Monday, November 30, 2009

Wilco - Wilco (The Album)

When people ask me what are some artists that exemplify what a great rock band should be, one of the first bands that always comes to mind is Wilco. They are a consistently solid group that features stellar musicians. Nels Cline is one of the most underrated guitarists ever. Just listen to songs like "Impossible Germany" to hear him tear into a sweepingly emotional solo. Glenn Kotche is another member who doesn't get enough credit. His drumming is not as loud and bombastic as Keith Moon, but his technicality is brilliant.
Then there's Jeff Tweedy. Originally a member of alt-country pioneer group Uncle Tupelo. After Tupelo broke up he formed Wilco, still keeping some of that country twang, he added a touch of Tom Petty rock, and Woody Guthrie folk. Upon looking at him, he has the look of a tortured soul, a music vet who has seen his fair share of heartbreak and wild times. Since Tweedy is one of the few original members of Wilco left with the band, it is safe to say that he is the heart of the band.
  It's hard to believe that a band that is as critically acclaimed as they are remain relatively unknown to the mainstream audience. I would bet you if you went up to a random person on the street and asked them to name a Wilco album or song they couldn't do it. That certainly isn't their fault. Great music doesn't get promoted as much any more, which is one of the reasons why things like Radio are becoming more and more obsolete. It's hard to say where or if Wilco had their musical pinnacle. Many critics would point to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot while others are still partial to the earlier and louder work of Being There.
     Wilco are at a very unique position in their careers right now; comfortable. The incarnation of Wilco today seems to be unbelievably happy playing together. Tweedy has stated in several interviews that he has faced and conquered all of his demons, and has even fathered a son. When most bands reach this point of being comfortable with the rockstars they are, their creative process tends to suffer, and their music seems lackluster and uninspired (see Weezer). Not Wilco, which leads me to their newest 2009 release Wilco (The Album).
This disc showcases a fully realized Wilco, with this release they are able to harness some of the darker moments of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and mold it with the sound of Sky Blue Sky. This results in songs like "Bull Black Nova" or "You Never Know" some of the most accessible and strongest material Wilco has put out to date. This is what excites me about Wilco (The Album), they have finally found themselves and are able to continue being as relevant and entertaining as they were in their early years. Which is why this album, will most likely be top five, if not top three on my end of the year list.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let Her Dance All Night Long

Have you seen Fantastic Mr. Fox yet? If not you should have. It's one of the best movies I've seen all year or any year. In a world where Pixar rules all children's animation it's nice to see some competition. Mr. Fox has all of the quirky humor and magic of a Wes Anderson film yet it's a movie that even your kid will enjoy. Being a Wes Anderson film, this movie has an amazing soundtrack. While your child might not connect the meaning behind the choice of The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" or the fact that Jarvis Cocker plays the role of Petey, you the parent will rejoice that finally there's a movie that you can take your son or daughter to that has some kick ass music in it. One of these days I'm going to compile a "Best of Wes Anderson" mix. Here is one of the songs that would be on that mix, The Bobby Fuller Four's "Let Her Dance." This is one that will get in your bones and make you dance all over your room.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

For every occasion there is a Loudon Wainwright song. On this day, I share with you "Thanksgiving" a song that captures the essence of today. A sentimental track that touches on all of the thanks, food, fights, and football that make today what it is.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alice's Restaurant

One of the few traditions I actually follow is listening to the Arlo Guthrie song "Alice's Restaurant Massacre" every Thanksgiving. I also see some of my fellow bloggers hold the tradition as well. Check out Aquarium Drunkard who delves more into this song than I possibly could. What I love about this song is that even though it clocks in around 20 minutes long it tells a charming story focused around irresistible food, while making funny social commentary about a number of different issues. I invite you to share with me in this tradition. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charlotte Gainsbourg

I have never been a fan of actors who transition into music career. However, when your father is French recording icon Serge Gainsbourg, you can expect some of that genius to rub off on you. Such is the case of his daughter Charlotte. She has been featured in movies such as Dylan inspired I'm Not There and the controversial Antichrist as well as having a plethora of French credits. Her album 5:55 is great in it's own right and from a taste of her new material this could be shaping up to being a great release.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Yellow Is The Color of My Love

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Two crazy ass videos.

I came across two music videos today that really impressed me. The first being a trippy claymation video for Grizzly Bear's new single "Ready Able" and the second being the highly symbolic Charlotte Gainsbourg & Beck song "Heaven Can Wait (because)." Stay tuned for more Gainsbourg related posts in the future.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Death To Everyone

Bluegrass week may be over but that certainly doesn't mean the bluegrass has to stop! Indie folklord Bonnie "Prince" Billy has recently announced that he will be releasing a live bluegrass album entitled Funtown Comedown with him performing with a bluegrass group called The Picket Line. This disc will be out in time for the holidays, and after hearing the re-worked song "Death to Everyone" I can already tell this will be better than the snooze-fest that Beware was.

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Death to Everyone

Friday, November 20, 2009


When The Black Keys announced they were forming a rap-rock group, the indie world was left scratching it's head. A few months later, information about Blakroc started to surface, and on November 24, their album drops. Having listened to it a few times now I can say this is an extremely refreshing album. The Black Keys perform all of the backing tracks while enlisting prime artists such as Mos Def, Jim Jones, Ludacris and members of Wu Tang Clan to name a few.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Beach House

I've never been a big fan of Beach House, their sound has always been a little too quiet and boring for my taste. However after listening to this track "Norway" that leaked from their upcoming 2010 release, my interests have peaked, a lot.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Concert Review: Them Crooked Vultures @ The Wiltern

I am slowly inching my way to seeing every last remaining member of Led Zeppelin perform in some way. In 2005 I saw Robert Plant in concert, last night I got to witness the great John Paul Jones do his work. Them Crooked Vultures had a big CD release show last night in Los Angeles, They played their debut album in it's entirety, and one thing's for sure they cranked it up to 11.
Dave Grohl is an absolute beast on the drums. What I admire about him is he doesn't go for speed, but rather strength and purpose. Every single time he hit his snare or crashed cymbals he meant it. Playing on stage with his best friend and his hero made him seem like a kid again, it looked like I was watching a young Grohl with Nirvana rather than the crafty Foo Fighter that he is today.
Josh Homme proved himself to be on par with the living legends of guitar last night. Every single song was filled with complicated, passionate and not to mention heavy guitar work. More than anything this concert made me want to check out his main group Queens of The Stone Age live.
Then there was John Paul Jones, the man who most of the crowd came specifically to see. The guy was absolutely on fire, he has not lost any sort of talent from his Led Zeppelin days. His bass work was supreme. What I really noticed was he was doing the same sort of thing that made him an asset to Zeppelin, he kept the songs together. While Grohl and Homme went off on drum and guitar tangents (much like Bonham and Page) he would keep the song on track. The man is absolute glue, and that is an attribute that makes a truly great bass player. Which is why I hold him as one of if not the best bass player ever. The biggest surprise came at the end of their first set, they played the album closer "Spinning in Daffodils." I was not a big fan of this track on the album. However John Paul stole the spotlight when he tore into a lengthy piano solo at the end, reminding me of the work he used to do when Zeppelin's "No Quarter" was performed live. During this, Grohl and Homme just watched in awe, they must have felt like the luckiest men alive that night.
On paper, Them Crooked Vultures could be seen as the best supergroup around. They seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage, Grohl and John Paul have great chemistry together, and their album certainly delivers the heavy hitting rock they promised. However this band lacks depth, which is why after about the fifth song I grew a little tired. As rocking as these songs are, there was very little difference between them, thus the show grew repetitive. Them Crooked Vultures have great potential like all supergroups, however they need to become comfortable with themselves as a band and start to branch out like great bands do.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This One's For Mama

Last thursday was my mother's birthday, luckily for me she was in town for it and I was able to spend time with both her and my father. Unfortunately that ate up my time to be able to post this blog. I wanted to dedicate a blog for the main woman in my life by posting something that she'd like. I knew The Rolling Stones are her favorite band and she loves soul music. So I wanted to find something that would blend the two. Luckily, The King of Soul himself, Otis Redding had the answer. This one's for you mama. Happy belated Birthday.

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(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Live)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bluegrass Week: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

The Grand Ole Opry is extremely important in the world of Country and Bluegrass. Having been around  as the oldest live music radio show it has become over time a symbol of "making it" in the industry. Bluegrass legends, and Opry regulars The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band tell the tale of the Opry in style.

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Friday, November 13, 2009


I will conclude Bluegrass Week as well as a plethora of new indie posts next week. Life has gotten a little complicated this week, and my posting has suffered as a result of it. See you Sunday night!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bluegrass Week: Frank Fairfield

Frank Fairfield is an absolute treasure. He is a local Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist who plays old-traditional folk. I've cross sectioned him with Bluegrass week, because his banjo picking is something that any bluegrass connoisseur would enjoy. Having seen Fairfield play several times, in bars, concert halls, and on the street; watching him play is like watching living history. His music is so reminiscent of a style of folk that is so ancient that when heard it seems brand new. This is bindle tying, train hopping music at it's finest which makes Fairfield is a rare gem.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bluegrass Week: Uncle Dave Macon

When one thinks of pioneers of Bluegrass, one can't possibly forget Uncle Dave Macon. Macon was one of the earliest stars of The Grand Ole Opry. His banjo picking isn't technically amazing, however the passion in which he plays with is what has earned him his rightful place in the history books.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Bluegrass Week: The Tallboys

Seattle, home of coffee and Nirvana, not quite the place you'd imagine there would be a thriving bluegrass scene. I vacationed there a few years ago and on one particular day I found myself strolling along Pike Place Market, a bustling place of fresh fruit, fish, and music. Like Venice Beach here in Los Angeles, Pike Place has a ton of buskers positioned throughout the market. Located in front of the original Starbuck's I happened to stumble upon a local old time string band that called themselves The Tallboys. They had attracted a large crowd and for good reason, they were very talented. At the end of their set I threw a few coins in the hat, and bought their CD. It was the first bluegrass album I ever owned. The Tallboys are still around busking up in Seattle. Unfortunately they haven't ever really done an extensive tour, for they are still highly unknown except in Washington. Someone with Rounder Records needs to snatch these guys up, and fast.

Attached is a track of The Tallboys performing one of my favorite bluegrass classics "Cumberland Gap"

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Where it all began...

For the longest time I hated bluegrass. I absolutely could not stand it. I felt it was repetitive superficial and trite. However that all changed when my Uncle (huge bluegrasser) took my Father and I to Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival near the Catskills of New York. I spent the first day walking around, catching a few acts, playing frisbee with strangers, you know, the stuff you do at music festivals. The bands were pretty entertaining, I enjoyed what they had to offer however nothing really blew me away. Until night fell. The headlining band that night was a reformed bluegrass group that date all the way back to the 70's called Hot Rize. Each member of this band is a demigod of their instrument, Tim O'Brien to this day is the best mandolin player I have ever seen. When they closed their set with a cover of the blistering Bill Monroe instrumental tune "Train 45" my jaw dropped to the floor. I could have never imagined a banjo, mandolin, bass and acoustic guitar could convey such power. After that I was hooked to bluegrass like a drug. I couldn't get enough, since then I have attended numerous bluegrass concerts, and have avidly sought out bluegrass of both new and old styles.

Here is the video and attached MP3 of Hot Rize performing "Train 45" at Grey Fox. It may not carry as much of a punch as it for me when I was physically there, but you get the idea.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Next Week is Bluegrass Week

One of the reasons I created this blog is I wanted to expose my readers to new types of music. While I tend to post a lot of indie-rock and a few classics, I have been dying to expose some of you to one of my favorite genres, bluegrass. I'm going to have it all, classic bluegrass, contemporary, underground, popular, Appalachian old-timey, and even indie rock artists trying out their banjo chops. If you have been enjoying this blogs and have been digging my taste in music thus far, you are not going to want to miss this week.

New Spoon

Yep, Spoon are rolling out a new one in January of 2010, mark that as another highly anticipated release for next year. A new song from the album Transference leaked the other day. It has a weird edit at the end, not sure if that was by accident or if it was intentional (a la The Beatles, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)") you be the judge. This song "Mystery Zone" is everything you'd expect from Spoon; crisp, clean sounding and well-produced.

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Link Removed by request of Merge Records

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Think About Life

Think About life are a new Canadian export, they have a lively indie-pop dance hall sound. They recently made appearances at CMJ in New York and have toured with Wolf Parade. This is one of the happiest songs I have heard all year.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fiddlin' Around

I love blues, and good country, and on special occasion the two get put together and it creates something absolutely amazing. Here's proof of that from bluesman Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's highly underrated 1976 album Bogaloosa Boogie Man. 

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Fiddlin' Around

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Needs to Stop: Weezer

*** "Needs to Stop" is an on-going segment, where I take great bands that have disappointed me and scold them.***

If you are in a fledgling rock band and want to learn how not to destroy your career, or if you just feel like being depressed in general listen to Weezer's discography in chronological order. By doing so you will learn how a unique band full of talented individuals slowly became one of the most shallow one-dimensional artists around.
Weezer aka The Blue Album was one of the best and most important releases of the 90's. The influence from it can be clearly seen in much of the mainstream pop-rock and indie rock bands today. Rivers Cumo's style of lyrics even helped craft Emo into what it regrettably became. Songs like "Undone (The Sweater Song)" and "Say It Aint So" didn't necessarily have the most poignant lyrics or anything musically incredible, but the sound and feeling they created spoke to a generation that could really relate to it.
Then came Pinkerton, at the time it was panned by critics and hated by the band. However, as time progressed people started to discover the magnitude and distinctiveness of this disc. Nowadays, Pinkerton, along with Blue are considered their most important works.
   Then came the downward spiral. The Green Album, and Maladroit,were released. Each of which had their own individual moments, "Island In The Sun" off of Green is considered a classic, and many songs off of Maladroit hold special places in my heart. However while each of these albums had their shining points of brilliance, they have all been overshadowed by the filler and uninspired tracks that litter these records.
With the advent of Make Believe it really became apparent that Weezer stopped caring. While they roped in new throngs of MTV-ites to their fan base with "Beverly Hills" the rest of us who have been with them since the beginning felt cheated. These songs came off very exhausted, it felt like they pained the band to sing them. This showed with the subsequent concert that I saw them perform when they were touring in support of this album. After the tour rumors spread that Weezer were breaking up.
    In 2008 those rumors were put to rest when their third self-titled record, The Red Album was released. Buzz was spurring all over the internet about this album, people had a feeling that since they were releasing a self-titled album it would be above-par for them since their track record with self-titled albums has been pretty good. Would this album live up to the hype? Nope. Not at all. Sure "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived" is too epic of a song not to enjoy but when compared to "Buddy Holly" or "El Scorcho" none of these tracks hold a candle to their previous work. It seemed to a lot of us that Weezer needed to take a much needed break and focus themselves and re-establish their sound. Instead they recorded an even worse album the very next year.
    This leads me to Raditude their 2009 release, the record that is being dropped today, the entire reason that has inspired me to write this blog. To call Raditude a bad album is putting it nicely. Raditude could possibly be the worst piece of shit I have heard in years. Every single track is drenched in half-assed craftsmanship all around. The songs aren't catchy, the lyrics are god-awful, and the musicianship is insanely bad for a band who weren't known for their instrumentation to begin with.
To hear how Weezer has since gone from "My Name Is Jonas" to "The Girl Got Hot" or "Can't Stop Partying" brings a tear of disappointment to my eye. Here is a sample of the lyrics from their new hit "Can't Stop Partying":

Monday to Sunday I hit all the clubs
And everybody knows me when I pull up
I got the real big posse with me, yeah I’m deep
And if u lookin for me I’m in vip

WHAT THE HELL?! That sounds like something some douche-bag open mic act would write! Weezer please I beg you, stop. Stop hurting your music, stop hurting me. Rivers Cumo you are thirty-nine years old, stop talking about high-school. It was great in 1992, now it is just creepy! I am sick and tired of people trying to come up with excuses for this band. "Oh they're just trying to have fun!" or "Oh they're actually mocking what their singing about." No. I am all for fun. However if you are in a band that wrote The Blue Album you have expectations as artists. You can have as much fun as you want, as long as it's on par with your previous work. 
Now I am not saying Weezer needs to quit period. However, they need to really re-assess who they are and what they are contributing as a band to their genre. They need to stop associating themselves with these teenie-bopper pop bands like Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy, or Blink-182 because Weezer is way out of their league. Rivers Cumo needs to mature as a songwriter and start coming up with lyrics that are appropriate for his age, not for the piraƱas of MTV. And above all they need to re-listen to their previous work and learn what they are capable of, Pinkerton especially, an album that is brash carefree and honest. Weezer has done a lot and are still in a prime age for a rock band. They could make an even bigger impact on music if they sit down and work hard. However, if they keep churning out crap like they have been, then they might fade away, and that would be a terrible shame.

Rather than polluting the internet with songs from Raditude I decided to post a video compilation of the Weezer that was and what they have become, so you can draw your own opinions.

The Good:

The Bad:

The Ugly

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Review: Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be

The biggest problem I had Banhart's past release Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon was it was a very creative album, yet was swallowed up in this careless echoey production. It lacked focus, and direction. With his 2009 release of What Will We Be has has done completely the opposite. This album is more concentrated than Smokey however now it lacks the creative side. Out of fourteen tracks, there are only about seven keepers here. The rest of the album is filled with throwaway songs. The last four songs of the album are some of the most boring work he's ever done.
  That is not to say this is a terrible album. There is some great stuff on here. The first half of "Angelika" harkens back to the Devendra of the Nino Rojo years, while the second half transforms into a spanish-tongued salsa. "Rats" is one the most epic songs he has created, it should be considered a cousin of "Seahorse" for they share a similar stoner-rock Black Sabbath guitar riff.
   The thing that annoys me the most about this release and Thunder Canyon is to me it seems that Banhart is so wrapped up in this free love lackadaisical hippie shit that it makes his albums seem half-baked. The main theme of What Will We Be seems to be "We don't know what we're doing, but boy are we having fun!" Devendra Banhart is an extremely talented artist and has created some absolutely tremendous music, Cripple Crow was the pinnacle of this freak-folk movement. Songs like "I Feel Like A Child" had the loose experimentation that he enjoys, yet they were focused impassioned and exciting. I just hope that on his next release Banhart will re-listen to his earlier work, and learn what he is in fact capable of.