Passing Me By

When I first "ripped" this song to an mp3 from the vinyl, I thought something was wrong with the track.  I was pleasantly (?) surprised to find that everything was fine, but it's a rough one to listen to on vinyl, since they've added the sound of a stylus on a dirty record. Still, for me this entire record is a '90s classic, but this track is the standout.