Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Goodnight, And Good Luck

So, I guess we have a bit of an announcement to make, and probably long overdue, although I suppose the deafening silence over the past month has been something of a clue to some of you, and this won't come as much of a surprise. (Thanks to those of you who wrote us offline to ask what the hell was up. We're touched that we were missed.)

As we approached our first anniversary a couple of weeks ago, Rich and I started talking about whether we really wanted to keep this thing up. We've loved the ride that we've been privileged to take over the past year, and it's been a tremendous amount of fun sharing music and ideas, building a readership (ultimately about 10,000 folks a week, from every corner of the globe) and realizing that many of you came to visit regularly, or even every day. That's more humbling than we can ever express. But in the end, I think it's fair to say that TTT ended up being way more of a time commitment for both of us than we ever reckoned it would be -- we always said that we'd do this right, and update regularly, or not at all -- and as 2007 came to a close, and work and other life demands pulled on both of us, we independently started to question whether we still had the time or energy to do justice to the site. By the time we actually had the conversation over the holidays, it didn't take long to figure out that we had both reached the same decision -- that it's time to retire TTT, at least for the foreseeable future.

So, that's what we're going to do. We'll leave the site up for as long as we can (hey, it'll be like a time capsule for music in 2007), we'll keep all the links and downloads active for at least another couple of months (grab those Classic Bootlegs while you still can!), and who knows, maybe at some point one or both of us will catch the bug and start posting again. But with the turn of the new year, we find that we have other priorities that deserve our attention a little more than a music blog does. Each of us has two young children. Rich is thinking about writing a novel, and I hope he will, because I love to read anything he writes. And as of a few months ago, I've gone and fallen hopelessly in love, with the most beautiful, amazing woman I've ever met in my life. And there's some damn fine music in that, let me tell you.

That's the story. Our thanks to everyone who ever visited, commented or threw us a link, to the other bloggers who reached out and befriended us over the past year, and of course, to all the great artists that we got to write about. And my personal thanks, one more time, to everyone who responded with such kindness and generosity after my house was robbed last summer -- I still get a little overwhelmed when I think about that.

This was so much fun. Again, we thank you all for a great run.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Merry Christmas everyone, if indeed that's what you celebrate. I'm happy to report that Rich's house is in full-on X-mas mode, but before 2007 finishes circling the bowl, there's still time for a post or two from me. I had originally intended to develop some sort of a response to Frank's predictably stellar year-end list. We typically have only about 50% overlap, which I thought would give me entry to discuss those records that, in my opinion, he'd inexplicably left off. But I have to say that he pretty much nailed the three-point landing this year, so rather than simply stand by nodding, I thought I'd pull together a list of my favorite "under the radar" records of the year. So, without further adieu, here's Rich's Top Ten Favorite Off-The-Beaten-Track Records of 2007 (in no particular order):

Joe Strummer - The Future Is Unwritten
Sadly, 2007 was yet another year that Britney Spears was allowed to walk the earth, while Joe Strummer continues not to. One small consolation against that unexplainable set of circumstances was the release of Julian Temple's brilliant documentary Joe Strummer - The Future Is Unwritten (the trailer of which is here). Even if you already own everything Joe and The Clash ever released, this soundtrack is still a must-have. It's filled not only with Clash and Mescolaros music, but with music that influenced Joe, like Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Bob Dylan, MC5, and Nina Simone. As a bonus, many of the songs are introduced and described by Strummer himself. MP3: The Clash - "White Riot" (Alternate Demo Mix)

M.I.A. - Kala
I wrote about M.I.A.'s 2007 release Kala here. This is a record with worldly beats, political aspirations, feminine power, and punk rock attitude. M.I.A. is a reporter from a Third World CNN street beat bringing the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes from the world over right into your living room. You hear it straight from the people; from the aboriginie kids in "Mango Pickle Down River" to the Indian villagers in "Bird Flu." M.I.A. is the real deal. MP3: M.I.A. - "Bamboo Banger" from Kala

Burial - Untrue
My initial take on this record is here, which has held up: "With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting." MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from Untrue

Blonde Redhead - 23
My earlier post on this record was entitled "The Sound of Dreaming," I think because the sound of this record feels like racing through some fever dream landscape where everything is familiar yet somehow disorienting. I can never quite grasp exactly what the lyrics are about, but that hardly seems to be the point. This is impressionistic territory, and it is a beautifully curious amalgam of guitars and whispered vocals. MP3: Blonde Redhead - "23" from 23

Mark Olson - The Salvation Blues
As described here, The Salvation Blues represented something of a return to form for former Jayhawk Mark Olson. Divorced from Victoria Williams and returned from the ensuing wilderness, Olson rediscovered his muse, and his old friend Gary Louris. The music on this record is both sad and hopeful Americana, hearkening to Hollywood Town Hall-era Jayhawks. And with Louris' contributions, these songs are more than enough to whet the appetite for the promised Olson and Louris collaboration scheduled for 2008. Hopefully, TTT will be around to blog about it when it comes out. MP3: Mark Olson - "Clifton Bridge" - from The Salvation Blues

Daft Punk - Alive 2007
One of my favorite records of 2005 was Kraftwerk's live album, Minimum-Maximum. One would not think that something as robotic and sterile as Kraftwerk would translate so well to a live recording. Daft Punk is also robot music, albeit music by robots apparently programmed for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Daft Punk's live shows ain't nothin' but a party y'all, and this record is instant party, just add alcohol. Daft Punk is playing at my house. MP3: Daft Punk - "Around The World/Harder Better Faster Stronger" from Alive 2007.

Beirut - The Flying Cup Club
Surprisingly young Santa Fe native Zach Condon's band, Beirut, sound nothing like its name. Beirut's music has nothing to do with Lebanon. Rather, it evokes the Balkans and Gypsy troubadours, Eastern European folk music, and Old World themes. Think ukuleles, accordions, trumpets, and melodies from another century. The prolific band's high point so far may just be this crisp release, which plays like a soundtrack from an old foreign film. Gorgeous. MP3: Beirut - "Nantes" from The Flying Cup Club

The Perishers - Victorious

Earlier, I called this "a lush pop record that is a little reminiscent of Dire Straits to my ear, with a fair amount of Blue Nile mixed in (which is always a good thing). It's a fairly romantic mainstream sound that would appeal to fans of Coldplay and Travis; a sound you might not be surprised to hear in the soundtrack of some teenage television drama, which I understand has occurred. Don't let that turn you off. It's still a mature sounding record that deserves a broad audience. Very good stuff." MP3: The Perishers - "Midnight Skies" from Victorious

The Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil
I have to give to some love to my Dunwoody homeboys The Black Lips. They have shocked New York and rocked everywhere else, and, in 2007, released the great psycho-psychedelic garage rock of Good Bad Not Evil and earned the title "Hardest Working Band at SWSX." With a live show heavy on such audience participation staples as urine, vomitus, and the odd flung beer bottle, this loud and rowdy band of brothers remind us what the spirit of rock and roll is supposed to be. Pure chaos. And since I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I love that they ask the question, "Oh Katrina, why you gotta be mean?" MP3: The Black Lips - "O Katrina!" from Good Bad Not Evil

Lloyd Cole - Antidepressant
And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to end this post with a reference to what was the subject of not only my first post this year, but my first blog post ever, Lloyd Cole's beautiful middle-aged manifesto, Antidepressant. This is unquestionably the perfect record for those of us rockers who came of age in the '80s and refuse to admit that we're middle aged, in spite of the fact that our years, when doubled, stretch beyond the average human life span. At this point, to paraphrase Lloyd's apt lyrics, "Declining issues lead advances two to one, in slow trading." Nevertheless, we can take comfort in the perfect folk-pop of Antidepressant. "With my medication, I will be fine." MP3: Lloyd Cole - "Woman In A Bar" from Antidepressant.

So that does it, I suppose. I certainly could go on, but that's what we've been doing all year. For now, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and healthy and prosperous New Year. And thanks for stopping by TTT in 2007. I hope that it was worth your while. Thanks -- Rich

Monday, December 10, 2007

Frank's Favorite Records of 2007

Time and current life circumstances (all of 'em good) won't permit me to do anything even remotely as elaborate as in years past, but here are the 20 new records released in 2007 that I enjoyed most, in alphabetical order. If either Rich or I posted a review here during the course of the year, I've linked to it, and if we didn't, I've linked to MetaCritic or some other resource that will give you the critical lowdown. (And if I'm not mistaken, Rich will be along in a day or two with the records from his list that didn't make mine.) Music makes for great holiday giving, so get out there and support all of these magnificent artists by buying their records.

RYAN ADAMS - Easy Tiger

ARCADE FIRE - Neon Bible


ANDREW BIRD - Armchair Apocrypha

BRIGHT EYES - Cassadaga

THE BROKEN WEST - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

FEIST - The Reminder

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN - The Good, The Bad & The Queen





RADIOHEAD - In Rainbows

RILO KILEY - Under The Blacklight

THE SHINS - Wincing The Night Away

SPOON - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga


KANYE WEST - Graduation


WILCO - Sky Blue Sky

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 2 of 2

Discs 1 and 2 (along with the artwork) are here. And if you thought they were great, brace yourself for these -- the entire session at the Paris Cinema in London on April 1, 1971, recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" program on BBC Radio One. Simply spectacular. Be sure to play it nice and loud.


Disc 3:

01 John Peel intro
02 Immigrant Song
03 Heartbreaker
04 Since I've Been Loving You
05 Black Dog
06 Dazed And Confused
07 Stairway To Heaven

Disc 4:

01 Going To California
02 That's The Way
03 What Is And What Should Never Be
04 Whole Lotta Love
05 Thank You
06 Communication Breakdown

Friday, November 23, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 1 of 2

Time to get the Led out. With all the hype surrounding the release of the Mothership collection last week and their reunion show in London next month, not to mention Robert Plants's recent solo triumph with Allison Krauss, I've been listening to a ton of Led Zeppelin lately. That, in turn, made me realize that a Zep boot is long overdue in this series. There are scores of great recordings to choose from -- in fact Zeppelin probably joins The Beatles, Dylan and The Rolling Stones as the most bootlegged acts of all time.

But while any number of live recordings by the mighty Led Zep would certainly qualify for "classic" status, it's this massive 4-disc box set released by Empress Valley, collecting all of their appearances on BBC radio between 1969 and 1971, that I return to most often. (Some of this material appears, in slightly different form, on the official BBC Sessions release in 1997, but this set is far more exhaustive and about twice as long.) The performances are consistently spectacular, and with one exception (the March, 1969 appearance on Alexis Korner's "Rhythm and Blues" program in the middle of Disc 1, which is muffled but still very listenable), the sound quality is equally fantastic throughout.

We'll start with Discs 1 and 2, which compile the band's earliest (and bluesiest) sessions for various BBC radio hosts. Then I'll be back in a few days with Discs 3 and 4, on which you get the entire two-hour session that the band recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" show on Radio One in April of 1971, seven months before the release of Led Zeppelin IV, playing new songs like "Black Dog", "Going To California" and "Stairway To Heaven" to a small theatre audience (it's unsettling, in fact, to hear the latter get no reaction at all from the crowd), and at the absolute peak of their legendary powers.

This is just essential stuff. If you're having any doubts about wanting to devote your bandwidth to such a massive set, listen to the first track on Disc 1, a raunchy troll through "You Shook Me" that confirms what a stunning live act Zeppelin was from the very beginning, and I guarantee you won't be able to pass up the rest. Positively jaw-dropping.



Disc 1 (1969):

01 You Shook Me
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Dazed And Confused
05 Alexis Korner intro
06 What Is And What Should Never Be
07 more chat
08 I Can't Quit You Baby
09 more chat
10 You Shook Me
11 Sunshine Woman
12 The Girl I Love Has Long Black Wavy Hair
13 Communication Breakdown
14 Something Else
15 What Is And What Should Never Be
16 Group interview with Chris Grant
17 Whole Lotta Love
18 Communication Breakdown
19 What Is and What Should Never Be
20 Travelling Riverside Blues

Disc 2 (1969-1970):

01 Alan Black intro
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Alan Black interview
05 Dazed And Confused
06 Interlude with Adrian Henry
07 White Summer-Black Mountain Side
08 You Shook Me
09 How Many More Times
10 White Summer
11 Black Mountain Side

I'll be back with Discs 3 and 4 early next week. Turn this up LOUD and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The good folks at Stereogum have posted video and mp3s of the tunes performed during Radiohead's surprise in-studio webcast on November 9, including a cover of "The Headmaster Ritual" that is essential for Radiohead and Smiths fans alike. But for some reason, the band's wicked rip through In Rainbows standout "Bodysnatchers" is not among the songs that you can grab at the 'Gum. To complete an iTunes playlist of the entire webcast, I did my own capture of "Bodysnatchers" and then ripped it to mp3 at a super-high bitrate to match the tracks at Stereogum. Consider it my Thanksgiving gift to all of you.

MP3: Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers" (live in studio), from the November 9, 2007 "Thumbs Down" webcast

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Adventurous

If we really wanted to bring you a knowledgeable discussion of electronica, we'd undoubtedly need to bring in a guest blogger. We're not. Now, I'm no connoisseur, but from time to time I encounter entries into the genre -- not that electronic music can really be accurately described as a single genre I realize, but bear with me, I'm using shorthand here -- that pique my interest. Here are a few:

Caribou is the nom de guerre of Don Snaith, who reportedly recorded his newest, Andorra, a dense, multi-layered wonder of neo-psychedelic pop, at home. I can't claim these comparisons as original thoughts, but there are those who invoke Elliot Smith's vocals, Brian Wilson's melodies, and '60s psychedelia as reference points. Those people would be right -- all colored by a modern DYI aesthetic.

Andorra, which I understand is something of a more pop-oriented departure from Snaith's earlier work, is a sonic tour de force -- one made for the headphones. It's a certifiable grower, albeit that rare grower with initial appeal. Be sure to check out the lushly romantic, Brian Wilsonesque "She's The One." Great stuff.

MP3: Caribou - "Sandy" from Andorra

I am completely blown away by UK's Burial. Although I'm certainly not hip enough to discuss the meaning of British "Grime," "2-Step," "Garage," or "Dubstep," as I have variously heard this music described, I can describe the sound as something like a Ghost In The Machine. With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting.

Adding to the cool mystery of this one-man band is that no one knows who Burial is. And he (or she) aims to keep it that way, and keep the focus on the music. The music is certainly worthy of that focus. The songs on Untrue flow from one to another with blurred distinction, and the whole record sounds very much like it is meant to be listened to in its entirety. Its sameness is never boring, but feels as deep (and as dark and cold) as the ocean.

MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from Untrue

Camilo Lara's Mexican Institute of Sound may come from south of the border, but it specializes in smashing musical borders via a latin dance party. In MIS's new record Piñata, one can find aspects of Cumbia, Cha Cha Cha, Baile Funk, and other musical styles with which I have limited or no familiarity. Regardless, you don't have to be an ethnomusicologist to have fun with this stuff.

Obviously, Piñata is heavily influenced by Central American style, but it incorporates a club-friendly hip hop flair that will put the party right into your Margarita. If this doesn't get your toe tapping, I don't know what will. Go do a shot of tequila.

MP3: Mexican Institute of Sound - "Para No Vivir Desesperado" from Piñata