Friday, April 30, 2010

Aural Fix 4/30/2010: Peter Gabriel and Bon Iver Scratch Each Others' Backs

Peter Gabriel promised a mutual back scratching with his latest release, Scratch My Back (March 2), a compilation of covers from Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Magnetic Fields, etc. Justin Vernon (a.k.a. Bon Iver) took him up on the offer: Gabriel covered Bon Iver's "Flume," and Bon Iver covered Gabriel's "Come Talk to Me."

You can listen to what each has done with the other's track below. Both covers are also available as a split 7".

"Come Talk to Me (Peter Gabriel Cover)" by Bon Iver

Download "Come Talk to Me" [mp3]

Enjoy and have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dragon Tattoos and Mynabirds

This past Saturday night the horizontal rain drove my significant other and I indoors, but we had prepaid Ragtag tickets to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And so we were driven outdoors. It was the most crowded film I've seen at Ragtag so far. That's probably due to the heavy radio promotion the film's been getting on local stations and on NPR. Do I sense another Da Vinci Code?

(What's the code for really-overrated-book-that-may-be-the-worst-piece-of-crap-I've-ever-wasted-time-reading? Oh wait, that would be Twilight.)

Cringe. Perhaps.

It's hard to tell. The Swedish film is based on the first of a wildly popular trilogy of suspense/mystery novels from deceased author Stieg Larsson.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage)
The phrase "wildly popular" raises all sorts of red flags for me, but I haven't read the novel, so I can't say whether it's the latest stack of book club fodder or if there's actually some good writing within. The film was intense. Sure, it followed suspense conventions and had a sexsational plot, but it was completely absorbing and chilly as its Swedish scenery. Oh, and Noomi Rapace's character is an ass-kicker.

Naturally, American filmmakers are going to Dan Brown things up with their own lame-ass version.

This is not to imply that things liked by the masses are bad. I love Harry Potter, but I hate Bella What's-Her-Nuts. It's all a matter of taste. Since the show last week, my partner in musical crime can't stop singing songs from Rogue Wave's Permalight. I wrote less than enthusiastic things about Permalight last week, but he bought the album and thinks it's fantastic.

I actually have this song stuck in my head:

"Numbers Don't Lie" by The Mynabirds

Download "Numbers Don't Lie" [mp3]

(Be forewarned: yet more rampant 60s nostalgia)

The Mynabirds are Laura Burhenn (formerly of defunct Georgie James) and Richard Swift. They recorded their debut album What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood (released April 27) in the hills of Oregon last summer. Their website says that they always wanted to make a record equal parts Neil Young and Motown. Who knew there was an actual 60s group, The Mynah Birds, featuring none other than Neil Young and Rick James? You can see where the Mynabirds get their moniker.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Aural Fix 4/23/2010: "Not Even in July" by JBM

One of the best things about Tuesday night's Rogue Wave concert was catching the opening act, JBM, a singer/songwriter molded from the same raw material as Jim James and Gregory Alan Isakov. His first album Not Even in July was officially released (Partisan Records) on April 13, although it was recorded back in 2008 and self-released last year.

JBM is Jesse Marchant, a New Yorker with a seriously good voice. He played "From Me to You and You to Me" (listen below) at Mojo's using loops for the slide guitar. My friend and I sat on the floor for his set and forgot our crappy work days as we focused on the music in that moment. This type of thing is perfect for a wee venue like Mojo's.

Marchant spent some time in Los Angeles in 2009 and recorded the soundtrack for the Canadian film Lovers in a Dangerous Time. He also created a stir at this year's SXSW festival.

"From Me to You and You to Me"

Download "From Me to You and You to Me" [mp3]

Some people hate the whole singer/songwriter thing. Singing with an acoustic guitar isn't edgy or experimental; it's boring, it's safe... but I knew I liked JBM as soon as I opened his website and previewed the first track on his playlist. I was further convinced an hour later when I saw him onstage. Some people win the vocal lottery and are born with voices like this. Others take up the cello.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earlove: Rogue Wave at Mojo's, 4/20/2010

(Rogue Wave at Mojo's via iPhone)

Months and months ago August Forte from Chicago-based Novo Arts sent me some free Earlove earplugs to test out. I'm sorry to say I haven't been to a concert since the not-too-loud Big Smith in March, and I completely forgot to bring the earplugs for that one. I think I had it in my head that I wanted to test them out at a really loud show in a really tiny venue—like Rogue Wave at Mojo's Tuesday night.

Granted, I only showed half of my ears some ear love: my partner in musical crime and I each wore one earplug a piece, but our one protected ear was very happy. The Earlove earplugs are soft, squishy, and unobtrusive. They allow you to hear everything without that muffled feel. It's like turning down the volume on a show without even being aware of it. (If you're reading this, August, we loved the earplugs and need another pair.)


We didn't need the earplugs for JBM, a Brooklyn-based singer with an incredible voice. He performed a soulful, acoustic set before MAN/MIRACLE took the stage and completely switched up the mood. They rattled our brains with machine-gun drum jams and... in went the earplugs. My one exposed ear was sufficiently throttled.

(MAN/MIRACLE: This is obviously not my photo, but this is what they looked during their set... lots of sweaty energy.)

There was a slight delay before Rogue Wave took the stage. My friend and I spent some time talking to a guy he knows who bootlegs shows as a hobby and posts them on his website. Consider him a connoisseur of sorts: he plugs his laptop directly into the soundboard at a show (with permission, of course) and captures his own unique recordings of live sets. He's all geared up for Matt Pond PA next month and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in June (which makes my significant other cringe; he hates the whole revived-hippie schtick).

Mojo's was full but not packed with a mixed crowd of college hipsters and thirtysomethings. Half of Columbia was probably over at The Blue Note to see OK Go, a fact Rogue Wave themselves alluded to when they took the stage and frontman Zach Rogue said, "Hey, Columbia. We're a little band called OK Go. You might have heard of us?" While the crowd wasn't huge, everyone showed lots of love and cheered when the band asked if they should stay another night in Columbia and play a show at The Blue Note instead of driving to Tulsa as planned.

The set opened with five or six songs from Rogue Wave's latest, Permalight. (They saved the actual song "Permalight" for the encore.) No complaints here: these guys deliver live. Older Rogue Wave is still my favorite, but one new song, "I'll Never Leave You," was less fizzy than some of the latest singles and suggests deeper cuts on Permalight.

The band then launched into old favorites, including "Publish My Love," "Eyes", and "Lake Michigan." JBM and one other guy (he may have been from MAN/MIRACLE) jumped onstage to kick "Lake Michigan" off with a primal drum solo. It was the highlight of the show.

Another highlight was meeting drummer Pat Spurgeon after the show (aka, the "dude with the hair").

Last fall my partner and I watched a PBS special, D Tour, about Spurgeon's search for a kidney donor and the challenges he faced touring and undergoing dialysis. On our way out Tuesday, we stopped him to thank him for the show and ask how he's doing. Spurgeon is (no surprise) a laidback guy. He says he's doing great and seems happy to be playing music again. He told us Rogue Wave is touring again in the fall.

It was a late night, but there was Earlove inside and out. Thank you, August, and thank you, Rogue Wave. My ears are grateful.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Going Rogue Tonight

I've been a race-going fool. On Sunday I was here:

That's Hermann. This weekend was the two-day Tour of Hermann where I was the support crew for my favorite cyclist. I took a bunch of bad photos and drank a really good Hefe-Weizen at the Tin Mill Brewery. (The beer in question is famous for tasting like cloves and bananas.)

But I also raced myself on Saturday in a 5K in Fulton and took third place for women. Yeah, so there were only about 40 people there, but I'm always excited to get a medal. It makes me feel like maybe there's hope for me as a runner yet.

And tonight it's the Rogue Wave show at Mojo's. JBM and MAN/MIRACLE are opening, but it's quarter to 8:00 as I type this, and I'm still at home, so it looks like I'll be missing the opening bands. Honestly, after the mind-numbing day I had at work today copying and pasting, I could easily take a nap, but that would be giving in to my creeping old age. I'll have none of it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Aural Fix 4/16/2010: "Solitary Gun" by Rogue Wave

This week's Aural Fix is in honor of next week's Rogue Wave show. Rogue Wave has caught a ton of flack for their latest Jonas Brothers-inspired album, Permalight. Perhaps the Jonas Brothers comparison is a bit harsh. The new stuff isn't that bad. It's just not classic Rogue Wave. 

I have to admit I'm looking forward to hearing the old material at Mojo's next Tuesday. I'm sure statements like those infuriate bands like Rogue Wave when they try to expand their sound and branch out into the pop arena. It just feels like something's been lost in translation. The new songs are missing the depth and acoustic soul of "Christians in Black" and "Lake Michigan" or the anthemy bombast of "Publish My Love."

KCOU has been faithfully playing "Solitary Gun" from the new album. Bless their hearts.

"Solitary Gun" by Rogue Wave

As stated above, the new stuff isn't that bad. But after years of waiting, we all expected something, well, better.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sunshine Break

This weather waters my inner seed of writerly procrastination—as in, I'd rather be outside in the sun than inside at my desk.

I've been spending my lunch hours far, far from my computer, and hence, far, far from this blog. I know Japandroids came to Columbia this week, and next week Rogue Wave and OK Go will be here. Obviously, we have no shortage of good music in mid-Missouri.

As for me, I've been running toward an annoying hip injury these past few weeks, practicing my cello for my Wednesday night string group, and reading in the sun on my friend's porch. My bike tires have air again (thank you!), and we've spent some time cycling downtown and on the trail.

I've been trying to figure out many things in my life, including whether to start an entirely new blog or keep this one up on a less-regular basis. For now, I'll post what I can when I can, but being outside and having fun comes first.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Aural Fix 4/9/2010: "Starting" by Matt Pond PA...and the weekend!

Matt Pond PA, that longstanding band from Philadelphia (formed in 1998—ancient by today's standards), is relevant for two reasons. For starters, they're releasing their eighth full-length album, The Dark Leaves, on April 13. And, more important for us, they'll be playing a show at Mojo's on May 15.

The new album opens, appropriately enough, with a track called "Starting":

"Starting" by Matt Pond PA

Download "Starting" [mp3]

But what's going on this weekend?

Kel Green and Friends return to the Rocheport General Store Friday night, as this Facebook invite reads:

So pleased to invite all of you back to beautiful and historic downtown Rocheport, MO, for another eclectic serving of American music performed by singer/songwriter Kel Green. Mr. Paul Zullo will once again be accompanying master of all things resonator.

Spring fever abounds. Perhaps it’s time to take your partner to one of Rocheport's many Bed and Breakfasts?

Make Spring an event! It’s certain I’ll be crooning out a love song or two to help the romantically challenged :)

John and Dean will be on hand serving up all your libation and food needs, including their famous open-faced brisket and chili. I hear the apple pie is better than Moms. ( No, Mom I haven’t tried it)

Hope to see you all there!
The music starts at 8:00.

Also, Boonville's Big Muddy Folk Festival is a short drive away. My brother and his wife are taking their chairs to Thespian Hall on Friday night to catch Lil' Rev, Cathy Barton and Dave Para, Kate Power and Steve Einhorn, and Rory Block. The website says there's an old-time dance after the concert in Turner Hall. And Saturday's schedule calls for more music, weaving, music workshops, and barbecue.

Best of all, the weather report looks promising. I'll be checking out the farmer's market Saturday morning post-run and buying too much bread. Greens... schmeens. Give me bread and pasta.

Have a great spring weekend.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I Can't Quit You

Nah, for all my doubts about this music blog, I still can't stop blogging. I think the solution to my conundrum is to post less.

This week I've been listening to old mixcds during my brief commute to work. (My bike tires are flat. No biking in for me until I buy myself a pump.) Each morning I manage to get a song or two in before I pull into the parking garage. So, for instance, today I listened to Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" and some 60s song from the Darjeeling Express soundtrack. I've driven to my evening runs on Scott Boulevard cranking Harry Belafonte, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Paris Combo. I've driven to my significant other's apartment blasting Hot Chip, Thom Yorke, and St├ęphane Grappelli.

This has me enthused to finish the mixcd I've been compiling for a few weeks now. So far it consists of my Aural Fix tracks from the past few months, but I've been meaning to add some more eclectic stuff, too.

I guess you're stuck with me, after all. More to come...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Change Is a Comin'

I've been toying with the idea of revamping this blog. One of the biggest issues I have when writing about music is the proliferation of new bands these days. DIY is taking over the world, and now anyone can become a musician, promoter, and overnight sensation. I just read an article this morning about how 3D printers may one day become a home-based option—meaning you could design yourself a pair of socks or a new cooking pan on your computer and "print" either at home, avoiding a trip to the store, or even design yourself a car online and have it printed at the local car dealership. Manufacturing as we know it would be dead. The old music industry is already dead. I can't keep up with grassroots rock, and my posts feel a tad formulaic, as in, This band is from Portland and sounds like this other band from North Carolina....

I love music. I love writing. But I'm boring myself lately with writing about music.

I think I just need to tweak a few things...possibly the entire blog.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Aural Fix 4/2/2010: "I Hope You Die" by Wye Oak

This weather kills me it's so perfect. I could die happy with the sun on my face—but then I wouldn't be able to listen to Wye Oak and write a lame post about them.

Wye Oak are Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner from Baltimore. Their latest, an EP titled My Neighbor/My Creator, was released in early March, and the repetitive, slowcore number "I Hope You Die" is its showpiece.

They've been compared to Beach House on more than one occasion: Wasner and Victoria Legrand do have similar stark voices bordering on the masculine. Both have a hypnotic sound growing slower than the Maryland state tree from which Wye Oak takes its name. And both are from Baltimore. You be the judge.

"I Hope You Die" by Wye Oak

Download "I Hope You Die" [mp3]