Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Song of the Day: The Tartans - Cats of Camerford

Surprisingly, this is not a British group; instead of Oxford, they're from Oxnard, CA. I can't remember where I first heard this song - it's one of those random mp3s on my laptop - but I listened to the hell out of it and was excited to find that it was released as a 7-inch single. This sounds a bit like a cross between Beulah and Belle & Sebastian, and I really hope there is more in store from this band.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blog redesign

I've been doing this for over six months and now 200 songs, so I thought it was time for a redesign.  The blog might look a little weird over the next few days as I try to figure this out

Song of the Day: The Afghan Whigs - Summer's Kiss

According to my count, this is the 200th song featured on the blog (and there was much rejoicing).  This being the case, I thought I'd showcase a song from one of my all-time favorite bands, The Afghan Whigs.  I first came across them in high school with Gentlemen, and although I didn't quite "get" Greg Dulli's voice, the album really struck a nerve with me.  Despite being on Elektra, the album was very "alternative" - you couldn't imagine this getting played on the radio, outside of the local college stations.

The followup, Black Love, got some grief for what were perceived as faux-R&B stylings and the Prince-like usage of U and 2 in the lyric sheet (e.g. "I told u all"), but I find this criticism ridiculous.  The album is a slight notch below Gentlemen in my book, but it features one of my favorite songs, the very un-R&B "Summer's Kiss."  The drumming on this track is phenomenal, as are the always reliable slashing guitars.

One of my big music regrets is never getting a chance to see these guys in concert, though I did get to see Greg Dulli play a solo show with Mark Lanegan (one of my all-time favorites and subject of many future posts).  It was a trip to hear them tear through some Whigs' classics, and I'm hoping when I see Dulli again in November that he'll play even more of them.  If the band ever reforms for a nostalgic reunion, I'll be the first in line.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Song of the Day: Pink Mountaintops - New Drug Queens

I prefer McBean's Black Mountain to Pink Mountaintops (this guy must really love mountains), but this is a great track off of Axis of Evol

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Song of the Day: Elvis Perkins - All the Night Without Love

Just what we need - another Elvis. Right? Actually this one is pretty talented too, and the son of Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame. His debut album, Ash Wednesday, is solid, and this is my favorite song on it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Song of the Day: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Details of the War

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's eponymous debut album is one of my favorites of the 2000s, even though I did have to leave it off of this list.  I was hearing "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" quite a bit on Indie 103.1, but it took a few listens to finally figure out who I was listening to.  The lead singer's voice can be an acquired taste - to me it sounds like a more whiny David Byrne - but the songs are so good that I grew to really enjoy it.  While "Teeth" is probably still the catchiest song in their oeuvre, this song has really grown on me over the years.   

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Video: Fistful of Mercy (Ben Harper, Dhani Harrison, Joseph Arthur)

Ben Harper + Dhani Harrison + Joseph Arthur = sounds promising

Fistful of Mercy from Fistful of Mercy on Vimeo.

Song of the Day: The Go-Betweens - Spring Rain

My first exposure to The Go-Betweens was their 2000 reunion album The Friends of Rachel Worth.  I had heard about them as Australia's R.E.M., among other accolades, but I never had really given them a chance.  When Grant McLennan passed away in 2006, I kept hearing more praises and finally bought the aforementioned CD.  Usually reunion albums are for bands to cash in, but for a group that hadn't released an album in 12 years, this was one hell of a return (I should note the two singer/songwriters were the ones reforming, without other original members; but I should also note that members of Sleater-Kinney played on this record, which doesn't hurt things at all).

I have since procured almost all of their albums on vinyl, though a copy of Rachel Worth still eludes me.  I could recommend any number of tracks from that album, and while I'm generally on Team McLennan, my favorite song from the band may very well be this Robert Forster track off of 1986's Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Song of the Day: The Bigger Lovers - They Haunt Me Still

These guys could probably also be called "The Big Star Lovers" as they share a lot in common with the iconic band (and other followers like Teenage Fanclub and Sloan).  This song is from the surprisingly underrated album Honey in the Hive from 2002 - I say surprising because it's every bit as good as an album from the aforementioned, more well-known acolytes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Song of the Day: Catfish Haven - Set in Stone

Surprisingly, this isn't a long last Woodstock-era track - it's from 2008. To me it sounds a bit like an Allman Brothers outtake, and it gives you a good idea of Catfish Haven's Devastator, a pretty solid album with a late '60s/early '70s vibe.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Song of the Day: The Young Knives - Here Comes the Rumour Mill

In case you can't tell from the title of the song, or the accent of the lead singer, these guys are British.  This song is from a 2006 7-inch I bought just based on the cover:

I literally knew nothing about the band when I bought it, but it's a pretty good pop song in the vein of Maximo Park.  Come to think of it, I still know nothing about the band.  But that's why there are sites like allmusic.com.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Song of the Day: Helmet - Unsung

These guys were pretty big back in the early '90s - hard to believe one of their albums even went gold.  I owned the Meantime album, but I don't think I cared that much for it at the time.  But when I saw this 7-inch at Amoeba, I remembered the song fondly, so I plunked down a few bucks for it.  I mean why not?  It's white vinyl!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Song of the Day: Reigning Sound - Break It

When I heard Reigning Sound, I thought of a bunch of guys in their 40s cranking out tunes in their garage. They all can play really well, but they're not too professional, and they just want to rock out and play 3-minute songs. Note that I mean all of this in a good way - the band is remarkably consistent in the two albums I've heard, Time Bomb High School and last year's Love & Curses, which contains this track.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Song of the Day: Creedence Clearwater Revival - I Put a Spell on You

A few days ago I posted a song by Deer Tick and noted how gravelly the singer's voice is.  Well, he's got nothing on John Fogerty in this song.  This song's got everything - great guitar solos, the walking bassline, and of course the voice.  CCR was definitely a singles band (and this song is actually a cover), but they made three albums - in one year nonetheless! - that are pretty damn good.

Bonus points, of course, for the fact that I can't say or hear "Creedence" and not make a Big Lebowski reference.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Song of the Day: Throwing Muses - Bright Yellow Gun

I really don't remember the circumstances surrounding my purchasing this album, but I do know this (nerd alert) - I was playing a lot of Castlevania II on the Nintendo while listening to it.  It's strange the two are correlated in my brain, given the game came out in 1990 (thanks, Wikipedia!) and University in 1994 (when I most likely already had a Super Nintendo).  But when I hear this album, part of me still reminisces about that game (though admittedly, I had to do some research to see which Castlevania game I was thinking of).

For my money, this is definitely one of the most underrated albums of the '90s.  Kristen Hersh has a unique voice, and her guitar playing is fantastic - the best word to describe its sound would probably be "shimmering."  I had a hard time picking a song from this album, but in the end I had to go with the most obvious - "Bright Yellow Gun."  It's the first track and was the single off the album, and I like it so much that I have the 12-inch and 7-inch versions. But you can't really go wrong with any song from University - I can't recommend it enough.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Song of the Day: Deer Tick - Easy

For someone in his early 20s, the singer John McCauley has one hell of a gravelly voice. This song to me is a perfect encapsulation of garage rock, but not the bluesy kind a la The White Stripes or The Black Keys. I can imagine these guys banging out this song in their practice space, perfecting it till they got it right, and then rushing to the studio to perform this version - one of my favorite songs of 2009.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Song of the Day: Grizzly Bear - Knife

I was lucky enough to jump on the Grizzly Bear bandwagon early, which means I got to see them at the Troubadour in LA (capacity ~450) performing songs from their Yellow House album.  It was an amazing show, and the perfect venue - the crowd was reverential and silent, and you could hear the band harmonizing perfectly.  The highlight of the show, and still one of the best songs in their catalog, was the performance of "Knife."  The bassist Chris Taylor performed that strange backing vocal you hear at the beginning and throughout the song, and it looked like he was going to jump out of his skin, as though it physically pained him to hit those notes.  But it was perfect, and this song, as one of my other favorites "Two Weeks," are great showcases of how Grizzly Bear mixes "indie rock" and '60s pop influences. Simply one of the best bands working today.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Song of the Day: Geto Boys - Mind Playing Tricks on Me

Look, the fact is, if you have a one-eyed midget in your group, I'm going to be at least a little intrigued. I can't name another Geto Boys song, but this is one that most people in their 30s probably know. And for good reason - it's a classic.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Song of the Day: Maximo Park - Apply Some Pressure

These guys were part of the early 2000s British wave of bands that were heavily influenced by Gang of Four, including Futureheads and Bloc Party.  This is one of the best songs off of their 2005 debut album, A Certain Trigger.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Song of the Day: The Thrills - Don't Steal Our Sun

Surprisingly, these guys are not from Southern California - they're from Ireland.  This is a pretty, sunny pop record with some solid tunes - this one is my favorite.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Song of the Day: Surfer Blood - Harmonix

Astro Coast is a 2010 album of the year candidate, and this is one of my favorite songs from the album. I thought it sounded familiar, and today I finally realized why - the intro (starting around the nine-second mark) sounds an awful lot like the beginning to Arcade Fire's "Neighborhood #2."  Not that they're trying to rip them off or anything - just a weird coincidence.  The rest of the song is very different, and I really like the use of harmonics (get it?) throughout the song.

P.S. You can compare and see if I'm crazy. Here's the Arcade Fire track:

P.P.S. At first I thought it sounded like something off of Sonic Youth's Experimental Jet Set. Not sure why - just wanted to throw that out there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Song of the Day: Music Go Music - Light of Love

This song may sound straight out of the '70s, but it's actually from a 2008 single. I'm not the world's biggest ABBA fan - and that may be an understatement, since I probably can't name two of their songs - but I have to say this song kills me, despite its obvious ABBA influence. The "whoa whoa" backing vocals get me every time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Song of the Day: King Crimson - 21st Century Schizoid Man

As I mentioned in my ELP post, the word "prog" will have most people running for their lives.  King Crimson is usually in the prog discussion, and I'm not familiar enough with their catalog to argue that point either way.  From In the Court of Crimson King, and in particular this song, it's obvious they are a big influence on Tool, Mastodon and other "metal" bands, despite some of the same "wanky bullshit" of which I accuse ELP.  This stream won't give the song justice - it's really an amazingly polished production for 1969.  But you can tell how tight the band is here - they start and stop on a dime.  If anyone can recommend other King Crimson records to check out, I'm game.

This is also one of the sweetest album covers of all time

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Song of the Day: Television - Marquee Moon

Songs like this make me wish I could articulate my love of music in a more entertaining and awe-inspiring way, a la Lester Bangs or anyone with some degree of competence.  I've often toyed with the idea of just posting the song and foregoing the commentary, unless I have a story or anecdote that may be of interest to someone other than me.  Nothing that I can write is going to make you love a song before you even hear it - I just don't have that ability.  But it would be a pretty boring blog if I didn't at least make an attempt (admittedly, some days I barely do, particularly when I'm just trying to post something).  So with that in mind...

I haven't heard every piece of music ever recorded (though I'm trying), but Television's "Marquee Moon" has to be one of the greatest guitar songs of all time.  Though revered by critics and music junkies, it is woefully unknown to the casual listener.  Is it Tom Verlaine's voice that has kept it from reaching a bigger audience?  The 10-minute running time?

Do you like classic rock?  Though not as blues-heavy as Led Zep or the Stones, they wouldn't be out of place next to Pink Floyd on the radio.  How about Punk?  They used to play CBGB.  Jam bands?  Note the 10-minute running time.  Guitar solos?  How about two of them?  Have I asked too many questions?  Do you like movies about gladiators?

As I mentioned, it's impossible for me to express how awesome this song is.  I felt very cool upon hearing it played before an REM show (during their Monster tour) and knowing what it was - it was like holding a secret, albeit one that more people should know.  But I love the intro to the song, with each guitar coming out of a speaker and all the instruments joining the mix separately.  It happens again after one of the guitar solos - the guitar part that starts at the 8:42 mark is fascinating, and then the drums kick in, then the bass, the rhythm guitar out of one speaker, the lead out of the other.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Song of the Day: The Dodos - Ashley

This is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums of 2008. Perfect use of just acoustic guitars and drums (and handclaps...and is that a theremin?), this is just a great song. I particularly like the bridge and the harmonizing on the vocals.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Song of the Day: The Sleepy Jackson - Good Dancers

This is basically the work of one weird dude, but I have to say this song is pretty fantastic. I was excited recently to see the 7-inch on eBay, and luckily I wasn't competing against anyone for it (wait, is that a bad thing?), so I got it for cheap. I'm not sure exactly what to compare this to, in terms of a point of reference - it's a fairly strange song, though the beginning sounds like an amalgam of Lennon's "Mind Games" and "#9 Dream."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Song of the Day: The Webb Brothers - The Liar's Club

The Maroon album received some positive reviews when it was released, though it may have been due more to the Webb Brothers' bloodline than their talent (they are the sons of Jimmy Webb, who I know little about other than he wrote "Wichita Lineman" and that Johnny Cash does a great cover of it). That said, this song has really stuck with me, mostly due to the tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Song of the Day: Buzzcocks - What Do I Get?

Singles Going Steady is an essential album in my collection.  Although it's a compilation, it includes a lot of songs not available on other albums, making it that much more necessary.  I actually avoided Buzzcoks for a while, thinking that, based on their name, they were more punk than pop (and at the time, I was probably mistaking the term "punk" for "hardcore" - the fast, shouty stuff that I still don't care for much).  But anyone who likes The Jam or The Clash would probably enjoy Buzzcocks.

As I've mentioned with other songs in some previous posts, I actually came across this on Indie 103.1 when I first moved to LA, and I thought it was a contemporary song.  You could probably easily mistake this for early Green Day, and most of the songs on the album still sound fresh.  I suppose teenage angst always will.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Song of the Day: Duran Duran - New Moon on Monday

Like INXS, Duran Duran is a band I liked growing up that I figured I'd hate when I tried them again as an adult...but ended up still enjoying.  Call it a guilty pleasure or what have you, but Duran Duran made some incredible singles in their day, and even without the benefit of the videos, the songs endure.

It takes about three seconds to realize this song is from the '80s, and admittedly, the verses of "New Moon on Monday" are pretty cheesy.  But the chorus more than redeems the song, with the double-tracked vocals and a great guitar line.  Good luck getting this out of your head.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Song of the Day: Jaill - The Stroller

I've heard a couple songs from Jaill, a band now on Sub Pop, and they're enough to convince me to buy their new album. They remind me of a few bands, but for some reason I can't quite place which - maybe a little bit of The Stills, Tapes 'N Tapes and something a little on the dance-ier side of things, like Hot Hot Heat.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Playlist: July 2010 songs

All the songs featured in the blog in July

Click the link

or listen below

Song of the Day: Judson Claiborne - Twilight Spirit

Full credit goes to @daverawkblog for this find.  Probably 95% of the albums I've bought in the past 10 years are from blogs and now Twitter, and it's always rewarding to try something that someone recommends and wonder how you've lived without it.

In this case, I can't believe more people aren't touting Judson Claiborne - their Time and Temperature will undoubtedly make my top 10 albums for 2010.  I've already proclaimed my love of Fleet Foxes, and while these guys don't harmonize as intricately, they definitely share other qualities.  I know this is a good album because I had one hell of a time picking a favorite song - in fact, I was only able to pick one that wasn't my favorite.  But in the end, I had to go with the opener, "Twilight Spirit."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Song of the Day: XTC - Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)

I listened to and enjoyed Waxworks, the best of XTC from 1977-1982, but it wasn't until I saw their performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test that I realized how brilliant they were.  As the host explained, their performance felt like this song was bursting from them, and it reminds me of early Talking Heads - quirky pop music with punk undertones.

You can tell from this song that despite being catchy, the quirky sense of humor may have kept them from developing anything more than a cult audience.  Still, most of their first five or six albums are worth owning, but Waxworks is as good a place to start as any.