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This is Pop Download-o-rama
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It’s time to cast our eyes ahead to the new year as one of the best have just announced some very good news. In 2009, Wilco will build on their reign as one of Chicago's most influential and widely-respected bands with a brand spankin’ new DVD and a new LP. The DVD, dubbed Ashes of American Flags (the title of one of the tracks from the band's 2002 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), is scheduled to hit in either February or March, and will be Wilco's first full live concert DVD. It was put together by Brendan Canty and Christoph Green of Trixie Films, and will include footage from the band's winter 2008 tour. You might recall Canty from his work on the excellent Burn to Shine DVD series.
If that's not enough to excite fans, the band has announced that they will spend the early part of 2009 completing their next studio album, which will follow up 2007's Sky Blue Sky. According to a recent Billboard article, the album is expected to stray from the performance-oriented sound of the last record, instead allowing "a little bit more leeway in terms of sculpting the sound in the studio and doing overdubs and using the studio as another instrument." The record is scheduled for a spring release, after which the band will resume a full touring schedule as the true road warriors these Chicagoans are.
Until then, head Wilco honcho, Jeff Tweedy is scheduled to perform solo gigs in Champaign, IL, Kalamazoo, MI and Ann Arbor, MI. (Hmmmm, I might just have to take a road trip.)
Click here for more information.
Oh, and if you haven’t checked out Jeff Tweedy’s son Spencer’s blog yet do so. As Allison so aptly put it, “Strong writer for a youngin’”.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The Holiday Season may be quickly coming to an end but that’s no excuse to stop the giving. Ottawa’s best band, The Acorn have posted a little holiday present for their fans in the form of Ear Worms, a collection of 12 songs each 30 seconds in duration, and Little Elms, a short 4-song EP. Both are available for free download at their website right now.
I, for one cannot wait for the new full length due in the new year so this will help a little with that wait.
Get them while you can.
You may recall a post I did last May about KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Well, some fine fine stuff has come and gone since it's inception (and appearance on the interwebs) but I would be remiss if I neglected to point out one of my favourite author's contribution. This week This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell took to the soundboard: playing songs and telling stories that ranged in topic from feminism, to Marxism, to Chuck Berry, to a risqué Christmas.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Or At Least a lot of People with iTunes Accounts
(Just because I am such a total chart and list geek I can not let this one go.)
X Factor winner Alexandra Burke has taken the Christmas number one slot with "Hallelujah", ahead of Jeff Buckley's version of the song in second place. Burke's single became the fastest-selling by a female solo artist, with 576,000 copies sold.
In a most heartening twist, Leonard Cohen, who wrote the hit more than 20 years ago, also hit number 36 with his original version.
Sunday's single chart is the first time in almost 52 years that the same song has been at numbers one and two. The first time you ask? That was when Tommy Steele and Guy Mitchell held the top two spots with versions of Melvin Endsley's song "Singin' The Blues" in January 1957.
For those not totally sated with "Hallelujah" goodness, some points of trivia. Perfect for those awkward moments around the Christmas dinner table when conversation begins to wane. (From the Telegraph.)
Hallelujah - 20 facts about Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah
From its appearance in Shrek to the word's Hebrew etymology - 20 key facts about the song of the moment.
1. Hallelujah was first released in 1984 on Leonard Cohen's album, Various Positions.
2. Cohen once told Bob Dylan that it took him two years to write the song.
3. Dylan himself has sung it live, and there are bootleg versions in circulation of his performance. It has also been sung by Bono and Bon Jovi.
4. More than 100 versions of the song have been recorded.
5. The best known is by Jeff Buckley, whose unadorned version was on his 1994 Grace album.
6. Cohen has recorded two versions – the second one appeared on a live album in 1988 – with very different endings; one upbeat, one dark.
7. Buckley's version was used in the soundtrack to the American TV series, The OC.
8. Other TV shows to have used the song include The West Wing, ER, Scrubs, and Holby City.
9. The full version of the song has 15 verses.
10. Cohen, a notorious perfectionist, is said to have originally written 80 verses.
11. Cohen is set to earn £1 million in royalties from sales of singles by X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke.
12. Burke's version is the fastest selling download single in history.
13. Former Velvet Underground member John Cale's version was used in the film Shrek.
14. The Shrek soundtrack album featured a version by Rufus Wainwright, who also sang it in the Leonard Cohen tribute film, I'm Your Man.
15. Cohen was once asked why the song is so popular. "It's got a good chorus," he replied.
16. It has become a mainstay of live shows by Cohen's fellow Canadian singer-songwriter, kd lang.
17. The English singer and songwriter Kathryn Williams once introduced her version of Hallelujah in a live show by saying, "I really, really, really want to shag Leonard Cohen."
18. The song is broadcast at 2am every Saturday night by the Israeli defence force's radio channel.
19. Hallelujah is a Hebrew word, meaning "praise Yah".
20. Cohen has said of the song's meaning: "It explains that many kinds of hallelujahs do exist, and all the perfect and broken hallelujahs have equal value."
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It’s been a tremendous year for several Calgary, AB musicians and Women have been on the vanguard of a creative and thoroughly western wave. This sleepy little ditty is a gem of a song that seems to only get better with every listen. The vibes alone are simply transcendent. If Brian Wilson and Colin Newman were to get together and conceive of a song this could possibly be the result. Chad Van Gaalen produced their CD and his inspired imprint is really felt on this one. "Black Rice" is noisy and melodic, with a killer hook that will grab you from the start. This one is a welcome addition to my ever growing canon of favourite songs. Certainly my favourite of the year.
2. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
At the beginning of the year I had not heard of this remarkable Seattle quintet. As the year progressed though, Fleet Foxes turned out to be the proverbial band of the moment, and deservedly so. Their initial success was due in large part to this most enigmatic and intriguing single. In many ways "White Winter Hymnal" is a perfect song; highly mysterious, lyrically ambiguous and musically stunning. I still haven’t truly deciphered the lyrical meaning behind this song but that really doesn’t matter much. There’s no denying its intrinsic appeal is bound by its subtler beauties. Fleet Foxes will no doubt be a huge contender in the music world for years to come. It's kind of nice to be there at the start.
3. Frightened Rabbit - Keep Yourself Warm
I have always enjoyed this song but it was only this week that I realized the true appeal that this song possesses. (I must tell you, I only made this realization after listening at preposterous volume in my car as I drove to work.) The Scots in Frightened Rabbit have created a sing along song that is equal parts anthemic, traditional and very cathartic in its reach. What has become a concert highlight, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison's urgent vocals propels this song to classic status in its truest sense. Akin to the Pogue’s Fairytale of New York, a song for the ages. You might want to keep youngster out of the room when listening to this one. Cursing (with Scottish accent) at the top of my lungs has never been so fun.
4. Portishead – The Rip
Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead loved this song so much the two covered it on tour this year. The song also garnered a legion of music fans the world over in 2008 and resulted in much renewed interest for the moody Bristolian trio. "The Rip" is a song that seems as much of the moment as some alien transmission from another universe. Unhesitatingly cool and quite unlike anything else ot there this is pure icy Portishead and it’s a classic. Only Beth Gibbons is capable of conveying the true desolateness that this track possesses. In a brilliant return to form, Bristol’s Portishead have topped even themselves with this dark number. "The Rip" is a near perfect track from a near perfect album.
5. Brian Eno and David Byrne - Strange Overtones
Until this year it had been more than 25 years since this talented musical pairing’s last collaboration on the seminal My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album. Rather than duplicating their successful sampling framework employed in 1981, the two set out to use pure song craft as the essence of Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. The first single and quite possibly the best song on that record, “Strange Overtones” employs the best of both artists creative worlds with the result being their finest work in many years. Byrne’s contagious falsetto and bright guitar are what really set this one apart and perfectly encapsulates the “electronic gospel” themes the two sought to explore with the record. (According to my iTunes database this song is also my most frequently played song this year- A personal testimony of sorts to the appeal and quality of this remarkable piece.)
In a development that is equal parts mind boggling and seasonally heartening; Leonard Cohen’s anthemic song “Hallelujah” is set to become a Christmas Number 1 and Number 2 on British song charts. The Cohen song could become the first to occupy the top two slots in the prestigious UK charts. Thanks to the iTunes buying public and a clever Facebook group strategy the poet, novelist, songwriter, ladies man, fedora wearing, golden voiced, 74 year old Canadian legend may finally get his long deserved due (chart wise).
The 1984 anthem "Hallelujah" is set to make music chart history by becoming the first song to hit the top two slots at the same time. But alas, it’s not the Cohen version that is enchanting the masses. This time, it’s Alexandra Burke, who won ITV's X Factor final last week and whose cover of "Hallelujah" has already been downloaded more than 150,000 times since Saturday evening.
And second place is almost within the posthumous grasp of Jeff Buckley. The American singer-songwriter, who drowned in 1997, recorded what some believe to be the definitive version of Cohen's Old Testament-informed love song for his 1994 album Grace.
Such is the awe in which Buckley's cover is held that horrified fans from all over the world embarked on a Facebook campaign to get it to No. 1 as soon as it emerged that "Hallelujah" would be released as a single by the X Factor winner.
Last week their pleas had propelled the Buckley version to No. 30 on the strength of downloads alone, and yesterday an unofficial provisional "mid-week" chart suggested it had shot up to No 3. According to the figures, it was trailing Leona Lewis's cover of Run by Snow Patrol - last week's No. 1 single - by just under 10,000 sales.
The double honour, albeit one shared by Buckley and Burke, would crown a triumphant year for Cohen, which saw him forced into his first tour in 15 years after his former business manager allegedly misappropriated millions of dollars that he had put aside as his retirement fund. In March "the sexy septuagenarian" was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and ushered, officially, into "the highest and most influential echelon of songwriters". The cover bonanza should ease his financial pain a little, bringing in some huge royalties.
"Hallelujah" has already been reinterpreted by everyone from John Cale - whose take many purists judge to be the finest - to Rufus Wainwright, whose version graced the Shrek I Soundtrack.
Buckley’s cover of the song has garnered a great deal of critical acclaim since its release 14 years ago; Leonard Cohen, who originally wrote "Hallelujah", preferred it to his own version, Q Magazine voted it one of their ‘Top 10 Greatest Tracks’, branding it “as near perfect as you can get”, and Rolling Stone included it in a list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’.
Hallelujah indeed, thank God for small mercies. Don’t forget it was only a couple years ago that Crazy Frog - "Axel F" (a freaking ringtone) held the British holiday charts captive for what seemed an eternity.
Ding, ding... Here's to the arbiters of taste across the pond!
Monday, December 15, 2008
Confusing? Indeed. But I’ve sorted this out once and for all… We all know Thom, Paul, Matt and Jack would never have been so forward thinking without this fashion statement in 1981.
So thank you Mike Reno from Loverboy! We all owe YOU a big thanks for the red pants. Seems pretty clear to me. You can go after the others for royalties now.
**Uh oh Update - The hazy red pants plot continues. S'cuse me while I kiss this guy. (Thank you John Mutford)
Friday, December 12, 2008
I have to admit, I’ve been a little starved for Radiohead content of late. Probably because they were virtual fixtures in my posts this time last year. I happened upon this tonight and I think it’s well worth a few moments of your time. Japanese TV station WOWOW has a feature on their site that lets you mix a video of a live Radiohead performance wowow.co.jp from the Saitama Super Stadium leg of their 2008 Japanese tour. A set of quite aesthetic data visualizations accompanies this online music video mix tool.
The video interface allows you to choose from 12 colour-coded cameras to record your own "rainbow" (the song 15 Step is the opening track from Radiohead's In Rainbows album). You can then play back your edit by clicking and dragging the playhead in the timeline, or view charts of the most popular shots (click on the two buttons on the right side. There's some impressive juggling going on behind the scenes to keep the video playing as you hop from camera to camera. So this is your turn to be the director. Play around a little, it’s kind of fun. I couldn't figure out if there was a way to watch other people's edits or to share your edit, so if you figure it out let me know.
A new Arcade Fire website, Miroir Noir, has just been launched, and it’s set to feature exclusive clips from the Neon Bible tour. At the present time there’s just a brief clip on the site, but a 70-minute DVD documentary on the album and tour (also titled Miroir Noir) will be available for purchase on Monday December 15th). The live footage was all shot by Vincent Moon, who is known for his innovative work on the Blogotheque website and recently The National and R.E.M.
Oh and a note to Arcade Fire… Potential song title alert, “Keep the Jumper Cables Ready”.
Yep, it’s gonna be a cold winter…
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Eminem has always been relatively tortuous to my ears over the years but turning the channel or finding an alternative has always remedied the condition. Political detainees and prisoners in US run detention sites are not enjoying the same luxury. According to British organisation Reprieve, US military interrogators play tracks by artists such as Metallica, AC/DC, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and even Britney Spears at deafening volume to detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
Prominent rock bands such as Massive Attack, Rage Against the Machine and Elbow have joined forces with a legal charity to campaign against the use of music as a instrument of torture.
The music is blasted relentlessly in a bid to "break" prisoners, according to Reprieve, which says the practice continues despite a ban on the use of loud music in interrogations by the United Nations and European Court of Human Rights.
Using loud music "to create fear and disorient detainee(s) and prolong capture shock" was among a host of interrogation tactics authorised by then commander in Iraq Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez in a memo dated September 14, 2003.
Reprieve, which represents 33 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, teamed up with high-profile musicians to launch its Zero decibels project, Zero dB, on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The campaign urges supporters to help bring to an end the "brutal practice of music torture". It will feature minutes of silence during concerts and festivals while a petition will call on governments and the UN to uphold their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.
Musicians backing the initiative include Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, who at a recent concert suggested taking revenge on President George W. Bush by putting him in a cell and blasting his own band’s music at him.
According to Reprieve, some of the music used by interrogators is written for children. Christopher Cerf, who wrote music for Sesame Street, told the Associated Press he was horrified to learn songs from the children's show were used in interrogations. "I wouldn't want my music to be a party to that."
Binyam Mohamed, a Guantanamo inmate and former London resident, told Reprieve he suffered months of torture at the hands of CIA operatives while in a secret prison.
"There was loud music, (Eminem's) SlimShady and Dr. Dre for 20 days. I heard this nonstop over and over," he said. "The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night for the months before I left. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming
their heads off."
Other supporters of the campaign include Mercury Prize winners Elbow, The Magic Numbers, James Lavelle of UNKLE, comedian Bill Bailey and The Musicians' Union, which represents more than 30,000 musicians.
Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said: "The Bush Administration likes to paint this as harmless, like a prisoner being given an iPod.
"But Binyam Mohamed put it best when I spoke with him in Guantanamo Bay: 'Imagine you are given a choice,' he said. 'To lose your sight or lose your mind. While having your eyes gouged out would be horrendous, there is little doubt which you would choose.'"Most Frequently Played 'Torture' Songs played to detainees by US military interrogators in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, according to Reprieve:
Enter Sandman - Metallica
Bodies - Drowning Pool
Shoot to Thrill - AC/DC
Hell's Bells - AC/DC
I Love You - from the "Barney and Friends" children's TV show.
Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
Babylon - David Gray
White America - Eminem
Sesame Street - theme song from the children's TV show.
Other bands and artists whose music has been frequently played at U.S. detention sites: Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Don McLean, Lil' Kim, Limp Bizkit, Meat Loaf, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tupac Shakur.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
As we wind down the year with countless best of lists and recollections of the year in song it’s encouraging to see a steady stream of artists announcing plans to release new music for 2009. One of my personal favourites, The Decemberists just announced that they will return with another epic, story-driven album next spring in the form of Hazards of Love, due March 24th from the folks at Capitol.
The narrative this time around concerns the trials and tribulations of Margaret, her lover William, the queen of a spooky forest and a rake who interferes in it all. The 17-track piece was tied together with instrumental interludes under the direction of producer Tucker Martine.
What makes this release particularly appealing are the guest musicians featured on several songs. Among the guests on the album are My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Robyn Hitchcock, the Spinanes' Rebecca Gates, Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden. Very, very exciting stuff.
Hazards of Love is the follow-up to the band's major-label debut, 2006's The Crane Wife, which has sold a career-best 284,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
As I had written earlier, The Decemberists last week completed a three-volume singles series, Always the Bridesmaid, featuring songs the band "really loved but presciently felt they would not fit" on Hazards of Love.
Start saving your shekels now
The track list for Hazards of Love:
Hazards Of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
A Bower Scene
Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga)
Hazards Of Love 2 (Wager All)
The Queen's Approach
Isn't It A Lovely Night?
The Wanting Comes In Waves / Repaid
The Rake's Song
The Abduction Of Margaret
The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing
Margaret In Captivity
Hazards Of Love 3 (Revenge!)
The Wanting Comes In Waves" (Reprise)
The Hazards Of Love 4 (The Drowned)
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I really love McSweeney’s. Clever, clever writing that always hits its mark. This one, for list makers, music lovers, lovers, losers and everyone else. The most ingenious thing I have read this weekend.
I had no idea it was all this simple.
Read the whole thing here.
The Beatles, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
I want to do it with you.
Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On"
I want to do it with you.
Led Zeppelin, "Whole Lotta Love"
I want to do it with you.
Frank Sinatra, "Strangers in the Night"
I'm drunk and I want to do it with you.
Elvis Presley, "Hound Dog"
You're doing it with everyone.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Rob from London's Burgeoning Metropolis has asked me to compile my special list for his mega list Best of 2008. So forget the rules and regulations everyone, this Top Five List compiles the Best Reissued Music of 2008. A brief explanation will be included to allay that smidge of guilt I will no doubt feel in resurrecting this music from another time.
5. The Replacements Sorry Ma Forget to Take Out the Trash, Stink, Hootenanny, Let It Be, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me, Don't Tell a Soul, All Shook Down
The Replacements have always been near and dear to my rock n' roll heart and I have been waiting for someone to do this right for many years now. Rhino Records have though with this bevy of lavish reissues. It's not necessarily the remastering though that is the big draw this time though. In fact much to my chagrin, some even sound a little worse. (I'm looking at you Pleased to Meet Me). It is however the inclusion of a number of rare and unreleased bonus tracks that make these discs so very essential. Paul Westerberg's early solo home demo for 'You're Getting Married' from the Stink EP and the Alex Chilton produced bonus tracks on Tim really illuminate the greatness and true potential this band honestly possessed. So it's with a certain sense of pride that extensive versions of these albums are available for new fans to discover and old fans to love again. The fact that I can recommend them all testimony to their greatness.
4. Dennis Wilson Pacific Ocean Blue + Bambu (Caribou Sessions)
This record was one of my most highly anticipated releases this year and it did not fail to disappoint. Long out of print since its original release in 1980 this record finally got its due with this year's double cd package. True, in the thirty years since, Pacific Ocean Blue's reputation has risen with the Wilsonian superlatives lavished up on it by fans such as The Verve, Foo Fighters and The Charlatans. Similarly,unavailability has also played its part in ballooning the myth – Be assured though Pacific Ocean Blue meets and surpasses even the loftiest of sonic expectations.
Nearly twenty five years after Wilson's untimely death, we'll never know if this version of Bambu matched the creative vision of its creator but it does offer a rare glimpse into a profoundly creative mind. Bearing in mind the fact that this was the same album that had been left abandoned by Dennis himself a full four years before he died in 1983. For the ardent musicologist in all of us, this collection is a treasure, at last finding its rightful place in Dennis Wilson's legacy.
3. Pavement Brighten the Corners (Nicene Creedence Edition)
Matador Record's two-disc Nicene Creedence Edition of Pavement's seminal Brighten the Corners goes way beyond the original 12-song release, adding a whopping 31 additional cuts: Including outtakes, B-sides, compilation tracks, and live radio sessions, all of them top-notch. (When I do my top five song title list "Neil Hagerty Meets Jon Spencer in a Non-Alcoholic Bar" will surely be first and foremost.)
I recall very well when the original release of this album graced my ears. By then Pavement had perfected their slacker ideology with their clever mélange of idiosyncrasy and competence. These guys were such a huge influence on indie music for years since. I've always considered them to be this continent's version of the Fall. High praise, trust me, Mark E. Smith is a demigod in my books.
So get out the air guitar and go Guitar Hero over the seven-minute "And Then (The Hexx)". Pure ‘postmetallifunkyslackersabbathjam’ goodness!
2. R.E.M. Murmur (Deluxe Edition)
You know how sometimes you get that little burst of adrenalin when you get some good news about something you really love. Well I got that rush when I heard about this records impending reissue. When I actually heard it though, it was a whole new ballgame. Hearing this reissue was like hearing it for the first time just like I did over twenty five years ago. Pristine, mysterious and jaw droppingly good. But the real bonus here is the oft bootlegged live cd from Larry's Hideaway in Toronto. - This generation's artistic equivalent to Live at Leeds by the Who. (THIS SHOW IS JUST THAT GOOD.)
I could write an essay on the importance of this CD in my musical pedigree but this time I defer to you the listener to discover its riches. It rarely gets better than this.
1. Otis Redding Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Collector's Edition)
On July 10, 1965, Otis Redding took only 24 hours to record ten of the eleven songs that would make up Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, arguably the 1960s' greatest studio-recorded soul LP. Allow me to amend that. It may be one of the last century’s greatest recorded LP’s.
This is unquestionably Redding's crowning achievement. The sprawling two CD Collector's Edition of Otis Blue really helps to illuminate that contention. This amazing package includes rarities, live versions of the album tracks, alternate mixes, and the original LP in both mono and stereo. It was pure bliss to discover anew the magic that lies within this record. Not unlike the more extensive Beach Boys - Pet Sounds Boxed Set this release goes a long way in explaining the back story of this legendary musician.
The music on this disc will affect the way you listen to and interpret music. "Change Gonna Come", Redding's cover of Sam Cooke's now timely civil rights anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come", is the real gem of this package. Emotional, raw and so extraordinarily passionate the hair on the back of your neck will stand on end when you hear it.
For an album that took one day to create is still a stunning revelation to me- Testimony to the inimitable soul and sublime talent of Otis Redding. This record needs to be in everyone's collection. It deserves reverence, it deserves love. It is a blueprint for all of us to do just that.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Odetta will be remembered not only as a great and influential folk singer but also as one of the true pioneers of the early civil rights movement.
Plenty of Canadian connections on this one too: Middle Cyclone was produced by Case with Darryl Neudorf and recorded in Tucson, Brooklyn, Toronto, and Vermont. It features Case backed by her core band - guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, backing vocalist Kelly Hogan, multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse, and drummer Barry Mirochnick - along with numerous guests including M. Ward, Garth Hudson, Sarah Harmer, and members of The New Pornographers, Los Lobos, Calexico, The Sadies, Visqueen, The Lilys, and Giant Sand, among others. In addition to twelve new songs written by Case, Middle Cyclone includes covers of ‘Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth’ by Sparks, and “Don’t Forget Me” by Harry Nilsson. The woman could not have been any more inspired by those choices of songs to ‘Nekotize’.
See you at the record store. I’ll be the one first in line.
Tracklisting for Middle Cyclone
01. This Tornado Loves You
02. The Next Time You Say Forever
03. People Got A Lotta Nerve
04. Polar Nettles
05. Vengeance Is Sleeping
06. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
07. Middle Cyclone
09. Magpie To The Morning
10. I’m An Animal
11. Prison Girls
12. Don’t Forget Me
13. The Pharaohs
14. Red Tide
15. Marais La Nuit
Click here for a little Christmas bonus from the good people at ANTI Records.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I was saddened to learn yesterday that CTVglobemedia's cuts announced last week included the demise of the venerable NewMusic. The music and pop culture show had its start in 1979 on CityTV and was a legend in broadcast circles around the world for its part in launching new bands and the careers of a score of TV hosts and presenters.
The show was an incredibly influential vehicle for Canadians, (myself proudly included) with its mix of straight up rock journalism and new artist profiles. I will never forget Jeanne Beker’s coverage of the 1979 Clash show at the O’Keefe Centre in Toronto. Or her interview with a quite inebriated Iggy Pop that quite literally disintegrated almost immediately. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with music and the business and stories around it.
Alumni of the NewMusic, include the aforementioned Jeanne Beker, now the host of Fashion Television, John (J.D.) Roberts, who is now an anchor at CNN, Denise Donlon, executive director of CBC Radio and George Stroumboulopoulos, host of CBC’s The Hour.
Always ahead of its time the NewMusic raised the bar for music journalism around the world. The show oozed of credibility and was always thrilling to watch. This highly influential show will be missed. Let’s just hope they don’t replace the time slot with some Paris Hilton reality shite.
Monday, December 1, 2008
This has been an exceptional year for terrific music and I’ve made a number of great discoveries. Recurring favourites also made the grade. Such is the case for my highly coveted Number One. In truth it could not have been any closer. Fleet Foxes debut release is an absolute gem. Those gentle harmonies and Appalachian rhythms positively sublime. But it was Rook that consistently drew my utmost respect with every listen. I know very well that that Shearwater disc will be playing repeatedly even five years from now. Beautiful, sublime and perfect. A record for the ages.
I’ll break down some of my choices over the next couple of weeks and explain some of my rationale for selection and omission(s).
20. Jay Reatard Matador Singles ‘08
19. Deerhunter Microcastle/ Weird Era
18. Women Women
17. Chad Van Gaalen The Soft Airplane
16 (a). Mount Eerie And Julie Doiron Lost Wisdom
16 (b). Arthur Russell Love is Overtaking Me
15. Vivian Girls Vivian Girls
14. Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend
13. The Mountain Goats Heretic Pride
12. Little Joy Little Joy
11. Blitzen Trapper Furr
10. Laura Marling Alas, I Cannot Swim
9. Frightened Rabbit The Midnight Organ Fight
8. Mogwai The Hawk Is Howling
7. Autechre Quaristice
6. Portishead Third
5. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!
4. Department Of Eagles In Ear Park
3. Okkervil River The Stand-Ins
2. Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes
1. Shearwater Rook
Friday, November 28, 2008
The definitive “Everything is Pop” list of the Best Music of 2008 continues. Contentious? Perhaps… All part of the seasonal fun. Another twenty listed as we edge towards the elusive Number One CD of the year.
40. Plants And Animals Parc Avenue
39. Black Mountain In The Future
38. Drive By Truckers Brighter Than Creations Dark
37. The Felice Brothers The Felice Brothers
36. Elliot Brood Mountain Meadows
35. Giant Sand Provisions
34. Sun Kil Moon/ Mark Kozelek April / Nights
33. Bon Iver For Emma, Long Ago
32. Bowerbirds Hymns For a Dark Horse
31. Lykke Li Youth Novels
30. Monkey Journey to the West
29. Goldfrapp Seventh Tree
28. Santogold Santogold
27. Gang Gang Dance St. Dymphna
26. Matmos Supreme Balloon
25. High Places High Places
24. Windy and Carl Songs For The Broken Hearted
23. Boris Smile
22. No Age Nouns
21. Atlas Sound Let the Blind Lead Those Who Cannot See
20 – 1 Monday
Thursday, November 27, 2008
60. Silver Jews Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea
59. Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks Real Emotional Trash
58. The Kills Midnight Boom
57. TV On The Radio Dear Science
56. Ra Ra Riot The Rhumb Line
55. Islands Arm’s Way
54. Wolf Parade At Mount Zoomer
53. Los Campesinos! Hold On Now Youngster…
52. The Cool Kids The Bake Sale EP
51. Steinski What Does It All Mean?
50. Neon Neon Stainless Style
49. The Last Shadow Puppets The Age Of The Understatement
48. Deerhoof Offend Maggie
47. Dirty Projectors The Believer 2008 Music Issue
46. Hercules And Love Affair Hercules And Love Affair
45. Crystal Castles Crystal Castles
44. Fuck Buttons Street Horrrsing
43. M83 Saturdays=Youth
42. Fourtet Ringer EP
41. The Notwist The Devil, You + Me
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
As a prodigious list maker my life interests always seem to get ranked at the end of every year. Music of course is no exception and my little obsession is your gain. On the upside too it’s also a lot more exciting than ranking my favourite vegetables. I'm Just saying…
This year I’m going to attempt this early to ward off potential ‘compendi-contamination’ from the myriad of sources that compile and rank the best music of the year. I’ll present twenty titles at a time to draw this one out and build some anticipation.
Rankings are based solely on my personal assessment of the relative artistic and creative merit of each piece. In most cases reissues are not included.
So, without further adieu and my sincere apologies if I contaminate your list with my rankings.
The 80 best CD’s of 08.
As always commentary and fishes are welcome and can be left below.
80. Liam Finn I’ll Be Lightning
79. Destroyer Trouble In Dreams
78. She And Him Volume One
77. The Walkmen You And Me
76. R.E.M. Accelerate
75. Ry Cooder I, Flathead
74. Forest City Lovers Haunting Moon Sinking
73. DeVotchKa A Mad And Faithful Telling
72. Sigur Ros Með Suð I Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
71. Hauschka Ferndorf
70. The Jealous Girlfriends The Jealous Girlfriends
69. Angela Desveaux The Mighty Ship
68. Bonnie Prince Billy Lie Down In the Light
67. Calexico Carried To Dust
66. The War On Drugs Wagonwheel Blues
65. Flying Lotus Los Angeles
64. Adem Takes
63. Juana Molina Un Dia
62. David Byrne And Brian Eno Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
61. Lambchop Oh (Ohio)
CD's 60 - 41 tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
That in mind, the following was the promise I recently made on Barbara’s blog after she invited me to provide six song titles for her aural mélange.
Here are my six official choices for the GMMP Eargasm Mix. All of these songs are capable of whisking me off to that special sublime place that only music can seem to do.FOREPLAY
Bob Dylan – “Simple Twist of Fate”
Paul Westerberg – “It’s a Wonderful Lie”
Neko Case – “Deep Red Bells”
Loose Fur – “Elegant Transaction”
Sonic Youth – “I Love You Golden Blue”
Roberta Flack – “Angelitos Negros”
I look forward to writing a more detailed synopsis of each, explaining the ‘secret of the song’.
Thanks for this opportunity. It was great, slightly torturous fun!
In order to understand my song selections a brief preamble is necessary. This will help to put these songs into some form of context. First though, full disclosure is also necessary- Soooo... For the record, I am a bit of a walking ‘music lover’ cliché. I love to make top five music lists, to compile soundtracks for non-existent movies and to generally annoy my friends with all forms of musical minutiae. I have in fact considered a variant of Barbara’s theme in the past and the short compendium is part of that larger song cycle.*
All of these songs have their birth in a singular image. The flipside cover of Leonard Cohen’s 1969 album Songs From a Room. It’s always been one of my favourite pictures because of the incredible back story it elicits. It has very real sense of pure intimacy that has always resonated with me. The equally evocative songs on the record are all emotionally honest statements that lay bare, the soul of the artist. And therein lays the key to understanding my small compendium. Musically speaking, these are all balanced and simple songs that use the voice and music of the performer to convey honesty and varied emotional states in their song craft. But these are the ones that do it so very, very well.
At least to this listener they do.
THE JOY OF SONGS
Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate”
He woke up, the room was bare
He didn't see her anywhere.
He told himself he didn't care, pushed the window open wide,
Felt an emptiness inside to which he just could not relate
There has been a lot said of Dylan’s voice over the years. I like to think it has aged very well and has always suited his ever evolving musical intent. There is a lot of frustration in his voice in this particular piece. From deep growl to a soaring chorus the dual reality of every relationship is encapsulated in this song. (Key eargasmic moment - 2:30 the final stanza above.)
Paul Westerberg’s “It’s a Wonderful Lie”
No, the common theme is not Minnesota singer songwriters, although it could be. (Mr. Zimmerman and Paulie do share a home state.) No, once again it’s about the feeling. This song is like a cigarette in bed. (Paul Westerberg has always allowed me to live a slightly illicit lifestyle without the annoying smokers cough and cirrhosis of the liver.) A reassuring number that tells us even the beautiful loser is as much capable of love as being loved. This song makes no pretense and has such a real honesty, its simple reassurances perhaps a little hope for all of us. It saves me every time. (Key eargasmic moment – 0:45 torn and tattered soul)
Neko Case’s “Deep Red Bells” has always been a revelation to me. Capable of taking me places without even leaving my chair. It is a song that is equal parts strength and vulnerability. It is representative of the singer herself. On this song, her vocal style moves away from outright honky-tonk but retains her heavenly twang. Patsy Cline meets Johnny Cash I think. “Deep Red Bells” is a confident song that soars to lofty emotional heights and literally stops me in my tracks whenever I hear it. (Key eargasmic moment – 0:49 “popsicles in summer”. Mmmmm, near perfect.)
Loose Fur’s “Elegant Transaction”
And don’t strike a conversation with a cigarette
Like an old flame, burned up, and out of breath
For those who don’t know, this is another of Jeff Tweedy’s (Wilco) solo projects. The cleverly named (Lu- ci- fer) comprised of Tweedy, Wilco drummer Glen Koetche and musician extraordinaire, Jim O’Rourke have made two wonderful albums to date. It is this songs spidery cool that evokes decidedly warm moonlit nights and slow dancing with someone you love. The songs call and response chorus builds throughout to give it a real daydream like feel. Like a countrified version of Steely Dan. (Key eargasmic moment – 0:20 oh those harmonies.)
Sonic Youth’s “I Love You Golden Blue”
This song has always been a breath of fresh air to me and has always suggested a certain reawakening of the senses. It feels like one of those warm breezes that feel so completely out of place on an April day. Kim Gordon’s breathy vocals on this one sends shivers down my neck and reminds me of one of those bright and yellowy spring days. (Key eargasmic moment – 2:45 Just like that palpable moment of joy when you feel the sun under that bluer than blue sky.)
Roberta Flack’s “Angelitos Negros”
I always seem to confound the guy at the record store when I purchase a Roberta Flack CD. But losing my cool “indie cred” is well worth it for this amazing artist. It is her voice though that touches every emotion I have ever known. Chan Marshall (Cat Power) recently covered the same song on the deluxe edition of her latest covers cd Jukebox. In all honesty it’s Flack’s vocal take in Spanish that truly affects me. I do not speak Spanish and yet the complex emotions of the song are conveyed in her melodious and full voice that transcends entirely the barrier of translation. (Key Eargasmic Moment - THE WHOLE SONG)
Now it’s up to you. Head over to I, Splotchy and check out some of the entries from the other participants and immerse your ears and soul in something new you may not have heard before. It's well worth your time!
Thank you to Barbara and Michael for allowing me to participate in this. It's been great fun.
* The absent songs that buffer this collection are just as telling but not included as to meet the stringent regulations of the Green Monkey Project: Leonard Cohen’s “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” at the start, Iggy and the Stooges “Loose” at the end. “Loose” without a doubt the best closer to this set. Not part of my list but representative of the full circle this song cycle represents. The sum of all the parts if you will. Iggy’s catlike, high strung personae on full tilt mode here, and ready to pounce with claws ready.
Friday, November 21, 2008
The ruling overturns an earlier decision against producer Moses Pelham's use of a short sample from Metal on Metal. The brief sample appeared in the rhythm section of a song Pelham produced for German rapper Sabrina Setlur. Judges in Berlin said the two second extract did not infringe copyright, as his song was substantially different.
The move will come as a blow to artists who object to rivals using samples of their work to create new songs.
Kraftwerk's case was originally heard in a state court in Hamburg. It ruled in Kraftwerk's favour and said reusing even the shortest bit of a song infringed copyright.
In light of today's ruling, the Hamburg court will now have to take up the case again.
Personally, the decision seems to make a lot of sense and is reflective of a much more reasonable approach than say the present North American judiciary view. As always though, I welcome your comments and viewpoints on this divisive issue.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Then again, maybe it's just me... It's streaming here and for the record, trainwreck curiosity drew me to the site.
Hell hath frozen over folks and the end of days is upon us. Chinese Democracy arrives in stores on Sunday so you probably won't have time to get those corn row braids; But at least we get a free Dr. Pepper.
**UPDATE** For fans of Canadian Football - Chinese Democracy has become the “official soundtrack” to the 2008 Grey Cup. On Sunday (November 23), Gun N’ Roses’ ridiculously long-awaited album will be featured throughout the Grey Cup broadcast, with several tracks being televised nationally on TSN and RDS.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
In order to fully dominate the Christmas season…Colbert style, the Colbert Report anchor is unleashing his lethal 1-2 punch of both a TV special and holiday album at the same time.
The Christmas special. A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! is a one-hour original musical holiday special. It premieres on Sunday, November 23 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on COMEDY CENTRAL. (I will update with Canadian times and dates when I have those. The musical companion EP of the same name will be available on iTunes.)
In the special, Colbert is on his way to meet with Elvis Costello in New York City but is snowed-in at his cabin in upstate New York (bear country). He weathers through the storm with help from his friends Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend, Willie Nelson and Jon Stewart. Yes Jon Stewart sings!
Tracklisting for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All! EP
1 "Another Christmas Song" – Stephen Colbert
2 "Have I Got A Present For You" – Toby Keith
3 "The Little Dealer Boy" – Stephen Colbert and Willie Nelson
4 "Can I Interest You In Hannukah" – Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart
5 "Nutmeg" – Stephen Colbert and John Legend
6 "Please Be Patient" – Feist
7 "There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In" – Stephen Colbert and Elvis Costello
8 "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love And Understanding" – Stephen Colbert, Elvis Costello, Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend and Willie Nelson
The songs were produced by Adam Schlesinger(Fountains of Wayne) and Steven M. Gold. Theme music and score also by Schlesinger and Gold. The bonus features on the DVD include a book burning Yule log, video advent calendar, alternate endings and more.
Both the digital-only EP and DVD will be available on November 25th!
Proceeds from the sales of A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All! will go to www.feedingamerica.org
Monday, November 17, 2008
Now that the Hallowe’en candies have all been eaten, it’s time to concentrate on the next big holiday that is not Grey Cup or American Thanksgiving. Try to deny it all you like, but you know Christmas is fast approaching. So before you start getting dragged off to mind-numbingly boring office parties or over to your next door neighbour’s place where you will be forced to make small talk in a living room that smells of hamster bedding while you participate in your block’s annual burnt cookie exchange, we’d like to invite you to observe the season with something that’s actually fun.
Barbara of Bad Tempered Zombie and I have been musing lately about the delightful and clever bloggers that we have been fortunate enough to become friends with over the years, and how much fun it would be to hang out with everybody over the holidays. But since our table-top cloning machines are currently in for repairs, showing up at everybody’s house with a couple of bottles of wine and a sleeping bag is not an option.
But we can invite you to participate in a Secret Santa exchange.
And since we are both a little music-obsessed and abhor going into stores at the best of times, let alone during the nutty season, we’d like to put two conditions on this exchange. Gifts must be music-themed and they must be handcrafted. How that manifests itself is completely dependent on how Santa interprets it.
For example, your gift could certainly be a mix cd or dvd, but it could also be a song written for the giftee, or a painting, or a story, or a collection of poems. You might put together a collage of photos of your giftee’s favourite band, or even build them a musical instrument. The possibilities are endless. Just be creative! At the end of this we’ll throw a blog on the virtual fire and marvel at one another’s clever handiwork. (Do feel free to include some delicious bonbons to round out your special package as well as most of our Hallowe’en supplies have long since been picked over.)
If you would like to join us, just email us your mailing addresses before midnight on Thursday, November 27/08. We will randomly match up the participants and send you the particulars that weekend. You have to promise to send your parcels out in a timely fashion, though, so that they will arrive during the holiday season, not mid February or something lame like that.
You don’t want to miss out on this, and you only have ten days to get in on the action, so send your mailing address to either:
Sean (sean dot thisispop at gmail dot com)
Barbara (bbruederlin at shaw dot ca)
We hope you’ll join us. It won’t be any fun without you.