1/31/2009

For Reals, This Time?

Boom Crash Opera

We fail to recall by whom, how, or when exactly we got turned on to Australian rockers Boom Crash Opera, but we do remember very much enjoying the band's self-titled debut [Warner Bros-1987], with its catchy tunes, tight arrangements and crisp production--the latter courtesy of noted producer Alex Sadkin, who died tragically shortly after completing work on this album--which we owned on pre-recorded cassette (!) no less.

BCO never took off here in the US, and we soon forgot about them. (They kept releasing studio albums in their homeland for another decade, and after a lengthy hiatus are said to be back.) But we've been recently dusting off some old issues of "5" from its email newsletter days and came across a mention of this particular album--What would a hard-rockin’ Duran Duran have sounded like?--which is sadly out of print. Prompted by this, we did a little research and were quite pleased with what we found.

While it wasn't their biggest hit, "City Flat" was our fave track off the record and quite representative of BCO and the engaging attributes we mentioned before. So, we thought we'd take you on an '80s Fixx/INXS/Tears for Fears-type nostalgia ride:

From the Vaults: 5 Real Solo Albums

[Originally published in the "5" email newsletter, June 9, 2002. -KJ]

Even with the numerous and startling advances in recording technology available these days to musicians--and their bogus counterparts--it’s still quite an impressive feat for an artist to write, arrange and produce his/her own material. It’s a whole new ballgame however, when in addition to this they can actually play every instrument and sing every note on a given album.

This time out we’re going to focus on some favorites of ours that fall into this interesting category: the real solo album. By the way, all these artists were in their 20s when they recorded the albums we’re highlighting here. Fuckers.

Here they are (in chronological order):


PAUL McCARTNEY
McCartney
[Apple-1970]

Paul may have been the first to officially leave the band--effectively breaking them up in the process--but he was the last of the Beatles to officially branch out and go solo. And as many guessed at the time, he would be the one to achieve the most commercial success among them. (He also happens to be the richest artist of any kind on the planet).

McCartney’s first post-Beatles solo album may not be his biggest seller but it is quite possibly his most influential. Many have been inspired to try to approximate the breezy, laid back feel and intimacy McCartney so ably captured here. (The Modfather himself, Paul Weller, is a big fan.) This is due in no small part to the fact that he recorded this one at home by himself--with very incidental contributions from wife Linda--seemingly wanting to get away both literally and figuratively from the Beatles recording habits in starting anew. Oh, and Paul is a much better drummer than Ringo, by the way.

Highlights: "That Would Be Something", "Every Night", "Junk", "Oo You", and of course "Maybe I’m Amazed".



TODD RUNDGREN
Something/Anything?
[Bearsville-1972]

If you’ve listened to FM radio sometime in the last 30+ years you are undoubtedly familiar with the Top 5 single included herein: the unforgettable "Hello It’s Me". But the album of which it is a part of is considered both Mr. Rundgren’s artistic and commercial peak. Not bad considering this is the man who produced Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell [Epic-1975] and XTC’s Skylarking [Geffen-1986], respectively.

Originally released as a double vinyl album--it was re-released as a 2 CD set--Rundgren played every note and sang every word over three sides, while side 4 was an operetta of sorts and features a stellar cast of musicians that includes legendary guitarist Rick Derringer; sax/trumpet playing siblings the Brecker Brothers and Peter Frampton drummer John Siomos. Breathtaking and highly influential. Just ask Prince. [See below]

Highlights: the aforementioned "Hello It’s Me", the Carole King tribute "I Saw The Light" and "Dust in the Wind". (No, not that cheesy Kansas song).



PRINCE
self-titled
[Warner Bros-1979]

While most of the recorded studio output of Minneapolis’ pint-sized monarch has been a one-man show to begin with, we chose his sophomore album simply because it was the first we ever heard from him and has over the years remained very near and dear to our hearts.

If you don’t own this one, do yourself a favor and get it. If you haven’t heard it in a while then reacquaint yourself with a cool album made long before the hype, the hieroglyphics and the heartbreaking artistic downward spiral took hold.

Highlights: "I Want To Be Your Lover", the original version of "I Feel For You" (a sizeable hit for Chaka Khan in the mid ‘80s) and "Why You Want To Hurt Me So Bad".



FOO FIGHTERS
self-titled
[Roswell-1995]

It may sound like the work of a really tight unit and there may be a band photo inside the CD booklet, but don’t be fooled: with the exception of a guitar part recorded by Afghan Whigs vocalist Greg Dulli (on "X-Static"), this is Dave Grohl all the way. Recorded in a Seattle studio in little over a week by the former Nirvana drummer, this debut album is the most raw and punk rock of the band’s releases and a logical musical extension of his old band.

At the time of its release the album’s lyrics were closely scrutinized and analyzed for clues to Grohl’s state of mind following Kurt Cobain’s death a year earlier--"I’ll Stick Around" and "Black Widow" are said to be jabs at Cobain widow and Hole frontwoman Courtney Love--but these days it just sounds like the loud, fun and even a bit naïve record we’re sure Grohl set out to make in the first place.

Highlights: "This Is A Call", "I’ll Stick Around", "Big Me".



JASON FALKNER
...presents Author Unknown
[Elektra-1996]

Frustrated with the lack of creative input he was afforded in the late, great Jellyfish, Falkner left the San Francisco power poppers to hook up with fellow producer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann) to form The Grays, whose sole release was the underrated and out of print album Ro Sham Bo [Epic-1994]. Falkner still needed a wider outlet for his output so he decided to go solo. This album was the end result.

While Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything? is an obvious influence on various levels--the early ‘70s AM radio vibe; Falkner playing everything but strings--this is the work of an artist who finally has the opportunity to not only demonstrate that he’s got the goods but that he also know how to use these gifts wisely. A wonderful pop album.

Highlights: "I Live", "Don’t Show Me Heaven", "Before My Heart Attacks".

[All album covers courtesy of Wikipedia]

1/30/2009

RIP

NY Times:

John Martyn, a Scottish singer and guitarist whose gentle mix of folk and jazz and innovative use of electronic effects have influenced a broad range of musicians since the 1970s, died on Thursday in Kilkenny, Ireland. He was 60.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, said Jim Tullio, his longtime record producer.

We were lucky to have our good friend, DJ/journalist and occasional "5" contributor, Greg Casseus turn us on to the magic of Mr. Martyn many years ago. From the very first time it graced our ears we were never able to forget the subtle majesty of "Bless the Weather", the title track from Martyn's 1971 Island Records release. We'd like to share it with you, in the form of a live rendition circa 1978.



Most Pointless Item of the Year

It has to be this, right?

1/29/2009

The Amps

These days, with tech applications like Auto-Tune frequently on the lips of folks who have never even set foot in a recording studio, it's important to disseminate proper info regarding creating, performing and recording music whenever possible, in an effort to combat ignorance and misuse of terminology.

As part of their Classic Gear series, retro music site The Rising Storm goes over a few of examples of classic guitar amps--including audio samples--that should be of interest to those curious about their basic workings, the particular brand of sonic magic they've helped achieve as an integral part of your favorite guitar-based tunes, or both. While guitar players are sure to learn something from the post, it's probably more useful to non-playing fans of guitar rock. Dig in!

Are We the Only Ones that Think...

...it's rather easy to confuse Katy Perry



with Zooey Deschanel?



(From the neck up, that is.)

A-Team in 2010

Remember when we told you early last year that there would be an A-Team movie directed by John Singleton in June of '09? Well it's been moved to summer 2010 and Singleton is no longer on board. Twentieth Century Fox has Joe Carnahan directing and brothers Ridley and Tony Scott will handle producing and executive production duties, respectively.

The cast has yet to be announced.

1/28/2009

Vinyl Scavenging: 5 Albums Never Released on CD (and worth seeking out)

There are literally thousands of albums that fell thru the cracks, when the compact disc began replacing vinyl as the preferred medium of choice, over a quarter of a century ago. Many of them are entangled in legal messes preventing their release; some have eventually seen the light of day in lovingly-reissued packages; quite a few never sold much the first time around--or belong to a style or subgenre that hasn't aged well and has yet to be championed/rediscovered--and thus never made the transition; and there is also a significant amount of titles that remain inexplicably unavailable.

Here are five that deserve a new lease on life (in alphabetical order by artist):


THE BEATLES
Live at the Hollywood Bowl
[Capitol-1977]

Probably the only under-represented aspect of the most celebrated popular music group of the 20th century is its recorded live output. We have all heard--and in a few instances, seen--how dynamic and incredible the Fabs were as a live unit during the first half of their career but there is scarcely any proper--and legal--documentation available, relatively speaking.

Jumping on the first big wave of nostalgic Beatlemania in the late '70s, the band's label had producer George Martin clean up tapes of the group's '64 and '65 performances at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. Sonically iffy, despite Martin's best efforts (which many assume is the main reason it has yet to be re-released) Live at the Hollywood Bowl is, if nothing less, the actual sound of Beatlemania and a piece of history, to boot.

Trivia: Capitol wanted to originally record the band's February 1964 Carnegie Hall concert but couldn't get the necessary music union permits. Instead, they went with these shows which were put on by a young promoter named Bob Eubanks. (Yes, the same guy from The Newlywed Game.)

[Cover courtesy of Wikipedia]


THE BRAINS
self-titled
[Mercury-1980]

A rowdy live act from Atlanta, GA that never got the break it deserved, The Brains are best-known for "Money Changes Everything", which became a Top 40 hit for Cyndi Lauper four years after the release of the band's Steve Lillywhite-produced debut album. But there's more than "Money" to recommend from this self-titled record, which is considered a sadly overlooked gem.



BUCKINGHAM NICKS
self-titled
[Polydor-1973]

With a few of the songs herein making an appearance later on in Fleetwood Mac's repertoire, this record is highly recommended for fans of both the Mac's blockbuster commercial phase and devotees of '70s Southern California singer/songwriter fare. The long lost album is the only joint release by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and turned out to be their ticket into the band that brought them fame and fortune.

[Cover courtesy of audiography.com]



THE KNACK
Round Trip
[Capitol-1981]

Its commercial failure and critical drubbing presumably a catalyst for the band's decade-long break-up, the third album by the much-maligned Los Angeles power pop quartet has been the recipient of positive re-evaluation in the years since its release, and is ranked as their best in quite a few circles these days. (The albums that preceded it, Get The Knack and ...But The Little Girls Understand [both Capitol-1979] are pretty cool, too.)

What goes around comes around, then. Guess the album's title inadvertently figured that one out, huh?

[Cover courtesy of ILoveThe80s.com]



VARIOUS ARTISTS
The Concerts for the People of Kampuchea
[Atlantic-1981]

We'll wrap up this tiny list with another Beatles-related live album. This time, it's a 2 LP set documenting a series of concerts put together in late 1979, to benefit disaster-torn Kampuchea (formerly Cambodia) by Paul McCartney.

Featuring performances by many of his famous friends--among them, Elvis Costello, The Who, and The Specials--highlights include Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant backed by Rockpile performing the Elvis Presley classic "Little Sister"; The Clash's cover of Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time"; and Queen's "Now I'm Here".

But the main reason to seek this one out is The Pretenders' blistering set, which is represented here by kick-ass versions of "The Wait", "Precious" and "Tattooed Love Boys", all from their legendary debut album.

[Cover courtesy of Wikipedia]

The New Dating Game (21st century version)

Does that potential mate's musical taste really stack up? Wanna weed out lame-band aficionados from possible new love interests? The folks at Signal Patterns can help you. Just take their tests, post the results on the social networking site of your choice, and presto! One more pesky deal-breaker out of the way.

Just dunno these days...

Somebody Stop Scarlett Johansson from Singing Before She Hurts Herself (and continues to maul us)

She's probably bored from the deluge of rom-coms she continually finds herself in, but regardless, Scarlett Johansson needs to find a new and different hobby: first it was the dreadful Tom Waits covers album, now she's butchering Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye" on the soundtrack of her latest flick, He's Just Not That Into You.

Please, someone, make it stop...

RIP

Yahoo/AP:
John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76.

Updike, best known for his four "Rabbit" novels, died of lung cancer at a hospice near his home in Beverly Farms, Mass., according to his longtime publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

Springsteen Announces World* Tour

In addition to performing at the Super Bowl in Tampa, FL this coming Sunday, The Boss is ready to embark on a lengthy jaunt alongside his trusty E Street Band to promote his new album Working on a Dream (Columbia). One question: Why is this being called a world tour when there are no concerts scheduled outside of Europe and North America? Or is this the first confirmed leg?

Anyway, here are the dates:

Apr 1 San Jose, CA
Apr 3 Glendale, AZ
Apr 5 Austin, TX
Apr 7 Tulsa, OK
Apr 8 Houston, TX
Apr 10 Denver, CO
Apr 15 Los Angeles, CA
Apr 21, 22 Boston, MA
Apr 24 Hartford, CT
Apr 26 Atlanta, GA
Apr 28, 29 Philadelphia, PA
May 2 Greensboro, NC
May 4 Hempstead, NY
May 5 Charlottesville, VA
May 7 Toronto, ONT
May 8 University Park, PA
May 11 St. Paul, MN
May 12 Chicago, IL
May 14 Albany, NY
May 15 Hershey, PA
May 18 Washington, DC
May 19 Pittsburgh, PA
May 21, 23 E. Rutherford, NJ
May 30 Landgraaf, Holland
June 2 Tampere, Finland
June 4, 5, 7 Stockholm, Sweden
June 9, 10 Bergen, Norway
July 2 Munich, Germany
July 3 Frankfurt, Germany
July 5 Vienna, Austria
July 8 Herning, Denmark
July 11 Dublin, Ireland
July 16 Carhaix, France
July 19 Rome, Italy
July 21 Turino, Italy
July 23 Udine, Italy
July 26 Bilbao, Spain
July 28 Benidorm, Spain
July 30 Sevilla, Spain
Aug 1 Valladolid, Spain
Aug 2 Santiago, Spain

1/27/2009

Film Flashback: That Thing You Do!

Tom Hanks' directorial debut was a lovingly told story about a fictional Erie, PA quartet called The Wonders. Set in 1964, That Thing You Do! (1996) follows the British Invasion-influenced band as they climb the charts with their first and soon-to-be sole hit--which gives the film its title--while documenting the inner turmoil that leads to their breakup before releasing a followup, unavoidably making them one-hit Wonders.

That Thing You Do! is a nice slice of early '60s nostalgia; of a more innocent time when a catchy tune was enough to make a bunch of Beatles-loving kids fleeting stars. (The Wonders themselves are said to be loosely based, stylistically speaking, on The Dave Clark Five of which Hanks is a big fan.) As a general rule, we trust actors who are big music fans when they choose a music-related project to direct and/or produce. With its attention to detail succeeding in capturing the essence of what it must've been like for those that in real life traveled in The Wonders' footsteps, it's easy to see how this small film was a labor of love for Hanks (who also wrote its script). He certainly does not disappoint in his first trip behind the camera.

As for the song itself--written by Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger and sung by Mike Viola of The Candy Butchers--it was a Top 40 hit in 1996, and received nominations for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, respectively. Not bad for a make believe band, huh?

McCartney, Radiohead Added to Grammy Telecast

Billboard:
Paul McCartney, Radiohead, Justin Timberlake and the quadruple threat of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, T.I. and Kanye West have been added to the performance lineup for the 51st annual Grammy Awards, to be held Feb. 8 at Los Angeles' Staples Center.

McCartney will be backed by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl on drums, while Radiohead will be making its first live U.S. television performance in nearly nine years.

Fuckin' Dave Grohl has the life...

The Green Hornet Movie?

Yes, they're making a movie about this quasi-superhero starring Seth Rogen. What the fuck, people?! Give it a rest already!

Best News of the Year (as of yet)

Addressing rumors of an indefinite hiatus, the band's publicist released the following statement:

"...Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have pushed back recording to work on other projects and don't have any plans to tour at this time."

Sweet. How 'bout you, Vampire Weekend? Have you contemplated writing a tome-length dissertation on the proper usage of oxford commas? Please, go ahead, take as many years as you like.

Thriller Going to Broadway

Michael Jackson's all-time biggest-selling album by a solo artist will be made into a musical complete with zombies and werewolves, as seen in its famous full-length video clip. Wonder what took them so long? Not that we care either way...

The Final Frontier, Indeed

The mortal remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett will be launched into space next year. Yes, seriously.

Roddenberry passed away in 1991, right before the release of, arguably, the best of the Star Trek movies, The Undiscovered Country. Barrett, who played Nurse Christine Chapel on the original TV series and in two of the feature films--as well as voicing the starship Enterprise's computer--died this past December.

New Releases

ROY AYERS UBIQUITY Ubiquity [reissue] (Polydor/Universal)
FRANZ FERDINAND
Tonight (Epic)
KEITH JARRETT/GARY PEACOCK/JACK DeJOHNETTE
Yesterdays (ECM)
MERZBOW 13 Japanese Birds, Vol. 1 (Important)
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
Working on a Dream (Columbia)

1/24/2009

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Cartoonist Keith Knight wants President Obama to address the egregiousness of the numerous on-stage drive-bys the legendary Stevie Wonder has been a victim of lately:

RIP

Jazz saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, a high-profile session musician and long-time key sideman for Ray Charles, died this past Tuesday of pancreatic cancer at a hospital in Kingston, N.Y.

Newman, who played on such Charles hits as "I Got a Woman," and "What'd I Say", had a small part in the 2004 biopic Ray. He was 75 years old.

Got Milk? Antony Didn't

It seems like instead of concentrating on making music that is actually listenable and not some cheesy exercise in twee, fey, anachronistic pop, Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons is too busy demonizing straight actors for playing gay roles in Hollywood flicks. Particularly irksome to Hegarty was Sean Penn's recent portrayal of slain San Franciso politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office here in the US. He actually said as much to New York magazine recently:

“It’s like blackface to me … it’s a continuing Hollywood minstrel show, co-opting queer stories and perversely building up the careers of these heterosexual bastards with the plumage of effeminacies, that they can wear this plumage of effeminacies without having to really be accountable”

Really, dude? Penn and the rest of 'em co-opting your "plumage of effeminacies"? Is that the problem? Give us a fucking break. Make some decent music and then get back on the soapbox if you like, but please. Ugh.

John Mayer Gets TV Variety Show

Musician and starlet boffer John Mayer has gotten the green light to star and produce a weekly variety show on CBS. Hmm...

VH1 briefly hosted a few episodes of a half-hour comedy show called--what else?--John Mayer Has a TV Show in 2004. (It was actually funny.) No air date has been assigned for Mayer's new show.

1/23/2009

Bonin'

[This one's been on our, um, brain lately. The review was originally posted on 10/16/06. - KJ]


[Cover art courtesy of Punk News]

FISHBONE
Give A Monkey Half A Brain And He’ll Swear He’s The Center Of The Universe
[Columbia-1993]

Long derided as Fishbone’s so-called “metal record” Give A Monkey may not be an overlooked masterpiece but it is not the unmitigated disaster it was labeled as upon its 1993 release. Coming off the highly-acclaimed The Reality Of My Surroundings [Columbia-1991], itself preceded by the much beloved Truth and Soul [Columbia-1988]—one of the best albums of the ‘80s—much was riding on the record that was to bring Fishbone to the mainstream in grand style.
It didn’t happen: critics lambasted the album, sales were poor, and the band lost their major-label deal.

So, what happened?

For starters, Fishbone’s social commentary was much more somber (“Servitude”, “Black Flowers”, “End The Reign”) than on past albums, which may have been partially due to the hard-edged production courtesy of Terry Date (Pantera, Soundgarden); their trademark ska/funk (the excellent “Unyielding Conditioning”) and elastic grooves (“Lemon Meringue”) were in shorter supply; and the major internal struggles that may or may not have been caused by these changes culminated with the departure of key members.
But a decade and a half later, with the dust having long settled and the purported demise of the band brought on by this album by now a faint memory, Give A Monkey’s shining moments may not be the mass sing-a-longs some thought they could become but are, nonetheless, up there with some of Fishbone’s finest work.

Highlights: See above.

Quote of the Day

Look at something like Of Montreal, for instance, which is a glorified eighth-generation Spiders From Mars. I'm fine with there being an eighth-generation Spiders From Mars, but I've got a better idea—why don't you listen to the Spiders From Mars and learn where they're cribbing every last one of their stage antics from? Go and buy some records from the '70s and late '60s, and watch some DVDs, and you'll see where they stole everything. It might be some of the least imaginative shit that I could imagine. I have nothing against their success, but give me a fucking break.

- Henry Owings, Chunklet founder, interviewed last year by The Onion's AV Club.

Oh! Darling: Beatles Tunes from Worst to Best

OK, due to circumstances beyond our reach, we admit to having an inordinate amount of free time lately, but we never considered the best implementation of time management available to us was to rank all of The Beatles' songs from worst to best, AND write short essays on each explaining why. But the folks over at JamsBio have taken it upon themselves to do just that with Playing The Beatles Backwards: The Ultimate Countdown.

We're not gonna go full-on into discrepancies--JamsBio lump Abbey Road's "The End" with the "Golden Slumbers"/"Carry That Weight" medley which gives them 185 original songs by the Fabs, while in his esteemed tome Revolution in the Head, the late Beatles scholar Ian MacDonald does not follow suit, thus arriving at 186; we're going with the latter, thank you, very much--or dissenting opinions we may have--"I Am the Walrus" #2? She Loves You #24? "Oh! Darling #78? "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" #90? "Long, Long, Long" #179? "Honey Pie" #184? Really?--so check out the list for yourself and see where your favorites ended up.

(Maybe this will get God I Hate Your Band off his lazy ass and give us that McCartney/Wings list he owes us since forever...)

New Tortoise, Isis Albums in April

On April 21st, Thrill Jockey will release the first Tortoise album in half a decade. The as-of-yet-untitled disc will not consist of one long piece as the band had originally planned, but will instead be a collection of varied pieces, with some that might include traditional songwriting elements such as verses, choruses and bridges. The band's previous studio album of all original material was 2004's It's All Around You.

Avant-metal act Isis will also have a new release on April 21st--on vinyl; the digital versions on May 5th--via Mike Patton's Ipecac label. Speaking to Billboard, vocalist/guitarist Aaron Turner called the upcoming Wavering Radiant "a little more orchestral in feel" than their previous albums. Tool guitarist Adam Jones guests on two tracks.

Redman Talks Jazz State of the Union Style

Renowned saxophonist Joshua Redman speaks to PopMatters about his new album Compass (Nonesuch)--his second consecutive sax trio record--and his views on the longtime debate among the jazz ranks about tradition vs innovation. An interesting read.

Here Comes the Lesbian Civil War

Guitarist Kaki King is not a fan of Showtime's The L Word. The openly gay musician had this to say in a recent interview:

"I will go on record just so every lesbian in America will hate me," King says. "I don't think The L Word has ever been a very good show. I don't think the writing is all that good and I surely don't think the directing has been all that good. And sometimes I think the acting has just sucked. ... It's a soap opera about lesbians and a lot of times it's flat out terrible."

Um, how does she really feel? Let the games begin...

Village Voice Pazz & Jop Awards

The long-running yearly best-of is out and Brooklyn's own TV on the Radio gets top honors. Cheers, gentlemen!

1/22/2009

Mas, Por Favor


ALEX FERREIRA
Serenata de Plastico EP
(WEA-Spain)

After a series of self-released EPs and singles, Madrid-based Alex Ferreira has attracted the attention of the majors and so, with the 5-track EP Serenata de Plástico, we have the young Dominican singer/songwriter's opening salvo in his foray into the big leagues.

First single "Sonrisa Valiente" [see video clip below] might not be Ferreira's strongest composition to date but it's a nice tune and it kicks off the festivities in an ideal manner, creating a fluid vibe extended throughout the rest of the record, thanks to its deft sequencing. "Pixel", like "Sonrisa", is a decent but unremarkable song that would be a highlight for many of the lesser young songwriters we're confronted with on a daily basis; however, "Real", with its sense of optimism and renewal, and "Zigzag" in its cheery, abstract depiction of confusion, clearly demonstrate what Ferreira is capable of when he takes up residence with the muse. But he left the best for last.

For those already familiar with him or anyone looking for a snapshot of the man's talent, "A Ciencia Cierta" is pure Alex Ferreira: well-crafted lyrics, melody, arrangement...ah, yes. Short and sweet, with the right dose of each of its elements, "Ciencia" is quite simply a great song. It also performs the nifty trick of closing out the EP on a high note and leaving one desiring of more.

Since Serenata Plástica is a Warner Bros release, it'll surely get Ferreira more exposure than he's managed on his own. (Unfortunately, it's only available here in the US as an import.) And what better calling card than an EP that clearly and decisively announces the arrival of a new talent; a sensitive singer/songwriter, perhaps, but one far from being precious, pretentious or blindly ironic. If you are a fan of modern, well-crafted guitar pop you could do a whole lot worse than Ferreira and his Serenata Plástica. Actually, it's very likely to be one of the best things of its kind you'll hear all year.

...and on the other hand

In a recent letter to the New York Times, musician/indie label honcho Blake Morgan decries "Apple’s decisions to drop copyright protection called digital rights management, or D.R.M., and to institute multitiered pricing for music it sells through its iTunes Store."

Morgan further believes the measure "has minimal impact on megastars and corporate labels. But it’s devaluing and disastrous for emerging artists and independent labels."

D.R.M.-free downloads are excused as “promoting” music that consumers eventually purchase. But most digital music is never purchased at all. This doesn’t mean that artists or indie labels are choosing to give work away as promotional tools. It means that the music is being copied without the artist’s consent.

Those applauding actions that will hasten music’s economic collapse are often well-meaning folks who also decry pop music’s Wal-Martification. But rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop are art forms created by the disenfranchised, before franchisers even notice them.

Apple’s decision makes it harder for those of us more interested in the high note than the bottom line.
Interesting point, indeed.

1/21/2009

The Arrows / "I Love Rock & Roll"

Seven years before Joan Jett took it to the top of the charts and made it one of her signature tunes--the other being "Bad Reputation"--The Arrows recorded the original version of this perennial fave in 1975, helmed by noted British producer Mickie Most. While Jett's faithful rendition is the best known cover of the tune, The Arrows' version has a bit of a groove noticeably absent from subsequent interpretations. Check it out:



LMFAO? WTF?!

Serves us right for stopping to watch former MTV tool Carson Daly's late night show while channel surfing, but like the proverbial car crash gazers that we can sometimes be, the lure of ridiculousness--in every bad way--put forth by an outfit performing as LMFAO was too great to ignore. Who are these clowns?! And who is responsible for unleashing these squatters of Oscar the Grouch's abode onto the general public?

We'd link to this nonsense and have you witness it firsthand, but we respect you way too much to subject you to this musical atrocity. However, if you come across or have already heard "I'm In Miami, Bitch" then you'll understand our resistance to inflicting this crap upon you. Bleech!

The Real Difference: Apple vs Microsoft

If we haven't stated our computer platform preference here before let us do it now: We're "Macheads"; always have been, and in all likelihood always will be.

Now, our loyalty to the machines and products developed by Apple is not one driven by worship at The Church of Steve Jobs, but a preference for useful tools--primarily in the creative field--and common sense, despite the mostly higher price tag ultimately involved. (Sometimes the good stuff just don't come cheap.)

As musicians we have been raving for a while now about the music and podcast creating application known as GarageBand. (Which is bundled in the multimedia iLife package that comes with the purchase of a new Mac or obtained on its own for less than a C-note.) Simply put, we find it to be the ultimate tool for professionals and hobbyists alike to flesh out musical ideas--demos, in trade speak--with reasonably impressive results.

So, half a decade after Apple introduces GarageBand, what does Microsoft counteract with? Songsmith, a glorified karaoke application that elevates the drunken sing-a-long to high art in comparison. Here's proof, from the Windows people themselves:



Now, if that wasn't bad enough, the application has unleashed a rash of song-butchering in the most unfunny of ways; something akin to William Hung's wildest wet dream:









OK, so let's clarify a bit: we're not advocating for a ban on developing potentially funny and/or goofy applications. Of course not. To each his own. But the point is, while Apple is trying to reward your imagination and self-expression with GarageBand's potential to make satisfying musical statements--or silly ones if you are so inclined--Bill Gates and co. respond with a novelty item whose usefulness is literally a joke, with a comedic shelf life that is sure to be short lived.

Songsmith is simply one more slip up in a recent line of continuous missteps on the part of Microsoft that reminds us of that En Vogue song. You know, the one that goes "No, you're never gonna get it." How lame can you go, Microsoft?

For the Love of Vinyl: Hipgnosis Album Art

Best known for their work for Pink Floyd, as well as cover art designed for AC/DC, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and many others, noted British design group Hipgnosis document and discuss in detail 60 of their projects in For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis [left], a veritable feast for fans of classic '70s album art, and firm co-founders Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, in particular. (Hipgnosis closed up shop in the early '80s. We miss you, gentlemen.)

Here's Powell talking about the book and the firm's work:


For the Love of Vinyl sells for $45 but can be obtained on sale for $20--for a limited time only--here.

What We're Listening To

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE Feel Good Lost (Arts & Crafts)
IRKA & TADEO "Sol Explosivo"/"Mar Caribe" [single]
LED ZEPPELIN
How the West Was Won (Atlantic)
THE POSIES Frosting on the Beater (DGC)
MIKE STERN Upside Downside (Atlantic Jazz)
MATTHEW SWEET Kimi Ga Suki (RCAM)

What are YOU listening to?

1/20/2009

U2 Single Greeted with Mixed Reviews

The blogosphere has reacted in a lukewarm manner to "Get On Your Boots", the debut single from U2's upcoming album, with comparisons to Elvis Costello's "Pump it Up", The Stooges, and The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" being frequently bandied about. Yes, there's a whiff of those in the mix, as well as a current dance-rock vibe in its groove. But it's the overall sound of the track that intrigues us.

Obviously, it would be very inaccurate and irresponsible to judge an album based on one song. But if this first single is any indication, No Line on the Horizon might be a revisiting of U2's '90s albums. This would be an interesting development since the ones they've released in this decade have been indebted to their "classic" sound, which many of the band's hardcore fans--and drummer Larry Mullen Jr, too--were quite vocal about being more than ready for the band to return to, after Zooropa and especially Pop. We'll find out soon enough.

Oh, and our take on "Get On Your Boots"? Not bad. Nothing special, but pretty good, actually.

The Source: Bling, Yes; Booty, No

In an effort to appeal to a different kind of advertiser, premiere hip-hop publication The Source will not be including ads "for pornographic films, pornographic Web sites or escort services" in the magazine, according to the New York Times. These spots have frequently accounted for as much as half of their advertising revenue in the past, but co-publisher L. Londell McMillan is now looking to jettison the raunchy ads in order to appeal to the likes of "McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, technology, high fashion". McMillan goes on to state how “[t]here’s a lot of people that want hip-hop but don’t want some of the filth that some of the business carries with it.”

The effect this new direction and attitude will have on The Source's readership and/or editorial content remains to be seen.

Brighter Later

Jack Johnson will be releasing a tribute to folk rock icon Nick Drake on his Brushfire Records imprint. Among those contributing tracks to the album are head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, Norah Jones, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, and Johnson himself.

Not well known during his lifetime, Drake's profile has grown immeasurably in the years since his 1974 death at the age of 26. Mainstream audiences are most familiar with the title track of his final studio album Pink Moon, which was prominently featured in a Volkswagen ad almost a decade ago.

NPR Streams Springsteen's Dream

Hardcore fans of The Boss have already gotten their fill by now, but if the rest of you are curious about Springsteen's upcoming album, the Brendan O'Brien-produced Working on a Dream (Columbia), National Public Radio is streaming the entire disc.

Working on a Dream, which includes 12 songs plus Golden Globe-winning bonus track "The Wrestler" from the 2008 movie of the same name, will be released on Jan. 27th.

New Releases

BEAUSOLEIL Alligator Purse (Yep Roc)
ANTHONY BRAXTON Quartet [Moscow] 2008 (Leo)
A.C. NEWMAN Get Guilty (Matador)
NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS Do It Like We Used to Do (Songs of the South)
ROGER O'DONNELL Songs from the Silver Box (Great Society)

RIP

We were unaware until now that songwriter Clint Ballard Jr., best known for having penned the 1974 Linda Ronstadt hit "You're No Good", died on Dec. 23rd at his home in Texas.

Ballard, whose songs became hits in the '60s for Frankie Avalon, The Hollies, Ricky Nelson, The Zombies, and many others, was 77 years old.

1/19/2009

Happy Birthday, MLK!

Top 10 Best Sellers of All-Time


[Eagles Greatest Hits 1971-1975 courtesy of All Music.]

Ah, it was a different time...In case you were having this discussion at some point--or just happened to be curious--here are, according to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), the top 10 selling albums of all time in the US. We're sure you'll be surprised by some of the following titles on the list (millions of copies sold in brackets):

EAGLES Greatest Hits 1971 - 1975 (Elektra/Asylum-1976) [29]
MICHAEL JACKSON Thriller (Epic-1982) [27]
LED ZEPPELIN IV (Atlantic-1971) [23]
PINK FLOYD The Wall (Columbia-1976) [23]
AC/DC Back In Black (Atlantic-1980) [23]
GARTH BROOKS Double Live (Capitol Nashville-1998) [21]
BILLY JOEL Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (Columbia-1985) [21]
SHANIA TWAIN Come On Over (Mercury Nashville-1995) [20]
FLEETWOOD MAC Rumours (Warner Bros-1977) [19]
THE BEATLES [self-titled aka The White Album] (Apple-1968) [19]

Bubbling underneath are two debut albums: Guns 'N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction (Geffen-1987) with 18 million copies sold; and Boston's self-titled disc (Epic-1975) with 17 million. (The latter has doubled in sales figures in the last 30+ years from its initial 8 million when released.)

Also, The Beatles' 1967-1970 compilation [aka The Blue Album], Hootie and the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View, Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, The Eagles' Hotel California, Elton John's Greatest Hits, and Alanis Morrissette's Jagged Little Pill are all tied with 16 million copies each. At 15 million units apiece are The Beatles' 1962-1966 comp [aka The Red Album], Journey's Greatest Hits, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA, and Santana's Supernatural.

We never would've guessed The Wall has outsold Dark Side of The Moon by a more than 30% margin (especially after the latter had that seemingly never-ending stay on the charts), nor that The White Album is the Fab Four's best seller by far. (Sgt Pepper's and Abbey Road come in at 12 and 11 million, respectively, while Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour are both tied at 6 million copies, followed by Meet the Beatles and Revolver with 5 million each.)

Oh, and the once greatest selling live album of all time, 1976's Frampton Comes Alive--which has long been dethroned by the likes of Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, and the Eagles--has sales of 6 million.

In addition, there are almost 40 albums which the RIAA credit with having hit the 10 million plateau--known as diamond level sales--with the overall list of the top 100 concluding at 5 million sold. And meanwhile, in 2008 we couldn't get ONE to hit the three million mark, for the first time since 1991. To quote John Lennon's posthumous single "Nobody Told Me", Strange days, indeed. Most peculiar, Momma.

Kanye's Blog: Product Placement-Proof

Describing the personalized nature of Kanye West's blog, Bryan Calhoun, VP of new media and external affairs at Sound Exchange, speaking at this year's MIDEM conference, praised the blog by calling it "totally authentic" while adding "You can't pay to put things on there...people have tried." He didn't name names, but clearly the implication is that many in the blogosphere are paid-off shills who are product and/or record company lackeys.

Surprise, surprise.

New U2 Single Released

You can listen to "Get On Your Boots" from the upcoming No Line on the Horizon here.

Tell us what you think, why dontcha?

Coachella Lineup Additions

Rumor has it the Indio, CA festival has added Bloc Party, Band of Horses, and the Ting Tings to a lineup that includes the following:

The Airborne Toxic Event
The Bug
Buraka Son Sistema
Crystal Castles
Drop The Lime
Fleet Foxes
Flying Lotus
Girl Talk
The Hold Steady
The Killers
No Age
Noah And The Whale
Late Of The Pier
Los Campesinos!
Peanut Butter Wolf
The Presets
Sébastian Tellier
Themselves
Tinariwen

Not much goin' on there, huh? This year's Coachella will take place on April 17-19.

Quote of the Day

"Oh no, I think I popped my implant!"
- Melissa, one of the large-breasted-pseudo-stripper-participants on VH1's Brett Michaels' Rock of Love reality show, after falling chest-first on the ice during a competitive hockey game.

1/17/2009

HoF Inductees Announced

This week, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the class of '09 and they are: Metallica, Run-DMC, Bobby Womack, Jeff Beck, and Little Anthony & the Imperials.

Wanda Jackson
will be inducted in the Early Influence category, while Bill Black, DJ Fontana, and Spooner Oldham will join the hall as legendary sidemen.

For the first time since 1997 the induction ceremony will take place not in New York, but in Cleveland Ohio, home of the Hall of Fame itself. The festivities are scheduled for April 4th.

Krist the Columnist

Former Nirvana and current Flipper bassist Krist Novoselic writes an interesting column on both music and politics--separately but sometimes combined--for Seattle Weekly, that's worth checking out. Among recent topics covered are the continued financial feasibility of producing music and news; and his adventures as a Guitar Hero novice.

Novoselic's column is updated every Tuesday.

New U2 Cover Art and Tracklisting Made Public

Spin has the cover artwork and tracklisting for U2's upcoming No Line on the Horizon album, due on March 3rd. First single "Get On Your Boots" will be released on Monday, Jan. 19th.

Notorious: The Movie

The Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G. / Biggie Smalls biopic opened in theatres on Friday.

The New York Times calls it "a messy, lively melodrama, reasonably faithful to the facts of Biggie’s life and wholeheartedly devoted to burnishing his myth...half pop fable, half naturalistic docudrama.

Not a bad movie, but nowhere near as strong as its soundtrack. It does not explain its hero so much as revel in the memory of his many selves, teasing the audience with a promise of intimacy and understanding much as Biggie himself did, but without the same seductive payoff. The film’s tag line could be one of Biggie Smalls’s riddling, irresistible refrains: If you don’t know, now you know
."

Biggie's mom, Voletta Wallace and Sean "Diddy" Combs are credited as producers.

Rise of the Phoenix, Yo

Speaking of Friday debuts, retired (?) actor Joaquin Phoenix was scheduled to unveil his most recent incarnation, that of a rapper (!), at a Las Vegas club on Jan. 16th. Casey Affleck was reported to be on hand to capture the performance on film for a documentary he's making about the new career path of his former fellow thespian. Oh, and btw, Sean "Diddy" Combs is said to be producing Phoenix's recorded debut.

We're not making this up. Seriously.

It's Prison for the Boy

AP:
Singer Boy George was sentenced to 15 months in jail on Friday after being convicted of falsely imprisoning a male escort by handcuffing him to a wall in a London apartment.

British Judge David Radford said the 47-year-old former Culture Club frontman, whose real name is George O'Dowd, was guilty of "gratuitous violence."

O'Dowd's lawyer said his client and the escort had both behaved like "drug-crazed idiots" and that O'Dowd's substance abuse problems were a contributing factor.


GloNo's Best Free (legal) MP3s of 2008

The folks over at Glorious Noise have compiled 21 favorites from the numerous free MP3s they linked to throughout 2008. Enjoy!

1/16/2009

Mr. Jones' Independent Spotlight Review

SARAH FIMM
White Birds EP
(self-released)

After a four-year hiatus singer/songwriter Sara Fimm returns with a fourth release, a decidedly adult-contemporary affair, whose most predominant characteristic is laid bare after a few spins. Each song on White Birds is awash in practically unavoidable cinematic flourishes, making them seem at times more suitable for soundtrack placement than actual listening. Fortunately for Fimm the songwriting and overall production—as well as her voice—are solid if not remarkable, and help draw in the interested listener’s attention.

A few irksome traits pop up here and there —lead off track “Counting Waves” has a chorus a bit too reminiscent of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”; “Afraid” bears the stamp of Portishead’s influence before delving into more mainstream waters—but the record’s shining moment is its closing title track, which utilizes some of the electronic treatments found elsewhere on the EP to much better effect, wrapping things up on a positive vibe.

There is evidently much effort and ambition at work on White Birds. That alone, renders it a step above the much-maligned, so-called brunch pop to which it may be compared. But fans of Sarah McLaughlin, the aforementioned Portishead, and Bjork may find themselves enjoying Fimm’s latest, and that’s pretty good company to keep.

1/15/2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Los Angeles-based Indie 103.5 FM has surrendered its terrestrial frequency and will be internet-only from here on in. The home of Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones' popular Jonesy's Jukebox show stated the following on their website:
Because of changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured, stations in this market are being forced to play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge. Due to these challenges, Indie 103.1 was recently faced with only one option --- to play the corporate radio game.

We have decided not to play that game any longer. Rather than changing the sound, spirit, and soul of what has made Indie 103.1 great Indie 103.1 will bid farewell to the terrestrial airwaves and take an alternative course.


If you're not familiar with Indie 103, it's not too late to acquaint yourself with their great programming. The station streams live here.


Music-Themed Films at Sundance '09

A few music-related films will be screened at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Among them:

When You're Strange, a documentary about The Doors, by Tom DiCillo (Living in Oblivion, The Real Blonde);

It Might Get Loud, with guitarists Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White discussing the history of their chosen instrument;

Passing Strange, a musical documentary of the Tony award-winning show, directed by Spike Lee and featuring the music of The Negro Problem's Stew and Heidi Rodewald.

1/14/2009

Adams + Cardinals Split (for now)

Citing issues with his hearing and other developments, Ryan Adams is embarking on a performing hiatus from his band The Cardinals. The news was made public in a long Jan. 14th post--since removed and edited down to a short statement--on the band's blog.

Their final show together is scheduled for Jan 20th.

American Idle

No fans of American Idol 'round here, but we admit to watching the preliminaries of one or two of the popular singing contest's seasons, specifically to enjoy the monumental cringe-inducing lack of talent--or self-preservation instinct--put forth by a few of the hopefuls. (The word is schadenfreude, correct?)

Last night's premiere of Season 8 had quite a few of the above, as well as the usual decent-level talent moving on "to Hollywood". The latter bunch includes one quite attractive finalist--from here on in to be referred to as "Bikini Girl"--whose blatant pandering via her physical attributes led Idolator's Maura Johnston to consider her "a less classy version" of any one of what we deem bargain basement strippers and pseudo strippers populating the VH1 reality shows starring "Mascara Boy" aka Poison frontman Brett Michaels. Ouch!

That "Bikini Girl", with her OK voice and dissing of new judge Kara DioGuardi, managed to get the nod from the panel, speaks for itself.

If you missed it, see here for yourself.

Top Choice Clique / "I Think to Myself"

We've been searching for this song from the out-of-print soundtrack to the Mario Van Peebles flick Posse (1993) to no avail.

Any assistance would be much appreciated.

Hard Rock Schizos

You really can't set your watch to VH1's viewers. How to explain their recent list of "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs" intersecting at a few points with their own "40 Most Awesomely Bad Metal Songs Ever" countdown (Warrant's "Cherry Pie", Winger's "Seventeen", Autograph's "Turn Up the Radio", and Europe's ultra-weak "The Final Countdown" among them)?

It's bad enough the "100 Greatest" has a bunch of lame hair farmer tunes on there--
in addition to the aformentioned songs the cheese factor is upped courtesy of Ratt, Lita Ford, Skid Row, etc--but the inclusion of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" is just plain ridiculous.

(Also, is it not much of a coincidence that the hair merchants and/or old-timers rarely
have anything positive to say about the '90s entries on the list? Still some bad blood there, huh?)

We're guessing VH1 wants to create a bit of suspense by not announcing
on their site which songs made the list, so Stereogum (!) has the rundown of the 100 Greatest here.

RIP

- The passing of Ricardo Montalbán, the Mexican-born actor best known for his roles as Mr. Rourke on TV's Fantasy Island and as the title villain in the second Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, was announced on Jan. 14th. He died in Los Angeles home with no cause of death given. Montalbán was 88 years old.

- Emmy award-winning actor Patrick McGoohan, star and creator of the cult classic TV show The Prisoner, died in Los Angeles on Jan 14th. He was 80.

1/13/2009

12 Year Old Boys, Rejoice!

The title of Britney Spears' next single is "If You Seek Amy". Yes, really.

What We're Listening To

BRIAN BLADE & THE FELLOWSHIP BAND Season of Changes (Verve)
HALL & OATES Rock n Soul Pt.1 (RCA)
PELICAN City of Echoes (Hydra Head)
DAVID SYLVIAN Gone to Earth (Virgin)
TEMPLE OF THE DOG -self titled- (A&M)

What are YOU listening to?

1/12/2009

What Was and What Should Never Be

After months of speculation and rumor Peter Mensch, manager for Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page has stated categorically that the legendary British hard rockers are not reuniting--with or without Robert Plant.
"If you didn't see them in 2007...you missed them. It's done. I can't be any clearer than that...They tried out a few singers, but no one worked out...That was it. The whole thing is completely over now."
And how exactly did this turnaround come about? It was practically a done deal and now it's a figment of our collective imagination, is that what Mensch is implying?

Part of us are sighing in relief over the possibility of the reunion turning into a travesty but Mensch's whole stance on this is quite weird, to say the least.