Saturday, May 31, 2008

My karmic debt is almost paid off...

Sorry for the radio silence kids. I must have acquired some bad karma somewhere along the line and it came back to bite me in the ass in the form of having to serve on grand jury duty service in DC. Not petit jury duty where you are there for an hour? a day? a week? No, no, I mean grand jury duty where you're there for 32 DAYS (you did indeed read that correctly yup), 5 days a week, 9am-5pm, sitting in a room that hasn't been remodeled since Eisenhower was in office (read: no internet access). Ol' JP Sartre obviously never had to endure grand jury duty in the District of Columbia because if he had, he would have stated hell is people AND grand jury duty, for realsies. But I am happy to announce that it all ends finally 6/6, and I will be back to having online access during the day and thus able to get to posting the 87687685 interviews, reviews, and comments I've had piling up over the last month. Say it with me, YAYAYAYAY!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Earotica: Blame it On Gravity-Old 97s Review

"We've taken what we always done well, and just grown it some"-Murray Hammond

Hammond, bass player and vocalist for The Old 97s made the above statement regarding their newest release, Blame it On Gravity, due out tomorrow. And after hearing an advance copy of it, I'd say he's on target.

BIOG has been the non-stop choice for the Ipod over the past few days. While there are a few clunkers in the mix (something about "Ride" is irritating because it just doesn't seem to ring true and "This Beautiful Thing" sounds like a second rate country song written by a Brit Pop band), but there's also some gems and those gems are friggin stunning. Hammond's "Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue" has a haunting lonely beauty that's beyond words; "Here's to the Halcyon," a song about a shipwreck, makes you think of the Carter Family with a modern pop twist instead of some Gordon Lightfoot song that I've always been compelled to turn off.

"No Baby I" captivates with an interesting chorus of "No baby I don't wanna see you hurt/You got them tears, they fall like pearls/Blame it on gravity, blame on being a girl." Another song, "My Two Feet," the hooks, plus Rhett's vocals melting all over the place, snagged me from "go," but the chorus of "I'm going down the mountain on my two feet and I'm going slow" seems somehow out of place when paired with the rest of Rhett's lyrics (I'd heard that Rhett took the chorus from a Murray song which could explain the weirdness). But see, that's how good it is, that doesn't even matter...and I'm routinely a lyrics-first type.

The band recorded this record in Dallas, TX, where they're all originally from. When I spoke to Ken Bethea after the SXSW New West party, he'd said he felt this was their best record in 10 years, that it was really comfortable to make, and felt right. I think that comes across. BIOG is a welcome return from the lackluster Drag It Up, whose sole stand-out track “Valium Waltz” was a hold over from an earlier record, Too Far to Care.

BIOG merges the big Johnny Cash-guitar twangy feel that was so prevalent in earlier records like my all-time favorite Wreck Your Life, as well as the more straight-ahead Brit Pop twangy feel found on Satellite Rides. The 97s finally seem to realize that you can go home again, and by incorporating the person you used to be with the person you have become, the two halves can create a solid whole that endures.

Track listing

1. "The Fool"
2. "Dance with Me"
Download: No Baby I (MP3)
4. "My Two Feet"
5. "Ride"
6. "She Loves the Sunset"
7. "This Beautiful Thing"
8. "I Will Remain"
9. "Early Morning"
10. "The Easy Way"
11. "Here's to the Halcyon"
12. "Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue"
13. "The One"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speaking of Tom Waits...

If you don't know much about Tom Waits, check this out: The Complete Idiots Guide to Tom Waits.

Then listen to this, one of my most favorite Tom Waits songs of all time, "Day After Tomorrow." Waits' voice may be hard for some to listen to, but don't just listen to it on the surface...really listen to it, like with your whole heart. His voice when paired with the stories he tells in his lyrics, is to me, much like a fiddle or a slide guitar, it just adds a level of emotion to things that makes the hair on your arms stand up.

Download: Day After Tomorrow-Tom Waits.mp3 (MP3)

Tom Waits announces tour dates...

...and again, none are above the Mason Dixon line. Waits, known for his years-between tour schedule, announced dates the other day. For his last tour (2006), he explained his odd choice for the venues were, ""to pick up some fireworks, and someone owes me money in Kentucky." So who knows....much like Leonard Cohen, Waits can do kooky stuff and get away with it. I mean, what are you gonna say, "No Tom, that's crazy," he's Tom Waits for cripesakes, he gets to do whatever he wants. But yeesh, how come Phoenix gets two dates and DC none Tom? You can get fireworks in Virginia I'm sure...

Btw, wanna see Jon Stewart visibly nervous and giddy like a schoolgirl?

2008 Tom Waits Tour Dates

Tue 06/17/08 Phoenix, AZ Orpheum Theatre
Wed 06/18/08 Phoenix, AZ Orpheum Theatre
Fri 06/20/08 El Paso, TX The Plaza Theatre
Sun 06/22/08 Houston, TX Jones Hall For The Performing Arts
Mon 06/23/08 Dallas, TX Palladium Ballroom
Wed 06/25/08 Tulsa, OK The Brady Theater
Thu 06/26/08 Saint Louis, MO Fabulous Fox Theatre
Sat 06/28/08 Columbus, OH Ohio Theatre
Sun 06/29/08 Knoxville, TN Knoxville Aud. & Coliseum
Tue 07/01/08 Jacksonville, FL Moran Theater
Wed 07/02/08 Mobile, AL Saenger Theatre
Thu 07/03/08 Birmingham, AL Alabama Theatre
Sat 07/05/08 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre

Monday, May 5, 2008

What is Hell?

Hell is...GRAND JURY DUTY. Which I am stuck on. With a group of people who have apparently served 98755798 times and lover it mucho. I think Satre was right, hell is other people. But as promised, the rest of my SXSW experience, my interview with The Red Romance, and shows reviews are forthcoming. Hell is also being stuck in a courthouse all. day. long. with a wifi signal that makes one dream of dial-up so bear with me....:)

"Rock and Roll Spring Break," or My First Time at SXSW (Day 4)


1. Longwave
When I was heading to Mario Martelloli the night before, I ran into a couple of Longwave members on the street (and recognized the lead singer who looks like the Chris Martin of Coldplay but with cooler hair). I’d raved about what I saw at Emo’s and asked if they were doing any other day shows, and they told me about their kicking off the Filter showcase at Cedar Street’s Courtyard. I think I spent more time at Cedar Street than any other venue my whole trip because of that tip.

John already knew about Longwave and was heading there too, so with some coffee fuel in hand, we raced up to the Cedar Street Courtyard. Talk about great jangly guitar-driven power pop. John coined their sound best, “a great wall of sound that still manages an underlying melody to come through.” The lead guitar that has this cool synthesizer-like sound and the lead singer’s voice has this ethereal sound, adding up to this amazing sound. If the whole of their record sounds like this, it should be fantastic.

Download:Sirens in the Deep Sea-Longwave.mp3 (MP3)

2.Rogue Wave
John and I raced back over for Billy Bragg's set (John, having seen him at SX a year or two prior called it a must see, and hell it's Billy Bragg, of course he was right) during the Utne Reader Showcase. We got lucky as Rogue Wave was hitting the stage beforehand.

A pretty odd looking bunch for a rock band, kind of like, Wide World of Rockstars: one young guy, two old biker guys like you’d find in a dive bar, and an indie hipster. Rogue Wave’s sound is....a quiet hootenanny. It’s not alt-country or a singer-songwriter sound, but more of a nice Americana sound with a definitive rock edge and a fantastic slide guitar (along with fiddles, the slide guitar is another instrument that just kills me and seems to add something special to a song). It's like sadness with a hint of redemption, where you know the night will suck but if you can just make it till dawn, you'll be ok. Which works because Rogue Wave's music is much like that too.

And how cute is this? She was wandering around and dancing throughout the set.

Oh! And Nada Surf's lead singer Matthew Caws jumped up and shared lead vocals with Zach Rogue for one song. When I saw Nada Surf a few weeks later at DC's 930 Club and Caws, a super-approachable guy, was wandering through the place after, I made it a point to tell him how much I enjoyed his song. It really brought Rogue Wave's sound to this whole other level with both voices.

I had trouble finding a proper download so I give you this, a good review of Rogue Wave's recent San Fran show, and this:

3.Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg, always the leftist. But it definitely agrees with him, he's aged really well. Armed with an electric guitar and fevered opinions, Bragg remains a confident force who stands strong and proud, year in and year out. "Wavering" has never been an issue for Bragg in terms of his politics or his live show.

A wee bit blurry but...this will teach me to start drinking so early in the day

He played a lot off of his new record, "Love and Justice," some stuff off his Woody Gutherie covers with Wilco (including a great version of "Ain't Got No Home")...and is one really funny mofo. Highlights include, "American football is bollocks. The rest of the world calls American football "runny, runny, hurry, hurry, stand around 20 minutes for the adverts," and in reference to a previous SX that he played, he stated a great thing about it was the rare things that one gets to see...like "Phil Ochs in a Nudie suit standing around on upper Congress (Avenue)."

He then brought up fellow Brit and NME-Best-New-Musician winner, Kate Nash for a few songs. They wound up doing "Give Him a Great Big Kiss" by the Shangri-Las, which was awesome. Her voice is pure blue-eyed soul, for sure.

(Version below from a few days later in NYC)

Bragg didn't do "A New England" this set, which is how I discovered Bragg freshman year of undergrad, so I was a bit bummed. But overall, he sounded great, his live show and his preaching from his pulpit (read: stage) sound as always.

Download:Billy Bragg-I Keep Faith.mp3 (MP3 from his Conan O'Brien appearance)

And I got free jeans! (Of course, now I feel guilty given that the Nau company giving a pair away if you tried them on there went under not 1.5 months later. Booooo). For what it's worth, the jeans are sweet, and now they're really cheap so go buy yourself a pair...

4.Kate Nash
We got word that Billy Bragg was going to perform a few more songs with Kate Nash at her set that closed the Filter showcase back over at Cedar Street Courtyard, so we ran back after Billy Bragg's set ended. And waited....and waited...and after 1.25 hours, she came on (thank goodness for strong legs and beer within reach heh). As you can see, we weren't alone...

Photo from the artist's perch (the right photo), thanks to the ATE kids for the shot

Kate Nash armed with an acoustic and a keyboard, and was fantastic. This was the first I'd heard her but I was apparently the only one like that as there were a ton of Brits around me shouting her on. Her lyrics, they're like mini-plays and her enunciation of words is quirky and interesting (listen, you'll hear what I mean). I liked it so much I made it a point to pick up her record before I left Austin.

Billy Bragg joined her about 20 minutes in. "So through the wonder of Youtube, they'd discovered a mutual love of the Shangri-las" (When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love, L-U-V"), and they launched into another version of "Give Him a Great Big Kiss," to much crowd excitement.

I caught Kate Nash's regular show at DC's 930 club a few weeks back and honestly? If she ever does her and an acoustic, go, without fail. But with a full band, with her songs so lyric-centric and subtle, you need the quiet of a place like the Cedar Street Courtyard, not some stupid fucking rock club...At the 930, it was tough to hear her and the nuances which totally make her songs hit home over the talkers in the crowd and the venue's size, and 930 typically has excellent sound. She's best seen in a really, really small place. If you do, however, you will be knocked out, trust me. She may be a wee one, but the girl has a powerful presence.

And did I mention Bragg and Nash did "A New England" as their closer at SX? Yup. And it was just fantastic.

Download: A New England-Kate Nash and Billy Bragg.mp3 (MP3)

Download: Foundations-Kate Nash.mp3 (MP3)

Day 4 PM, coming up...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Portishead at Coachella 2008

What a way to start your weekend, eh? Travis over at Web in Front is sporting a soundboard-recorded podcast from the Portishead's performance at Coachella 08.