Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Teaser For Tomorrow

So I had a podcast done and began to finalize the recording when I looked up a realized it was very late and I have to be at work early tomorrow, so the podcast will be up tomorrow but I wanted to share this song because its just sooo good!!!

I once had quite a few songs by MATT POND PA on my first Ipod but when it crashed I didn't have them saved on my computer so I kinda forgot about them. After rummaging around the net looking for new music I ran across their name and realized that they released a record last year that I totally ignored. "Last Light" has the classic REM meets Cracker style of the early Matt Pond PA records but with a newer weight and energy. Two of the songs, "Last Light" and "Basement Parties" lept out at me and demanded my attention. Poppy and catchy I haven't stopped humming them all night. So I give you these and promise a podcast tomorrow.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Bank Is Evil ! !

So my bank is trying to steal my money. Now, I worry about money all the time (it's a trait I inherited from my father), so when I get closer to the end of each month the balance watch begins. Trying to balance familial needs with the ever dwindling household monetary supply has become a sort of family charge with my wife and I constantly repeating the mantra "Wait till the first"...over and over again. So when my trusted financial institution tries to steal money I get angry. Which leads to ranting phone calls late at night to some teller who for all I know is really a computer with a semi-sensual female voice. So how does this happen you ask?

Well, I made my deposit in the ATM over the weekend (Mistake 1 if you're keeping count). So this means that the deposit did not take effect until today. No problem I have enough to cover any outstanding debts accrued over the last 24 hours. So when I woke up this morning I saw said deposit right there in my account bright as day (Mistake 2, don't trust on-line statements, they do not tell the truth.) Unbeknown st to me, my bank places a hold on ATM transfers for 24 hours (Mistake 3) so the money I thought I had I didn't really have yet. So when I spent money today I, according to my bank, went into overdraft and triggered an overdraft fee (yes kids, that would be mistake 4). So seeing this as I rechecked my balance tonight (remember, ingrained fear of no money care of my dad) I fired off an angry call to my bank. After three tellers and 1 account manager (who was probably some 14 year old kid who passed Algebra 2 when he was six and acted like I was a blithering idiot for not understanding the banks "very simple and efficient system") I got the bank to rescind my overdraft fee and set the world right. Maybe keeping a piggy bank like when I was a kid might not be such a bad deal after all...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yet Another Weather Themed Post

It seems the weather has been on my mind a lot lately. I assure you that I will try harder in the future to cut out the ridiculously themed posts that are starting to infect this otherwise wonderfully written blog. (okay, you can stop laughing now!). I promise I will have a new podcast up tomorrow or the next day. In the meantime a couple of rainy day songs to mirror our current conditions here in Southern California.

(mp3) The The -- Kingdom of Rain (I may have posted this on my last rainy day rant, but it's such a darn fine song I feel I can get away with it twice)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Death Cabber Goes It Alone

I am often wary of musicians who are traditionally not front men setting out own their own. Chris Walla is one of the principal architects of DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE (which over the past couple of records have quickly become one of my favorite bands) and he is preparing to release his first solo album, "Field Manual". The reason I get wary is that there is usually a reason these musicians don't front their original band (i.e. can't really sing or secretly can't write lyrics to stand up with the music.) While I reserve judgement until I hear the whole record, I have to say that I am encouraged by the three songs I have heard. The first, "Sing Again" is a very harmless slice of alt pop that could best be described as a cross between Death Cab and Guided By Voices (Walla's voice bears a striking resemblance to Robert Pollard with it's slightly smoke filled rasp). The other two tracks available on his myspace site follow an early REM-esque formula. So I can say I am looking forward to this as well as a proper new Death Cab record all in one year.

Listen to more here

Monday, January 21, 2008

Catching Up With An Old Friend

Many of you probably have the same problem I do. As avid music collectors its easy to lose track of some of your favorite records over time as you continuously seek out new and exciting bands. There's nothing really wrong with this, after all, what was new and interesting is what got us into the record collection business to begin with. But sometimes a long lost friend pops its head out and says hi.

A few days ago my son was playing with a puzzle and kept shouting cow over and over again. For some reason I began thinking about a lyric from an old song "I'm building up my problems to the size of a cow". The lyric is both absurd and poignant. After about a day trying to remember the song (the ole long term memory ain't what it used to be) I finally landed on THE WONDER STUFF. So I pulled out their album, "Never Loved Elvis" and gave it a spin. Man what a brilliant album. From the opening rant of "Mission Drive" to the barroom feel of "Welcome to the Cheap seats" the band hit on all musical cylinders. Mixing Irish folk, country and rock together and relying on the brilliant poetry of lead singer Miles Hun, The Wonder Stuff were a true breath of fresh air. But the real joy was the gem of a track called "Maybe".

When I was in college, this was one of those songs that spoke directly to me and where I was at. I had little or no idea what I wanted to be or do. I was drifting between an interest in politics and a love of music. I fell hard for college radio and never imagined I would end up teaching. (to borrow another "Cow" lyric, Don't you think it's funny when nothings what it seem when your not looking forward?") But "Maybe" hit the nail right on the head. The ambivalence at one turn followed by the sheer conviction as the singer makes up his mind as to what he wants. Hunt seemed to be speaking to me through my headphones. Few songs have that power, even fewer come back to you with the same feeling years later. If you take no other song from me, take this won't be sorry!!

p.s. apparently some form of the band still exists and is releasing a live album in two weeks. Who Knew?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Wind Makes Me Anxious

Here in SoCal we get hammered for the utterly boring weather. It's why people move here. they hate the cold or the rain or the snow so they come to LA where it's sunny and 72 degrees 10 months out of the year. When it does get cold here it hits about 50 or so. We had rain two weeks ago and you would of thought the world was about to end. But the one negative barometric feature of Southern California is wind. We get these hot, dry winds called "The Santa Anas". Or we'll get the cold, biting winds we are experiencing right now. Not really cold mind you, but just uncomfortable. They make my skin tense up and make me feel anxious. Like something bad is about to happen. Do I have a point with this rambling mishagosh about weather? Not really. But it does play with your psyche. The wind brings bad news and bad feelings and there's nothing you can do about it so get prepared...

**I feel like this one might need an explanation. Although the song is about a man who uses women with impunity, Eli represents something ominous and bad. I always think of this song when the winds hit. Got this from an old show called "Sportsnight" where one of the characters said "Eli's Coming" to predict bad things happening at his job that night. I guess I connected the two ideas in my warped little head. (Man am I in a weird place right now or what?)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bouncy Pop for Bouncy People

For some unknown reason I was pulled into the world of bouncy, sunny pop music tonight by my searching. Normally I don't trust anything being pimped by large scale commercial radio. Here on the west coast we have always relied on KROQ (the LA Alternative Station made famous by subjecting the world to Richard Blade and his fake ass) to give us the heads up on the next best thing. This is where I heard Depeche Mode, New Order, and Nirvana for the first time. Sadly, this once great station has gone the way of all radio (the proverbial crapper!!). Someone explain the appeal of Sublime to me. I mean, come on the guy dies like 15 years ago and they still get more airplay to bands a thousand times better.

Anyway, the one guy I still trust from KROQ is Rodney on the ROQ. Rodney is sort of the unofficial musical guru who broke Oasis, Blur and all the big brit acts to the US. Although he is pretty lost as a DJ he still has impeccable taste. To my knowledge, he and Jason Bentley (another very savvy musical programmer with a tilt to the electronic world) are the only DJ's allowed to pick their own stuff. So this is where my search began.

Scouting for Girls are very much the kind of thing I would have worn out when I was in college. Blur type pop with just enough edge to make them cool. Their new single "Elvis Ain't Dead" starts with a fun little synth lick before hitting the heart of the song, a catchy and yet plaintive plea to a girl who made the wrong choice. This song doesn't have a lot of musical depth but it does get stuck in your head. The rest of their music is more in the vein of the usual Brit pop but I would give "She's So Lovely" a listen or two.

From there I ventured over to the site for The Sonic Hearts. Another poppy UK band, this time from Liverpool (home of the originators of bouncy pop, THE BEATLES). Employing lost love lyrics and whistles, the Sonic Hearts bear a striking resemblance to a lot of stuff you would hear in the early 60's with a hint of Ryan Adams thrown in for a touch of melancholy. I can almost this coming out of my stereo on a sunny spring day. Very Cheery. If you sign up on their mailing list you get a free mp3 so I would feel bad for posting it here.

Air Traffic are making something of a splash in England (at least that's what their site says) so I felt like this was the next place I should stop and wouldn't you know it, more bouncy pop!! This certainly plays by the more traditional Keane meets Arctic Monkeys by way of The Kinks sort of thing that seems to be getting more and more popular these days. I'm sure they will get a huge push since they are signed to Astralwerks. Tops among the stuff I heard were these two songs.

(mp3) Air Traffic -- Shooting Star (thanks to Keep Hope Inside)

(mp3) Air Traffic -- Just Abuse Me (thanks to Obscure Sound)

So If anyone has any more bouncy Brit pop they care to share, old or new, drop me a line and we can all bounce along together with a spring in our step!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bring That Beat Back (Live Edition)

So electronic music can be real hit or miss when it comes to replicating it live. Most DJ's who record albums tend to use their live shows as a chance to mix their stuff up in order to keep the beat going (which is usually what the crowd wants). Some artists use live sets as a chance to extend their songs to absurd levels while others simply stand and play hoping enough lasers and lights will cover up the fact that being studio wizard does not make you an arena rock star. However, there are a couple of exceptions.

I saw ORBITAL live a couple of times and going into it I thought they would be mediocre. Their music is very nuanced and therefore might lose something live. Boy was I wrong! The music breaths in way that it doesn't on record. Though they didn't interact with the crowd the songs spoke for themselves. The brothers Hartnoll use the live set as a chance to play around a bit with tempo and pacing, speeding some things up and slowing other things down. But the highlight of their live set was always their live version of "Halcyon". Already a standout song live it gets an extra punch with a 3 1/2 minute addition of a mash-up (before such things were cool) of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name" and Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is A Place On Earth". This thing is freaking brilliant.

Another band that seems to have the live electronic thing figured out is DAFT PUNK. Having just released their second live record, "Alive 2007", this duo handles the show as close to a traditional rock show as an electronic band could. They tend to take a couple of their songs and mix them together. It ends up being quite effective and enhances the songs which on record can tend to drone on a bit. The show ends up sounding like one huge house party (which is most likely why LCD Soundsystem was so happy they played his house) with songs serving a set pieces and musical movements in a dance symphony. I can actually say this sounds like one electronic band I would still pay to see live.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Zencast #8 (The Random Cast)

So I hadn't done a podcast in awhile and with the ridiculously crappy weather lately, staying indoors a putting together playlists is as good a way to pass the time as any. So there isn't really any real binding theme to this one, just 50 minutes of quality music. For those of you are are curious I tend to record these late at night after the wife and kids have gone to bed, which would explain the somewhat laid back, quiet tone in my voice. Normally I'm a pretty animated guy but for some reason when I get in front of a mic I become someone who is auditioning for NPR. I guess the next one I'll try to overload on caffeine before I start recording.

Zencast #8 -- The Totally Random Cast


1. The National -- Squalor Victoria

2. Nada Surf -- See These Bones

3. The Grants -- I Am The One (thanks Ed at 17 Seconds for this)

4. The Church -- Reptile

5. Starky -- Hey Bang Bang

6. Oranger -- Crooked In The Weird Of The Catacombs

7. Cold War Kids -- Hospital Beds

8. Midlake -- Roscoe

9. The Frames -- Dream Awake

10. Eddie Vedder -- Hard Sun

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The First Post of 2008

So I'm not really sure what kind of year 2008 will be from a music standpoint. Part of this is due to the my own laziness. I used to be up on who was releasing new albums when and therefore I could anticipate things before they happened. Sadly, this trait has gone by the wayside (which for a music blog tends to handicap me a bit in the scooping trade) Outside of the new REM record (out April 1st) I can't tell you any record I am in rapt anticipation for. I am also intrigued by the impending release of the new NADA SURF record. On the other hand, this is also a good time to launch back into the record collection and rediscover some old friends since I have nothing dominating my Ipod lately. This is what brought me to the rediscovery of PORTISHEAD. (I know kinda glum way to begin a new year but hear me out on this one...)

Portishead's first record still sounds fresh and revolutionary. This was a group of risk takers and spawned a whole new form of music that had a huge impact on me during my college years. With its mix of hip hop beats and tortured songstress lyrics, "Dummy" was a complete and utter shock to the musical system. I wasn't prepared for something so unique and yet familiar. (Side Note: On vacation to visit the in laws my father in law received a copy of the Edith Piaf Biopic "La Vie En Rose", the similarities in vocal patterns between Piaf and Beth Gibbons in some places are quite remarkable) Musically, the band stole from a variety of sources; jazz, blues, electronic, even some of Frank Sinatra's more melancholy ballads. the result was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I hadn't heard the record in a while but playing it again tonight just reinforced my belief that this was one of the great albums of the 1990's.

The point is that you never know what my hit you from left field. I wasn't prepared for this album and look what happened. Here's hoping some unknown band comes out with a truly great record this year and shakes things up all over again.
(mp3) Portishead -- Roads (probably my favorite off this record)