Monday, July 30, 2007

Zencast #4 (The British are Coming)

Don't Panic people I just changed the layout and color scheme a bit. Thought this was a little more peaceful and Zen-like if you will. (Not that you would panic over that sort of thing and if you did then you really have very little life!!)

So I've switched over to a new podcast server and cleaned up the method of recording to try and make it better. Hopefully the changes will help. I was in a very British frame of mind when I recorded this so hopefully it's your cup of tea as well. I know that Death Cab, Aberdeen and Rogue Wave aren't British but they certainly are trying really hard to mimic that sound, so don't give me any crap about it OK?

Anyway, enjoy


Aberdeen -- Sink or Float
The Smiths -- A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours
The Editors -- The Weight Of The World
The Klaxons -- Golden Skans
Blur -- She's So High
Elastica -- Waking Up
Death Cab For Cutie -- This Charming Man
Rogue Wave - Seconds

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sebastian Waldejer

Got an e-mail asking me to review some music and I never turn down a chance to hear something new, so here it is.

SEBASTIAN WALDEJER is a singer songwriter from Norway who specializes in acoustic folk type songs with sensitive, make the girls swoon lyrics. He has released an ep by himself and is currently looking for a label to call home. This is music for a rainy day (you can almost see the water hitting the ground in songs like "Need You There") What his music lacks in experimentation is made up for in earnest feeling and passion. I did enjoy "Porcelain Baby", while "Angel's Plan" has a nice, and certainly more upbeat, guitar line. Definitely worth taking a few minutes to listen. I think the more I hear his stuff the more I will enjoy it.

Official Site here

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bring The Beat Back Part Three (Chill Out Version)

There was a huge movement during the Alternative Nation 90's of electronic bands that were fronte by anonymous female singers that spawned a whole new genre of dance music, Trip-Hop. PORTISHEAD, HOOVERPHONIC, BAXTER, MORCHEEBA, SUPREME BEINGS OF LEISURE... the list is endless. They all kinda sounded the same so I picked one that was representative of the group (although I may have to give PORTISHEAD it's own entry someday because they were a little more original than the others) to highlight this type of music. SNEAKER PIMPS were two former DJ's who recruited a female singer, had a minor US hit and then dumped the singer so they wouldn't be lumped in with the crowd. Problem was no one ever heard from them again. So it begs the question, better to be a part of a scene and be getting attentiont then no scene but no attention?
The SNEAKER PIMPS first album, "Becoming X", was a perfect come down from the dance floor type record. It had just enough beat to keep you in the mood for more dance music but was a little softer and more low key. What I did like about this record was the instrumentation is a nice mix of traditional guitar with more modern DJ touches (synths, drum loops) and over it all a nice female voice. "Low Place Like Home" has a great guitar line that drops in on the chorus to give it more weight. "6 Underground" was the big hit and has a great beat and an almost hip-hop feel to it. The best track on the record in my mind was "Post-Modern Sleaze" which uses an acoustic guitar along with a collection of skittering beats to deliver it's message of hopelessness. Unfortunately the band abandoned this formula instead of trying to work to refine what it had and never was the same.

(m4a) Sneaker Pimps -- Low Place Like Home
(m4a) Sneaker Pimps -- 6 Underground
(m4a) Sneaker Pimps -- Post-Modern Sleaze (Highly recc'd)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sometimes It Just Takes Time

So I survived my camping trip but I am now firmly immersed in the last Harry Potter novel (only on page 140 or so, so no one tell what happens or there will be dire consequences...), so forgive the infrequency of the posts.
There are songs that I pick up along the way that I dismiss at first for some unknown reason. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that sound or I got a lot of stuff on that same day and I forgot to really listen to it. I mention this because the other day I was listening to my IPOD as I was reading and the live version of JOSH RITTER'S "Snow is Gone" came blasting through the headphones. Ritter has a Dylan-esque quality to a lot of his sound and I am sure that his new record coming soon will be a massive critical success (new album can be previewed here) but I was amazed at the power and beauty of the song that I had downloaded a long time ago and never really given it's due. I returned to it this morning on the way to work and was still floored by its brilliance (and besides can anyone really resist a good Hammond organ accompanyment to an acoustic guitar?). The song is so simple, so passionate and so uplifting. The recorded version is not quite as good, so do yourself a favor and get this live version, then go back through your music and find a song you forgot about and remember why you got it in the first place.

more live Josh Ritter mp3's here

Friday, July 20, 2007

Into The Wild

I'm off for the weekend to go camping. We'll see how this city boy does in the wild. I'll be back on Monday with a new post. Have a good weekend!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Everybody Needs a Little Power Pop In Their Lives

There are literally thousands of bands that fit into the category of power pop groups. The pre-requisites are as follows:

1) Two part harmonies
2) Nice mix of acoustic and electric guitar (sometimes you can use more electric if you're trying to prove that your more rock than pop)
3) Lyrics that are a little bit sappy and a little tart at times. This is usually accomplished by writing about love and lost love and unrequited love...well you get the idea, love is certainly involved in almost all of the lyrics
4) A reputation of being good live mainly due to the stage banter between members as the guitars a re-tuned.

Don't get me wrong, I love these kinds of bands. To varying degrees you could include The Replacements, Jimmy Eat World, The Smitereens, Soul Asylum and THE POSIES in this catergory. It's THE POSIES that probably got the tag most applied to them while they were in exsistence. Having only recorded a few records solidifed their reputation as guys who could coin a phrase and play a nice hook on the guitars. THE POSIES were one of those bands that had that one guy in your friendship circle who was a rabid fan and swore to you that they were going to be huge. My friend Scott was convinced these guys were one of the five greatest bands alive (this however, must be tempered a bit because of his undying love of Dave Matthews, someone I once really liked but over time have become lukewarm towards.)

So here are a couple of Posies songs. I really enjoy "Dream All Day" from probably their best album, Frosting On The Beater. "Suddenly Mary" shows off their softer side, with an equally catchy chorus. The third track here is "Please Return It" which was off their third record, the darker (at least for them), Amazing Disgrace.

You can also find some other gems here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm One Year Old

Happy Birthday!! or is it Happy Anniversary!! I don't really know. Anyway, today is the one year mark for YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN and my how I've changed. Hopefully the blog has gotten better as time has gone on and I think I'm starting to feel more comfortable writing and posting. I even expanded into the podcasting world a few weeks back so who knows where this might lead. I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all of you that have stopped by. I know there are literally hundreds of thousands of blogs you could look at and I am glad you gave me five seconds of your surfing time. I hope to continue keeping this thing going and expanding to bigger and better things. So with that I give you a couple of my all time favorite tracks ENJOY!!
(mp3) Depeche Mode -- Strangelove (Blind Mix)
My first concert going experience was seeing these guys at Dodger stadium. I was 16 and got lost both going to and coming home from the concert. It was an amazing experience and made me want to go to a show every night (a dream I came close to realizing after college working as a record company intern). It was big and bombastic and brilliant. I won't ever forget that moment.

Anyone who has spent 5 seconds around me knows that these guys are still my hands down all time favorite band. I can always count on their music to lift me up when I feel down or make my day just a little bit better. This song is so powerful, so's everything I love about music packed into five minutes.

NEW Rilo Kiley

So something new for you all. Here is the first single from the RILO KILEY record, "Under The Blacklight". I have very little information on this but it should up in my mailbox and I thought I would share it. Upon first listen it is very different from the limited exposure I have had with the band. It has a kinda bar blues feel to it and seems to be much more produced than their earlier material. I'm sure a thousand other blogs will give you greater detail on this and the album as a whole. Anyway, enjoy!!

(m4a) Rilo Kiley -- The Moneymaker (From Under The Blacklight)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Indie Rock Pioneer -- Guided By Voices

Never has a band taken the lo-fi, do it yourself ethos to heart as much as GUIDED BY VOICES. Most of the records made by these natives of Dayton, Ohio were done in small studios by the band with very little production. But don't let that fool you into thinking the Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout and a cast of a thousand rotating players weren't serious musicians. Although most of their songs clocked in at under 2 1/2 minutes, what you usually got was a nice mix of influences from the Beatles and other British Invasion era bands sent through a blender and Americanized for indie rock consumption. The band is certainly one of the most prolific so narrowing down to a couple of tracks is damn near impossible.

The band did flirt for awhile with major label poppinees. They even brought former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek in on their 2002 album "Do The Collapse". What came out was a cleaner, more polished version which wasn't an entirely band thing but it robbed the band of alot of its charm (I often think this is what Weezer would have sounded like if Rivers Cuomo hadn't had a nervous breakdown and started channeling glam rock through his nerd chic glasses). Tobin Sprout departed the band a while back and went on to release a few quality solo albums and Robert Pollard has dabbled in the solo waters as well.

So I give you a couple of selections to check out. Fortunately the band has a huge mp3 archive to sample here. These guys are certainly worth your time, particularly if your into Spoon, Modest Mouse and other DIY indie bands of today.

This was the first thing I heard and it immediately blew me away. What I heard was a live verision off a sampler CD and I was amazed and the wordplay and guitar line that seemed to fit together perfectly.

(m4a) Guided By Voices -- The Official Ironmen Rally Song
Another example of British rock on a four track vibe that is so perfectly GBV. I love the lyric "crawling people on your knees, don't take this so seriously, You just have to hum it all day long". I think it's the perfect mix of hope and cynicism.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Facing your Fears...and writing about them

Note: This will not be a happy post. Happy posts will return tomorrow...I promise.

I attended a funeral today. This is not something I enjoy, and quite frankly I don't know many people who do. Funerals are somber and mostly depressing. They make us face our own mortality and the simple fact that we cannot avoid it. Now, I didn't know the person who died very well (a relative of my wife's who was 81) but you can't escape the sense of foreboding and dread that creeps into your mind when you go to even the most uplifting service. Now, I am a pseudo-religious person, so there is some comfort in my beliefs, but it still is one my greatest fears. My wife and I talk alot about these sorts of things now that we have kids and it is probably one of the greatest signs that I'm not the oblivious adolescent that I used to be. So in an attempt to make a musical connection I went into my collection to find a CD that might apply to this post.

I chose to focus on a Florida band called FOR SQUIRRELS. They made only one official album due to the fact that while on tour they were in an accident and two of the members (including the lead singer) were killed. What makes this so poignant is a couple of their songs are about the death of those close. The music is very REM inspired (jangly guitars, cryptic lyrics) and the singer's voice is a little too raw in places, but after a couple of listens you start to look past that and see that these guys might have been something. The remaining members tried to continue on but only got one record done and then disbanded. So I post this in celebration of the band members lives and as a tribute to my wife's relative who passed and to remind each of us to celebrate the lives of those we love.

(m4a) For Squirrels -- Mighty KC
Written about the death of Kurt Cobain. The singer sounds so earnest and pained by the senselessness of death.

A much more uplifiting song. It has that anthemic quality to it that is truly beautiful to listen to, even 12 years after it was recorded.

more from FOR SQUIRRELS is available here

Friday, July 13, 2007

From Deep In The Record Collection

You ever buy an album because it was in the used CD bin and you remembe liking a song or two off it when you first heard the band? Somehow my record collection is full of obscure bands that I picked up in college because they were a) cheaply priced in the used CD bin at one of my favorite indie record shops (which sadly have all but died out but that's a pos for another time) and b) something I had played on radio show and enjoyed the first time I heard it so I figued I might as well own the whole album (besides what's $4.00 going to do me any way?) So as I went trolling for new music to post on the blog I came across a golden nugget from an Australian band called THE EARTHMEN. So I thought I would re-live this record and share some it with you.

I did some research and apparently these guys are no longer together. Either that or they are playing in other bands and I couldn't track any of them down. I did find an article written by the bands guitarist in 1997 where he mentions the band but other than that they seemed to have vanished into the ether. So I'm left with this record, "Teen Sensations", and about a thousand quetions as to what happened.

Musically the album is a great slice of lo-fi pop with just enough feedback to qualify as indie. "Cool Chick #59" was the single and is a great pop song with a nice guitar hook. This would not be too far away from alot of the stuff coming out of the UK right now. The song that I first experienced, and for me the album highlight, is "Blonde". What starts out with a nice little acoustic riff develops into a ridiculously catchy song thanks in large part to the great bass line and drum beat that anchor and propel the music. The song is a simple song of unrequited love that is not too far off of what most young men might say when they are in love, but the beat and bass make it damn hummable.
So I feel like I found something new today. A record I had forgotten snuck it's way onto my IPOD and for awhile the band lived again. Not a bad way to spend a day in my estimation.

(m4a) The Earthmen -- Cool Chick #59

(m4a) The Earthmen -- Blonde

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Zencast #3

Another stab at the world of podcasting. Still getting used to the software and trying to still find a bit of a rhythm to the whole thing but I'm trying so bear with me. This is all music that I had on my work laptop. Before I'm accused of being a total slacker who is endangering the education of the youth of today let me explain. Whenever I have a few free minutes I check out some of my favorite blogs and have, over time, found some really good stuff. Other songs are from students whose taste I trust. It gives me some decent music to listen to while working. And really what's so wrong about that. I thing there is some good stuff here and as always I hope you enjoy it and always appreciate feedback.

Your Moment of Zen Podcast #3


The Boxer Rebellion -- All You Do Is Talk
The Reindeer Section -- Sting
Shout Out Louds -- You Are Dreaming
Canasta -- Chance At Greatness
Amazing Pilots -- All My Wasted Days
Nada Surf -- If You Leave (OMD Cover)
Brave Captain -- I Pledge Resistance To The Flag
Chemical Brothers (Featuring Midlake) -- The Pills Won't Help You

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Interpol vs. Editors: The Ian Curtis Steel Cage Match

Note: I know this is not the most original post but I feel compelled to add my two cents to the discussion.

Joy Division was one of the most respected bands in the history of music. They had an original sound and a distinctive feel all their own. Ian Curtis could command the room with his voice and you could clearly see that, even early in their career, he was not comfortable being in front. Looking back you can see why they would be so influential on music today. I bring this up because the two bands that sound the most like Joy Division, INTERPOL and THE EDITORS, have both released new records which are great examples of the divergent paths bands take with their influences.

Now I've only taken a cursory listen to each album (Interpol's "Our Love To Admire" and The Editors "An End Has A Start") but my initial reaction is to prefer the Editors record. This is probably blasphemy in some circles because Interpol is looked upon as one of the new musical heavyweights and their record has received almost universal acclaim. But The Editors last record, "The Back Room", was a pleasant suprise and seemed to always creep onto playlists with regularity. I also must admit that Interpol's last record, "Antics", left me lacking in interest, I felt they had hit a rut and were starting to repeat themselves. So I took on the Editors record first.

What I liked about The Editors' album was it took the bands fomula and broadened it without sacrificing their sound. Lead Singer Tom Smith sounds more like Curtis then Interpol's Paul Banks. His voice is a little deeper and richer. The single "Smoker's Outside the Hospital Doors" has a nice magestic quality to the music and the next three tracks are all blistering anthems that will play well live. The middle section has some quieter moments then it picks up at the end with the brilliant "Escape the Nest".

Interpol's latest is supposed to be a departure from their formula. Although not a radical change there are some touches of newness that make it interesting. "Pioneer To The Falls" is about the most depressing song I have heard in a while. (Death and coping with loss are both common themes for both bands, something they seemed to have inherited from Joy Division as well). I didn't really care for the single "The Heinreich Manuever" (maybe with more listens it will grow on me as other Interpol songs have) but I did find "No I in Threesome" and "All Fired Up" to be the kind of slightly off kilter rock I have enjoyed from them in the past. I did find the Interpol record a more challenging listen whereas the Editors went down a lot smoother the first time around. It's certainly possible that with time I will bore of the Editors and gravitate to the Interpol record.

This is essentially the problem. These records (and, by extention, bands) are interchangeable. They have very little that distinguishes them from each other so it really comes down to which gets a higher profile (my bet is Interpol) and more tour support. I guess when it comes down to it I could just go back and listen to Joy Divison instead.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What The Kids Are Into Today

A former student of mine e-mailed me with a recommendation to check out TIGERCITY. Being one who tries to keep his finger on the pulse of the music of the youth of today I dove in head first into the deep end on this band and was pleasantly suprised. These guys play a groove driven white boy soul with a real 80's feel. There are hints of Joe Jackson and Howard Jones in the vocals and a musical feel very similar to PHOENIX. Great for a Saturday night house party. Thanks Carly for the heads up!!

(mp3) Tigercity -- Other Girls (highly rec.)
(mp3) Tigercity -- Cloakrooms
(mp3) Tigercity -- Timecard

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Blues Ain't Nuthin' But A State Of Mind

I've been kicking this post around for awhile trying to figure the best ways to do it. I'm not pretending to be a music historian, but I appreciate the roots of modern music. I see the value of visiting the forerunners of modern music as a way of seeing how music came to be. This article is not intended as a history lesson (altough the former History teacher in me certainly understands the value of analyzing popular music of an age to see the social climate in a nation). This is merely an look at what some people are doing today with the roots of music. So we take a look at two artists who are taking different roads to understanding the blues and presenting it to the alternative rock masses.

G LOVE AND SPECIAL SAUCE came out of Philadelphia with a slide guitar in hand and songs about drinking and women. What made their music so unusual at the time was how unique it sounded compared to the other stuff on the radio. "Cold Beverage" and "Baby's Got Sauce" were filled with the kind of grooves that make you sit up and take notice. I had forgotten about these guys until a friend of mine played their first album a few weeks back and I rembered how great it was. It has that front porch swing sort of feel to it. You can almost imagine these guys hanging out and playing just for the fun of it.

THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION came at the blues in a whole different way. Channeling Elvis and Sonic Youth at the same time, Spencer and his band tore up the stage playing revival style, high octane shows. You didn't just see them play, you saw them bleed the music onstage. On record, the sound never quite translated but you still got some of the passion and energy. Spencer attacks the songs with such venom that you can't help but get sucked in. The Blues Explosion made for a tight rhythm section for Spencer to have free rein to explore the blues with his guitar and his disctinctive wail of a singing voice. If you like THE WHITE STRIPES you will love these guys.

(m4a) G Love and Special Sauce -- Cold Beverage

(m4a) G Love and Special Sauce -- This Ain't Living

(mp3) Jon Spencer Blues Explosion -- Dang

(mp3) Jon Spencer Bues Explosion -- Wail

(mp3) Jon Spencer Bues Explosion -- Do You Wanna Get It?

(mp3) Jon Spencer Bues Explosion -- Not Yet

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!!

I have many fond memories of the 4th of July. Growing up it was fireworks and barbeque in the backyard. As I got older there were two 4th's that I look back on with some fondness.

1) A few years back a friend of mine invited myself, my wife (then girlfriend) and another couple to Hungtington Beach for the day and evening fireworks. We had a really nice time except that halfway through the day my friend and his new girlfriend disappeared for 2 hours (later admitting they went back to the car for a little afternoon delight). Is this good etiquette? Is it okay to abandon an outing you planned for a quickie?I look back on this fondly because in the end there was a nice moment staring into the sky with my wife in my arms and thinking...this is good.

2) Two years ago we invited another couple to the Dodgers/Angels game in Anaheim. Baseball is a key aspect of American culture and seems to fit well with the 4th of july experience so this was a definite highlight for me. It also became a great 4th memory because a) The Angels beat the Dodgers, which is always satisfying and b) my friend Dan, a diehard Dodger fan acutally admitted in public that Angel stadium was better than Dodger Stadium.

So the 4th of July has been a good holiday for me in the past. So however you celebrated I hope you have fond memories of this fourth to look back on.

In case you didn't get to see fireworks in your area!!

(mp3) Neil Young -- Rockin In The Free World
Nothing says Independance day then questioning the government that is responsible for keeping us free. I'd go on a rant here but it's late and I might run out of space.

(mp3) John Philip Sousa -- Bullets and Bayonets
I love a good marching tune!!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Love Letter

My wife is a loyal reader (and who has the added bonus of putting up with my crap on a daily basis). She and I have had lengthy discussions about my music snobbery and her need to listen to country and as I call it "mopey chick rock". We have debated the finer points of both Nirvana and Jimmy Buffett (this occured in one very long car ride that ended with me agreeing to accept Buffett into my life in exchange for her willingness to listen to my Ipod on a more regular basis.)So here are some of her favorites as of right now.

My wife grew up in Long Beach and has long loved the sea. She also is secretly in love with Kelly Slater (a surfer who is about a thousand times better looking then me). This song is from the soundtrack to the film RIDING WITH GIANTS. The film is brilliant and the song is vintage Waterboys. I actually like this one a lot myself.

This is a song from the soundtrack to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which my wife has watched about 10 million times (the Keira Knightley version). As a married man I have seen many a chick flick. I enjoyed this because of Ms. Knightley presence and the wonderful use of setting and cinematography. This track is a very pretty little ballad that she plays for our two boys when they are getting out of hand. Music to soothe the savage beasts.

I am of two minds on this guy. I really want to dislike him. Everything in my indie rock soul says I should hate him. But then my wife will put his songs on (usually during long drives) and I can't stop humming the damn things. Although the song I most associate with her is "The Wino and I Know" this one is actually enjoyable.

(mp3) Brothers on a Hotel Bed -- Death Cab for Cutie
Just when I think my wife's musical taste is beyond redeeming she comes up with a passionate desire for a truly brilliant song. This song is about heartache and loss of love. It's about the disconnect between two people who are drifting apart. It's a frightening reminder of what could happen if I don't sometimes step back and take stock of how lucky I am.

for my wife...whom I love more than anything in the world.