La Sera - Break My Heart

Sic Alps - Glyphs

This is Pop Download-o-rama

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Designated Blogger - Volume IV

Designated blogger duty from Number One Son celebrating Post #200 of this year. Happy New Year to everyone. Here's hoping you find a little "medicine" this evening as well.

Thanks for reading!

I Spy With My Little Eye

New Release News for 2009

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

One More for the Holidays

The Acorn Offer Tasty and Free Downloadables

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.

WWSVLT? (What Would Sarah Vowell Listen To?)

So I kinda figured it was time this "slack ass blogger" put down the figgy pudding and actually posted something. So for anyone still out there reading this blog, a public service announcement of sorts.

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.

Yes it will all make complete sense, I promise. You can check out her five-song tracklist and the show's transcript here, and download the full episode MP3 from KCRW (it's about ten minutes long) here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The spirit of giving continues with two tasty recommendations for the discriminating Everything is Pop reader. First up is CBC Radio 2 Presentation of Tortoise at the 2008 Guelph Jazz Festival. Regretfully this “Concert on Demand” is only streaming on the Radio 2 Website but it is worth a listen. The recording is pristine and features a number of new tracks from Tortoises' forthcoming 2009 release. I attended this concert and it truly was one of my live music highlights of 2008.

Link here.

Next up is something you can indeed download to your MP3 appliance of choice. The fine folks at Merge Records are offering a sampler of some of their best music of 2008. Everyone from Lambchop to the Rosebuds to Conor Oberst is featured on this one. Well worth your downloading time and perfect for those last minute trips of traipsing through the mall. Please note that you will have to provide an email address to register for the download.

Link here.

Yes Mr. Cohen, There is a Santa Claus

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

Everything is Pop - Songs of the Year 2008

1. WomenBlack Rice

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. PortisheadThe 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.)

But You Don't Really Care for Music, Do You?

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

Oh Brother Where Art Thou Sisterhood of the Travelling Red Pants?

To Barbara, the Bad Tempered Zombie, my most sincere blogger apologies. I erroneously reported that Thom Yorke (of Radiohead fame) had “borrowed” the red pants "2008 fashion statement" from the Paul Westerberg "2005 "fashion statement". The tale got even more convoluted when Bloody Awful Poetry stated that Matt Bellamy frontman of Muse had stolen the look from Thom Yorke.

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

Sooo Kid A… You Wanna Be In Rainbows?

UPDATE: No luck on being able to widgetize and download your edit. It is still an interesting exercise mind you. I'll keep working on it.

And for the record, I think it was this guy that had the idea first.

Well kind of.

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 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.

Miroir Noir – The Arcade Fire to Release Documentary DVD

Ahhhhhh Canadian winters; Lots of snow, lots of rain, lots of ice, lots of salt stains and lots of tears. All right the last one is my own addition and my own personal demon. I wrestle with it annually. (I really, really dislike winter you see.) Alas, I digress but thankfully some respite from the snow and winds came in the guise of this recent news. Seems the members of the Arcade Fire are bracing for a cold winter in Montreal, where they are contemplating the follow up to their hugely successful Neon Bible album. (I think I just figured out the concept behind “Keep the Car Running”). Unfortunately for fans there are no current tour dates scheduled for the band, but anyone looking for a memento from their most last international trek is in luck.

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

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the iTree

Guest blogger duties from Jack tonight. Let's hope Steve Jobs doesn't get a hold of this one.

Then again... (Nah, I have a hard enough time sharing my earbuds.)

Aural Bamboo Shoots

Bands Complain About Their Songs Being Used in Torture

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."

The U.S. military believes it's a non-violent way to create fear and disorient those behind attacks on its soldiers and other innocent people. But musicians are horrified that their work is being used for such a purpose and they've started an online petition demanding it be stopped.

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.

Christmas Bonus Part Two

Another Christmas bonus from the people at 4ad. Highly recommended this one contains a number of my favourite songs of the year. From Atlas Sound to Department of Eagles this one is well worth your downloading time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cautionary Tales from the Decemberists

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
An Interlude
The Rake's Song
The Abduction Of Margaret
The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing
Annan Water
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

When All is Said and Done

Fifty Years of Popular Songs Condensed Into Single Sentences - Marc Haynes

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

List Season Continues- The Best Reissued Music of 2008

Every year a veritable plethora of great music is virtually ignored by list-makers, bloggers, and arbiters of taste. This music, although loved by many is excluded largely due to its familiarity. I'm talking about the often 'list maligned' CD reissue. Heck, admit it... We all buy them. We buy them in droves in fact, largely because we love the originals so passionately.

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

RIP Odetta - December 31, 1930 - December 2, 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.

It’s a Great Day After All – New Neko in March

It’s been a couple of years now since Neko Case’s terrific album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood graced our collective ears so news today that the follow-up album, due in March 2009 is welcome news. The divine Ms. Case has released details of her new record, Middle Cyclone. Officially out on March 3, on ANTI Records the 15 track release promises to be stunning if the brilliant cover art is any indication.

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
08. Fever
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

The End of the NewMusic

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

Best Music of 2008 - Part Four (Final)

At last, the final twenty (one) best CD’s of 2008. Observant readers will note the tie at number 16 this year. (Mathematics, regulations and overt sentimentality were the cause…)

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