Saturday, June 30, 2007

Every Night My Dream's The Same

The great John Peel may not be around to preside any longer, but the BBC still hauls the best bands in the world into its Maida Vale studio to record sessions that put American radio to shame. Last Thursday, BBC Radio 2 broadcast the Arcade Fire's visit to Maida Vale, recorded before a small audience on June 19. The band -- which already has a reputation for knocking radio sessions clean out of the park -- turned in another spectacular performance, and since it's a recording most of our readers would never get to hear otherwise (do you Brits know how lucky you are?), I thought I'd toss it up for your weekend pleasure.

ARCADE FIRE - BBC Studios, Maida Vale, London - June 19, 2007

01 intro
02 Keep The Car Running
03 No Cars Go
04 Haiti
05 interview pt. 1
06 Black Mirror
07 Neon Bible
08 interview pt. 2
09 Intervention
10 Antichrist Television Blues
11 interview pt. 3
12 Neighborhood No. 3 (Power Out) > Rebellion (Lies)

BONUS: Video of the performance is here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Moon Over Bourbon Street

Mrs. Rich and I are scooting out of town and heading over to the Big Easy to see The Police on Saturday night. Looking forward to hitting Mother's and maybe Emeril's NOLA too. I've been back to the Mississippi Coast since Katrina, but not to New Orleans. We were last there about a month before the storm, so this could be bittersweet. Check this space for an update. In the meantime, here's a blast from the past, back from when Gordon Sumner and co. were still lean and mean.

MP3: The Police - "Next To You" (Live)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It Takes Two, When It Used To Take One

Big ups to Rich for keeping the TTT flame burning while I labor in my private little work hell. High on the agenda, when I come up for air, will be some discussion of the new Ryan Adams record, Easy Tiger, which came out Tuesday. For now, enjoy this clip of a shockingly scrubbed and clean-cut Ry-Ry with The Cardinals on the Letterman show last night, doing "Two" from the new disc. About which, much more later.

And the next boot, promise.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You Don't Know What Love Is

Note: This is the obligatory White Stripes review that all music bloggers are required by law to post. For those of you who may live in a cave, The White Stripes released a new album last week, entitled Icky Thump. I don't want to spend too much time on this, for several reasons (ahem):

1. The White Stripes' record label has specifically asked us not to post any mp3s from this record. The White Stripes do not need any help from bloggers promoting this record, and I do not say that sarcastically;

2. Most of you reading this blog purchased this record approximately the day that it came out, have probably listened to it approximately twice as many times as I have, and could probably write a review that is approximately five times better than this one; and

3. This record is so good that not that much needs to be said about it.

First off, a confession. Although a big fan of White Blood Cells, I was actually beginning the process of writing them off after their last record, Get Behind Me Satan. I know it's blasphemy, but the Stripes were really beginning to sound like something of a novelty act to me. Having heard some good hype for Icky Thump though, I figured I'd check it out. Damn. This is one outstanding record. In the words of my friend Scott, "It's got bagpipes, man. Bagpipes!" That, it does -- on the folkish "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn" and Meg's fever dream "St. Andrew (The Battle Is In The Air)" -- bagpipes and so much more.

The widely-distributed title track is classic Stripes, but Stripes on steroids. This record is Jack and Meg writ large, with enough depth of sound that one hardly notices the drums/guitar-only novelty of their act (is it my imagination, or has Meg, like, really improved on the kit?). Of course, there's a fair amount of White Stripes eccentricity here as well; most notably, on the mariachi-inspired "Conquest", which Time magazine stupidly criticized as an "album-stopper," but is actually an excellent example of the quirkiness that sets the Stripes apart.

Other standouts include the Zepplinesque "Bone Broke," the outstanding headbanger "Little Cream Soda" (how can you not love the "oh well, oh well" lyric?), the blues ballbreaker "Rag and Bone" ("Meg, look at this place . . . this place is like a mansion!"), and the classically simple "Effect and Cause," which may be the best modern protest song that I've heard, even though that certainly is not its overt premise. Oh, and don't forget the psychobilly "Baby Brother," which I would probably post, if I could. But I can't, so I won't. Whatever, I still love this record.

Okay, I've already gone on longer than I intended. The White Stripes don't need us to help sell their record -- their record company has told us so. But this Icky Thump is good shit, what can we say . . .

YouTube: The White Stripes - "Icky Thump" from Icky Thump

Monday, June 25, 2007

Meet John Doe

In general, people are not yet speaking of John Doe as an American treasure. Someday, that will certainly change, because he certainly is. Like Joe Strummer, John Doe, leader of the seminal L.A. punk band X, arose in the midst of the punk zeitgeist, but has always tapped into a far deeper vein of musical tradition than was initially superficially evident. Unlike the Clash, whose wheels came off at the height of their powers, X jumped the shark (see their 80s Hollywood-inspired cover of "Wild Thing") and kept going well past their prime. Nevertheless, John Doe deserves status as an elder statesman of American rock.

Following the end of X, John Doe quietly kept at it, finding his post-punk, alt-country-ish voice in a series of solo albums, the most recent of which, A Year In The Wilderness, beautifully paints a picture of Americana. On it, Doe ranges from the sublime ("The Golden State") to the earthy ("Unforgiven") and all blues-folk points in between. On the former, Doe is joined spectacularly by the great Kathleen Edwards, who plays a solid post-X Exene Cervenka. Also sharing duet duties are Aimee Mann and regular Lloyd Cole collaborator Jill Sobule.

While many of the songs on Wilderness would not sound out of place on records by say, Wilco or The Jayhawks (e.g., "Darling Underdog" or "A Little More Time"), a few are vintage John Doe, and could have been the staples of a modern-day X record (for example, the spooky "Hotel Ghost"). Some are just flat out rockers -- check out the bluesy stomper "There's A Hole," complete with rockabilly reverb on the vocals and mean slide guitar, and the celebratory "Lean Out Your Window," which makes for a killer last song of the last encore of the night.

John Doe certainly deserves discussion as an American icon, and A Year In The Wilderness certainly deserves your consideration.

MP3: John Doe - "Darling Underdog" from A Year In The Wilderness

YouTube: John Doe (w/ Cindy Wasserman) - "The Golden State"

Friday, June 22, 2007

Side With The Seeds

You guys should know by now that we can never post about Wilco just once. Plus, it's been another crazy week, with precious little time for TTT, and I hate to start the weekend without providing some musical accompaniment. So, to close out our personal week of Wilco goodness -- and after this, we promise to move along to other things (for a while, anyway) -- here's their performance on NPR's World Cafe that aired last Friday, June 15, recorded at the WXPN studios in Philadelphia. Four tunes, with Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline interviewed in between by host David Dye. Enjoy.

01 intro
02 Side With The Seeds
03 interview
04 Muzzle of Bees
05 interview
06 Sky Blue Sky
07 interview
08 What Light
09 outro

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Maybe The Sun Will Shine Today

So, it was a big day for Team TTT yesterday, as we got to knock off work early and attend Wilco's pre-show soundcheck. Then, after dinner and a few too many drinks, we headed back to Chastain Park Amphitheatre for the show itself, which was fantastic despite the 2-hour downpour that seemed to have been choreographed with Wilco's set. In fact, the soundcheck was cut short when lightning started to pop overhead after 30 minutes or so. But I did manage to snap a few crappy pictures before the lightning sent the band scurrying, and us to kill the next 3 hours with pitchers of Margaritas.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ever Present Past

I suppose it's something of a curse for Paul McCartney -- sorry, Sir Paul -- that he can never release a record and have it judged on its own merits instead of compared to glories past. Hey, I revere the man, but I'm as guilty about that as the next guy. So, while I can't say, unconditionally, that I think Memory Almost Full is a really good album, I can say that -- with a judicious bit of editing -- it's his best collection since 1997's Flaming Pie, and just maybe since Flowers In The Dirt in 1989.

First, let's dispense with the editing. The record is bookended by two songs that leave me reaching for the "skip" button. Leadoff track "Dance Tonight" is inoffensive, but also utterly inconsequential, with a simplistic melody and "tonight/alright/shout/about" rhyme scheme that my 10-year-old son could have whipped up. It's not awful -- and for some reason it's been deemed sufficiently charming to be selected as the first single -- but this is one of the three or four greatest composers in pop history we're talking about here, and I think it's beneath him. Meanwhile, the final track, "Nod Your Head," is just awful -- a mindless, misguided stab at thrash rock that only succeeds in making the great man sound clueless and out-of-touch.

But with those two exceptions, the remainder of Memory Almost Full is surprisingly strong, and in places even excellent. "Ever Present Past" -- which I hear as alluding, at least in part, to the very curse I mentioned above -- is quirky, catchy pop in the tradition of McCartney, McCartney II and some of the other solo work on which McCartney has written and played almost every note. "Only Mama Knows" is a terrific rocker, with an "Eleanor Rigby" string intro, and a sweet four-step chord change leading into the choruses that is vintage Macca magic. Elsewhere, songs like "You Tell Me" are potent reminders of what a great acoustic balladeer McCartney has always been. And the record closes -- barring the aforementioned abomination of a final track -- with an Abbey Road-style suite of songs that is consistently melodic, engaging and worthy of repeated spins, and in which the famous McCartney scream -- the voice he used on songs like "Helter Skelter" and "Oh! Darling" -- is revealed to remain in fine form at age 64 (now 65, as of today -- Happy Birthday, Paul). If you're not feeling nostalgic and genuinely touched by the time you get to "The End Of The End," another lovely ballad on which McCartney foresees his own passage to the "much better place" that John and George got to first, then you need to have your vitals checked.

MP3: Paul McCartney - "Only Mama Knows" from Memory Almost Full

BONUS: Writer John Colapinto talks about MAF and interviewing McCartney for a recent profile in The New Yorker.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Can't Hardly Wait

JASON ISBELL - "Chicago Promenade" from Sirens Of The Ditch, out on July 10

THE MAGIC NUMBERS - "This Is A Song" from Those The Brokes, out on July 17 (in the U.S. -- out long ago in the U.K.)

IRON AND WINE - "Boy With A Coin" from Shepherd's Dog, out on September 25 [removed at label's request]

Friday, June 15, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 13: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Just In Time For Summer (Cleveland 1978) - Part 2 of 2

As promised, here's the third and final disc of the 1978 Springsteen boot, Just In Time For Summer. The first two discs, artwork and back story are here.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND - Just In Time For Summer - Live at the Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH, August 9, 1978

Disc 3:
01 Denny Sanders intro > 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)
02 Born To Run
03 Because The Night
04 Raise Your Hand > Kid Leo signoff
05 WMMS Station ID by Clarence Clemons
06 WMMS Station ID by Bruce Springsteen

The first installment has been downloaded by hundreds of you. So how about some comments? Are you diggin' it? Can I get a witness?

Many Thanks For Your Honest Opinion

Hailing from Leeds, England, The Lodger tear pages from the books of fellow northerners The Smiths and The Housemartins, along with Scots Belle & Sebastian, on their debut record, Grown-Ups, which is chock full of that version of power pop that sounds so exquisitely British to my American ears. Grown-Ups sparkles with tightly-wound melodies, chiming guitars, and shot-gun, staccato rhythms, all of which add up to a distinct sound that smiles at you like the young son of an old friend.

The Lodger's clever lyrics are full of the melancholy that comes with bidding adieu to the carelessness of youth and shrugging to one's place in the line for adulthood. In contrast, the music jangles along with all of the optimism of newfound self-confidence and self-awareness. Even though The Lodger may draw inspiration from readily identifiable sources, any similarity to their predecessors in no way detracts from the freshness of the music on Grown-Ups. I have no idea what it's like to be a young Brit, but my romanticized idea of it (based on a lifetime of Anglophilic music fandom) sounds a lot like this.

MP3: The Lodger - "A Free Period" from Grown-Ups

YouTube: The Lodger - "Let Her Go" from Grown-Ups

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I Feel It All

Let me tell ya, life and work have been putting a serious damper on this blogging business. Here's hoping the near future allows us more time to write about new music -- or, for that matter, just to listen to some new music.

But The National rocked Atlanta hard last night -- guys, if you actually look us up, thanks again for the guestlist privileges -- and now I'm looking forward to Feist's visit to our town tomorrow night. If you don't already have her new record, The Reminder, you're missing out on another of the strongest releases thus far in '07. Here are three tunes and an interview with the lovely Miss Leslie, from her recent AOL Spinner session:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 13: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Just In Time For Summer (Cleveland 1978) - Part 1 of 2

Probably no artist in rock history has delivered live performances that are as consistently revelatory as Bruce Springsteen's, and when push comes to shove, most diehard fans of The Boss cite his 1978 tour with the E Street Band, in support of Darkness On The Edge Of Town, as the greatest of the great. In fact, it's tough even to select one boot from the '78 tour among the many that could credibly vie for "best Springsteen show ever" honors -- both of the September shows in Passaic, New Jersey are breathtaking, and the December show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco (the first non-Beatles boot I recall getting my hands on, when I was in high school) is another absolute classic. But in a poll a few years back by the Brucelegs fan site, this recording -- of the show at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio on August 9, 1978 -- topped them all.

And sure enough, it is something else -- not just an astonishing performance, heavy on material from Darkness and Born To Run (with "Because The Night," which I still prefer to Patti Smith's version, in the setlist for good measure), but thanks to a live broadcast by Cleveland radio station WMMS, a near-perfect soundboard recording as well. It's also a marathon, as most Springsteen shows in this period were, clocking in at just under 3 hours, and requiring 3 CDs to hold it all. For that reason, this will be a two-part post -- grab the first two discs now, then come back later in the week for the third one.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND - Just In Time For Summer - Live at the Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH, August 9, 1978

Front cover
Back insert

Disc 1:
01 Intro - Denny Sanders of WMMS
02 Intro - Kid Leo of WMMS
03 Summertime Blues
04 Badlands
05 Spirit In the Night
06 Darkness On The Edge Of Town
07 Factory
08 The Promised Land
09 Prove It All Night
10 Racing In The Street
11 Thunder Road
12 Jungleland

Disc 2:
01 Intro - Denny Sanders
02 Paradise By The "C"
03 Fire
04 Sherry Darling
05 Not Fade Away > Gloria > She's The One
06 Growin' Up
07 Backstreets
08 Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

I'll post Disc 3 in a few days.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Download Festival

For your weekend listening pleasure, download recent studio sessions by two of our favorite bands:

The Rawking Refuses To Stop has The National's May 24, 2007 "White Session" for Maison de la Radio in Paris.

And on May 23, The Features were in Cincinnati to record a studio session (featuring two brand new songs) for online radio station WOXY, which is now available at the station's blog, The Futurist.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lay Your Head Down, In My Arms

If there is an Internet buzz out there for Israeli-born and French-raised singer-songwriter Keren Ann, I have not yet stumbled across it. If there isn't one, let it begin here.

I can't claim to know that much about her just yet, but her new record, the eponymous Keren Ann, is a sweetly haunting affair. The music on this record, her fifth, develops slowly, set against minimal, folkish instrumentation, gossamer orchestral touches, and just the slightest hints of electronica. The pace and impact of the songs are often reminiscent of The Velvet Underground and the great Mazzy Star.

And like Hope Sandoval of the latter, Keren's honeyed vocals are light and seductive, and slide into your ears like a whisper. She comes across like a noir chanteuse, and it would be easy to imagine her songs playing during the closing credits of some black and white foreign film that ends in regret of some sort or another. Ultimately, this record may be heard as soporific to some, but keen listeners will find that it perfectly represents a smoky, "small hours" sound, full of ghostly shadows and washed-out still life paintings.

MP3: Keren Ann - "In Your Back" from Keren Ann

YouTube: "Lay Your Head Down"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Can't Hardly Wait

As Rich and I both dig ourselves out of massive holes at work, enjoy more tunes from upcoming releases we're looking forward to:

JOSH ROUSE - "Hollywood Bassplayer" from Country Mouse, City House, out on July 31

KELLY WILLIS - "Don't Know Why" from Translated From Love, out on June 26

SPOON - "Don't Make Me A Target" from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, out on July 10

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Who - Monterey Pop Festival, June 18, 1967

A boot by the mighty Who is long overdue, and the fact that we're already focused on 40th anniversaries this weekend gives me yet another reason to start with this one, which is just days away from being a full four decades old.

It's a short one, but for a reason. When they took the stage on the third and final day of the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967, The Who had not yet blown up in the States, and thus were a hotly anticipated, but still relatively unknown, support act. (The Grateful Dead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Scott "If You're Going to San Francisco" McKenzie and The Mamas & The Papas played later in the day.)

The Who had less than a half-hour to make an impression, but -- as this glorious recording confirms -- they made every moment count. They roar out of the gate with "Substitute" (one of the most perfect pop singles of all time), thunder their way through Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and then turn on a dime to deliver a surprisingly lovely version of the more delicate "Pictures of Lily," their timeless "anthem to wanking," before even 10 minutes have elapsed. Then it's around the turn and into the home stretch with a slightly sloppy go at "A Quick One (While He's Away)," Pete Townshend's first stab at "rock opera," early hit single "Happy Jack," and of course, the proto-punk finale of "My Generation." And if you've seen The Kids Are Alright, you know how that last song ends. Let's just say that Rickenbackers and drum kits are shown no mercy.

There are a lot of terrific Who boots (and I'm sure we'll get around to others eventually), but this is among my favorites -- it's a full, rich soundboard recording, the band is in ridiculously tight, ferocious form, and it captures them shortly before they became mired, for a couple of years, in the whole Tommy phenomenon, which to me was the least interesting (and at time even tedious) period for The Who's original line-up. Speaking of which, while Townshend, Daltry and Entwhistle are all at the top of their respective games on this recording, just listen to Keith Moon's playing. Focusing on Moon here is like lifting the hood on some monstrous machine and hearing the engine roar.


(No artwork available - if you have some please send it!)

01 Substitute
02 Summertime Blues
03 Pictures of Lily
04 A Quick One (While He's Away)
05 Happy Jack
06 My Generation

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It Was 40 Years Ago Today

Although it comes in only about fourth on my list of favorite Beatles records, we wouldn't be much of a music blog if we didn't do something to honor this, the 40th anniversary of the U.S. release of the so-called "greatest album of all time" (the anniversary was yesterday in the U.K.). My guess is that most of us would debate that distinction, but there's no denying that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band obliterated any constraints on what a pop band could accomplish in the studio, cemented the album -- rather than the single -- as the medium by which the best artists were expected to distinguish themselves, and ushered in the psychedelic, pseudo-Victorian aesthetic of "swinging London" that reverberated across the globe in the late 60s. There's also no denying that Sgt. Pepper is a fabulous listen, from start to finish, and contains some of The Beatles' most sublime and timeless music, "She's Leaving Home" and, especially, "A Day In The Life" -- certainly among the 3 or 4 most immaculate things a group of musicians has ever produced -- being the most obvious examples.

And for me, the record will always be a sentimental favorite because it was, very literally, the spark that ignited my lifelong obsession with music. When I was 9 years old, a 4th grade teacher was trying to demonstrate the use of unusual instrumentation in modern music -- I can't remember why -- and played "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" in class, because of the tape loops of calliopes and carousels it has in the bridges. I was positively spellbound. It's my earliest memory of being floored and fascinated by a piece of music. For that reason alone, I will always have a special affection for Sgt. Pepper.

I considered making one of the collections of Sgt. Pepper outtakes the next bootleg in our series, but we've covered The Beatles already and there are too many great artists to sample before we start circling back to some. For now, here are snippets of takes 4, 5, 6 and 7 of "A Day In The Life", all recorded at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, on January 20, 1967:

MP3: The Beatles - "A Day In The Life" (reduction mix of takes 4-7) from Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 3 (1966-1967) (bootleg)

And a contemporary re-mix of elements (the animal sounds, a George Martin interview, John Lennon's demo, and an alternate studio take) of and relating to "Good Morning, Good Morning":

MP3: The Beatles - "Good Morning, Good Morning" (remix) from Men & Horses, Hoops & Garters (bootleg)

Also, The Times Online has links to quite a bit of Sgt. Pepper anniversary news, including the paper's original review of The Beatles' "gay new LP" published on May 29, 1967.

Finally, for anyone who's interested in the behind-the-scenes lowdown on the studio sessions that produced Sgt. Pepper, I can't recommend recording engineer Geoff Emerick's recent memoir, Here, There and Everywhere, strongly enough.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Can't Hardly Wait

More advance tracks from records we're looking forward to:

THE WHITE STRIPES - "Icky Thump" from Icky Thump, out on June 19 [removed at label's request]

THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS - "My Rights Versus Yours" from Challengers, out on August 21

SUFJAN STEVENS - "In The Words Of The Governor" from Cue The Bugle Turbulent (CD accompaning The Believer's forthcoming 2007 Music Issue)

IMMACULATE MACHINE - "Dear Confessor" from Fables, out on June 12

And finally, I plan to have the next classic boot up by the end of the weekend. Stay tuned.