Sunday, February 28, 2010

Elliott Smith Worked Wonders

Listening to Elliott Smith’s Live at Largo takes depression to a new level. I mean, it’s pretty standard to listen to Elliott when you are depressed, want to be depressed, or when your subconscious is telling you that you need a good ol’ cry. But listening to Live at Largo is a full on depression much deeper than the standard mood sludge that Elliott puts you in. For me, it’s a true and pure depression for the fact that I never got to see this man perform.

I cannot fully emphasize how gorgeous his guitar echoes out of my iPod, with its crappy MP3 format sound, with the $10 pair of Sony speakers that I bought to sit on my desk at work. I’m listening to this music in its ugliest form, and it still blows my mind. Elliott just sings it so true and so right, and the guitar sounds more alive than ever… than in many of his recordings, in fact. Something seems vivid, and some of the beautiful trance that Smith usually concocts falls away in favor of a new sound. A beautiful one; it lives and breathes, and it’s just so real.

It’s a blessing is to hear him and the audience chuckle on “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down.” And to hear the sweet, delicate way his fingers fall across the strings on “Angeles,” my all-time favorite. This is (and not to sound cliché, which it will) music for the soul. Emotional, beautiful, ever-evolving notes that gain significance over time. They grow, and these songs are legends, and the sick feeling that I get from the fact that I never got to witness this man’s live performance plants a pit in my stomach that just expands.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Free Energy in Cleveland

Before embarking on their current tour, Free Energy’s frontman, Paul Sprangers, had a lot of spunky, sarcastic ideas for the show. He wanted the celebratory vibe of the music to coincide with equally colorful stunts – throwing confetti at midnight, exploding t-shirt canisters, and levitating drummer Nick Shuminsky in the air mid-performance. Yet if none of his antics work out, Sprangers and the other guys of Free Energy will still bring the party to town. Echoing cowbell and chunky 70’s guitar riffs radiate from their eponymous song, “Free Energy,” one of the new tunes they’ll play along with others off their upcoming album, Stuck on Nothing. With inspiration coming from ZZ Top, Bob Seger, and Fleetwood Mac, expect to hear crunchy melodies and a vintage rock sound. In an effort to modernize that classic sound, Free Energy had LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy produce the new album. He added a dance-worthy sheen to the mix. But their live show will showcase good old rock ‘n roll force with wailing guitars and bouncy bass. Touring partners Foreign Born open the show along with Clovers and DJ Matt Rolin at 8:30 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $10

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blabber 2 - Double Dribble

I promised to give you Part 2 of ACRN Days today.

It's chock full of great generic indie rock songs from my infancy into good music. Full disclosure: I went into college as a huge fan of Ted Leo, Ben Folds Five, Something Corporate, The Strokes, and Interpol. I didn't know much of anything. (I still like these groups.) Some of these songs are BABY songs. You'll be like: dude, that Postal Service song has been around for longer than you've had leg hair!

I know, I know! This list is easy. It isn't challenging. And none of these songs are NEW.

My blog is not new. I don't try to be hip. (Ok, maybe a little?) I just like music, and music is music, and if I want to put an old Phoenix song next to an old Neutral Milk Hotel song, I'm going to. And you can laugh. And then you can be like, oh, she included The Wrens. She doesn't even know the struggles they have faced in the 13 or something years since they released The Meadowlands. And you'll be right! I don't even know! I wasn't even conscious of anything other than Backstreet Boys when that record came out. But Nick Carter was hott with two T's.

Ahem. Download here.

ACRN Days Part 2

1. Kevin Devine - Buried by the Buzz
2. Ko & the Knockouts - Go-Getter
3. Langhorne Slim - Restless
4. M. Ward - To Go Home
5. M.I.A. - Boyz
6. Mates of State - Fraud in the '80s
7. matt pond PA - Halloween
8. Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland, 1945 (I once played this song after telling listeners I was gonna play a set of happy, upbeat songs. Then a kid came in and yelled at me - "THIS SONG IS ABOUT ANNE FRANK. It's not happy." He was right.)
9. Phoenix - Too Young (This one's pretty happy though.)
10. The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
11. The Rapture - Whoo! Alright Yeah...Uh Huh
12. Russenorsk - Buzz + Spit
13. The Secret Machines - Lightening Blue Eyes
14. Southeast Engine - Where Are You Now?
15. Sufjan Stevens - The Dress Looks Nice on You
16. Tapes 'n Tapes - Insistor
17. The Thermals - Here's Your Future
18. Vampire Weekend - Walcott
19. Voxtrot - Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives
20. We Are Scientists - Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt
21. Wheels on Fire - I'm Turning Into You
22. Wilco - Jesus, Etc.
23. Wolf Parade - Shine a Light
24. The Wrens - Faster Gun

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm a Blabbermouth

I can't keep secrets.

I mean, I'll keep your secrets, sure. But I don't really keep my own secrets. I find it easier to tell everyone everything. Let's be honest here, there's no reason to hide. I confess how I feel every week, sometimes even every day, sometimes even on this blog. I try to keep it to music secrets here because otherwise you could read my blog about Spain, or my blog about life, or maybe you could read my mind. (Wait, what?)

The point is, I find myself opening up to you... my dear friends, my dearest strangers.

Here's a not-so-secret secret: I really miss being a DJ at a college radio station. I think about it from time to time, but sometimes it really gets to me. I feel it today. Talk about the best (non-paid) job of all time, kids. I could pretty much say what I wanted, play what I wanted, and interview exactly who I wanted (if they would have me... let's be honest... I never was able to book Bono on my radio show. I did talk to the creator of Pitchfork. And all my favorite Athens bands. And Jesty Beatz. He's FAMOUS. Just ask him. That's gotta count for something, right?).

It's a time and a place in my life that I think I'll always come back to, year after year. The friendships I made, the things I learned... you could say I found myself sitting in that DJ seat. I FOUND myself. Before I even realized I was lost. (Ok, that was a lie. I always knew I was lost.)

I've put together a collection of songs that I played over and over. I had to separate them into two groups because I had a lot of favorites. OK?! Do you have a problem with an overobsessed DJ? I didn't think so. I loved playing all 47 songs. Today you get artists A-J. Tomorrow you get the rest.

Click this link to download.


1. A.C. Newman - Miracle Drug
2. Adam Torres - Dusty Wing Spirit
3. Andrew Bird - Tables and Chairs
4. Animal Collective - Peacebone
5. Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
6. Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
7. Band of Horses - Is There a Ghost
8. Beck - Girl
9. Beirut - Nantes
10. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
11. The Blow - Parentheses
12. Bright Eyes - Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
13. Cat Power - Love & Communication
14. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
15. The Dandy Warhols - Not if You Were the Last Junkie
16. Eagles of Death Metal - Cherry Cola
17. Georgie James - Need Your Needs
18. Hot Chip - Shake a Fist
19. Interpol - C'mere
20. Joe Anderl and Imaginary Friendship Choir - Dayton, Ohio
21. John Vanderslice - White Dove
22. Jose Gonzalez - Slow Moves
23. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Birds and Foxes

Dayum. All I have to say is, Mr. Robin sir, Cincinnati, but not Cleveland? HRMFFF.

In other Sub Pop News:
Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes will be playing a handfull of dates with pysch songstress Joanna Newsom. These shows will find Robin performing a slew of new material, with a sprinkling of some covers here and there. Dates are as follows:

Mar 28 Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
Mar 29 Southern Theatre (OH), Columbus, OH
Mar 30 MusicNOW Festival, Cincinnati, OH
Mar 31 Buskirk-Chumley Theatre (IN), Bloomington, IN
Apr 02 Pabst Theater, Milwaukee, WI
Apr 03 Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL

Monday, February 22, 2010

Video Bloggin' Style

Check it out. I'm awkward AND ugly. And I really like to rant. (And apparently I have a lazy eye.) And I love Rocky Votolato.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rocky Votolato - Sparklers

The state I'm in right now is a mixture of mesmerization and depression. Listening to "Sparklers," the fifth song on Rocky Votolato's excellent new release, True Devotion (out Tuesday), I can't help but rock myself into a stupor. It is the sort of lonely you want to feel when you listen to music. The kind of sad, beautiful realization that you are alone and that everything is fleeting and that life might not always hand you roses.

Sure, it's saddening, but it's also admirable. A simple, spare guitar and a soft, gravelly voice - that's all Rocky needs to move you into a state of deep, strong emotions.

Although he might not think of it this way, I believe that Mr. Votolato uses two strategies to reel you in:

1. Stunning imagery - Is it just me, or do the following lyrics paint such a vivid picture in the brain?

Bottle rockets and smoke bombs lying dead on the sidewalk
Are black marks on the concrete now but they were beautiful last night
A picture of our life
Can we make this what it was
Everything is right, Everything is wrong
Sparklers only burn for so long

2. Dancing guitars - Is it just me, or does the guitar picking in this song float around as gently as those of an Elliott Smith song? Listen for yourself, and let me know.

I'm obsessed. Depressed. All a mess-ed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Matt Pond PA - The Dark Leaves

Deep within the lush, swirling pop mastery of The Dark Leaves, there must be some profound meaning. Yet Matt Pond - who named the band after himself and the state in which he formed the group - hides it with pretentious lyrics like “I can't remember which movie taught me purpose/ I can't remember which movie taught me pain.” You almost don’t care about the symbolism (something about making it out of the dark with your beating heart intact) upon hearing the first few notes of “Starting.” The album opener seethes with the warmth of viola and cello, concluding with a sexy pop breakdown that hints at intimacy with “less talk” and “more legs.” Like Pond’s other albums, this collection of string-laden arrangements strives more for beauty than it does the perfect hook. Warmth radiates from sweet lap steel guitar on “Specks” and “Brooklyn Fawn,” while Chris Hansen commands the keyboard in bizarre chord intervals on “Ruins,” one of the album’s rockers. With The Dark Leaves, Pond continues his love affair with the seasons and nature, providing an atmospheric soundscape that takes us deep into the woods, where he recorded this time around. Pack up – it’s one trip you’re going to want to take.

Matt Pond P-What?

I have a strictly Love-Hate Relationship with Matt Pond, and his band, Matt Pond PA.

I don't normally enjoy capitalizing random adjectives and nouns in the middle of my sentences, but I believe that my relationship with this band deserves fully-fledged capitalization errors.

The Relationship started when I was a freshman in college. I took on the radio interview show on ACRN, and in addition to interviewing some local jammers on the scene, I'd do interviews with touring bands coming through Athens. It just so happened that Matt Pond PA was headlining ACRN's Lobsterfest that year.

I had not really heard of them before, but I started listening in preparation for my interview. My roommate and friends promptly grew fond of MPPA. It's not a hard task to enjoy the lush pop songs that seem to be made to play on repeat for entire eras of your life.

It wasn't until I met Matt Pond and Bandmate (they have all since quit, and I can't remember who it was) that I discovered the first important lesson of music journalism. LESSON ONE: It's really easy for musicians to be pricks. They don't even have to try. For many, it just comes naturally. And I'm sorry, but Matt Pond was not, and will never be, famous enough to enjoy this liberty.

He mocked other bands throughout our interview, took digs at my poor interviewing skills (I was a freshman, OK??), and generally made myself and everyone in my vicinity uncomfortable.

Here the problem lies: I still enjoy his music. So much so, that I have a hard time not listening to it. No matter how much I hate him, or love him, or whatever. I have avoided his latest couple albums because I didn't want to give him the benefit of my time or my ears. However, when I heard a new album was coming out, I had to get it... it was compulsive or something.

So here I lay, in bed, rejoicing in the beauty that is The Dark Leaves. Every note on this album is a perfect mastery of pure, swirling pop. It combines twee, orchestral, and power pop to great effect, leaving me speechless.

Sure, some of the lyrics are a little phony: "I can't remember which movie taught me purpose. I can't remember which movie taught me pain"? I can't remember why you thought it would be ok to be so pretentious, Mr. Pond.

But still, I love this album! And that small morsel of truth haunts me and teases me, contradicting everything I think I believe in. I'm absolutely, hopelessly doomed.

Yet, DO NOT DESPAIR. One day, I will convert the tape I have of my interview with Matt and *not-sure-what-his-name-is-fellow-band-member* into an MP3. And you can sit here with me, laughing and mocking Matt's pretension and sour attitude toward life. I will have my bitter revenge.

After I go ahead and give this album four f-ing stars. Damnit.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Interviewmania February!

I'm doing interviews with Dawes, Yeasayer, and Rocky Votolato all in the next few weeks. I freakin can't wait.

P.S. They will all be available to you via podcast. Cuz I got a sweet Tascam recorder. Get ready to dig in.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free Energy Interview

Click on the title of this post to see and hear my podcast interview with Philly's hottest new band, Free Energy. Or, right click on the title to download the podcast for your own personal iTunes experience.

I'm uberpumped + ultrastoked about getting back in the podcast game, guys!

Expect to see my interviews with Langhorne Slim and Matthew Perryman Jones soon.