Monday, September 11, 2006

Brilliance in Los Angeles

So it's late at night and I was in a major funk due to my favorite baseball team's continued poor play when I went trolling the internet for new music. This has, in the past, led to some rather interesting finds. But when I stumbled across Cerulean I could not have been more pleased. First off, the name of the band is, I hope, a nod to the first album by The Ocean Blue (a MOZ fave). Second, they are damn catchy. Third, they are from LA. All of these are excellent signs for a new favorite band of mine.

The band seems to have collected several albums and ep's in their time together and the sampling of mp3's on their site are all high quality. So far in the past 10 minutes I have listened to "Quiet Release" about three times. This is from their latest record NO SENSE IN WAITING as is another track, the equally brilliant "Keep Repeating".

Cerulean are somewaht reminiscent of another local band The Killingtons in their use of ridiculously catchy hooks and very soft understated singing. These are songs that are great for their ability to continue to rise and fall then lift the listener up again. I can only imagine how they might be live. This band could be huge except their good which means no one in the music industry will give them the time of day. Even so, I wish them the best of luck and will certainly keep my eye on their future matieral.

Official Site (check mp3 section for some samples)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Indie Pioneer -- Oingo Boingo

Although he will probably end up being famous as a composer for numerous films, Dany Elfman got his start in the band Oingo Boingo. In the 1980's, Boingo had a string of hits culminating with the Halloween anthem "Dead Man's Party". The band recorded a few more records in the early 1990's before disbanding and elfman launched his second career.
There isn't a good way to describe Oingo Boingo's music other than eclectic. From tribal drum beats to the liveral use of xylophones, Boingo mines unusual textures and sonic combiantions to find their signature sound. Over all of this is Elfman's otherworldy voice. His is a mix of demonic possession and pop troubadour that enfused life into his macabre lyrics. the muscial connections to Halloween and the Day of the Dead made them concert staples here in Southern California. The selections included here are from a variety of time periods starting with "Just Another Day", "Stay" and "Private Life" from their early work and "Glory Be" and "Skin" from the highly underrated DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. Though not as inlfuential as some other 80's bands, Boingo's sense of theatricallity in music certainly left its mark on bands of today.

(m4a) Oingo Boingo -- Just Another Day
(m4a) Oingo Boingo -- Private Life (highy recommended)
(m4a) Oingo Boingo -- Stay
(m4a) Oingo Boingo -- Glory Be
(m4a) Oingo Boingo -- Skin

Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Order Side Projects

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything (very, very busy) but I'm back with a vengence.

What do you do if you are one of the biggest bands in the world and you're bored? You take some time off and record side projects. Such was the case with New Order. New Order had been a huge alternative rock band throughout the 80's and 90's and in 1996 they decided to take a break. What transpired was a quartet of side projects, with varying success.

Electronic was formed between NO singer Bernard Sumner and the Smiths guitar god Johnny Marr. Their first album, ELECTRONIC, was a nice mix of Sumner's vocals and Marr's Guitar. Mix in some techno touches and even some rapping (Sumner rapping is suprisingly high quality) and you get a really good record. "Getting Away With It" is a great pop song, featuring a vocal aid by Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennent. Other highlights include a rousing techno track "Tighten Up" and the aforementioned rap track "Feel Every Beat". The band has since recorded two more records and will soon release a greatest hits.

(m4a) Electronic -- Tighten Up

(m4a) Electronic -- Getting Away With It

(M4a) Electronic -- Feel Every Beat

Partially due to the success of Electronic and partially due to his own desire to stake out his turf, Bassist Peter Hook formed his own band Revenge. A radical departure from New Order, Revenge was blasted in the press and fans ignored the record. Compared to New Order, the critics might have been right, but as it's own, ONE TRUE PASSION, isn't that bad. Hook is not a great singer but the songs have bite and some real imagination. Hook killed revenge after a follow up EP and formed Monaco. Monaco could almost be a New Order cover band. Hook pulls out all the old basslines and even finds a signer that could be Bernard Sumner's stunt double. "What Do You Want From Me" is the track that New Order might have recorded if they were together at this time.

(m4a) Revenge -- Pineapple Face (From One Ture Passion)

(m4a) Revenge -- Cloud Nine ( From Gun World Porn)

(m4a) Monaco -- What Do You Want From Me?

Perhaps out of fear of beign ignored as the other half of Manchester's favorite sons and daughters or more likely putting some ideas from home down on tape, husband and wife duo Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris formed The Other Two. Their album, THE OTHER TWO AND YOU, is pure pop fun. Their isn't a song on it that isn't upbeat and sunny. It's almos the anti-New Order record. Gilbert's vocals on "Tasy Fish" and "Selfish" make me wonder if she shouldn't have been singing more than just back up. (of course, Gilbert is no longer with New Order) Overall, This is a close second to Electronic for quality Side projects.

(m4a) The Other Two -- Tasty Fish

(m4a) The Other Two -- Selfish

So even though none of these bands can replace the original, they are still enjoyable and make for a decent IPOD playlist all on their own.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

More 90's Brit Pop

So it has been awhile since I posted anything new. (very busy with a new job and about a thousand things to do around the house) So for my triumphant return I present you with two bands from England that released albums in the 90's off the excellent Creation records imprint.

Adorable made one excellent album then dissappeared. Here's what I know. 1) They were from England even though the band members' name seem Scandanavian. 2) They released a second album that flopped. 3) Their first record AGAINST PERFECTION is the perfect mix of Shoegazer rock and Echo and the Bunnymen style singing. "Sunshine Smile" is a wonderful pop song with a great guitar intro. "Glorious" is very remiscent of mid 80's U2 and "Homeboy" is probably the best song on the album with an absolute kick ass bass line. All in all, fun stuff

(mp3) Adorable -- Sunshine Smile

(mp3) Adorable -- Glorious

(mp3) Adorable -- Homeboy (highly recommended)

On the other end of the spectrum are the Boo Radleys. This band, named after a character from To Kill A Mockingbird, released a ton of albums throughout the nineties drawing from various style including Beatlesque pop, shoegazer, regaae and punk. The brainchild of guitarist Martin Carr, the Boos had no real success in the states but quite a UK following. their 1995 album WAKE UP! was a radical departure from the early work and was full of very bright, upbeat songs that turned off many hardcore fans. But after a few listens the album really grows on you. "Wake Up Boo!" is pure fluff but in a good makes you wanna dance kind of way. "Find the Answer Within" is just out and out pop and a great song even 10 years later.

(mp3) The Boo Radleys -- Wake Up Boo!

(mp3) The Boo Radleys -- Find The Answer Within

BTW...a few days ago I witnessed the most boring baseball game known to man. I know what some of you might be thinking, aren't all baseball games boring and I will answer that at another time. Lets just say that even though my LA Angels beat the hated Yankees I actually contemplated taking my own life afer 3 1/2 hours just to have something to do. More on this later...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

We all love New Order

So it isn't often that I stumble across not one but two really good new bands that just so happen to share the same name which gets its genesis from one of my favorite New Order Songs. So here is a brief comparison of the two THIEVES LIKE US.

Thanks to the excellent blog Indie mp3 I decided to look into this Houston band Thieves Like Us. Like most of the known universe I was raised on a steady diet of Joy Division and New Order throughout high school and have taken to really enjoying that sounds' revival (Editors, Interpol, etc.) So I was very impressed by what I heard on the bands myspace page. (alas no downloads just listening.) I really enjoyed the track "No Control" which is the most polished and very reminiscent of New Order at their height). "Do Me Right" even does a credible job of mimicking the typical New Order guitar riff. All and all good stuff.

Thieves Like Us MySpace Page (Houston Version)

A Little further to the east (New York to be exact) is another version of Thieves Like Us. Taking a nice mix of early and late New Order as well as a healthy dose of Daft Punk style funk dance this band is definetely more of a party interpretation of New Order. The lead singer sounds just like Bernard Sumner and they use the same staccato, electronic drum style as the boys from Manchester. "Drugs in My Body" is a great dance track and "For Judith" owes a lot to Joy Division. "Sugar and Song" could have come right off of POWER, CORRUPTION AND LIES.

Thieves Like US MySpace Page (New York Version)
Official Website

So the final verdict is that both are really good bands and deserve to continue making music. The question becomes who gets to keep the name?

Buffalo Tom

Buffalo Tom typifies my college music experience. This Boston three piece has been making music for quite awhile now and every time they put out a record I remeber them fondly. I first feel in love with them on their excellent 1992 album LET ME COME OVER, which was their first major label outing. Similar in style and feel to the Lemonheads and other Fort Apache studio bands, Buffalo Tom played music that was both technically powerful and achingly beautiful. Did theseguys strike out some new course in alternative music? Of course not, otherwise more people would have heard of them. Is this record a piece of damn fine music? YES! the follow up to LET ME COME OVER, BIG RED LETTER DAY, is far more polished and radio friendly, but I think the songs included here capture what Buffalo Tom are all about. My particular favorite is "Tailights Fade", an amazing song about heartache, loss and alienation that style gives me chills even to this day.

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Mineral

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Darl

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Tailights Fade (highly rec'd)

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Stymied

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Staples

Monday, August 07, 2006

One of My Personal Faves

When I was in college I had a mild obesseions with the music coming out of Britian (as evidenced by the numerous British tinged postings already). My friends and I just loved the music that they produced and would make sure to go to LA to catch whatever band made it across the pond. These were some of my all time favorite concerts. There just seemed to be an energy in the room that was lacking with the American bands of the the 1990's. No exception was the band James. I had the priviledge of seeing them at their height in 1994. They had just hit it big with the album LAID and the song "Laid" was all over radio. When I first heard this record I was amazed at the depth of the lyrics and the absolute conviction Tim Booth's singing brought to the recordings. Then I saw them live. Words cannot describe the atmosphere in the crowd and the energy the badn brought to the stage. I swear you could have heard a pin drop during "P.S." it was electric.

The band never had any real US success after that and stopped recording in 2001. but LAID is an incredible record and worth repeated listenings. Recorded with Brian Eno, LAID is a moody, eclectic work of art. "One of the Three" is a wonderous medidation on the nature of spirituality and religion. The layered vocals on "Five-O" create an orchestral feel with single voice. "Say Something" reaches epic heights as the guitars build and build to a climactic moment. Truly, there isn't a bad song on the album.

Shortly after the LAID album was released, the band released outtakes from the sessions called WAH WAH. A very experimental work, echoing alot of what U2 was doing right around the same time, it is much harder to digest. I have included two songs from those sessions that I think are great companions to LAID. It's a shame to see that this great band disappeared, but they left us a masterwork.

(zip) James -- Laid

(mp3) James -- Jam J (from Wah Wah)

(mp3) James -- Honest Joe (from Wah Wah)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Random Myspace Bands

So I had some free time to poke around MySpace for some up and coming bands. As I have said before I try to focus this blog on somewhat older material and leave the newer music to the other excellent writers out there. But I did come across a couple of interesting bands while cruising the net.

Sequoyah Prep School look like they may be about 12 years old. They hail from South Carolina and play acoustic indie rock with an emo flavor to it. They list Jimmy Eat World as one of their influences and that would seem to be a good comparison. They have one song for download, the mid tempo track "About Rain" but I think the best of the four I listened to "LoveHate" which has the feel of one of those songs that just keeps building tension till it's climax (bet this is pretty good live). Well worth checking out.

Sequoyah Prep School MySpace

Castledoor are from nearby Silverlake, CA. Silverlake has had a lot of really good music come out of the area (Beck, Pete Yorn) and these guys seem to follow that tradition. Very soft and quirky music that at first listen sounds very much like the typical indie stuff out today but I have to admit that upon further listens I was more and more impressed. Really like the song "Dove" which starts out very simply and builds to quite a little anthem.

Castledoor MySpace

The Scene Aesthetic are the most popular unsigned band on MySpace. A simple two ice acoustic duo, they have a very nice vocal chemistry and are very good guitar players. This probably would sound great live in some random Seattle coffee shop. Very straight ahead sound with none of the weirdness that comes with a lot of indie music. "Dear Time Traveler" is off their official album so it has the most polished sound.

The Scene Aesthetic MySpace

As always if you have a band and want me to check it out just let me know.

Family Fued

Sometimes the music business can be a fascinating place to observe. Take the case with UK artist Tricky. Tricky gained fame as part of Massive Attack before striking out on his own with his debut album MAXINQUAYE, named after his mother. This is where the fun part comes in. A few years later another artist, Finley Quaye, released his debut album, MAVERICK A STRIKE. During the press coverage Finley insinuated that he was the half brother of Tricky's mom, making Finley Tricky's half uncle. Tricky didn't take to kindly to all this free publicity and in typical rapper fashion recorded a track blasting his alleged uncle. Needless to say, there is little love in the Quaye family. It seems that things have improved over the years and one place I read says that they have even recorded together.

Musically the two couldn't be any more different. Tricky's music is very dark and moody with his signature garbled drawl of rapping mixed oftentimes with angelic female vocals. On MAXINQUAYE, the female voacals were handled by Martina Topley-Bird, who was a teenager at the time. The three tracks here are very representative of his style. "Black Steel" is a great cover of the Public Enemy song "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos". "Overcome" is a blueprint for the trip hop movement (much in the same vein as Portishead or Massive Attack) and "Brand New, You're Retro" is about the most upbeat thing on the album.

Finley Quaye on the other hand is the definition of pop music. After MAVERICK A STRIKE (which was heavily influenced by reggae) he released MUCH MORE THAN MUCH LOVE, which was coproduced by William Orbit. Full of big hooks and catchy choruses it is as bright as Tricky is dark. The first single "Dice" features vocals from Beth Orton. Two other tracks, "Something to Say" and "Beautiful Nature" are full of positive, uplifting lyrics and are very singable. (Random aside; I first heard Beautiful Nature in a Sephora shopping with my wife; ahhh the things we do for love!)

Listen to both and compare to see who you like better. Each is geat in their own way.

(mp3) Tricky -- Black Steel

(mp3) Tricky -- Overcome

(mp3) Tricky -- Brand New, You're Retro

(m4a) Finley Quaye -- Dice

(m4a) Finley Quaye -- Something to Say

(m4a) Finley Quaye -- Beautiful Nature

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Music With A Conscience

Michael Franti has been making music for a long time under a variety of guises. He first started out as a member of the San Francisco band the Beatnigs in the late 80's. When that band fell apart after a couple of records, Franti created the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and recorded the record HYPOCRISY IS THE GREATEST LUXURY, which is one of the great overlooked hip hop albums of the last 15 years. Hip hop has become the voice of the current generation and today has dissolved into a celebration of money, sex and fame. This album is the antithesis of that. Franti takes an industrial style of music and mixes it with socially conscience lyrics on Sexuality, Government action on poverty, and the evils of former Governor of California Pete Wilson. Franti holds nothing back and it makes for fascinating listening. One of the highlights is the track "Television, the Drug of the Nation" which was originally a Beatnigs song here reworked to add snippets of TV Commercials throughout this lament of th evils of the box. Another is a cover of the Dead Kennedy's "California Uber Alles" which samples Jello Biafra's original. If you are into hip hop and are looking for something different this is a good place to start.

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -- Television, The Drug of the Nation
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -- California Uber Alles
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -- Language of Violence

After the dissolution of the Heroes, Franti formed the band Spearhead. While the socially conscience aspect of their music is the same, the style of very different. Taking a much more organic approach to music, Franti opted to record with a live band and use more traditional guitar and drum arrangements. The band is still making records and has some tracks for download on their website.

(mp3) Spearhead -- Yell Fire!

Spearhead Official Site

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We Wish We Were Coldplay

I like Coldplay. I don't think they are singlehandedly responsible for the death of good music like many other people think. Actually, I have seen them live and they are very, very good. But when Coldplay hit it big in the United States a funny thing happened. All these other bands appeared sounding an awful lot like Mr. Martin and friends. This created a problem for the discerning music listener. How do you sift through all these bands to find something valuable. Here are two bands that I think were just original enough to be Coldplayesque without losing their own identity. Neither had the success (or celebrity marriages) of Coldplay but they still made a few enjoyable albums.

The Scottish band Travis started out making records that were loud and slightly punky (think Arctic Monkeys without the funky rhythm section). Then with their second album, THE MAN WHO, Travis went into sensitive folk rock mode and found some US success. Released around the same time as the first Coldplay record, Travis was supposed to be the bigger band but fate (or bad PR by the record label) was unkind and they never really got a foothold over here. Still the songs had that bouncy feel that comes with good musicianship and quirky lyrics about seeminly mundane things. The single "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" could be a lost Smiths song. Their third album, THE INVISIBLE BAND, was very similar to the previous and that meant they were unable to pick up any new fans. But the song "Side" still has a great chorus and is the kind of uplifting message and sound that would have fit well with a TV Show soundtrack.

(mp3) Travis -- Writing To Reach You (from The Man Who)
(mp3) Travis -- Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (from The Man Who)
(mp3) Travis -- Side (from The Invisible Band)
(mp3) Travis -- Follow The Light (from the Invisible Band)

A slightly different take on the brit pop formula came from Starsailor. This British four piece again arrived in the US at around the same time as all the other big britpoppers. They cam equipped with the standard sensitive singer with the high pitched voice. But the music has a slightly majestic quality. The songs on their first album, LOVE IS HERE, seemed to take off about midway through. You really get the sense that the band thought long and hard about each note. "Poor Misguided Fool" is a wonderous track full of longing and loss. "Love is Here" is another majestic track with a positive message. The band had little success in the States but has had a nice career in Europe where they are preparing a new album.

(mp3) Starsailor -- Poor Misguided Fool
(mp3) Starsailor -- Love Is Here

Monday, July 31, 2006

Trade Talk and Women who Rock

Today is the Trade Deadline in Major League Baseball. This time of year gets all of us who are into MLB really exicted to see what our favorite club does or doesn't do. This year has been particularly fascinating since the Angels are in playoff contention and actually seem to be interested in making a deal, something they rarely do. Having watched every inning of every game I can tell you that the Angels are in desperate need of a first baseman who can hit the ball out of the ballpark on a semi regular basis. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be what they are looking for and instead are focused on Alfonso Soriano, who is a hitter sure, but plays either outfield or 2nd base, two positions we seem to be pretty well stocked in. So we will see what happens.

Music of the day focuses on women fronted bands I loved in college. A lot has been made of the reinvention of rock brought forth by bands like the White Stripes and the Black Keys who are simply a guitar and drum duo. This is not a new phenomenon since the format had been explored earlier in the 1990's by the group the Spinanes. Made up of guitarist Rebecca Gates and drummer Scott Plouf, the Spinanes emerged from the great Northwest with a unique sound and just rock solid songs. Gates has an unusual voice, very deadpan and seeminly unemotional. However, after listening repeatedly to their debut ablum MANOS it becomes obvious this is a woman to be reckoned with. She is a wonderful guitarist and the lack of a bass player or keyboard accompanyment gives the songs a real sense of space and feeling. It also helps that Plouf is a kick ass drummer. Their second record, STRAND, enhanced the vocal nuances and added atmospheric touches that are almost Sonic Youth like. Here are some of my favorites from their first two records. I believe Gates is still making music solo and Plouf went on to work with Built to Spill at one point.

(mp3) The Spinanes -- Entire (from Manos)

(mp3) The Spinanes -- Noel, Jonah and Me (from Manos)

(mp3) The Spinanes -- Lines and Lines (from Strand)

(mp3) The Spinanes -- Meridian (from Strand)

A lot of really amazing music has come from the Georgia particularly from the Athens area. Obviously REM and the B-52's come to mind. (don't worry eventually I will get to REM but trying to whittle their catalogue down to a few tracks is impossible) But a real hidden gem of the Georgia music scene is Atlanta's Magnapop. It isn't often that you get a woman as a lead guitar player but Ruthie Morris has got chops. Add her playing ability to the vocals of Linda Hopper and you've got something special. The band came out during the height of the 1990's when other girls bands like Velocity Girl and Veruca Salt were getting a lot of press so Magnapop was kind of lost in the shuffle. But their second album, HOT BOXING, was simply a wonderful album. The influence of early REM and Bob Mould (in his Sugar incarnation) is obivous and the album is highlighted by the exceedingly poppy "Slowly, Slowly" and the out and out punk rock of "Here it Comes" The band is still recording and has new songs available for download on their website.

(mp3) Magnapop -- Slowly, Slowly

(mp3) Magnapop -- Here it Comes

Official Website

Friday, July 28, 2006

Another Indie Rock Pioneer

What can be said about the Pixies that thousands of musicians, radio personalities and rock critics haven't already said. Legend has it that all Kurt Cobain wanted to do was write a really good Pixies Cover when he came up with "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Rivers Cuomo openly copied part of "I Bleed" for a Weezer song. The band's fingerprints are all over most of what is indie rock today.

Formed in 1986 in Boston the four members of the Pixies, Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis), Joey Santiago, David Lovering and Kim Deal didn't set out to change the face of music. Mixing punk rock with Dick Dale style guitar lines and lyrics about such randon things as aliens, mathmatical equations and the glories of higer education, the Pixies quickly became a staple of most of college radio. By the time their second record, DOOLITTLE, came out, the Pixies were already being hailed as the next great American Rock Band. All that pressure seemed to change them as the next two records, BOSSANOVA and TROMPE LE MONDE, were very different from the earlier, edgier material.

Trying to pick out a representative sample of Pixies songs is damn near impossible. Each album has five or six songs that are unique to their sound but also completly original in their orientation. Most people I have spoke with agree that the best place to start with is "Debaser". It has all the trademarks of a Pixies song. Great bass line (by the one and only Kim Deal, who just about everyone at my college radio station had a crush on), that perfect guitar hook and Francis screaming over the top just on the edge of madness. Two other tracks from DOOLITTLE are here; "Wave of Mutilation", which is a concert fave and "Monkey Gone To Heaven", one of the most well known songs.

Also here are two songs from BOSSANOVA. A lot of people didn't take to this record when it first came out. They felt it was to great a departure from the earlier stuff, but I have to admit it has grown on me over time. The first single from here was "Velouria" which although similar to early material shows just enough maturity to sound original and "Cecelia Ann", a cover of a Surftones instrumental that highlights just how amazing Santiago and Francis were at the dueling guitars thing.

The final track here is from TROMPE LE MONDE. There were a lot of tracks I could have picked here but I chose "UMass" because I remember hearing this in college and wondering just what the hell went on at that school that wasn't happening at mine. Not to mention that it has a great ending where Francis is just screaming, "It's Educational" over and over. Great song to study by.

Again, there are about 20 other songs I could have gone with and been just as happy. If you have any suggestions please let me know. Enjoy. (sorry for the m4a format I was just updating my IPOD and didn't have time to convert to mp3. If you need them in mp3 let me know and I will repost them)

(m4a) The Pixies -- Debaser
(m4a) The Pixies -- Wave of Mutilation
(m4a) The Pixies -- Velouria
(m4a) The Pixies -- Cecelia Ann
(m4a) The Pixies -- UMass

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Next Big Blog Thing

As I am still new to the blogosphere I am amazed at how fast people latch on to a new band and decree them the greatest thing since the invention of sound. So far I've seen it with Sufjan Stevens, Chin Up Chin Up, and Band of Horses. All quality artists now doubt, but are we being a wee bit premature to dub them the best artists ever? Having said all that, I have seen many a posting on the band Midlake. When one blog brings it up I tend to dismiss it. When a band gets several mentions I start to take notice. So having seen about a dozen blogs speak of this band in such high regard I was understandably intrigued (better to be on the bandwagon late than not at all). Having listened to the album about three times now I have to say I'm impressed. Again, I am not labeling them the saviors of rock and roll. But what they do, a combination of old school 70's folk rock with some indie rock off kilter attitude, they do very well. So by all means check this album out. I especially enjoyed the songs "Roscoe" and "Head Home" which has the catchiest chorus I've heard this year.

Brought to you by my friends at the Stuart Staples Experience (see link on the right for more of their musical goodness)

Midlake -- The Trials of Van Occupanther

Sounds From Across The Ocean

Today we send some love to our friends from the UK with two of the biggest bands to come out of England in the last twenty years.

When Oasis set out to be the biggest band in the world, most people laughed. After all, how could a band with two brothers who can't seem to co-exsist in a room for more than 5 minutes possibly last long enough to gain any kind of following? Ah, but last they did. Oasis exploded out of the gate with their first album, DEFINITELY MAYBE, and quickly became the biggest UK band since the Beatles. Which makes sense since most of the songwriting chops of Noel Gallagher were lifted from the McCartney/Lennon playbook. But behind all the Beatle worship was a unique mix of old and new. It was a return to what rock was all about. Drugs, Sex and the repurcussions thereof. The band would hit it big in the US with "Wonderwall", but I still think the first album is the best representation of what this band is all about. Two songs from that album, the first single "Supersonic" and the concert favorite "Columbia" are included here. I have also provided two B sides which paint a much more elaborate picture of the band. "Fade Away", a B side from the first album's session is a pretty simple rock song (with a bit of longing in the lyrics for lost childhood.) Fun Fact: Oasis recorded a version of this song for a charity record which included backing vocals from JOHNNY DEPP!! The other B side is "Talk Tonight", a leftover track from the second album's session, which is just Noel singing with an acoustic accompanyment. I am still blown away by this song, very uncharacteristic for them.

Oasis -- Supersonic
Oasis -- Columbia
Oasis -- Fade Away
Oasis -- Talk Tonight

The Verve started out right about the same time as Oasis but did not meet with the same critical success until much later in their career. Released in 1993, A STORM IN HEAVEN, is at first listen, a combination of My Bloody Valentine feedback and Ride style shoegazer rock. It's interesting to look back on this record now, knowing where the band would go eventually leading to "Bittersweet Symphony", to see just how much they changed. But some of the blueprint is here. Richard Ashcroft's voice is still something a bit otherwordly and the guitars by Nick McCabe still slice through the song and almost seem to attack the listener. I have provided two tracks from this record; "Slide Away" and "Blue" which is probably my favorite on this album. I also recommend looking into Ashcroft's solo work as well, very different from this but also very good.

The Verve -- Slide Away
The Verve -- Blue

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Favorite Record Labels

Sorry it will be a short post today. The Angels are playing early here in SoCal so that will occupy most of my morning. I thought today I would focus on some of my favorite record labels. These are places that have consistently given me good music throughout the years and I have often bought albums from bands on their labels unheard. Check them out I think you'll be pleasantly suprised.

Sup Pop Records started out in the 1990's as the home for all things Seattle Grunge. Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden all got their start here and the label is kind of famous for starting the whole Indie Label craze. Once the big Grunge explosion died down Sup Pop moved into a more varied direction signing bands like The Shins, Postal Service and Band of Horses. Suprisingly the Jesus and Mary Chain released a record under the Sub Pop banner as did British Electronic artists St. Etienne. They have lots of cool MP3's to download from their site.

Sub Pop Records Official Website

Matador Records rivaled Sub Pop in the 1990's as the bastion for cool bands. Unlike Sub Pop, Matador has always signed a wide variety of artists with varying degrees of success. Once the home to Pavement, Guided by Voices and Polvo, Matador biggest claim to fame is probably Yo La Tengo. These days you'll find music by Interpol, Mission of Burma and and Mogwai here. Their site also has some excellent mp3's to download including (when they fix the link) a new Yo La Tengo track.

Matador Records Official Website

Barsuk Records got real famous real fast for signing Death Cab for Cutie. However, they have continued to sign off kilter pop artists including John Vanderslice, Nada Surf (after they left their major label) and Rilo Kiley. Alot of other blogs are hot for Mates of State, and I think the new Long Winters record will be a big deal. MP3's galore

Barsuk Records Official Website

4AD records was big in the late 80 early 90's as the home of The Pixies. They also signed Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Bauhaus and Lush. These days 4AD is home to Mojave 3, TV on the radio and Thievery Corporation. I fell in love with this label right around the same time I developed an unhealthy attraction to Tanya Donnelly of Belly and Throwing Muses fame. Alas no mp3's on their site but they have lots of good info about all their bands.

4AD Records Official Website

Thats all for today. BTW the Angels are pounding the Devil Rays 8-4 in the top of the 2nd. Juan Rivera 4 Rbi's, no double plays...amazing.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

High On Stress

Never let it be said that I don't respond to you my loyal readers. Got an e-mail from the lead singer of the band High On Stress so I checked out their stuff. Very good little Replacements vibe going on, particularly the song "Gold Star". You can check them out on their myspace page or preview their whole album on their website.

I will of course listen to anything you suggest at least once. Can't always promise I will post about it but I will be fair and objective.

Tuesday's Random Thoughts

So I've got some extra time today so I have a few random thoughts on some topics of interest.

First, my beloved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (which is the only time I will ever write such a dreadful combination of words together, it an abomination) are now in a tie for FIRST PLACE!! After playing wretched baseball for about, oh, the entire season, the Angels have actually gotten it together enough to sneak back into contention. What does all this mean? Well it means that once again my television viewing for the fall will be interrupted on a daily basis by extended bouts of yelling at the TV while Juan Rivera (Angels outfielder affectionaltly referred to around the house at "Double play" Rivera) hits into tailor made 6-4-3 Double plays to kill the Angels hopes. One can only hope that they are smart enough this year to make a trade to help the team. We are officially on TRADEWATCH people. Sunday is the deadline...dear God get Vlad some help. Even he is looking for divine intervention...

Remember when newscasters delivered the news? Walter Cronkite must be spinning in his grave over this. Keith Olbermann (once a sportscenter anchor for Christ's sake) and Bill O' Reilly (he of the media offic of the White house, I mean FOX news) are reportedly feuding over who is a worse person. I find O'Reilly's schtick to be tiresome and he is a blowhard and Olbermann is a pompous know it all, but really is this the best Cable news can do. See this is why I don't watch the news anymore.

Barry Bonds turned 42 yesterday. But he has the testicles of a man twice his age. Here's hoping Barry retires so we can all get back to our lives and stop worrying about a steriod enraged malcontent actually haveing a shot at the home run record. Seriously, does anyone outside of San Fran care about this guy?

Finally, it's FREAKIN HOT here in So Cal. I mean face of the sun hot. I don't think I can take it anymore. I blame George Bush (it's just easier that way).

That's all for now.

The Devlins

When I was in college I had a show on the campus radio station with my buddy Scott. We would play all the normal music you might hear on a college radio station. From time to time we would get bored with what we had and would dive into the stacks of CD's the station had for a game we called Radio Roullette. Here's how it worked. Take a random CD. Put it into the CD player knowing nothing about the band other than the cover of the record. Hit shuffle on the CD player and voila you have music. The only rule was no matter how much the song sucked you had to let it play out. This led to some pretty dreadful live radio but sometimes we would get lucky. Such is the case when we stumbled across The Devlins. Two Irish brothers who had been making records since 1993, The Devlins are what is best described as a U2 knockoff. This is very common (in fact on my IPOD I have a playlist dedeicated to bands who wish they were U2) but to my suprise I kept going back the their first album DRIFT over and over again (this is the one we experimented with on the air). In fact the song "Almost Made You Smile" was the song we first played and it turned out to be one of my favorites. It's got a great chorus and a mandolin (and how can you go wrong with a mandolin).

When I traveld to Ireland in 1992 I was suprised to hear that most of the locals hated this band and so they never really got any pub in their home country. Over here they have been knocking around for a while and I hear they have a new record out. The album here is their second record WAITING. This is a bit more mature and deeper album full of acoustic guitars and plaintive lyrics about lost love. Don't get me wrong this is about as commercial as music can get. These guys have zero indie cred, but trust me, listen to the album more than once and you won't be able to stop humming thier songs. Highlights include "Waiting" (featured in Six Feet Under a few years back), "Surrender" and "Big Decision" (perhaps the only song I can think of about the dangers of plastic surgery.

The Devlins -- Almost Made You Smile
The Devlins -- Waiting (Full Album)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Alone Again...Naturally

The singer songwriter is a lonely profession. Sure you have backing musicians and producers to help you but the burden of success or failure rests on your shoulders. After all, it's your name and your name alone that is on the album cover. However, being a solo artist does have it's advantages. Chiefly among those is the freedom to do whatever the hell you want when it comes to your music.

Joseph Arthur is just such an artist. Signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label, Arthur has put out three albums of achingly beautiful, mostly acoustic work that is full of the kind of raw emotion and passion that only a solo artist can give. These two tracks are taken from a live show in Dallas in 2000 and show just why so many people expect great things from him. "In the Sun" has gained some fame recently for being covered by REM's Michael Stipe for Katrina Relief but this version, with just an acoustic guitar, is by far the superior version (though the Stipe one isn't bad and I recommend you track it down). The other song, "I Donated Myself to the Mexican Army" I think probably sums up what it must be like to be in Iraq these days. "I don't know where we're going from here, I'm just following orders,I don't know how we'll conquer the king, This ain't my revolution." Arthur has an entire acoustic set for download on his site which is equally brilliant.

(mp3) Joseph Arthur -- In the Sun (Live)
(mp3) Joseph Arthur -- I Donated Myself To The Mexican Army (Live)
Official Website

On the opposite end of the singer songwriter spectrum from Arthur is Badly Drawn Boy. Although he hids behind a stage name, Bady Drawn Boy is absolutely a one man show. His music is often very Beatlesque (perhaps the most overused description of music ever but I think appropriate here) and feels like he having a lot of fun performing. But underneath that is a sense of meloncholy and longing that gives his music a bittersweet taste. The two songs here are from the Soundtrack to the movie ABOUT A BOY, which is an excellent film based on the book by Nick Hornby, a YMOZ fave. "Silent Sigh" will break your heart when you hear it. At least it does mine.

(mp3) Badly Drawn Boy -- Silent Sigh
Badly Drawn Boy -- Something To Talk About

Friday, July 21, 2006

Indie Rock Pioneers

Today we focus out attention on two bands that built the foundation for most of what is called "indie" rock today.

The Jesus and Mary Chain sounded like nothing ever before. Take a pinch of 60's surf rock, mix it with some 70's psychedelia and add a whole bunch of feedback and you've got a totally original mix. A lot of bands (Black Rebel Motorcyle Club, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana) owe a debt the the Reid Brothers. As they got older their records mellowed considerably and the animosity between the two boys grew (think the Gallagher's but thicker accents) it became obvious the JAMC wasn't going to survive to old age. Commercially their high point came in 1989-1990 with back to back albums Automatic and Honeys Dead but most bands name check their earlier work. Included here are two tracks; "Some Candy Talking" which was never put on any album but a signature tune and a concert staple (I had a friend in college who was obsessed with these guys and claimed that they were the loudest concert he had ever been to) and "Blues From A Gun" which is a modern take on the blues that only they could do.

(mp3) Jesus and Mary Chain -- Some Candy Talking
(mp3) Jesus and Mary Chain -- Blues From A Gun

Pavement was one of those bands when I was in college that you liked if you wanted indie cred. Everyone in the know namechecked them as a badge of hipness. In retrospect it was of kind of dumb. But Pavement can still be considered one of the best early indie bands of the 80's and 90's. Stephen Malkmus reached indie rock deity status with their album Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, which is absolutely brilliant, but I have chose to focus on an earlier record 1991's Slanted and Enchanted. Their style of punk ethos with a slightly tuneless we don't really care attitude made them easily accesible to anyone who wanted to form a band. I remember seeinf them live and being amazed that even when one of their amps caught on fire they stil played as if the sound was totally intended. Here are two tracks for your listening pleasure, I am particularly fond of "Summer Babe"

(mp3) Pavement -- Summer Babe (Winter Version)
(mp3) Pavement -- Conduit for Sale!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Random Thoughts with Luna and The Killingtons

Okay, so many things to talk about today.

First, it has been obvious to me for some time that our country is going to hell in a handbasket. For the record, I am a devout Democrat so it is my firm belief that George Bush is the Anti-Christ. This guy has single handedly made it so that when I travel out of the country I have to claim that I am Canadian just so I don't get egged on the street. But Bushie's real damage to our nation has come in his treatment of the education system. First, he passes No Child Left Behind which is designed to make it so that students in school are tested about once a week. Now he and his Republican cronies in Congress are pushing a voucher program through, systematically robbing our schools of funds so that a few parents can claim they have school choice. The simple fact is that vouchers aren't enough to cover the private school tuition anyway so all it does is take much needed money out of public schools. Clearly, this man must be stopped!!

One of my main passions in life is the game of baseball. No other sport is full of the same drama and human element as our national pastime. Football is a very cerebral and yet brutal game (that my wife hates with the burning white passion of a thousand suns). Basketball is by far the most athletic sport, but pro ball has become to much of a schoolyard one on one contest. Baseball on the other hand has three things going for it. 1) it is played every day so you live with the team for a long time, 2) Statistics and numbers give you concrete evidence that a player sucks and should be traded IMMEDIATELY and 3) It is the only sport in LA that you can go to a game and not have to mortgage your house to get a ticket. With that said, I will once again plop down in front of my TV tonight and watch my beloved Los Angeles Angels take on the woeful Kansas City Royals. Stay Tuned.

on to the music...

A few years ago I had the chance to see Luna perform in New York during a music convention. I had always liked the band and thought that they were quite good. Dean Wareham was someone I had followed back in his Galaxie 500 days and I had enjoyed their first couple of records. Seeing them live changed my mind. They didn't anything amazing but sonically their music reached a whole new level over what was on record. I'm in the process of trying to find some of my live stuff of theirs to post but in the meantime here are two tracks. "Anathesia" was the first thing I heard from them and it caputures the spacey Velvet Underground type vibe of their music. The other song is a cover you probably will recognize.

(mp3) Luna -- Anathesia
(mp3) Luna -- Sweet Child o' Mine (yep that one)

The Killingtons are an Orange County band I heard one late night on KROQ(our local media giant of an alternative radio station) and was instantly intrigued. So I ran out and bought their album and was absolutey blown away. Emo Rock is something of an aquired taste and I usually leave most of that to others but this record has a nice early Smashing Pumpkins (when they were good) kind of vibe. I love the guitar in "All My Friends Are Vampires" and the other song here, "Destination Failure" has one of those choruses which once you figure out the words is something to be sung loudly when driving all alone.

(mp3) The Killingtons -- All My Friends Are Vampires
(mp3) The Killingtons -- Destination Failure

That's it for now...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Catherine Wheel and The Sundays

So today looks like a day to highlight two more overlooked bands of the English Rock movement of the late 80's, early 90's

Catherine Wheel made a good sized splash on this shore in the 90's mixing reminants of grunge with a british sensibility (think Bush only with better lyrics and more depth). Their first album, Texture, was an execise in shoegazer rock along the lines of My Bloody Valentine and Ride and with each record the band seemed to move away from that style to a more American style of rock. This is probably due to the somewhat lukewarm reception they got in England. By the time their fourth record, Adam and Eve, came about, their sound fit nicely with what commercial radio in America wanted (although they never really had a huge radio hit). I always felt bad for this band because they couldn't get any real attention in either place and eventually they broke up. Even still, if "Black Metallic" doesn't give you chills when you first hear it then you might be dead.
(m4a) Catherine Wheel - Ma Solituda from Adam and Eve
The Sundays were an appealing little band that had a pretty good sized college radio hit with "Here's Where The Story Ends" off their debut album Reading, Writing and Aritmetic. Their sound borrows alot musically from The Smiths acoustic style with female vocals. The other song I included here is "A Certain Someone" which is far more upbeat and poppy. The band went on to make a couple more records before disappearing but this record still makes me smile when I hear it.

(m4a) The Sundays - Here' s Where The Story Ends

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Drifing, Falling

This four piece started recording in the late 80's and has released several albums on several different labels. Their first album, simply title THE OCEAN BLUE was released in 1989 and contained the minor college radio hit "Between Something and Nothing", which married a distinct guitar line with vocalist David Schelzel's soft vocals (think Chris Martin from Coldplay). The record also contains such wonderful songs as "Drifting, Falling:, "Ask Me Jon", and "Awakening To A Dream". For fans of Keane and other sorts of melodic rock this is quite a gem.

The Ocean Blue - The Ocean Blue

Toad The Wet Spocket

Named after a skit from Monty Python, this Santa Barbara four piece made the kind of jangly, poppy music that recalled early REM. Their second record, PALE, is by far their darkest record, with songs full of desperate characters like the drug addict in "Come Back Down" or the the lonely woman of "She Cried". Even when singer Glen Philips turns the light on himself, it isn't the most uplifting experience. From "Don't Go Away", with it's plaintive call to a lost love, to the absolutely heartbreaking "I Think About", Philips is clearly in a bad place. But through all of this comes some truly breathtaking music. Toad went on to put out several more albums that traveled into a more mainstream pop territory, but this album still stands as a work of four boys finding their souls through the simple pleasures of three chord pop.

(ZIP FILE) Toad The Wet Sprocket - Pale

Love Is Hell

There has been a lot written about Ryan Adams. He is clearly one of the most mercurial and yet talented singer songwriters to come along in a long time. A highly prolific artist, Adams has recently released three full length albums in one year (one of which was a double record). Much of his stuff requires time to get to know and love but it almost always worth the wait. The Love is Hell record started out as an album, became two eps, then a full record again. Adams has said that he fought with his label just to ge this released. To be sure, it is a dark record full of despair and only short bursts of joy. Adams voice is plaintive, heartbreaking and intense in what some might say is Dylanesque. The album hits its highest notes with the middle section beginning with a radical cover of the Oasis hit "Wonderwall" followed by the elegiac "Shadowlands" and the simple folk of "World War 24". This album takes time to absorb, but it is a perfect album to listen to late at night when it can be fully appreciated.

Ryan Adams - Love Is Hell