10/23/2015

Groovemasters: Hunter and Amendola Live

CHARLIE HUNTER + SCOTT AMENDOLA
Bonafide
NYC
10/22/15

It's one thing to have guitarist extraordinaire Charlie Hunter dazzle with simultaneous guitar and bass dexterity on his custom, 7-string, hybrid instrument, via his numerous recordings. But to witness such brilliance up close is nothing short of a decidedly jaw-dropping experience. Add the nimble and equally inspired drumming of Scott Amendola and one just might be at a magical loss for words.

Playing with the spontaneity of two adventurous jazz pros jamming in someone's living room, Hunter and Amendola--who clearly hails from the Joey Baron school of highly creative, stunt drumming--both awed and delighted the assembled crowd with spirited renditions of respective originals, as well as covers ranging from classics like Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" to pop hit "Royals" by Lorde. But their swampy New Orleans-infused Cars medley ("Bye Bye Love"/"Good Times Roll"/"Let's Go") must be heard to be believed. Awesome.

10/20/2015

Lost and Found: 'Teenage Sex Therapist'

OWEN MAERCKS
Teenage Sex Therapist
[Feeding Tube Records - 2014]

Being a dedicated music artist is like standing on a street corner asking the passerby if they are interested in having a conversation about a topic near and dear to you. If you’re lucky, a crowd of like-minded folk will gather to hear what you have to say. But more often the not, they won’t be interested in the topic and/or your delivery or in all likelihood won’t even stop to ask what it is you’re going on about. Hindsight might make clear you had nothing interesting or substantive to communicate, but when it’s actually the opposite and you’re ignored for reasons both fickle and frail, that’s gotta hurt.

In 1978 Maercks’ Teenage Sex Therapist went dramatically unheard or, alternately, unloved among those who had the opportunity to hear it. Yes, his Beefhart-ian take on post-punk/new wave wasn’t going to climb the charts, then or now. But this was accessible, workman-like art rock that deep down was catchy as fuck. Surely it would’ve found an audience had it gotten the right attention, particularly at a time when kindred spirits such the B-52s were just a year away with their own outside-the-norm statement of musical purpose. But it was not to be.

Aside from Maercks himself, we have noted guitarist—and former Maercks bandmate in Monster Island—Henry Kaiser, to thank for the existence of Teenage Sex Therapist, having gotten Maercks up to Monterrey, CA to record the album over a few days with a band Kaiser selected and rehearsed in advance. (No Skyping or prior exchange of files, kiddies—remember, this was 1978.) Because of Kaiser’s involvement—and, let’s face it, the vagaries of life and the lottery-like aspect of the Internet—Maercks’ lone release has now found a home in the record collections of quite a few sympathetic fans, having gotten a proper release by the Massachusetts-based Feeding Tube Records. For those of us who missed its wonderful courtship with brilliance the first time around, discovering Teenage Sex Therapist is a source of both joy and reaffirmation: the former is self-explanatory; the latter lies in the hope that great music eventually finds an audience, especially while its creator is around to bask in the somewhat muted glow. 

Highlights: Nary a duff track here but “Sleeping With Great Works of Art”, “Information”, “Asleep and Awake”, “Nancy Calls Collect”, “Hoh!” and “Intense Young Man” deserve special attention.

10/17/2015

Mr. Jones' 21 Favorite Singles of the 21st Century (so far)

[As always, when attempting this kind of exercise, familiarity and poignancy—as well as considerations of time, space, length, reader interest, etc etc etc—will inevitably lead to some favorites falling by the wayside. But such are the pitfalls of compiling a list of any kind, although slightly less stress is involved when the main criteria is favorites. And so, with that out of the way, and in alphabetical order by artist, have at them. Cheers. - KJ]

AUDIOSLAVE "Cochise" [2002]
The first—and biggest—rock supergroup of the first decade of the 21st century didn't always gel, but when they did...

COLDPLAY “Yellow” [2000]
Boy, have these dudes caught grief. But long before the weirdly titled albums, "Sgt. Pepper's"-style band uniforms, the arrival—and subsequent departure—of the high profile Hollywood actress, and the questionable need to make a statement with every release, there was a simple yet heartfelt pop song that took the world by storm.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE “The Sound of Settling” [2003]
We almost went with the most excellent “Cath…” but this infectious, joy-imbued, short and sweet nugget of ear candy from their breakthrough Transatlanticism album [Barsuk], was too hard to pass up. Just might be our fave song of the 2000s. Yes, we love it that much.

FREELANCE HELLRAISER "A Stroke of Genius" [2001]
Talk about the sum of its parts: never cared for either Christina Aguilera or The Strokes, but this mash up truly lives up to its title. Arguably, the standard bearer for mash-ups.

GRIZZLY BEAR “Two Weeks” [2009]
This time the Brooklyn “cool” kids were right. Oh, yeah.

GUIDED BY VOICES “Glad Girls” [2001]
Uncle Bob’s best-sounding/produced album, Isolation Drills [TVT]—recorded in NYC, btw—is the home of this shoulda-been-a-monster-hit.

INCUBUS “Megalomaniac” [2003]
Lumped together with the nu-metal mooks of the late ‘90s, these guys were always a lot more interesting than that mostly sorry bunch. This fiery bastard is proof.

INJECTED "Faithless" [2002]
This Atlanta quartet never got much love while in the spotlight but this tune is modern melodic hard rock—with a catchy chorus the size of a house—at its finest.

IRON & WINE
"Woman King" [2005]
Sam Beam is one of the most gifted songwriters today. (And a master at interpretation, as his gorgeous solo acoustic cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” clearly demonstrates.) This one is but a highlight from his vastly impressive catalog.

JLS "Maco Jones" [2003]
A vicious slab of molten, in your face, slow-grinding metal, this is a track for the ages. 

NORAH JONES "Don't Know Why" [2002]
Only the most jaded among us—and we’re founders/card-carrying members of that club—could escape the intoxicating charms of this Jesse Harris-penned ballad.

LONGWAVE "Wake Me When It's Over" [2003]
One of the early ‘00s NYC outfits poised for fame, it never happened for these dudes. But this tune remains one of the finest recorded moments of that scene's brief heyday.

A PERFECT CIRCLE “Judith” [2000]
Few have perfected the metal-meets-
The Cure aesthetic like these guys. This track—with its David Fincher-directed video clip—is just...

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" [2000]
Whatever you do/don’t tell anyone.” Gotcha.

THE RACONTEURS “Steady as She Goes” [2006]
The Joe Jackson-indebted debut single from Jack White’s post-White Stripes outfit is a big fave ‘round these parts. "Find yourself a girl and settle down / live a simple life in a quiet town..." Rarely did straightforward advice sound so good.

DUNCAN SHEIK "White Limousine" [2006]
He’s a big deal on Broadway these days, and while his previous output never really did much for us, the title track from his 2003 album is simply a solid lesson in songwriting and arrangement in a pop music format. (Special props for the deft atmospheric/“color” guitarwork.)

SPOON “Don’t You Evah” [2007]
The Natural History were a talented NYC-based band from the first half of the '00s that never really took off, despite a solid EP and album on the hip, also NYC-based StarTime International label, and an even better self-released album. It is on the latter, People I Meet from 2007, that you'll find the original version of "Don't You Ever", which Spoon covered on their highly acclaimed record Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga  [Merge] that same year. Spoon's take is a little more polished and produced—and arguably the best track on their album—while the original has a lot of heart despite being about cold feet, heh heh. Great song in any version, regardless.

U2 "Beautiful Day" [2000]
In the midst of the avalanche of boy band/nu metal/prefab teen star nonsense that was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, this one arrived like a truck of ice water in the desert, as the Irish legends reclaimed their place among the heathens.

WEEZER “Keep Fishin” [2002]
Three minutes and five seconds of pure ear-candy bliss, in the same vein as Cheap Trick’s Live At Budokan classic "I Want You To Want Me", plus the equally ebullient Marcos Siega directed clip: a faux Muppet Show episode featuring Kermit and the gang panicking over the disappearance of Weezer drummer Patrick Wilson (who’s been kidnapped by none other than Miss Piggy) moments before the band is due to perform. Awesome.

PHARRELL WILLIAMS “Happy” [2013]
The haters can knock it all they want, this one will always make us…well, you know.

ZWAN "Honestly" [2003]
Billy Corgan has written some great tunes and you may get to hear many of ‘em if you catch the latest of incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins on the road. Sadly, this gem won’t be one of ‘em.