29 January 2009

L.A. Night

When you're romancing with the lady, glass of wine in hand, chilling by the fireplace, and your Sade records are nowhere to be found, throw on this jam. It's called "L.A. Night" by a woman named Yasuko Agawa. I can't seem to find anything about her except her website, which is in Japanese. It doesn't stop me from enjoying the smooth.

Yasuko Agawa - L.A. Night.mp3


Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac

Here's a song from possibly the best album of the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac. I definitely gravitate more toward the powerhouse stylings of the McVie/Nicks/Buckingham trio, but I don't want to discredit the output from Green and associates. A lot of the Danny Kirwan material is exceptional as well. Really I can't say a bad thing about the band through their many, many lineup changes until after they broke up and reunited for "Tango in the Night" in 1987. Even that album has some great songs on it (though the production is pretty terrible). What I'm trying to say is, buy every Fleetwood Mac album you can get your hands on.

Anyway, here's "Closing My Eyes" from the 1969 album "Then Play On." It's a sparse, slow heartbreak ballad in the midst of a pretty great blues album (coming from a guy that doesn't like blues). Sadly it was Green's last album with the band as he suffers from schizophrenia and had some serious drug/alcohol problems. He released a few solo albums after his departure, most notably "The End of the Game," featuring a lot of messy guitar heroics.

Fleetwood Mac - Closing My Eyes.mp3

Also for your listening pleasure is the Green instrumental "Albatross," most recently featured in the movie "Man On Wire." John Lennon was such a fan of this song that he implemented the "feel" of it when writing his homage to Green- Abbey Road's "Sun King."

Fleetwood Mac - Albatross.mp3


27 January 2009

Triple J

Triple J, the "great" Australian independent (government-owned) radio station that gave us that live Hot Snakes album a few years ago, hosted their annual "Hot 100" Countdown yesterday. Of the top five spots, two were Kings of Leon songs, two were MGMT songs, and one was some Australian band that was blatantly ripping off MGMT.

If the kids that listen to that station like that music and decide to vote for it, I have no problem. But why is it that most of media's top critics didn't bother mentioning Kings of Leon at all in their year-end reviews and lists, while MGMT was buried behind TV On the Radio, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Deerhunter, Beach House, and Hercules & Love Affair? Again, I'm not commenting on the music itself, by why would only two bands corner the top 5 songs of the year?

Because Triple J operates much the same way that commercial radio does. They plug a very select few bands to no end, and ignore a lot of other music going on. In a world where there is practically unlimited resources for finding new music, crossing over genre lines, geographical boundaries, and major label/promotions influence, shouldn't the list be a little more varied? Maybe it has something to do with distribution, then. A lot of albums don't get a major label distribution deal here in Australia, so radio stations don't bother playing them. Of the aforementioned bands, only two had major label distribution: MGMT and Kings of Leon. In a post-major-label-industry, where supposedly listeners are dictating more and more of what's popular, Triple J, like nearly every radio station out there, is still operating with major label values in place. What makes this hurt a little more is that Triple J is supposed to be independent.

To their credit, they do make a concerted effort to play a lot of local music (and it doesn't hurt that the government forces them to). But in supporting local artists, there are plenty of very talented bands that, because of their geographical location, don't get a fair turn. A similar comparison would be that of affirmative action, except that the candidates aren't equal. Not by a long shot. In a lot of industries, I agree with regulation. In the music industry, I don't. Let the most talented artists get their due props, and the up-and-comers and down-and-outs will fall into place behind them.

Radio has never been a platform for promoting the "best" bands. Payola and cronyism have always played pivotal roles in radio. But we've been living in a hyper-aware world. Most people know of at least some corruption involved in the music industry, and can immediately circumvent such corruption by using the information superhighway. Most major labels are facing a financial crunch that's unrivaled by previous musical eras. They're turning to just about every sellable form of media to salvage their companies (ringtones, pre-loaded mp3 players, greeting cards, singing fish). So if there was ever a time for radio to change its tune, this would be it. Yet Triple J is still prescribing the music that people want to hear. And the kids are still eating it up.



24 January 2009

Silkworm/Crust Brothers/Bottomless Pit/Pavement

So, firstly I'd like to say that I've just moved into an internetted house, which may or may not result in more frequent updating. I can't promise anything, but it's possible that you'll start getting more of my sass talk and cynicism. Lord knows Emily isn't up to any of that (or much of anything at all), so I'm carrying the burden on my own.

I'd like to rap about Silkworm, if I may. When I first heard this band, I thought little of them. They reminded me of Pavement without the good lyrics or interesting musical shifts. Somehow I listened to enough of them to come around, and I'm certainly glad I did. Their recent output as Bottomless Pit has cemented their ability to consistently prove themselves as underrated indie rock heroes.

It turns out the link between Pavement and Silkworm is more than just stylistic similarity. Last year saw the release of the Crust Brothers' Marquee Mark, a one-off collaboration of Silkworm and Stephen Malkmus. Not only do they cover 7(!) songs from the Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes, but there's also a cover of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone." If that isn't enough, Stephen also takes vocal duties on Silkworm's "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like."

The Crust Brothers - Marquee Mark
(You can buy it here)

Also here are a few Silkworm/Bottomless Pit songs, as well as Silkworm's cover of a Pavement song.

Silkworm - Bar Ice
Silkworm - Never Met a Man I Didn't Like
Silkworm - And Then... (Pavement cover)
Bottomless Pit - Dogtag
Bottomless Pit - Repossession


19 January 2009

ATP Sydney

The day started off with a slow ferry ride across the Inner Harbour to Sydney's Cockatoo Island. This turned out to be one of the best places to hold a festival, as it was previously a prison, reformatory, industrial compound, and shipyard. It was kind of like Alcatraz. The crowd was decidedly older, which meant no 17 year olds lying on the ground in an ecstacy-induced seizure (thanks, Field Day!). What I thought was most interesting is that the people at the festival weren't there for a party, or to be seen, or to watch the newest flash-in-the-pan-one-hit-dance-band (whattup MGMT?), but actually wanted to listen to the bands.

Ah yes, the bands. Upon originally hearing of an Australian ATP, I creamed jeans. Then I heard Nick Cave was curating it, which meant absolutely nothing to me. Then I saw the lineup, and became increasingly disappointed to find that both the Dirty Three and Bill Callahan were only playing the Mt Buller show (as if anybody actually knows where that is). Still. Harmonia. Spiritualized. Michael Gira. Robert Forster. Fuck Buttons. It can't be too bad. Right? RIGHT?

Right. It wasn't too bad at all.

Two weird skinny Japanese girls wearing red boas and war paint, wanting to have party at Nick Cave's house...in Melbourne...with family. One deep-throated a beer bottle. Lots of yelling and jibberish. They also played music (and were surprisingly competent).

Please have Akron/Family as backing band. Please have Akron/Family as backing band. Please have Akron/Family as backing band. What do you mean he's playing solo?? Three songs in and I left. Way too much negativity coming off that dude. Maybe he could take a hint from AKRON/FAMILY.

"We are Harmonia. We are from Germany." Uh oh. Live German music? This could be a non-stop flight to bored city. Laptops?! Shit! Nothing good can come out of seeing a live German laptop band. They make very very good music, and the fun stops there.

This was one of the best things I saw all day. I had never heard (of) this band before, and I will definitely be hearing more when I get a chance. Saxaphone, double bass, and regular rock band instrumentation. Fronted by ex-Saints guitarist who looks exactly like Rick Nielsen.

I guess the easiest way to explain this guy's music is this: if you like the Go-Betweens, you'll like Robert Forster. If you think the Go-Betweens are underwhelming, you'll think the same of this dude. Good time summer fun guy plays no frills pop/rock songs in the vein of REM, Big Dipper, and most things on Flying Nun.

This was probably my most anticipated act of the festival. Much to my surprise, they didn't play anything off the newest album except for "You Lie, You Cheat." Also to my surprise, they played "Walking With Jesus." I've only heard that song off the Spacemen 3's "Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to" compilation, and hardly recognized it at first. Gone were the feedback and distortion, and present were slide guitar and gospel singers. This turned out to be a pretty great laid-back version of a song that has at least 10 different recorded versions. Now I love a good ear-splitting wall of guitar noise freakout, but fortunately there was plenty of that going on in the last ten minutes of the normally 4 1/2 minute "Take Me to the Other Side." The set was stellar, the backup singers were strutting in unison, and Jason Pierce was on target all throughout. I only wish they would have played longer.

Now it came decision time. Do we stay for another 4+ hours to watch Nick Cave (who I have nary an opinion on) and Fuck Buttons, or do we head home early and eat fish and chips? Fish and chips it is!

I caught a few minutes of the Saints while trying to decide what to do. Singer was smoking cigarettes in his pajamas and the guitarist is still wearing Rick Nielsen.

Cue ferry ride home and watching Michael Gira trying to evade paying the fare, only to get caught and act like a confused American tourist. Wah wah.


16 January 2009

Biz Markie

In honor of the new profile photo, I thought I'd offer up a little video from the Biz Mark hisself.


13 January 2009

New Year - Seven Days, Seven Nights

A video from The New Year's excellent s/t 2008 album. They must have talked to Puff Daddy about the best place in O'Hare airport to shoot a music video:

(Just go to 1:17 if you don't want to listen to this terrible, terrible song [but maybe watch the first :15 to watch that asshole fall of his bike])


12 January 2009


Mr. Flattop himself, Joel Leoschke, has just had some words with Pitchfork about Kranky Records.

Funny that he almost called the label Curmudgeon, because seriously, if I ever knew a churlish little codger of a man, Joel is it.


11 January 2009

Bill Callahan

The Smogdog himself, Bill Callahan, played in Sydney's Hyde Park tonight in the first of five shows for the Sydney Festival. The venue, the "Famous Spiegeltent," looked a bit like an auctioneer's showgrounds, but proved to be a very intimate setting for Bill and Co. This was no ordinary Co., though. The Dirty Three's Jim White and Mick Turner accompanied him on drums and guitar, respectively, in what turned out to be the loudest Smog show I've ever seen.

On first impression, Bill looked like an almost entirely different person that the last time I saw him. Previously trimmed and suited, tonight he was sporting a Canadian tuxedo, hair to his shoulders, and a patchy beard to boot. All this can be evidenced by a very blurry photo:

I was surprised that the first song turned out to be "River Guard," for one because I've just recently started re-listening to Knock Knock, and two because I've never heard him play that song before. The rest of the songs (with the exception of two new ones) were all usual live Smog fare, though with the complementing sounds of White and Turner they were given a bit of extracurricular muscle. It was pretty clear they hadn't played together much before, and though White's drumming was free-flowing and exceptional, Turner occasionally appeared lost and often referred to notes in front of him. Bill chose to play a decidedly rock version of "Our Anniversary," which I felt took away a little from the brilliant lyrics, and Mick's guitar seemed a bit out of place. Of course Mick's a great guitarist, and he nailed it at least half the time, especially on the driving "Bathysphere" as well as the climax of "Say Valley Maker." That song is the absolute jam.

Two new ones seem extremely promising, though I know nothing of their names. One was an upbeat single-worthy song akin to "Sycamore." The other was an actual break-up song about him and Joanna Newsom. I didn't know he had it in him. I'm really excited to hear the new album, with the soaring and cryptic name "Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle."

The night ended with four "A River Ain't Too Much to Love" tracks- "Say Valley Maker," "In The Pines," "Rock Bottom Riser," and "Let Me See The Colts." He could play most anything off that album and I'd enjoy it, but as a last song "Let Me See the Colts" is perfect.

There's nothing like an excellent show from one of the best songwriters ever to end a good week.


08 January 2009

Dr. Dog

As of last week, it appeared that Dr. Dog was playing only one Sydney show, opening for The Black Keys and Gomez. Ticket price: $60. I love Dr. Dog, but that is one rich cheese steak, youknowwhatImean? One quick check on Pollstar this Monday and I come to find they're playing at the Beach Road Hotel. Whaaa? Never heard of it. It turns out to be a three-story club in Bondi. Doesn't matter, because it's FREE.

So Dr. Dog shows up and turns it out. This was the fourth time I've seen the band, and every time I'm amazed at how much musical prowess these guys have. Their albums highlight songwriting and production abilities, but the live setting is where they get to show off their chops. What differed this time around was that they focused almost completely on songs from their latest album, Fate. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but I love all that Dog MD offers me, and a little "Say Something" or "Pretender" wouldn't have hurt anybody. Much to my delight they did throw in "Oh No" and "Ain't It Strange" though.

Unfortunately for the Dog, the sound wasn't great, the lighting was worse, and a lot of people were there to hang out, not to see a band. It was a lot of beach kids sipping cocktails and chasing tail. I think the band knew this, and they ran through their set in what seemed like double time, cranking out jam after jam. This didn't deter the quality of the songs, as these guys are pros. There just wasn't much fooling around in between. I was hoping to say hi and possibly buy a t-shirt, but the band didn't stick around and weren't selling merch.

All in all it was great to see them live again, as the live setting really shows what an incredible band they are. Toby's songs are always more dominating live than on record, and I'm surprised the guy still has his voice intact. They also get to jam out a bit, which suits their style perfectly, considering the classic rock influences (Scott even looks kind of like Tom Petty, though not as much now that his hair is short). These guys are a really great, fun rock band that should be blowing up the world stage any day now.


07 January 2009

Political Piggy

I've been reading "Helter Skelter," the all-telling account of Charles Manson and his Family. I've realized that there is a modern-day Charles Manson roaming around. Just like Manson, he gives vague and non-committal answers in interviews, sings cryptic folk songs, acts like a hippie, and leeches off people more famous than him to gain credibility.

Who is this mystery man?

It's Devendra Banhart!

The Beatles - Helter Skelter.mp3