Friday, November 17, 2006

2007 plug awards

Nominees revealed: 2007 PLUG Independent Music Awards. I love these awards because we, the people who actually listen to the music, get to vote!

I'm especially excited that Band Of Horses is up for several awards, including Album Of The Year, New Artist Of The Year and Song Of The Year (Funeral). Their extraordinary debut album Everything All The Time may just very well be a perfect record. At this point in the year, it's the album of the year on my best of 2006 list.

Plenty more of my favorite artists received nods as well:

Amy Millan
The Hold Steady
Jenny Lewis
Joanna Newsom
M. Ward
Neko Case
Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond)
The Thermals

2006 has been a phenomenal year for Indie Music... go vote, and keep on rockin'!

Part One (Savannah)

to the bottom dear i had to fall
but you really caught me
you really caught me dear
at the bottom where i fall

and slowly dear ask would you dance with me
here's the shades down
the lights off
when i didn't know you and everything i do done badly

now i'll love you always
even when i say you distract me

and sit out tonight in some strange place
if we have no friends here
well i have few to begin with

to wake next to you in the morning
and good morning to you
how do you do?
a good morning to you
and more covers for you
sleep soundly dear cause i have to go

and i'll love you always
and when we leave this place
and drive back to carolina
and down to savannah and stay

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

islands, return to denver!

This is an album that I've been listening to a lot lately. It was actually released back in April and has been residing on the iPod for quite some time... but it's like a full time job to try to keep up with all the fabulous new 2006 music!! So I only heard it for the first time a week or so ago. Islands was formed last year by Nick Diamonds and J'aime Tambeur, both members of The Unicorns (J'aime is no longer with Islands).

This record is a treasure. It's as though Islands set out to incorporate as many different musical genres into one album as is humanly possible. You've got some calypso, some folk, some country and even some hip-hop.

I fell in love with the record on my first listen and immediately set out to see if Islands are touring. Turns out they are. Turns out they were playing Denver on November 14. Turns out I already had my Decemberists ticket for that night... poop.

So return to Denver, Islands! Just make sure that you don't come back the same night that The Decemberists will be here. Colin has promised us something extra special... :)

Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby

bones bones brittle little bones
it's not the milk you seek
it's the sun you need
and the sleek sleek skeleton i hold
where are the hidden folds
where's the meat that you eat

total boy
tells me stories
sometimes they make me sorry
i need another
i need another
sugar doughnut and muffin baby
this world is going crazy
i think i'm through listening to you

bones bones brittle little bones
it's not the milk you see
it's just the sun you need
and the sleek sleek skeleton i hold
where are the hidden folds
where is the meat that you eat

gonna make some plans
wait and see
turn it off
turn me on
open your eyes look around you
fuck what you heard
you were lied to

sick body part
sweet body part

bones bones brittle little bones
it's not the milk you seek
it's the sun you need
and the sleek sleek skeleton i hold
where are the hidden folds
where's the meat that you eat

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

july, july!

Caught The Decemberists in Denver tonight. It was my first live Decemberists experience; I was so excited for the show, it really couldn't come soon enough. I spent yesterday listening to the Decemberists catalogue in reverse chronological order. Obsessed? Yeah, just a bit... :)

The opener was a Scottish guy by the name of Alasdair Roberts. I only caught the last few songs, but he was good. The sound was too low, and it was difficult to hear him though... I can't remember the last time that was an issue! The crowd was pretty good for his set, people paid attention for the most part.

Leah and Laura were at the show, but our seats weren't together. Luckily, I sat next to a couple, Melissa and Michael, who said they'd be my friends for the evening... :) They drove down from Fort Collins for the show, and Melissa told me that the only reason Michael was there was because she made him go. Awesome. So we chatted during the break, which was surprisingly short.

The Decemberists came on stage at 9:00. Hey, I actually have a setlist! Ha ha, OK, so I used my phone to take some notes, but I have a setlist, dammit.

The Crane Wife 3
Colin - "I have a severe head cold, and the altitude isn't helping. But I'm going to do the best that I can." :(
July, July! w00t!!!!

We Both Go Down Together
The Engine Driver

Colin - "If this becomes too much of a travesty let me know..."
The Perfect Crime 2
Yankee Bayonet
The Crane Wife 1 & 2

Colin - "What it means when this happens is that we owe you. The next time we come to town we'll do something extra special... As soon as they build a venue a mile under the surface so we can play at sea level and our colds don't turn into the krakon being released." (ummm, am I going to be at the next Decemberists show in Denver? Fuck yeah I am!)
O Valencia!

Colin apologizes and thanks us for being understanding. One more song is all that he thinks he can "croak through". Awww...
Sons And Daughters

The crowd continued to applaud, even though I'm sure we all knew in our hearts that nobody was going to come back out on stage. The house lights came up after a minute or so, and everyone started filing out of the theater. Melissa told me that she thought the reason they didn't come back for one more was because Michael didn't clap. Funny, I thought it had something to do with Colin losing his voice, but I'd rather blame Michael... lol.

So. The show clocked in at just under an hour. It seems like I should be disappointed, but I'm really not. July, July! made my night, and despite Colin being sick it was a great show. His voice started giving out during the third song, but I see the cracking and croaking as part of the whole live show experience. By the time he apologized before the last song he could barely even speak. I'm amazed that he could still sing.

Now I'm listening to The Crane Wife. Again. This is such a great album. If you want an indescribable aural experience, go listen to The Crane Wife 3 through your headphones. No, not those damned iPod ear buds... the good headphones.

Get well soon, Colin.

And under the boughs unbowed
All clothed in the snowy shroud
She had no heart so hardened
All under the boughs unbowed

Each feather it fell from skin
'Til threadbare while she grew thin
How were my eyes so blinded?
Each feather it fell from skin

And I will hang my head, hang my head low
And I will hang my head, hang my head low

A grey sky, a bitter sting
A rain cloud, a crane on wing
All out beyond horizon
A grey sky, a bitter sting

And I will hang my head, hang my head low
And I will hang my head, hang my head low

Friday, November 10, 2006

the ben lee experience

Well. Before we delve into that, can I just say that "our love is the best love". Air hump. Kick.

OK, it's not that I like to start a concert review with an inside joke, but it seems appropriate. Ben Lee at the Fox tonight with two openers. There was a bit of confusion about this, as the Fox website advertised the show thusly: "Ben Lee & Rooney with John Ralston". Are there three bands? Is Rooney playing with Ben Lee? These are the questions that we didn't have answered before the show.

As it turned out, John Ralston played first, then Rooney, then Ben. I arrived shortly after the John Ralston set started. I admit, I didn't pay attention. I chatted with Leah and her friend whose name I think is Andy, but really I'm not that sure. I'll call him Andy and if that's not right, well, who will ever know? Yes we chatted through the first set, and discovered that none of us really were all that fond of Rooney. So when they took the stage we went out to the lobby and chatted some more. And had some drinks. It was great. We ventured back to the theatre with a couple Rooney songs left. We had some fun watching the Rooney fans. I still don't like Rooney all that much. Meh.

Then Ben Lee took the stage in a gold lamé suit. Really. Oh, wait... I mean a gold hemp lamé suit. Because he's in Boulder, you see. Now, firstly you must know that Ben Lee played Boulder on the very same night that Nickelodeon was in the midst of a 24-hour Spongebob Squarepants marathon. That's some severe competition. Secondly you must know that my entire knowledge of Ben Lee is this: he has a song on the Grey's Anatomy Soundtrack. Oh, and Leah told me that once he toured with Ben Folds and Ben Kweller. Awesome. Not that I have issues with going to shows where I'm not overly familiar with the artist... I do that all the time. It's just that Ben Lee was not really what I was expecting at all.

I had a good time, I did. But I can't help but feel that I would have had a better time if there had only been one opener and Ben had come on at 10:00 instead of after 11:00. We left before the encore. Yes, I'm old.

Anyway, I'm not familiar with Ben's music so I can't possibly come up with a setlist. Sometimes it's more fun to talk about fans. There was one guy who really seemed, at times, to think that he was at a hoedown. He was clapping his hands, stomping his foot, and really really into it. Then there was the group of women who we spotted partway through the set who were dressed in skin tight pants, boots, and bare midriffs a-plenty. I often wonder what people expect when they come to a show. Maybe that's how they dress in real life, what the fuck do I know?

So... I decided to forego the Spongebob marathon for the show. There are many times where I don't go to shows when I know that I should. This I do know about myself - very very rarely do I regret going to see an artist play live. And this night was no different. I really did have a good time, and I can always put my Spongebob DVDs on later... I can even say that I would see Ben Lee again. But not Rooney.

Wow. That was a clusterfuck of a review. At any rate, what I'm listening to right now:

If you don't already listen to The Hold Steady, you should. Trust me, they are fabulous.

"She said always remember never to trust me.
She said that the first night she met me.
She said there's gonna be a time when
I'm gonna have to go with whoever's gonna get me the highest.

She said I won't be much for conversation if we go and do the rest of this.
She said I've never been much for conservation.
I kinda dig these awkward silences.
She's got those bones brigade videos.
She knew them back and forth.
She's slept with so many skaters.

She had the place to herself.
She had a couple hundred bux.
And he had nothing but the number.
She said I like the guy who always answers the door.
He never asks you what you came to his house for.

She said I won't be much for all this humbert humbert stuff.
I've never done so much of this.
I have to try so hard not to fall in love.
I have to concentrate when we kiss.
She mouthed the words along to "running up that hill".
That song got scratched into her soul.
He's never heard the song before.
But still he gets the metaphor.
He knows some people that switched places before.

She said I really like the crowds at the really big shows.
People touching people that they don't even know, yo.
I guess the heavy stuff ain't quite at its heaviest
By the time it gets out to suburban minneapolis.
We were living up at nicollet and 66th.
With 3 skaters and some hoodrat chick.
Drove the wrong way down 169.
Almost died up by edina high."

Also, they're on Jimmy Kimmel Live tomorrow. Or tonight. November 10, whatever. Watch it, dammit.

Then I need to get some sleep. I do have to work tomorrow. But I'll probably watch a couple episodes of Spongebob first... :)

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Damien Rice is a bit of an anomaly... despite his songs being featured in oodles of movies and television shows this side of 2002, he still seems to have some street credit left with the indie music snobs. After what has felt like an eternity, he is releasing his sophomore effort, 9, on November 14 (the 6th in the UK). It has been a long hard road for Damo fans since O was released, but in this reviewer's opinion, the fruits of his labor are more than worth the wait.

So, say you're Damien Rice. You release your debut album to torrential critical acclaim. How in the name of all things holy do you follow that up? Very, very carefully. Let's be honest... Damo didn't exactly do himself any favors by waiting nearly five years to release O's successor. Expectations have been building to a fevered pitch, systematically decreasing the likelihood of acclaim anywhere near that of O. Is it possible to build on what made O so astonishingly beautiful - minimalist instrumentation, tortured vocals, and lyrics that don't just tug at your heart strings, but sever the damn things right in two? The answer lurking in the 10 tracks of 9 is a resounding "yes!".

When I first heard the reports of a new Damien Rice album, my reaction was pure joy. I had to consciously restrain myself from getting my hopes up too high; that's how much I love O. In the long run it helped to NOT expect another O, but to take 9 for what it is. The album gets off to a rather unexpected start with 9 Crimes when the first voice you hear is not Damien, but Lisa Hannigan, long-time member of Damien's band. My first spin of the album left me pleasantly surprised. It's packed with trademark Damien crescendos. You know the ones... the songs that start off quite mellow but build to a fierce mass of emotion then back down again (see - or rather, hear - The Blower's Daughter or I Remember on O; Elephant, Rootless Tree or Me My Yoke And I on 9). Further spins have undeniably seen this new album digging it's emotive claws right into my skin and refusing to let go.

It's difficult not to compare the old with the new... Take Cheers Darlin' vs. Rootless Tree for example. Although very different in tempo and intensity, both are unequivocally "fuck you" songs. How about Cannonball vs. Accidental Babies? The "please take me back" songs. One more - Delicate vs. Elephant: both essentially about settling for what's comfortable. I guess these comparisons are the crux of this review - that more of the same isn't necessarily a bad thing in Damo's case. Cannonball (the original version, mind you, not the radio edit rubbish), in my oh so very humble opinion, is one of the best songs recorded in modern times. So when Accidental Babies comes along with lyrics, vocals and instrumentation just as genuine and just as moving... who can complain?

After all is said and done, O and 9 really aren't all that different. 9 does have the feel of an album more accessible than O. Gone is the glass clinking of Cheers Darlin', the Gregorian chanting of Cold Water, and the operatic singer of Eskimo. Both albums do leave me wondering if this man's poetry is rooted in fiction or if he does indeed live the most dejected life ever...

porcupine or pineapple?

Brakes have been one of my favorite bands ever since I was turned on to their astounding debut album - last year's Give Blood. The new album The Beatific Visions is due out November 6 in the UK; as of yet no release date has been set for this side of the pond. If these gents make only one thing clear with TBV, it's that there will be no Brakes sophomore slump, to be sure.

Hold Me In The River jump-starts the album with 30 seconds of crescendoing guitar riffs leading right into Eamon Hamilton's distinctive vocals. Over the next 29 minutes TBV weaves a tapestry of country-jangle punk-tinged tender-ballad 60's-infused rock n' roll. These guys can cram more into 2 minutes (the length of your average Brakes song) than most bands out there.

Personal highlights:

°Mobile Communication - A sweetly delivered tune about the pitfalls of cellular phones. Brilliant.
°Porcupine Or Pineapple - One minute and four seconds of angry politicking.
°Cease And Desist - The fate of the world is at stake when God and Satan sit down to some whiskey and poker.
°No Return - This beautiful track makes an analogy between love and visiting a record store. Could be the Brakes' longest song ever at a whopping 4:57!!!

The two criticisms I have about this album are minor:

°The thing clocks in at just under 29 minutes. I understand the "leave 'em wanting more" philosophy, but I want more, dammit!
°I love No Return, I just feel that it's a real downer to end the album. This could be a marketing ploy, however, as what I usually want to do after No Return is go right back up to Hold Me In The River and start the whole ride over again... :)

All in all, TBV is a very solid album that will undoubtedly make it to many Best Of 2006 Lists (mine included, I daresay). At present I can't necessarily proclaim that TBV is better than GB... I'd say it's more of a continuation. A bit more polished, a bit more political, just as much fun. In short, what these Brakes are doing with their music isn't being done by anyone else in the indie rock world. Safe to say if you are a fan of GB, then TBV surely won't disappoint.

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