Spoon - Rare Tracks, Vol. 2

Here’s the rest of my Spoon rarities list, this being my 5 favorites. As for defining what I considered eligible for this list (because all of these songs are available to any die-hard who's willing to look around a bit) - basically I thought any Spoon song that hasn't appeared on one of their (soon to be) 6 studio albums. In case you missed Part 1, check it out HERE.

Again, I didn’t include the Soft Effects EP on this list for 2 reasons: a. because it was just reissued last summer and is widely available now after years out of print, and b. because it’s so good that it would unfairly dominate this list.

5. MP3 :: Monkey Feelings

“Monkey Feelings” is another strong song from the Gimme Fiction-era, this one on the “Sister Jack” import CD-single. All the extra songs from this era make for an interesting argument that Gimme Fiction, good as it is, could have been better if some of the lackluster last few songs were replaced with the b-sides. “Monkey Feelings” is a fun, catchy little pop song that doesn’t try to be anything more.

4. My First Time Volume 3

Another iTunes exclusive, so sorry, I can’t provide it as an MP3. But this one is similar to “I Turn My Camera On” in that it grooves like some sexy kind of Prince song. Britt Daniel uses the falsetto voice that he’s been utilizing more over the past few records to wonderful effect, and the band is just flat-out tight. Go spend the $.99 already.

3. MP3 :: Chips And Dip

This song comes from the Love Ways EP, which came out before 2001’s Girls Can Tell despite being recorded after it. The EP served as a way to get Spoon’s name back into the indie-public after the long hiatus (read: label issues) that stemmed from their being dropped by Elektra after A Series of Sneaks. The song is an elegant, melodic departure from the early Pixies-influence, featuring an atmospheric arrangement that relies on piano and moody strings more than frenetic electric guitar. Perhaps the first glimpse at the bold sonic steps Spoon would take over their next few records.

2. MP3 :: Carryout Kids

“Carryout Kids” was a bonus track that came with Gimme Fiction (man, what a productive time period!). The slight distortion in the vocals gives the song a franticness that reminds me of “Small Stakes” (from Kill The Moonlight), and there is something about the raw, demo-ish, basement-experimentation that reminds me of The Replacement’s classic “Answering Machine”.

I’m breaking from the prolific Gimme Fiction-era pattern here with this song from the 30-Gallon Tank EP. This early song showcased the best of what Spoon was capable of at the time (angular guitar-driven rock, melodic repetition, etc.) and forecasted much of what would come later - there’s that voice that sways effortlessly into a killer falsetto, the ultra-smooth chorus, and a rhythm section that would soon be showcasing more diverse influences. Like “Chips and Dip” or A Series of Sneak‘s “Advanced Cassette”, this song (less overtly) predicted new directions for the band while still adhering to what made them great in the first place.

New Music - Scissors For Lefty

Hey - I received word recently that San Francisco band Scissors For Lefty will be releasing their debut album, Underhanded Romances, via Eenie Menie Records on June 12th. Take a listen to the first single available below called “Next To Argyle”. Hmm… I wonder who their favorite 80s new wave band was? Well, just like the best of those mid-80s Cure songs (and despite this sounding creepily “Close To Me”-esque) the song is undeniably catchy and shows some good old-fashioned nostalgic potential for the full length.

MP3 :: Next To Argyle
(from Underhanded Romances)

Scissors For Lefty @ myspace for more music

We Can Make It Better.....


Wilcoworld announced today that if you're one of those rabid fans that actually, you know, supports the artists by buying their albums (and according to Billboard there are lots of you) then you are entitled to a FREE download of "The Thanks I Get". The track is a new recording of a very popular song that has been in rotation live on Wilco/Jeff Tweedy setlists for quite some time, and honestly SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE ALBUM INSTEAD OF "SHAKE IT OFF"!!!!!!!! Sorry, I didn't mean to yell, but seriously. Talk about "making it better" - duh!

Here's a live version done on the Conan O'Brien Show last summer. I'd share the new version with you, but then I'd look like the "guy who tells you to buy something and gives it away for free". Just imagine the song having a less-pronounced organ during the beginning, and more pronounced backing vocals toward the end. And sorry, no Conan sounding like an (honestly) excited fanboy.
(recorded live on The Conan O'Brien Show)

Recently On Daytrotter...

Daytrotter consistently offers up really nice live sets from some of indie-rock’s most promising up-and-comers, but has really been on a roll as of late. Back in 2005 Phosphorescent dropped the spectacular Aw Come Aw Wry. Singer/songwriter Matthew Houck is the Phosphorescent brainchild, and possesses a cracked Southern drawl of a singing voice (and when I say ‘cracked’ I mean split right down the damn middle) that recalls Will Oldham. His songs are achingly beautiful little epics, battered and bruised and filled with hurt, like a less peculiar Neutral Milk Hotel in slow motion. These sessions skip the older material (except “Little Parts 1 & 2, which is from 2003’s A Hundred Times Or More) in favor of new material and a cover of a traditional folk-blues tune. As Pitchfork raved recently, the highlight is “Cocaine Lights”, which is from their as-yet-untitled next record, but also features a lovely version of “Worried Blues”, which appeared on Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series, Vol. 1. A must hear…..

MP3 :: Worried Blues
MP3 :: Cocaine Lights
MP3 :: A Death, A Proclamation
MP3 :: Little Parts 1 & 2

And then came word of their recent sessions with Austin’s Voxtrot. The band’s self-titled debut was released last week and is getting plenty of spins around here these days, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of their 3 outstanding EPs. For Daytrotter the band recorded the standard 4 songs, playing 3 songs from the new album (including the fantastic “Kid Gloves”) as well as “Soft & Warm” from the Mothers, Daughters, Sisters & Wives EP. Check out these fine live recordings as well:
MP3 :: Steven
MP3 :: Soft And Warm
MP3 :: Kid Gloves
MP3 :: The Future Part 1


Like their beloved Atlanta Braves, the guys over at That Truncheon Thing just continue their winning ways. They recently featured an excellent set of Neko Case songs recorded live on John Peel’s old BBC radio program back in September of 2000. Case and her band (featuring Jon Rauhouse on steel guitar and Kelly Hogan on backing vocals) were there promoting her extraordinary Furnace Room Lullaby, which is still my favorite Case album. She impressed Peel and his listeners enough that night that her song “Twist the Knife” went on to top Peel’s Festive 50 favorite songs of the year. You can download the entire 35-minute set, plus the artwork, HERE.

I’ve been very pleased lately that Matt over at Moroccanrole has been back in action after laying low for the first few months of the year. His blog is one of my favorites, and not just because of the clever name. Lately he has been quite insightful regarding a few bands that are on my radar screen (The White Stripes, Interpol, Patrick Wolf, The Clientele) but haven‘t blogged about, as well as writing an interesting post on Paul Westerberg’s kind-of forgotten 1999 solo album, Suicaine Gratification. Check it out HERE, and add him to your favorites.

Pitchfork has a brand new tune from The New Pornographers called “My Rights Versus Yours” in their Forkcast section. Sounds real good on 1 listen. Challengers, the follow-up to the 2005’s hugely successful Twin Cinema, comes out in August via Matador.

MP3 :: My Rights Versus Yours
(from the forthcoming Challengers)

David over at Rawkblog is also one of my favorite music bloggers. Besides being a contributor to Coke Machine Glow, he always has interesting music and photos up on his page. He ran an article recently that discusses his aversion to the “dad-rock” label as a bad thing. Funny, insightful, knowledgeable, as well as getting me to listen to Dungen for the first time - Thanks David!

Spoon - Rare Tracks, Vol. 1

With the new Spoon album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga due on July 10 and baby-stepping around the internet over the past few weeks, I thought I’d reflect on some Spoon songs that may not be in your collection. Spoon has always been a band with plenty of b-sides, compilation songs, outtakes, soundtrack contributions, etc. floating around, and many of those songs are quite strong. I’m going to run down my 10 favorites, 5 today and 5 more coming in a few days. Here’s 10 - 6:

(NOTE: The Soft Effects EP is not included due to it having just been reissued and packaged with Telephono last year via Merge Records. Besides, those songs would basically be 5-1 anyway, so it really wouldn't even be fair.)

10. "Let The Distance Keep Us Together"

I have an iTunes version of this song (bastards!), so unfortunately I can’t share it with you. This is from a split EP with Bright Eyes called Home, Vol. 4, and is one of Britt Daniel’s most straightforward, earnest, and beautiful ballads - go check it out.

Taken from the The Way We Get By EP, which features the title track (originally on Kill The Moonlight) backed by live versions of several Spoon songs, as well as this cover of a song written by Lee Mavers of The La’s. Although this song didn’t appear on The La’s one studio album, it captures what that band was all about - deceptively simple, catchy pop songs presented as ragged folk-rock.

8. MP3 :: Decora

“Decora” is a Yo La Tengo cover, having first appeared on their 1995 album Electr-O-Pura. Like much of their early material, the Spoon version is melodic and repetitive, sounding like it could have easily fit on Soft Effects. It appeared on Old Enough To Know Better - 15 Years of Merge Records.

This overlooked gem appeared on the “Sister Jack” single after Gimme Fiction. It is a percussion-less and, again, repetitive, song that rides some hypnotic electric-acoustic guitar interplay. It would have fit nicely on Gimme Fiction, perhaps as the closer.

6. MP3 :: The Book I Write

In 2006 Britt Daniel composed the score (read: 3 instrumental pieces, a few old Spoon songs, a few old songs by other folks, and this 1 new Spoon song) to the underrated Will Ferrell movie Stranger Than Fiction. The song is brief at just over 2 minutes, but quite simply is Spoon at their most straight-faced pop, sounding catchier than almost anything on Gimme Fiction.
Check back soon for Vol. 2 of the feature with my 5 favorite Spoon rarities!

Talkin' New York, Vol. 4 - Chris Cubeta & The Liars Club

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a very intimate showcase of music at Foil Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The event was a teaming up of Galuminum Foil Productions and Local Correspondents, and was called P.S. 318: Warehouse Songs, Vol.1. The night brought together some of Brooklyn’s best up-and-coming young songwriters, each performing a short set of their best material in front of a small audience. The 2-night event saw 8 artists play for about a half-hour each, and was recorded using the studio’s state of the art equipment. The plan is to eventually pare the recordings down to 16 songs (2 per artist) for a compilation to be released this summer.

That night I met Chris Cubeta, the owner of the studio and a fine recording artist in his own right. He gave me a copy of his 2006 album Faithful, and I’ll be damned if I haven’t been hooked on it now for a few weeks. I guess owning and operating your own studio allows you the luxury of having the best quality production on your records, and Faithful has it in spades. Featuring Cubeta’s ace backing band The Liars Club, the album contains 13 songs of the highest fidelity. At times reminiscent of the best of Counting Crows and John Hiatt, Faithful is a strong collection of radio-ready, passionate roots rock and roll. Cubeta has the unique ability catch that restless feeling of watching your youth fade away out the rearview mirror. His songs long for the good old days gone by, but make the best of dealing with the difficulties of adulthood. They are layered in varied instrumentation and sweet melodies, but are spacious enough to invite multiple listens. At their best, as on “Clementine” and “Don’t Worry”, the characters and stories are so sharply written you almost feel like he’s singing about folks you know. And he probably is…

MP3 :: Clementine
MP3 :: Don’t Worry
(from Faithful)

According to Chris’s BIO:

While his lyrics combine nuance-soaked imagery with a brash, incisive point-of-view, Cubeta’s sound is equally eclectic, combining the wispy, sensitivity of the singer/songwriter with the unbridled thrill of rock and roll. Faithful is an artistic declaration, full of offbeat characters, ecstatic revelations and unfiltered emotion. It is the kind of record that unabashedly announces the arrival of a new and necessary young artist whose urgent and desperate approach to songwriting is all too rare in contemporary music.”

You can stream Faithful by visiting Cubeta’s WEBSITE

And it is available for purchase HERE or from Sonic Bids
Chris will be playing solo at The Living Room on June 6
and w/ The Liars Club at The Bitter End on June 7
Previous "Talkin' New York" features:

New York's FREE Summer Concerts...

Here are some of this summer’s best FREE concerts in New York City:

Celebrate Brooklyn! - Noteworthy shows at the Band Shell @ Prospect Park:
Right in the heart of Brooklyn is one of the most diverse concert series you’ll find anywhere. Year in and year out, basically all genres and cultures are covered with Celebrate Brooklyn!, and this year is no different. Here’s a run down of some of the shows to keep an eye on:

Thursday, June 21, 7PM -
The Richard Thompson Band / Ollabelle

Friday, June 22, 7:30PM
Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys / James Reams & The Barnstormers

Saturday, June 30, 7PM
The Stills / The Sam Roberts Band / Malajube

Thursday, August 9, 7PM
The Hold Steady / The Big Sleep / The Teenage Prayers
MP3 :: Stuck Between Stations (Live On The Current) - The Hold Steady
(“Stuck Between Stations” originally on Boys & Girls In America)

Click HERE for the full line-up.

McCarren Park Pool - With a stage looking out over the biggest empty pool you’ll ever stand in, this venue is on the outskirts of Williamsburg and offers free shows every Sunday from some of indie rock’s biggest names.

Sunday, June 24, 3-8PM
Superchunk / Oakley Hall

Sunday, July 8, 3-8PM
Dan Deacon / Erase Errata / Octopus Project
MP3 :: Dan Deacon - The Crystal Cat
(from Spiderman of the Rings)

Sunday, August 5, 3-8PM
Blonde Redhead / I’m From Barcelona
MP3 :: Blonde Redhead - 23
(from 23)

Sunday, August 12, 3-8PM
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists / The Thermals
MP3 :: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - The Sons Of Cain
(from Living With The Living)

Click HERE for the full line-up

River To River Festival - A listing of various free shows all over Manhattan:

Friday, June 1 - 7pm - Animal Collective - South Street Seaport, Pier 17

Saturday, June 2 - 7pm - Roky Erickson and Alejandro Escovedo - Castle Clinton National Monument / Battery Park

Tuesday, June 26 - 7pm The Living Room – A Songwriters' Night starring Martha Wainwright, Chris Thile, Ari Hest, Jim Campilongo and more. World Financial Center Plaza

Wednesday, July 4 - 3:30pm - The New Pornographers - Battery Park

Thursday, July 5 - 7pm - Shearwater - Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park
MP3 :: Seventy Four, Seventy Five
(from Palo Santo)

Friday, July 6 - 7pm - Fujiya & Miyagi South Street Seaport, Pier 17
MP3 :: Collarbone
(from Transparent Things)

Wednesday, July 11 - 7pm - Spoon - Battery Park City, Rockefeller Park
MP3 :: The Ghost Of You Lingers
(from the forthcoming Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, out July 10)

Thursday, July 12 - 7pm - Ron Sexsmith - Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park

Friday, July 13 - 7pm - Menomena - South Street Seaport, Pier 17
MP3 :: Muscle n’ Flo
(from Friend and Foe)

Thursday, July 19 - 7pm - Drive-By Truckers - Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park
MP3 :: Gravity’s Gone
(from A Blessing and a Curse)

Friday, July 20 - 7pm - Rock Plaza Central - South Street Seaport, Pier 17
MP3 :: My Children, Be Joyful
(from Are We Not Horses?)

Thursday, August 2 - 7pm - The Flatlanders - Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park

Friday, August 31 - 7pm - Battles - South Street Seaport, Pier 17

Click HERE for the full line-up

Links To The World....

The other day Pitchfork had a new song from the forthcoming Okkervil River album. The Stage Names hits stores later this summer (8/7, Jagjaguwar), but for now, enjoy the first single:

MP3 :: Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe

Check out An Aquarium Drunkard, who have recently featured some fine rare Ryan Adams material. There are excerpts from the Exile On Franklin Street sessions here, and from the Destroyer sessions here. Both show the artist at an interesting point in his career - Exile… is more playful and full band oriented, while Destroyer was recorded just weeks prior to Heartbreaker and features Ethan Johns, David Rawlings, and Gillian Welch.
And since you can’t get enough Wilco these days, read what Jeff Tweedy had to say at the band’s recent Spinner Sessions taping about being compared to The Eagles in a recent Sky Blue Sky review.

Also check out Can You See The Sunset From The Southside? - they have a recent Tweedy solo show available for download that, as always, is a great mix of the old and the new. Scroll down to the 5/17 post.

Track A Tiger: "We Moved Like Ghosts"

I was first introduced to the mp3 blogging world about a year and a half ago, and soon after discovered the music of a little known group of teachers in Chicago called Track A Tiger. For me their 2006 debut album, Woke Up Early The Day I Died, will be forever linked to this time because it was the first CD I ever bought strictly on advice/mp3 samples from blogs. And you always remember your first, right? I still remember time and place of my first Bruce song, my first Replacements song, first Spoon song, etc…(MTV, “Born In The USA” video, 10 years old/“Waitress In The Sky”, friend’s car, 16/“Take the Fifth”, Uncut Mag Promo CD, 26). And to top it all off, Woke Up Early… was (and is) really good.

So, skip ahead a while and here I am in the luxurious Pop Headwound headquarters with a promo copy of that very same band’s sophomore album, We Moved Like Ghosts. It was released this week on Deep Elm Records, and will see a much wider distribution than the debut. We Moved Like Ghosts still features everything I loved about the band the first time around - the gorgeous male-female harmonies, the spacious arrangements, the expert meshing of acoustic/electric guitars and echoey keyboards, but this time sounds worlds more self-assured. Songs like “All These Accidents” and “Don’t Make A Weapon” perfect the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-inspired laptop folk of the debut, while “Summer’s End” and “Light” find the band playing around with some new ideas and song structures (especially with the prominence of the normally harmonizing Kristina Castaneda). Plus there is a dramatic reworking of Woke Up Early’s… closing track, “With Stars Down”. Here it is completely re-imagined, given a strong beat and shimmering, intertwining guitars and keys. All in all, We Moved Like Ghosts is a beautiful and hypnotic progressive-folk record, and should bring even wider acclaim to a band that certainly deserves it.
MP3 :: Don't Make A Weapon
MP3 :: All These Accidents
(from We Moved Like Ghosts)
Purchase We Moved Like Ghosts HERE

5/22/07 - Super Tuesday

Today sees the release of several records that are on the Pop Headwound shopping list. First and foremost, rush out and pick up the new album from The National. Boxer is the follow up to 2005’s critically acclaimed Alligator, and continues the knockout punches from this winning Brooklyn band.
What we said previously: “If Alligator was the sound of a bunch of late 20-something, Midwest-to-Brooklyn transplants enjoying the freedom away from their proper jobs and having the time of their lives in the big city, then its follow-up, the brilliant Boxer, is the sound of the band coming back down to Earth. Lead singer/lyricist Matt Berninger, with his rich baritone, still sounds like a buzzed aristocrat weaving sordid tales, only now those tales have become more seasoned, as his unmistakable vocals and sardonic lyrics continue to give The National much of their identity.” Full Post.

MP3 :: Start A War
MP3 :: Apartment Story
(from Boxer)

Buy from Amazon

Handsome Furs, the side project of Wolf Parade member Dan Boeckner, is another favorite getting lots of play around here. Featuring just himself and his fiancée Alexi Perry, some loud electric guitars, and a new drum machine, Boeckner has crafted a fierce debut for his other song outlet.
What we previously said: (the songs are) decorated with more electronics, but that should not suggest a calmer mood - if anything the heightened artificial surroundings add to Boeckner’s intense conveyance of his gruff (urban) paranoia. The songs are everything you‘d expect from the man responsible for half of one of 2006‘s best records, and suggest that Plague Park is certainly an album to look forward to." Well it is, and then some. Plague Park is loitering around my Top 5 for the year so far, and the song “Handsome Furs Hate The City” may just be the best song ever. Original Post.

MP3 :: What We Had
MP3 :: Dumb Animals
(from Plague Park)
Buy from Amazon
Voxtrot is also releasing their self-titled debut full length today, this after a successful string of EPs released over the past year and a half.
What we said previously (about first single “Kid Gloves”): "Kid Gloves" is instantly recognizable, once again displaying the band's now trademark influences (The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian, etc.), as well as a build up to a thunderously loud finale. Lead singer Ramesh Srivastava's vocals never dominate the mix, instead are perfectly matched to the high-energy jangle of the band, becoming more impassioned as the music continuously climbs to its arresting finish". Original Post.

MP3 :: Kid Gloves
(from Voxtrot)
Buy from Amazon

And finally, the new Shapes And Sizes also hits stores today. I’ve only heard a few tracks off Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner so far, but those few have blown me away enough that I intend to pick it up ASAP.
What we said (about “Alone/Alive”): “it starts the album off with some un-mic’d acoustic strumming and 1980’s computer-geek sound manipulations, before the hyperactive electric guitar and drums burst down the door. Caila Thompson-Hannant sings her cryptic words with as disarming a voice as I‘ve heard in a while, slipping from high-pitched wails like someone’s pinching the backs of her arms to something much richer and sadder. The band seamlessly shifts through a slew of different sections, slowing and quieting before growing into cacophonous orchestras, the song ending with an absolute onslaught of screams, pummeled drums, and breaking strings. A discordant mess, beautiful and scary.” Original Post.

MP3 :: Alone/Alive
MP3 :: Head Movin’
(from Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner)
Buy from Amazon

Page France....and the Family Telephone

Page France is a band that has slipped quietly under my radar over the past few weeks. I’ve seen their name on more than a few of my favorite blogs, even heard a few songs here and there, but somehow just never found the time to give them the good listen they deserved. Until today. Like a magician pulling a rabbit from his hat, Page France have dropped a fascinating record seemingly out of nowhere. Their new album, …and the Family Telephone, was recently released through Suicide Squeeze, and is just brimming with their catchy and quirky take on folk-rock. It’s the band’s third full length release, following 2006’s Hello, Dear Wind and 2005‘s Come, I’m A Lion!.

The band plays it loose and the melodies come quick and easy throughout the generous 14 song set. Their gentle, swaying take on folk-rock can recall the friendlier side of The Velvet Underground - that is if Lou Reed consistently sucked helium and grew up as a circus child. “The Joker’s Joke” starts of with a simple, repetitive acoustic guitar line and lead singer Michael Nau’s endearingly nasal voice, but soon enough takes twists and turns to suggest that they may be equally influenced by falling into rabbit holes as traditional American music. On the song Nau spins a whimsical tale full of strange imagery about magnets, magic, bones being thrown, jokers, beggars, and who knows what else. Similiar charmingly odd-ball images pop up throughout the record. I haven’t psychoanalyzed his words yet, but the dude must imagine in cartoons.

You can also stream …and the Family Telephone over at AOL’s new Spinner website HERE.

MP3 :: The Joker's Joke
MP3 :: Hat and Rabbit
(from …and the Family Telephone)

Buy Page France music at Insound, Amazon, & eMusic

Check out Page France at their myspace HERE and website HERE.

Album Review: The National - "Boxer"

After several respectable, if unremarkable, early releases The National burst onto the indie-rock scene with 2005’s self-assured and brash Alligator. That record, with its comically egotistical declarations (“I’m a perfect piece of ass”, “so tall I take over the street…a wingspan unbelievable”, etc.), caught the underground by surprise and catapulted the band to the forefront of the NY music scene and into a high profile tour with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. While being just a song or two too long to be considered perfect, Alligator boasts some of the best individual rock songs of the past few years in “Abel” and “Mr. November”, among many others.

If Alligator was the sound of a bunch of late 20-something, Midwest-to-Brooklyn transplants enjoying the freedom away from their proper jobs and having the time of their lives in the big city, then its follow-up, the brilliant Boxer, is the sound of the band coming back down to Earth. Throughout the new record’s 12 songs there is a definite sense that the party is over, leaving the band to figure out where they fit in now that they’ve accomplished goal number 1: making a name for themselves. The answer to that question is to take a step back. Other than its more consistently relaxed mood, Boxer doesn’t sound that noticeably different than its predecessor . Lead singer/lyricist Matt Berninger, with his rich baritone, still sounds like a buzzed aristocrat weaving sordid tales, only now those tales have become more seasoned, as his unmistakable vocals and sardonic lyrics continue to give The National much of their identity. Guitarists Scott Devendorf and Bryce Dessner once again ring out plenty of catchy and chimy riffs. But the secret weapon on this album is the drumming of Bryan Devendorf. His playing is so rhythmically creative and prominent in the mix that it becomes more than just the backbone of the music - it often competes with Berninger himself as the center of attention.

The easiest distinction between Boxer and Alligator is on Boxer’s first track, the elegant “Fake Empire”. It starts off indiscreetly with some talent show piano and Berninger getting ready for a night out in his ‘shiny city’, complete with his spiked lemonade and ‘diamond slippers’ and doing ‘gay ballet’ with ‘bluebirds on our shoulders’. This getting- ready-for-a (strange)-night-on-the-town motif instantly recalls one of Alligator’s standout tracks, “All the Wine”. In it Berninger confidently declared himself ‘a birthday candle in a circle of black girls’ and that “all the wine is all for me”. But where “All The Wine” never really amounted to much more than an extroverted, semi-perverse boys-night-out anthem, “Fake Empire” becomes something more world weary and fearful. The refrain, “we’re half awake in a fake empire” is not only ambiguously political, but also connotes the disinterest all those night owls seem to have towards the country’s well being during this time of constant crisis. Berninger now sings with a knowing maturity that those reckless nights come with a price, but there is still a vagueness as to what to do about it.

The lovely, reflective “Start A War” also makes allusions to the times we live in when he sings ‘walk away now and you’re gonna start a war’. It’s a striking image, especially considering the times, but it’s meant in an interpersonal way - a private war between people. Yet he also sings ‘we expected something better than before, we expected something more’ in such a way as to imply wanting something sturdy to believe, but not knowing what that thing is. His characters all seem to suffer similar fates - as in the search for identity of “Mistaken For Strangers”, or looking towards TV and popular culture for meaning in “Apartment Story”. The idea of begrudgingly dealing with responsibility while others around you aren’t yet ready to do the same repeatedly surfaces. There are references to being ‘mistaken for strangers by your own friends’ (“Mistaken For Strangers”), of being ‘out of touch/all my friends are somewhere getting wasted’ (“Green Gloves”), and of once being ‘a blowing young ruffian/oh my God, it was a million years ago’ (“Racing Like A Pro”). These images of being lost in your own life come with a forlorn resignation and disappointed acceptance of such an ill-favored fate.

Despite its lack of sonic grit Boxer is every bit the album Alligator was, and may even surpass it. Where that album swung wildly from balls-out rock (and some ferocious yelling on the part of Berninger that is nowhere to be found here), to hypnotic mid-tempo street poetics, to lavish, string-adorned grandiosity, Boxer remains content to hang somewhere in the middle of the three, giving it more overall focus. Even when Boxer does decide to “rock” it does so in a way that only teeters on the edge of a full-on release, as on the aforementioned “Mistaken For Strangers” and “Apartment Story”. The cathartic, primal wailing of “Abel” has given way to more a more nuanced and contemplative voice. Nowhere is this better displayed than on the haunting closer, “Gospel”. Over a disarming melody that hints at Tom Waits’ “Martha”, Berninger sings ‘let me come over, I can waist your time, I’m bored/invite me to the war every night of the summer”, which basically sums up everything that comes before - the sense wanting to do something, but not being sure what, during a difficult time. Perhaps inadvertently, The National have captured and expressed a sense of lethargy on Boxer that many of this generation share. The thing is, lethargy has never sounded better.

MP3 :: Apartment Story
MP3 :: Start A War
(from Boxer)
Boxer will be available 5/22 through Beggars

The National - Website

The Official Wilco Internet Round-Up

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately you are well aware that this week saw the release of the latest Wilco record, Sky Blue Sky. The blogging and internet world has been ablaze with Wilco news, features, interviews, and reviews of all sorts this week, so I thought I’d round up what’s worth reading out there in one fan friendly place. So here goes:

Start by checking out Pop Headwound’s Sky Blue Sky review HERE. While SBS is far from my favorite Wilco record (that would be Being There, no, YHF, no Being There, no, etc…) I wasn’t nearly as dismissive as many other more noteworthy reviewers have been. Check them out below.

Also, a few weeks ago I posted my favorite Wilco rarities, which are still available for download HERE and HERE.

The Good Reviews…:

The Onion
Tiny Mix Tapes
Rolling Stone

…& Not So Good
Coke Machine Glow (“Impossible Germany” song review)

The Interviews:
Chicago Sun Times

Around the Blogs:
Oceans Never Listen (live review from Australia)
That Truncheon Thing (YHF Demos) & Prairie Home Companion Appearance
Six Eyes (“Hate It Here” mp3)
KEXP Blog (“One True Vine” - exclusive b-side)
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside? (album thoughts, mp3s)
Marathon Packs (interesting thoughts on “Impossible Germany”)
Moroccan Role (album thoughts)
MP3 :: What Light
(from Sky Blue Sky)
Purchase Sky Blue Sky from Amazon, Insound
Or if you purchase the album from Itunes you get an exclusive bonus track called "Let's Not Get Carried Away", which in fact does get carried away. It rocks much harder than anything on the actual CD.

Maria Taylor: Live on Spinner

Not too long ago Maria Taylor, the Saddle Creek recording artist, former Azure Ray/Little Red Rocket band member, and occassional Bright Eyes drummer, stopped in at the AOL studio to record some live videos for Spinner’s Interface series. I wrote about her 2007 album Lynn Teeter Flower earlier this year, and a few of the songs are still getting some play here at the ant-infested PHW headquarters. “Clean Getaway” and “Lost Time” are two of them, and happen to also be two of the prettiest songs I’ve heard all year.

Maria Taylor Interface - Song 2: 'Clean Getaway'

Maria Taylor performs 'Clean Getaway' live for the Interface.

Watch Video

Maria Taylor Interface - Song 3: 'Lost Time'

Maria Taylor performs 'Lost Time' live for the Interface.

Watch Video

MP3 :: Lost Time
(from Lynn Teeter Flower)

Click HERE to see the performance in its entirety.

Saddle Creek Records Maria Taylor myspace

In Rewind: The Second Band

The following is a re-post of one I originally ran a few months ago. The Second Band was a great find earlier this year, and I’m still listening to their songs all the time. Thanks to The Punk Guy for the heads up!

Let’s play a game. Take a listen to any of The Second Band’s mp3s provided below and see if you can guess where the band is from…. Go ahead.

If you listen to “Bellystings & Sunshowers” you may say “oh, they’re from Austin, TX. They may even owe Will Sheff back rent for the basement apartment they’ve been hiding away in downstairs from Okkervil River’s recording studio. Hell, they may sneak up there when the band’s on tour and use their equipment”. Cold.

MP3 :: Bellystings & Sunshowers
(from What’s Up, Tiger Lily? EP)

If you hear “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” you may bet your life they were from Omaha, NE and were childhood friends with Conor Oberst. They’re the ones Conor never mentions in interviews because you may never listen to him again. Still cold.

MP3 :: What’s Up, Tiger Lily
(from the What’s Up, Tiger Lily? EP)

Going by “A Song I Can’t Recall” you might say they used to get drunk and shoot off firecrackers with Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary under blankets of North Carolina stars. They may have even opened for Whiskeytown once, and Ry-Ry starting copping their singer’s delivery. Well, this would be your warmest guess yet, but you’re still miles (and miles and miles) off.

MP3 :: A Song I Can't Recall
(from Your Dark Side Is On The Phone)

There is something distinctively American sounding in The Second Band’s songs, yet they can’t really be tied to one particular place very easily, can they?. If you’ve given up then let me help you out. The Second Band is from the decidedly un-American country known as Sweden. It’s on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, and not even remotely close to any of your guesses, silly. Better luck next time. I found this band in a recent post over at The Punk Guy, and was immediately taken with the songs, and felt the need to share them.

The Second Band - myspace, website

"We'll Cut Our Hair And Fake Our Death"

Last year Califone released one of my favorite records of 2006 with the stunning Roots & Crowns. But this wasn't my first experience with the band. I was first overwhelmed by Califone when they opened for Wilco at a show in the Fall of 2002. The stage that night was crowded with musicians making one hell of a noisy and experimental racket, yet it was undeniably rooted in folk music. There was barely anything in the way of traditional song structures, but it made a deep impression on me nonetheless.

Soon after, the band released Quicksand/Cradlesnakes, an album that earned positive comparisons to Wilco’s classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and one that captured the feeling of watching them play that night before a sold out crowd. If Wilco was stripping its pop songs to their bare essentials and building them up into exciting new shapes, then Califone was doing the same to its folk music, layering laptop effects and tape loops on top of the purest of roots music. It turned out to be my second favorite album of 2003, right behind The Wren’s The Meadowlands.

The album begins with a minute of low feedback, quiet and spacey and called “One”, which segues into the piano led “Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey”. The song begins inauspiciously with some tinkered piano, and gradually adds more and more instrumentation- slide guitar, percussion, sound effects- all the while relying on the piano to guide it through its slow-folk haze. Tim Rutilli’s words don’t seem to make literal sense, instead they evoke images that bleed in with the music - “in and out of sleep/even with the rise and fall” and “shake your stars” and “buzzing like a worn out fret/we cut our hair and fake our death”. The song’s final third acts as a counter to its opening. Around the four-minute mark the music nearly drops out entirely, leaving just the piano and noise effects. Slowly a very different bass line enters, more melodic and faster than anything that has come before, as well as drums that are providing an actual beat. The noise swells over its new base, and Rutilli comes back in repeating a new set of cryptic lyrics - “amputated years are growing back a new shade”- that somehow provide a sense of triumphant closure to the song’s controlled chaos. This is one of my favorite songs of the last few years, and a wonderful introduction to one of the music world’s best indie-folk acts.

MP3 :: one
MP3 :: horoscopic.amputation.honey.
(from Quicksand/Cradlesnakes)

Catch Califone on tour:

05/15/07 The Badlander Missoula, MT
05/17/07 400 Bar Minneapolis, MN
05/18/07 High Noon Saloon Madison, WI
05/19/07 Pabst Theater Milwaukee, WI
06/01/07 Stuart’s Opera House Nelsonville, OH
06/02/07 Beachland Tavern Cleveland, OH
06/03/07 Mohawk Place Buffalo, NY
06/05/07 Iron Horse Music Hall Northampton, MA
06/06/07 Middle East Upstairs Cambridge, MA
06/07/07 The Gramercy Theatre New York, NY
06/08/07 Johnny Brenda’s Philadelphia, PA
06/09/07 Rock and Roll Hotel Washington, DC

Visit Califone’s website and myspace

Purchase Califone music at Amazon

New Video: Earl Pickens, "Turn On The Radio"

Last week I posted about the new Earl Pickens EP, Turn On The Radio. If you were one of the lucky folks packed into NY’s Sidewalk Café back on May 4 for the CD release party then you already know all about his new video for the first single (and semi-title track) “Can I Turn On The Radio?”. Pickens bravely does all his own stunts while traveling across state lines to deliver flowers to his love, and according to what I wrote last time, “it may be the perfect soundtrack to a long springtime drive - top down, blue skies, holding hands, and singing along” - well, check that. It may be the perfect soundtrack to a unicycle ride over the GW bridge.

MP3 :: Can I Turn On the Radio?
(from Turn On The Radio)
Buy the EP HERE

Visit Earl’s website (read his blog) HERE and myspace HERE

Kill Buffalo Records

Album Review: Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

With the deceptively prescient opening line of Sky Blue Sky, Wilco front man/singer/guitarist/indie-rock diety Jeff Tweedy once again reestablishes the direction of his band. “Maybe the sun will shine today…” are the words, and over the course of the record’s 12 songs there is decidedly more light, both in Tweedy’s direct manner of communicating his thoughts, and the band’s turn to a precisely straightforward, soulful sound. This is not to suggest that Tweedy has completely abandoned the dark and sometimes awkwardly painful exploration of his own relationships and psyche (I mean the word “maybe” in that line doesn’t exactly suggest a guarantee), but there is certainly more of an optimistic tone on Sky Blue Sky than Tweedy has previously been willing to reveal. This album seems to be the product of a man settled into a very healthy, comfortable period of his life. All this begs the question as to whether Sky Blue Sky, with its laid back, soft rock attitude (read: lack of edge), can be considered as an important record in the Wilco catalogue.

And to answer that question, Sky Blue Sky is an important record, if barely. Ever since Tweedy tried to purposefully trump Son Volt’s universally lauded Trace with the staggering mission statement of American music that is Being There, his band has been pushing the boundaries of what was expected of their music, whether shunning the stubbornly backwards leaning alternative-country genre on Summerteeth, deconstructing its music entirely on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, or announcing Tweedy’s personal and emotional anguish onto record through A Ghost Is Born’s fractured guitar anti-heroics. Wilco has enjoyed one of indie-rocks most successful runs over the past decade by continually confounding both its fan base and critics. Sky Blue Sky continues the trend, but in perhaps the most unexpected way yet. Its warm, beautiful, and somewhat sleepy songs convey a band that is mature and confident, if decidedly restrained, and a lyricist who has become the poet-laureate for skillfully contemplative domesticity.

Sky Blue Sky also marks the first time that a Wilco record has featured the same exact set of musicians from one release to the next (granted the last album, Kicking Television: Live In Chicago, was a live album). In turn, the new record boasts some of the tightest, most intuitive playing to ever grace a Wilco album. These musicians are all experts on their respective instruments, but while working together are clearly more interested in servicing the songs than showing off their own individual talents. The only extended soloing to be found is during the final 3 minutes of “Impossible Germany”, where Nels Cline’s shimmering tones hover over a languid beat, beautiful and floating. Tweedy eventually joins him in a predestined duel, with Cline easily staying just ahead of his less distinguished, but just as passionate, partner. Drummer Glen Kotche may be the most reserved purported virtuoso ever, as his playing is never the focus of a song, and keyboardists Mikael Jorgensen and Pat Sansone add depth to the music while leaving the guitarists in the forefront. However, the unsung hero of these songs is bassist John Stirratt, the only other original member of the band. For a long time his deep and powerful lines have been overshadowed by his more omnipresent peers, but with these songs, which are closer to the type of sound he probably prefers (see his side band The Autumn Defense with Sansone), it is finally time to recognize the man for what he delivers - some of the most fluid and quietly addictive playing in the music industry.

The polite manner of the band makes clear that Sky Blue Sky is an album of songs, and for the first time in years it is pointless to try to connect the dots between them. Free of any sort of over-arching thematic elements, the songs are still mostly about the inter-personal relationships in Tweedy’s life, albeit in a less obliquely poetic way. “Either Way” hints at domestic strife, but rides such a breezy guitar line and has such bright imagery that any of its potential darkness is quickly overshadowed. “You Are My Face” is slightly bipolar, seemingly settled in its 70’s soft-rock groove until Tweedy’s jagged soloing swerves its middle section before it soon mellows out again. Of all the songs, “Hate It Here” seems destined to be the fan favorite. It’s a pure soul song, with plenty of electric piano and bluesy riffs, a huge Beatle-esque chorus, and some very tongue-in-cheek lyrics about Tweedy trying to figure out his way around the home after his woman takes off. There are also several attempts at returning to the rootsy, acoustic strumming of Sky Blue Sky’s ancestors, as on the title track, “Please Be Patient With Me”, and “Leave Me (Like You Found Me)”. “Walken” is a straight blues-rock boogie, seemingly straight off of one of Little Feat’s first two albums, and has a chorus that is an awful lot of fun to sing along too as Tweedy sends his voice into a falsetto at the end of each line. The only flat out failure in the bunch is the soporific “Shake It Off”. With neither a convincing melody nor interesting lyrics the song lumbers along monotonously, impressive only in its tightness and nothing else.

Around the time of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Tweedy was quoted as saying (and I’m paraphrasing based on memory), “I’m not interested in writing songs that anyone could sing. I want to write songs that only sound right when I’m singing them”. For years Tweedy accomplished his goal. Highly personalized, idiosyncratic songs such as “She’s A Jar” or “Handshake Drugs” would just sound out of place if sung by another. Well, on Sky Blue Sky he has finally come full circle, again comfortable writing songs that may induce nightly swaying concert sing-alongs and/or cover versions from other artists. “What Light” most clearly supports this idea, and is both direct and poignant enough to sound as though it could have been written by Woody Guthrie. On it in particular, but also throughout the album, Tweedy lets go of any potentially restricting artistic inclinations and embraces the collaborative relationship between artist and fan. “What Light” is a reminder that once a song reaches a fan’s ear the artist loses his control over it, as it now has the ability to move people in ways he can no longer direct. With this fan friendly goal in mind, Sky Blue Sky succeeds in being exactly what it sets out to be: simply a collection of really good songs. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?
MP3 :: You Are My Face
MP3 :: What Light
(from Sky Blue Sky)

Purchase Sky Blue Sky HERE

New Music: Great Lake Swimmers - Ongiara

As previously reported, Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers released Ongiara yesterday. The record is the third full length of the band’s career, and is named for the Toronto Harbor boat that brought the band members (singer/songwriter Tony Dekker, Erik Arnesen, and Colin Heubert) back and forth from home to a recording studio on Toronto Island. The band has made a name for themselves through their sparse acoustics and heavy reverb, and this album doesn’t stray too far from the band’s established comfort zone. Featuring little more than delicately strummed acoustic guitars, banjo, and some lightly brushed percussion, the songs stand on there own due in large part to Dekker’s continually sublime melodies, as well as the spacious production and arrangements that runs throughout the album’s 10 tracks.

The somber, atmospheric folk songs continually conjure natural images. In fact, if there is a unifying thread at work here it seems to keep pretty close to man’s symbiotic relationship with nature, and using those natural images as metaphors for the interpersonal. For instance, the album’s focus track and opener, “Your Rocky Spine” uses it’s scenes of the Canadian Rockies as a springboard for a sensual tour of the female body. In fact, everything from the artwork to the lyrical imagery to the campfire feel of the music lends itself to this rustic setting.

The early press has been favorable, especially Paste magazine’s recent 4 ½ star rating, and deservedly so. Great Lake Swimmers have crafted a fine folk record that at its best is beautiful and stirring. Several songs, such as “Catcher Song” and “I Am Part Of A Large Family”, stand up with the best folk music I‘ve heard this year. The rest of the songs work together to create a unified mood piece, perfect for those creaky Sunday mornings when laying around on the back porch is easily the best option.

MP3 :: Catcher Son
MP3 :: I Am Part Of A Large Family
(from Ongiara)
Purchase Ongiara from Amazon
Visit the band’s website HERE and myspace HERE

Lost Recordings - Ryan Adams (Live Stuff)

Early last week I posted the Whiskeytown Freightwhaler Sessions, which are still available here. I’m trying to get in the habit of cleaning out some of my favorite artist’s great unreleased work that are sitting around idly, collecting that digital dust. So in a continuation of that last post, here’s a few more of my favorite unreleased Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown songs, this time focusing on some live recordings.

MP3 :: Abigail
MP3 :: Just Like A Whore
(live on Idiot’s Delight)

These two songs were recorded on New York radio for Vin Scelsa’s long running free form program. The sound quality is good, the songs are better, and there is some candid, pleasant banter between singer and host, especially when Scelsa hears the name of the second tune. I don’t believe either of these songs ever saw official release, although there is a bootleg version floating around of “Just Like A Whore” that Adams recorded with The Pinkhearts.

MP3 :: Funny How I'm Losing You
MP3 :: Folklore
MP3 :: Memories
MP3 :: Nighttime Gals
MP3 :: Petal In A Rainstorm
MP3 :: Hey There Mrs. Lovely
(from the Exit/In, Nashville, TN, 10/28/99)

These six sings are from a solo performance in Nashville, not long before the recording of Heartbreaker. I used to have the whole show, and wish I still did, but those crummy blank cds go bad after a while, and I lost the files from my computer back in the days before I learned how to store everything neatly on my external. But luckily I still have a few of the really strong, never-to-be-released songs for you to check out. I have always really liked Heartbreaker, think it is far and away his best record, yet there are a few tunes on there that I skip every time (in fact, I don’t think I have EVER listened to “AMY” without skipping it, not even the first time). If I were to officially re-imagine the album, as I may do sometime, a few of these songs would certainly make the cut. Themetically speaking, “Funny How I’m Losing You” and “Memories” perfectly fit the Heartbreaker mood and mold, and easily surpass the album’s weaker material. I guess I have to agree with The Stypod’s not necessarily groundbreaking proposal that Adams is rarely the best judge of his own best material.

One unreleased Adams album that I have never heard is Destroyer, the album recorded and scrapped right before he did Heartbreaker. I think a few of the above songs may have been intended for release on that, had it ever seen the light of day. By the way, if anyone has a copy of Destroyer they’d be willing to send me I would be eternally grateful.

New Music - Feist/Frog Eyes

Besides Dinosaur Jr.’s triumphant return with Beyond last week saw 2 other notable album releases, one that I was looking forward to for a few months, and one that snuck up on me.

Frog Eyes returned with the long awaited Tears Of The Valedictorian. Songs like “Bushels” and “Idle Songs” leaked way back in early February and built a strong level of anticipation to hear the rest. The album sways around between concise little schizophrenic anti-pop songs and longer, shape-shifting epics, such as the previously mentioned “Bushels”. There is more than a fair share of the crazed, mad-scientist experimentation fans of the band have grown to expect, and of course plenty of Carey Mercer’s sweeping, knife-like vocals. So far, the reviews have been positive, with the album getting a “recommended” from Pitchfork, and even better scores from Prefix and AMG.

MP3 :: Bushels
MP3 :: ...Eagle Energy
(from Tears of the Valedictorian)

Pick up Tears of the Valedictorian at Amazon
I have to admit that I am very late to the Feist phenomenom. Her debut, Let It Die, was critically lauded a few years ago, but I chose to ignore the good press and stay in my lonely little Feist-less bubble. Not so this time, as all the hype persuaded me to do some exploring. And man, am I glad I did. Her sophomore album, The Reminder, also did well this week on Pitchfork, and over at The Onion and Drowned In Sound too, among others, and from the songs I’ve heard so far is very well deserved. I think I misunderstood her music without ever having heard a note, possibly because I’ve seen remixes floating around the blogs on more than one occasion, and usually I‘m not a remix kinda guy. Anyway, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my prejudices, as these songs are warm with real emotion and finely played instrumentation. Check out these 2:

MP3 :: Past In Present
MP3 :: I Feel It All
(from The Reminder)

Buy The Reminder (dirt cheap) at Amazon

Dinosaur Jr. - Back from Extinction

Dinosaur Jr. is back, and with a vengeance. This week the heroes of the 80’s underground and 90’s alt-rock released Beyond, their first album of new material with all the original members since 1989’s Bug. I wasn’t even born yet in 1989. On Beyond the band deftly sidesteps the trap of trying to appeal to the casual fan who bought Without A Sound in 1994 because they saw “Feel the Pain” on MTV (don’t get me wrong, a cool song and great video, but was far past the prime of the band), and instead focus on ripping through a true set of scorchers. This is J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph sounding raw and rejuvenated, enjoying playing together for the first time in years (maybe ever), and showing those still wet-behind-the-ears indie bands how it’s done.

“Almost Ready” kicks off the album right, sounding like it was dug out of a time capsule left circa 1988, sometime between You’re Living All Over Me and Bug. It has the patented creaky melodies and frantic, piercing guitar sounds of those prime 80’s albums, yet is propelled along by a more forceful and focused rhythm. “Crumble” is second, coming in more laid back than its predecessor, and recalling a tighter version of Green Mind-era Dinosaur Jr. “Pick Me Up” continues the reunion party, and goes on for 6 epic minutes (yeah, there’s some guitar soloing happening here) and has that sludgy rhythm sound that defined the band for so long. Most of the rest of the album swings between these styles, and most works very successfully.

There are other highlights as well: “This Is All I Came To Do” and “Been There All The Time” are hard-driving melodic rock, “We’re Not Alone” is perhaps the finest country-influenced song in the band’s catalog (or at least since “I Don’t Think So”), and “I Got Lost” recalls Where You Been’s haunting “Not The Same”, full of brooding acoustics, rolling tympani, and Mascis singing in that frighteningly high voice he is capable of. Lou Barlow even gets lead vocal duty on 2 songs, and although not entirely necessary, his songs fit in nicely within the flow of the record. Now, not every word I’ve written in this post has been 100% true (duh, I was so totally born before 1989), everything I’ve said about Beyond is on the money. I’m really digging this new album, and am so happy that Dinosaur Jr. have returned after so long with a record that actually adds to an already classic back catalogue.

MP3 :: Been There All The Time
MP3 :: We're Not Alone
(from Beyond)

And be sure to check out the video for “Been There All The Time”, featuring a cameo from Sonic Youth’s Thursten Moore:

Purchase Beyond from Amazon

Concert Review - The Tragically Hip/Constantines

Last Wednesday night at New York’s The Fillmore at Irving Plaza (huh?) The Tragically Hip played the second of 2 sold out shows. It was the band’s first trip to New York since releasing their 11th studio album, World Container, earlier this year, and the rapturous audience (presumably filled with many Canadians loyal enough to make the journey south) clung on every note. Singer Gordon Downie, ever the showman, spent the evening screaming, convulsing, and (attempting to) dance while singing the band’s brand of driving hard rock.

Constantines have bravely faced the uphill battle of opening for the Hip on this Northeast stint of the U.S. tour, and easily lived up to the hype I’ve heard on them over the years as a great live band. I say “uphill battle” because, as some overly obnoxious members of the audience proved, Hip fans aren’t always the most patient bunch. Nevertheless, the band was awesome - holy crap - they really rocked. Is that a review worthy phrase? Set opener “Draw Us Lines” was inspired, and the band hardly relented over the next 45 minutes. They played songs from each of their 3 albums, but focused heavily on 2005’s Tournament of Hearts. The biggest response from the crowd was their faithful cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, to which lead singer Bryan Webb quipped “why not?” when the crowd erupted to the opening chords.

MP3 :: Draw Us Lines
(from Tournament of Hearts) Buy from Amazon
MP3 :: Young Lions
(from Shine A Light) Buy from Amazon
MP3 :: Arizona
(from The Constantines) Buy from Amazon
Constantines website, myspace

The Hip came out and proceeded to plow through a hearty set comprised of both new songs and old. Having seen them 5 times previously, but not since 2000, there were a few surprising additions to the set. “Boots Or Hearts” and “Locked In The Trunk Of A Car” are 2 of my favorite early songs, and both were unexpected and welcome. The band hit many of their most famous songs, including a crisp and compact “New Orleans Is Sinking” (oddly introduced by Downie saying “New Orleans is sinking and I don’t want to help”. Hmm…seems maybe a bit insensitive in this day and age Gord) and a long, drawn out rendition of “At the 100th Meridian”, whose jammy middle section and sped-up ending were somewhat anticlimactic after the song’s blistering first 1/3. These moments were just 2 of the highlights: “Scared” and “Bobcaygeon” were nailed, with Downie adding an acoustic guitar to bring out the folk influence on the tunes. “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” and “My Music @ Work” were also noteworthy. Best of all, the new songs from World Container seemed to fit right in with the older material, and may stay around in setlists for a long time to come.

I have to say though that the stage antics of Downie have seemed to grow somewhat tiring over the years. They came off, at least in my eyes, as shticky and overdone at Irving Plaza. The band performed a fierce version of “Grace, Too”, perhaps my favorite song to hear live by any band, that was continuously distracted by shrill screaming from Downie that was entirely unnecessary. I guess the line from “My Music @ Work” proved prophetic - “the dim possibility of showing some restraint” - Gord, sometimes it’s ok to let the music stand on its own. He mellowed out as the set progressed and as he played more acoustic guitar. Unfortunately though, his on-stage persona is also thoroughly insincere - even the end of the night “thank yous” came off as sarcastic instead of heartfelt. Overall though the crowd left happy, the sounds and words of the Tragically Hip’s mini-Canadian national anthems filling the New York streets.

MP3 :: Grace, Too (Live)
MP3 :: Fully Completely (Live)
(from Live Between Us) Buy from Amazon

The Tragically Hip website