Thursday, August 30, 2007

Band Crush -- The Miss Alans

First a short definition. A "Band Crush" is a quickly developed love for a band based on a single album (or in some cases a single song) followed by championing the band to anyone and everyone who will listen. It means carrying a copy of the CD (or back in the day a tape) at all times so you could spring it on someone who was looking for something new. Band crushes usually apply to little known bands that only you and about 6 other people have heard and often result in ridicule by people who "just don't get it."

The problem with band crushes is that they blind us to the faults of the artist. I give you THE MISS ALANS as a case study. This band was four piece from Fresno, CA who released their second record, "Blusher", to very little fanfare. But I remember hearing it and instantly falling in love. Did the lead singer sound a little off key in some places, sure. Did the music scream "We Love The Velvet Underground" a little too much...absolutely. Did I give one lick about any of that. Hell No!!! I was determined to make these guys stars all by myself. I played every single song on the record on my college radio show. I managed to convince the school to book them to play our campus (a disaster where only 30 people showed up). I copied and copied the record and actually canvased the dorms at one point handing out tapes one Wednesday evening. But I didn't care, I believed in these guys.

Sad to say, the band is no more. They recorded one more record, broke up and formed another band. But I still love this album. I can't really say why, I just do. As I listen to it today I see that it is deeply flawed and some of the songs are really not very good. But a few still get me excited. "El Dorado" is a great rock song that combines Luna and Jesus and Mary Chain but with a dose of sleeping pills to ease the guitar feedback. "Supercharged" was their attempt at the big stadium anthem, with the slow build of lyrics and guitars to a crescendo at the end (and who isn't a sucker for a good crescendo). The rest of the record lacks the beauty of these songs and shows a band that just didn't have the real stuff. But what a wonderful crush it was.

Feel free to share any band crushes you have had or are having...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I've made the Big Time

Just a few random thoughts for the day. No real theme, just stuff.

I secured a spot on the latest edition of the CONTRAST PODCAST. I want to thank Tim for putting me and my pithy commentary on the Soul Coughing song "Circles" on his collection. If you've never checked these podacsts out, they are a real treat.

Itunes is currently offering the new single by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN for FREEEEE!!! (so they won't mind me posting it here)"Radio Nowhere" is an upbeat rock song with the E Street Band. If you're into vintage Boss then you should enjoy this one. I haven't heard much else from the record but this is a step in the right direction.

My kids have developed a minor obsession with the new kids show YO GABBA GABBA. Created by members of the band THE AQUABATS, the show is a variety kids show with weird puppets and music from all the it indie bands. But the reason I allow such mindnumbing entertainment in my house is because hidden in the show is some suprisingly good music. Here is a sample. I have no idea who the singer is or the name of the song, so if anyone has any idea please let me know. (link below)

Finally, and with much excitement, ROGUE WAVE is back with a new single off their latest record (coming out in September). "Lake Michigan" is pitch perfect Rogue Wave, containing everything you love about indie pop music (acoustic guitars, drums that sound like clapping hands and quirky lyrics) I've probably listened to this at least 4 times in the last 20 minutes. By all means get this!!

Back tomorrow with a proper post. Enjoy!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Saturday Spent on the Couch

So I managed to spend a large portion of the today glued to my couch, or occasionally my chair, watching movies and bad TV. The joy of this is that I didn't have to think very much and actually saw a few things that I enjoyed that I probably shouldn't have.

The day started with the Kevin Costner/Ashton Kutcher film THE GUARDIAN. The film was about swimmers in the US Coast Guard and despite some horrendous acting by the leads, I was entertained. I guess I'm a sucker for formulaic action movies with plots so obvious a six year old could predict what might happen.

Next up was PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST. This was the 2nd of the trilogy and suffered from a terrible plot and more hammy acting than necessary. I've actually seen this one a couple of times before so it was no suprise that I drifted in and out of this on a couple of occasions. But it does have Keira Knightley, and she is hot!!

After that it was MADAGASCAR. This was on for my kids, who loved it. But I also found mysled actually paying attention and enjoying the film. I'm amazed that it seems more and more "kid" movies are really sly adult themed films hidden behind pretty colors. Just because an animated lemur sings "I Like To Move It" doesn't make the song any less lewd. But hey, who can resist dancing lemurs.

Late night brought a channel flip war with APOLLO 13 and REMEMBER THE TITANS. I have seen both of these films several times and really enjoy both. Both tug at the heart strings and both end with positive messages of overcoming the odds. I guess it helps to have actual actors emoting (take notes Mr. Costner) to make a formula film rise above the material.

Overnight I'm recording THE DEPARTED, which I have been looking forward to for awhile. Hopefully it won't disappoint.

Some mp3's to go along with the day...

West Indian Girl --Hollywood

The Postal Service -- Nothing Better

Pearl Jam -- Life Wasted

Eric More Morillo -- I Like To Move It (From Madagascar...what does it say that my kids love this version of this song?)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On the Road...The LBC with the New Fads

So I'm in beautiful Long Beach attending a work convention. This means spending a night away from the family (which I hate) and sleeping in a lumpy bed with a bad shower to look forward to in the morning. I REALLY HATE TRAVELLING!!!

Anyway, all I have with me to post on the blog is a record by the NEW FAST AUTOMATIC DAFFODILS. These guys are an easy entry into the dumbass band name hall of fame but their music was actually pretty interesting. This record, 1993's "Body Exit Mind" is an unusual mix of Brit rock and vocals that are reminiscent of Mark E Smith from The Fall. "Stockholm" is probabaly my favorite track on this album with it's simple guitar intro that builds to a crescnedo as the vocals by Andy Spearpoint drift in and out of singing and wordplay. He uses sing speak style that gives the songs a poetry jam feel. "I'll Take You To Sleep" is a more manic song with huge drumbeats and battling guitars. The band also scores points for using bongos...yes kids, bongos!!
Anyway, so a fun little record. Not the greatest but a few choice cuts that made their way onto my IPOD.

(m4a) New Fast Automatic Daffodils -- It's Not What You Know (Kind of approriate for all the networking and bootlicking I've done today...)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Hidden Gem From The CD Collection

I love ep's. I think they are about the most brilliant invention in music history. The simple nature and limited songs allow an artist or band to express themselves quickly and with the same emotional impact of a full length record. Case in point is the 1995 AIR MIAMI ep "Fuck You, Tiger" (priceless for the title alone). Air Miami was formed when a beloved 4AD favorite of mine, UNREST, fell apart. Two of the members went on to record as Air Miami, released one ep and one album and then broke up. Air Miami's sound is very indie pop with a hint of electronic knob twirling (a little POSTAL SERVICE but more rock). At four songs, the ep gives a good balance of upbeat rockers ("I Hate Milk"), slower mood pieces ("Warm Miami May") and Radiohead style spacey ballads, even if they did predate that era of Radiohead by a year or two. I still pop this in for about 10 minutes of fun. It reaffirms my belief that shorter can sometimes be better.

(mp3) Air Miami -- I Hate Mile (re-mix)
(mp3) Air Miami -- Warm Miami May
(mp3) Air Miami -- Afternoon Train (re-mix #3)
(mp3) Air Miami -- See Through Plastic

(mp3) Air Miami -- Airplane Rider (from the official band site)

NEW RADIOHEAD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've seen this track a couple of places and it seems legit. There are older live versions of this song running around but this seems to be the newest studio version from an album due out in 2008. Can't wait...

(mp3) Radiohead -- Arpeggi

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bring That Beat Back (Drum n' Bass Edition)

I had a very brief fling with drum n' bass just after college. It has already been well established that dancing and I are at odd with each ohter, and adding to the mix is that drum n' bass music tends to be very hard to dance to to begin with. Nevertheless, I did find the music very appealing mostly because it was a way to indulge in my jones for Hip-hop without being the poser white guy who bought NWA and Public Enemy. What I did appreciate about artists like GOLDIE, LTJ BUKEM and RONI SIZE was their seemless combination of hip-hop, jazz, techno, and rave cultures into a aural pallette that was danceable, listenable and memorable all at once. The closest American version of drum n' bass I could get was MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO. Jack Dangers and his various producing partners took some of the drum n' bass textures into their later works, but I think as a musical style it was more fitting for British artists.

Although over time the music began to be very repetative in nature and later artists were not as original as the groups I was listening to at the time, the genre still has some appeal for late at night work sessions when I need something upbeat but not hard to ignore. Not the most ringing endorsement but a good description of it's current place in my life.

(mp3) Goldie -- Inner City Life

Kind of the gold standard (no pun intended) of the drum n' bass tracks and the only one to be any sort of hit in the US.

(mp3) Meat Beat Manifesto -- Edge of No Control Part Two

Not a true drum n' bass track but more of a mix of tecno and industrial with the same hip-hop influence as the others.

This is the vocals verison that was the single which I think is far superior to the verison on their record which was just an isntrumental. Great jazz influenced bass line.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What the F**K Was I Thinking

So my wife has gotten into gardening of late and wanted a flower bed created in the back yard. Not a problem says I and I promptly go out with shovel in hand to dig up a suitably sized plot of land for her flowers. After about a half hour of digging up grass, weeds, rocks and other stuff I realize that I'm starting to really perspire. No worries, I take off my hat and glasses and continue digging my merry way to China. Another half hour goes by and my shirt is soaked so I take it off in a fit of testosterone filled manliness. Now I am the first to admit my physique is not easily confused with Brad Pitt but it's my backyard so no one will be subjected to the sheer horror that is a shirtless me. Anyway, now that that image is forever burned into your mind's eye, it take me another hour or so to finish off the flower bed. I gather my things and head inside.
After lunch I lay down for a short nap only to be interrupted halfway through by a searing pain all over my body. When I reach the mirror I discover I now resemble the color of a ripe strawberry (which is fine for fruit but not terribly desirable in human flesh). Needless to say I know am the proud owner of a significant SUNBURN. So what is the lesson for the day... being a macho, macho man is better saved for Matthew McConaughey or the Village People.

Here are some songs to remind us of today's theme
(mp3) Death Cab For Cutie -- Summer Skin (and I had almost gone the whole summer without a sunburn and now I'm crispy...DAMN)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm trying to be relevant...I really am!!

I always find aging artists careers very fascinating. Now I'm not talking about people who had hit or two and then made a radical alteration to the new fad to stay in the spotlight, these artists are a dime a dozen (come on we all remember the thug version of MC Hammer, which was just SAD). I'm talking about a true visionary artist who is trying to find a way to fit in to the current musical culture. These albums can often be brilliant (like Bob Dylan's TIME OUT OF MIND) but more often they are train wrecks. Case in point is late era DAVID BOWIE. After spending a good portion of the 80's floundering around looking for commercial viability Bowie hooked up with Trent Reznor and explored his darker side. He also explored the dance and drum n' bass world to try to adapt to his unique style. The resulting album EARTHLING was a intriguing mess. It almost sounds like a Bowie impersonator, and probably would have been more successful if it had been. "Little Wonder" is a generic drum n' bass track not worthy of mention other than it drones on for no real reason for about 6:00. "I'm Afraid Of Americans" is a little more traditional Bowie (and the one truly decent song on the record).

So why waste all this space on a less than stellar record. Because I applaud Bowie (and for that matter other aging artists who continue to tinker) for not settling into a relentless cycle of greatest hits packages (which sadly he has done more of lately) and trying to find new ways to expose people to their music. The nice by-product to this sort of experimentation is that it usually opens new listeners up to the entire artists' catalogue. This can in the end be a good thing. So keep up the mediocre work Mr. Bowie, more people need to hear your best work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to the Salt Mines

Tomorrow marks my return to work after my week and half long vacation. After spending the summer moonlighting as an English Teacher, I'm back into the world of Administration at a comprehensive urban high school. So in what may be the most cliched post I have ever done, here are some work themed songs to enjoy.

Even though I really enjoy staying at home and playing with my wife and kids, I do miss the rush of adrenaline that comes with the beginning of a new school year. I also enjoy the possibilities that come with a new start and new challenges. I remember as a kid beng so excited to get back to school and seeing my new classroom, meeting my new teacher and all the cool things that came with school (give me a break I was like 6!!). I know it's the cool thing to not like school but I still really enjoy the learning environment, no matter how warped it's become.

It's also my work so there are the usual office politics and realtionships to navigate which make the job harder. So hopefully you enjoy your work and are good at it, becuase after all if it ain't fun then why do it at all...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Zencast #5 (Songs For People I've Lost Touch With)

Music can transport you to some truly amazing places. It can also remind us of fond memories that we have long since forgotten, repressed or otherwise chose to ignore. Such is the theme of the latest podcast. I was taking a short trip down memory lane to when I was DJ at a college station in San Bernardino, CA. We had virtually no signal, about 3 listeners on average and no real format or direction but man we did some truly amazing stuff. There was a core of people who I worked with for those years at both the radio and TV sides of things that I truly enjoyed hanging with. These times came rushing back at me recently and I thought of some music that was reminiscent of those years. So I hope you enjoy this episode...

Zencast #5 (Songs For People I've Lost Touch With)


1. Boy Eats Drum Machine -- From An Oregon Coast
2. The Perishers -- My Heart
3. The Dead Kennedys -- Holiday In Cambodia (added bonus, my wife love this song, which is one reason she is one of the truly cool people in the world.)
4. Fugazi -- Cassavetes
5. The Stone Roses -- Elefant Stone
6. James -- P.S.
7. The Devlins -- Everything Comes Around
8. Dead Can Dance -- American Dreaming
9. Matt Nathanson -- You're Smiling
10. Toad The Wet Sprocket -- Fly From Heaven

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Time To Go Home

So I'm headed home from vacation. I apologize for the sparse and unusually crappy posts over the last couple of weeks. Life on the road can be tough and the usual schedule gets thrown out of wack (compounded by the lack of internet access for all but about an hour for the past week).

Don't get me wrong, I love going on vacation. The mere fact that I don't get cell reception at my in-laws ranch is reason alone to go. However, after a while I get the ache to return to my familiar surroundings (I am and always will be a city kid so the country life might not be for me). So me and the family hit the road today for the grueling Medford, Oregon to Pasadena, CA (with an overnight stop in Sacramento) trip down the I-5. This might be the most boring stretch of road on the face of the Earth. I mean there is nothing but miles and miles of barren, hot wasteland with nothing to see or experience of any interest. All you can do is suck it up and drive. Now in years past my wife and I would switch off musical selections but with the arrival of our sons I get the listen to wonderful things like the movie CARS over and over (a man can only take so much Sheryl Crow in his life!!) and various episodes of the kids show THE BACKYARDIGANS (which does have the benefit of some decent music).

So as I prepare for the final leg of my voyage home I give you a couple of songs that remind me of home and how happy I will be to finally be there.

(mp3) Midlake -- Head Home (one of my personal favorites)
(mp3) Alexi Murdoch -- Home (this one is a current fave of the wife)

BONUS CUT -- Rascal Flatts -- Life Is A Highway (from the CARS Soundtrack)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On The Road...Oregon Music Scene

So I've been in Oregon for about a week now and finally got a decent enough internet connection to post a quick entry about some of the Oregon bands that are getting love right now...

THE LISTENING are a Portland band (Portland seems to have a very healthy musical community). These guys are traveling in a nice mix of shoegaze rock and Interpol style guitar work. "Hosea in C Minor" has a nice guitar line and a driving beat. "The Factory" is a darker, mid, tempo song, while "Everything is Nothing" utilizes a nice synth and piano intro which gives the sound a kinds Radiohead feel.

BOY EATS DRUM MACHINE sound a lot like Soul Coughing (who I really love) with a bit of Beck thrown in for good measure. "From an Oregon Shore" has a nice funky beat and great bass line. "Two Ghosts" is an off kilter rock song with a nice acoustic/electric back and forth. I imagine these guys are a load of fun live.

LIGHTBREAK are from Medford, Oregon (which I were I am staying right now so I feel a need to cover at least one of the local bands). This is a very straight forward rock band in the Coldplay vein of things. Lots of guitars and pianos. Not the most original of bands but not completely terrible either.

Be back in SOCAL on Sunday so I will resume posting then.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

On the Road...Sac Town, CA

So me and the family have settled into our Best Western Motor Lodge for the evening after braving traffic, two random fires, and countless hours of boredom broken up by the odd car game or the constant battle over the IPod Music (which my wife was in charge of today...tomorrow it's all me baby)

Anyway since I am here in Sacramento, I thought I would seek out some of the local musical flavor (via myspace). Overall the vibe here is decidedly harder edged (a mix of emo, indie and hard rock). Here are a few that stuck out.

FAR has a band member by the name of Jonah Matranga, which I recognize from his other and ONELINEDRAWING (who I enjoy very much). The music is pretty straight forward indie rock (nice cheeky cover of a christmas classic). Not really my cup of tea but others seem really into them.

THE GENERALS are a very middle of the road rock band who use synths to make their sound a little more new wave. The lead singer is working in the Bono register without the conviction. I think if I listened to them more I would be more inclined to like them but right now I'm lukewarm. At least they are gutsy enough to cover "Eleanor Rigby".

And now for something completely different. THE HONEY TREES are one girl with a beautiful voice. Becky Flip is swimming an ocean of sound and emotion. "Don't Fear" is a simply gorgeous piano ballad mixed with multi-tracked vocals. (available for download on her site). The other three tracks are live versions that recall a little Cocteau Twins musically or Dead Can Dance with a singer you can understand. I think this might be one to keep bookmarked for something really good in the future.

THE TERRIBLE SECRET are a band that seems to be carrying on the legacy of Catherine Wheel and other Shoegazer bands. They have the sound down perfectly (slightly distorted guitars, drums that come and go for effect, a hint of synths) and are not half bad. They even have a song that features a female accompanyment ala Tanya Donelly on "Judy Staring At The Sun". I could listen to Catherine Wheel all day so I have some fondness for these guys.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Rolling on the I-5

Now that summer school is over I have about a week and a half before regular school begins, so it's time to get out of Dodge. I'm off with the family for a week of vacation in Southern Oregon. I will try to sneak a post out before I leave tomorrow morning. I'm not sure I will be able to post anything on the ranch, so if I don't, I will talk to everyone when I get back. In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Bands I've Seen On Accident

There are some bands I have seen multiple times in concert and never once were they the intended artist. Case in point is the STEREO MC'S. I saw them three different times in a two year span opening for other acts. They opened for both U2 and Midnight Oil in the same two year span and each time they shocked me with how good they were live.

STEREO MC'S released two records in the early 90's that incorporated a british feel to hip hop. They bought into the whole look and sound of American Hip-hop in a way that was very different from the British artists of today, who have adopted their own take on the style (THE STREETS, DIZZEE RASCAL). Their sound was sample heavy and had a R and B vibe to their beats. They had a couple of minor radio hits with "Elevate My Mind" and "Connected" but then faded into obscurity. I had always wondered how they would translate live, particularly in venues where the audience wasn't into rap. But all three times they won the crowd over with enthusiasm and surpising musical ability.

Seeing that they needed to expand their sound if they wanted more notice they released "Deep, Down and Dirty" which was a more straitforward record musically. They replaced the samples with live instrumentation and even sung on a couple of tracks.

I guess you never know what you'll get by showing up to a concert early.