Saturday, December 30, 2006

Weekend Shorts: Korn grows folk

Salon covers the "folk revival":

Ghost Mice is a Bloomington, Ind., duo that bridges the earnestness of Phil Ochs with a raw, do-it-yourself aesthetic. Ghost Mice singer Chris Clavin, who has provided a locus for the folk-punk trend with his own label, Plan-It-X, offers a theory to explain the recent emergence of so many seemingly unrelated folk currents.
"Music is getting boring again and the radio is dreadful," Clavin says. "Loud rock bands do the same old thing, cool dudes in tight pants and pretty girls with lipstick singing about nothing. I think people want more storytelling, being social animals like we are."
Um...thanks, Hoobastank!

Australian readers should check out Bill "Clear Skies" Callahan at a few January tour dates.

Portland's Local Cut music blog lists its top songs of the year, including Kind of Like Spitting's "If the Shoe Fits, Cut it Off", all of which you can listen to.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Morning Shorts

Mark Kozelek fans are not as lethargic as you might presume. They're mobilizing to compile a fan tribute to the RHP/SKM frontman, and an entry has surfaced on this new website "MySpace". One Brian Gunther cites Danny Elfman and George Carlin as influences, so it stands to reason he would turn in a pretty nice cover of Koz's "Leo and Luna", from this year's See You on the Moon kindie comp.

MP3: Brian Gunther - Leo and Luna (Mark Kozelek cover)

Eric Bachmann talks about his childhood and influences to the Tucson Weekly:

"Bachmann, 36, has loved and played music most of his life. He remembers his three first records, which his mother bought for him when he was 4 years old. "We lived in Nashville, and my mom absolutely loved country music. One of the records was Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy; another was Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison. And the third was a Phyllis Diller children's record." As Bachmann hit his teenage years, he discovered Devo, Mission of Burma, Television, John Lennon and a little heavy metal. During high school, his first band was named Iron Beagle. "I think I peaked out at that point in terms of band names.""

Following up on the other days' Fleetwood Mac covers post: Fluxblog posts Neko Case and the New Pornographers covering "Dreams".

When Kimya Dawson posted a turd that resembles a cock and balls, I deemed it, while unique, not quite Morning Shorts material. When said turd gets press coverage, tho, by God, it is news. Seattle's alt-weekly The Stranger's got the poop on the poop in an interview.

My favorite Onion post every year: The Least Essential Albums of 2006.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Coke/Pop Rocks, Hutch & Kathy of The Thermals: Urban Legends

Way way back in 2002, before rocking with northwestern favorites The Thermals, Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster had an indie-folk past. There was 2002's Jealous Butcher release of the lovably DIY Hutch & Kathy, from which perfect-pop-song candidate "An Infinite Loop" leaped into many a car playlist, sending Kimya Dawson fans swooning.

But...even before Hutch & Kathy, Hutch and Kathy were in a group called Urban Legends, who put out a bunch of 7" records and an EP of basement pop-folk. The good folks at Contraphonic records have done some compilin' and brought you best-of Of Old Lost Days that, while not available in shops til January 23rd, is available online now. Along with melodies to hum all day, there's a personal warmth and energy to their lo-fi tunes, the kind that lets them get away with singing lines like "the world is strange and I am amazed just to be living" and have you really believe it.

MP3: Urban Legends - The World is Strange

Monday, December 25, 2006

Covers Call: Mac without cheese

I'll admit that Fleetwood Mac is pretty high on the list of bands that come to mind when I think of played-out classic rock dad-music. The Clinton inauguration pretty much shaved off any remaining edge they had. But, as excellent indie tributes to the likes of John Denver, Bread and Rick Nelson have demonstrated, today's songwriters can draw out the best from what you thought was the the worst.

Is Fleetwood Mac due a reevaluation, beyond the trip through the Corgan-grinder? Joel R. L. Phelps and Vetiver point to yes. "Songbird" comes from the spectacular mostly-covers release Inland Empires; "Save Me a Place" is from the 2004 EP Between.

MP3: Joel R.L. Phelps - Songbird (Fleetwood Mac cover)

MP3: Vetiver - Save Me a Place (Fleetwood Mac cover)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Weekend Shorts: Eitzel passes judgment, popcorn

You laugh at his jokes, you cry to his tunes. Why not watch a short film Mark Eitzel reacted to thusly: "Damn that was kinda perfect. Thank you for that". Damn, Mark, how did you get a gig as a juror in the Independent Lens Online Shorts Festival? The film he loved was one of ten winners, The McCombie Way, which profiles an 81-year-old woman who tends to 15 acres of desert with a smile on her face.

By God, Sebadoh are reuniting in the original lineup and going on tour. Has Lou put off his nursing plans for aging hipster loot? What's more, the band are building a trove of free live shows to download, from 1991 through 2005. Relive the Barlowenstein magic of yesteryear.

Swearing at Motorists head Dave Doughman has posted a pretty version of "Silver Bells". The reason? The season. Also, his mom used to sing it to him.

MP3: Swearing at Motorists - Silver Bells

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Best Albums of 2006

Several things became clear as I re-listened to and ranked my favorite albums of the year.

1) Despite paying pretty close attention to all the right filters, I've only heard a fraction of the albums I might have a reasonable chance of loving, let alone all that have been released. A look at PopMatters' year-end folk and singer-songwriter lists was sobering.

I have a garish yellow bag from a certain retail casualty full of new-to-me 2006 albums that looked pretty good for two-odd dollars. Then again, after an hour of sifting through the likes of overstock Peter Gammons CDs, ones's faculties aren't what they used to be.

2) There are an awful lot of competing urges in play when making your year-end list. You might want to be distinctive, make a statement, champion someone no one else is touting. You might want to balance it out. Despite my best efforts at simply listing my favorite records, these factors undoubtedly creeped into things.

3) Despite the title, this site is basically "music I like". Most of which could be classified as indie-folk; but who knows what that means? No attempt was made to restrict this list to fit the blog. It's just that Silent Shout ranked somewhere between the Root Canal EP and This Album Gives You Scabies. Anyway, here goes.

10) Fionn Regan - The End of History (Bella Union) (buy it)

For all the austere pickers named heir to Nick Drake's legacy, Regan might be the best. Not to say the label is at all accurate, but unlike many he brings plenty of originality, feeling and depth to the songs on his US-import-only debut, along with the requisite arpeggios. If he doesn't blow up I'll be flabber-founded.

Stream several songs: At his MySpace

9) Centro-Matic - Fort Recovery (Misra) (buy it)

Totally inscrutable, dirty, swirling tunes that all sound like they're recorded live (I have no idea if they are or not). It's the best example I've heard this year of a strong songwriting voice (Will Johnson) elevating his tunes within a rock-band context to something much more than they could ever be as solo songs.

MP3: Centro-Matic - Triggers and Trash Heaps

8) Boat - Songs That You Might Not Like (Magic Marker) (buy it)

Youthful exuberance minus all the really bad parts. Glammy bedroom pop that's just goofy, loose and balls-out enough without overdoing anything. There's just enough sadness, doubt, restraint and flat-out great songcraft to pull it all together. Great music for the ages, for all ages.

MP3: Boat - Last Cans of Paint

7) Various Arists - So Much Fire To Roast Human Flesh (Bastet) (buy it)

Josephine Foster curated this anti-war album, proceeds of which go to counter-recruitment and pacifict organizations. As far as I can tell, most songs are exclusive to this release and are just short of brilliant.

This comp makes the list for being aesthetically cohesive as much as topically thematic, and as good an introduction into the neu folk scene (plus godfather Michael Hurley) as any. And while directness has its virtues when it comes to protest songs (see: Young, Neil, 2006), Rachel Mason's batshit-unhinged protaganist in "The War Clerk's Lament" and John Allingham and Ann Tiley's soldier in the low-key sob story "Big War" work on a whole different level. This is packed to the breaking point with distinctive voices singing haunting, passionate tunes (Foster, Dave Pajo, Kath Bloom, Diane Cluck). Subtler Neil also surfaces on a knockout cover of "Powderfinger" courtesy MV&EE. In short, at $12 (ppd!), you have no excuse.

Stream the whole album

6) Jeffrey & Jack Lewis - City and Eastern Songs (Rough Trade) (buy it)

"I took my darling out to the aquarium/sea creatures stared at us and we stared back at them/my baby freaked when she peeked at that eight legged blob with a beak/she was too scared to speak/I said, "don't be upset, it's only an octopus/don't bother it and I'm sure it won't bother us/ please don't be upset my darling, please don't get upset" (from "Don't Be Upset").

No one else writes songs like Jeffrey Lewis, delivered with such neurotic, twisty, funny, true matter-of-factness. You'll be squirming and nodding along, and even singing sometimes ("Something Good"). A champion of the everyday that music almost never covers, let alone in a way that makes you want to listen. Folk hero.

Stream several songs: At his MySpace

5) Liz Isenberg - Seeports Seaports Seeports (Leisure Class) (buy it)

A totally immersive and intimate album of miniature epics from Liz Isenberg, full of great melodies, incredible texture, and an elastic, inscrutable voice that makes every line into an aside you maybe shouldn't hear. Fans of Lou Barlow's Sentridoh, Mirah, Julie Doiron and early Cat Power are all missing out if they haven't got their hands on this. Comes in a gorgeous hand-sewn cardsleeve, which I should have a picture of when I give this album a fuller treatment in a few weeks. The track below is one of my favorites; more songs are availble for download at her website.

MP3: Liz Isenberg - Two Weeks Til the Midwest

4) Micah P. Hinson - And The Opera Circuit (Jade Tree) (buy it)

Eric Bachmann did the strings on this epic, glorius celebration of woe. Hinson's got the goods: great, unique voice perfectly suited to the winking, joyous darkness contained herein. The almost-cheery "Jackeyed" and deliriously over-the-top closer "Don't Leave Me Now" make you believe because he sort of doesn't.

MP3: Micah P. Hinson - Jackeyed

3) The Places - Songs for Creeps (High Plains Sigh) (buy it)

Might as well refer back to my take on this album from a few months back, from the on-hiatus Pick of the Month feature. I don't know why it's on hiatus. But I know you should hear Amy Annelle's small masterpiece of skewed-folk dislocation.

MP3: The Places - Miners Lie!

2) M. Ward - Post-War (Merge) (buy it)

This is something of an all-purpose record- it'd work for lonesome bedsits and summer car rides, background music or headphone session. M. Ward's got a voice that's highly distincitve but always pulls short of affectation, and here turns in romps (Johnston's "To Go Home", "Magic Trick") and lazy ballads ("Rollercoaster") that reveal themselves slowly. First you're happy enough letting the great tunes roll over you, and the depth of his songwriting is there waiting if you need it. M. Ward's your friend. His best yet by a good measure.

Stream the whole album

1) Jennifer O'Connor - Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars (Matador) (buy it)

A real rarity: an album that deals honestly and engagingly about loss and the process of healing, but is never once maudlin or self-pitying. Even better, O'Connor keeps the music stripped down to the basics, showcasing the great melodies, smartly direct lyrics and her strong, conversational voice. Britt Daniel, who knows a thing or three about great skeletal songs, lends some background vocals to an album way, way more people should hear.

MP3: Jennifer O'Connor - Exeter, Rhode Island

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Morning Shorts

Another striking female folk singer on the scene: friend of Joanna and friend to cats, Alela Diane. "The Rifle", from her second album The Pirate's Gospel! on Holocene, sounds like a streamlined update of a song you might hear on The Anthology of American Folk Music. It's a tale of being under seige, of hearing the boots coming. It feels historic, from another time ("Papa, get the rifle from its place above the French doors"), but she adds surreal turns of phrase ("I've been holding onto the gold when letting go would free my hands/and I've been tying your tongue in a knot to wrap this death in a sheet") to elevate what might have been a trope into fever-dream territory. Vocally, she's somewhere near a jaded Beth Orton. In addition to "Rifle", there's another song from Gospel for download on her MySpace as well as two streaming tracks from a new 10" on the UK's Names Records, limited to 500 copies.

MP3: Alela Diane - The Rifle


Mark Eitzel will perform "Friend of the Devil" as part of The American Beauty Project, which features complete performances of Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, January 20 and 21 at the World Financial Center Winter Garden in NYC (free!). Other performances of note include Jay Farrar tackling "Candyman" and Espers covering "Til the Morning Comes". Full details here.

Audiofile has a nice, sad track from the new Ron Sexsmith album Time Being, out for a while in Canada but finally coming to the US January 9th, along with an extensive tour across the country in January. Dates are on Ron's page.

Boston blog Bradley's Almanac has stuck up a live recording of "Grace Cathedral Park" as a sort of bonus track to Mark Kozelek's recent live album Little Drummer Boy. You'll have to scroll down a bit, but it's there.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Best Songs of 2006

Not wanting to be listless when it came to the Jackin' Pop poll, I gave just about every song I own from 2006 at least a cursory re-listen on a road trip last weekend. Here are the top 10: songs to crave, put on mix CDs and feel lucky to have heard.

10. Jennifer O'Connor - I'll Take You Home (from Across the Mountain, Over the Valley and Back to the Stars)

It's tough write a driving song with a killer melody and still sound like a friend in a real, live, hard conversation. The words she's speaking to the subject of the song are honest and self-effacing, the sorts of things lots of folks want to say but have a hard time saying, and this tension is played out in the vocals. "I think you're lost/come on, I'll bring you home" has all the tenderness and ambivalence you'd expect it to. Plus you can sing along to the chorus.

Download from her Daytrotter session

9. The Places - The Damn Insane Asylum (from Songs for Creeps)

Some bands have songs that are mission statements. You know, like Bad Company's "Bad Company"? "The Damn Insane Asylum" is as close as The Places might get, combining dislocation, urban spelunking, and a dash of lurid romance. The telephone vocals fit so well you barely notice the production trick.

8. Laura Gibson - Hands in Pockets (from If You Come to Greet

A song that could launch a lifestyle. Listen to how she sings the opening word, "up", like a call to action. Imagine the next generation's Wes Anderson scoring his movie, stumbling across this and calling it a day.

MP3: Laura Gibson - Hands in Pockets

7. Boat - Last Cans of Paint (from Songs That You Might Not Like)

The best two minutes of bedroom pop I found this year. A little glam, a little sadness, always going for broke.

MP3: Boat - Last Cans of Paint

6. Kimya Dawson - My Mom (from Remember That I Love You)

Kimya Dawson is a rock star. She totally subverts the confessional singer-songwriter genre, singing about Sesame Street and serious illness with all the silliness and fear and total humanity you could ever want. Heartbreaking.

MP3: Kimya Dawson - My Mom (live)

5. Chad VanGaalen - Graveyard (from Skelliconnection)

Van Gaalen specializes in a beautiful but slighty queasy mix of fantasy, subtle humor and played-off terror. When his Neil-Young-on-helium vocals work their magic on this alt-country gem, you can coo along in a musical stupor and forget the lyrics, about the spirit of a dead lover rising and falling. On an uneven sophomore release, this is the song that deserves to be heard.

MP3: Chad VanGaalen - Graveyard

4. Fionn Regan - Put a Penny In the Slot (from The End of History)

I don't even mind that the Saul Bellow reference is a little precious. That's how good this song is, especially the bridge, like a total immersion in some snowy old-world city block.

Stream: At his MySpace

3. Eef Barzelay - The Ballad of Bitter Honey (from Bitter Honey)

This got the biggest reaction from the crowd at Eef's solo show, and it's the sort of iconic songwriting jujitsu that makes an impression long after Ludacris laughter wears off. Starts as a party trick and leaves you shakin': "Don't hate me cause I know just what this world is all about".

MP3: Eef Barzelay - The Ballad of Bitter Honey

2. Bishop Allen - The Monitor (from the March EP)

Like entrants in National Novel Writing Month, Bishop Allen forced themselves to stretch their songwriting chops when they committed to releasing one EP a month all year. This is my favorite of the motherload, na-na-nas and slow build, mixing the raw enthusiasm of Charm School with world-weary perspective.

MP3: Bishop Allen - The Monitor

1. M. Ward - Chinese Translation (from Post-War)

You can't help but go with the flow. This here is spiritual, thickets of churning acoustic guitars and Ward's gentle rasp, sing-along chorus for the ages. The best song of 2006! Whew.

Stream: the video

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

David Cross & Jimmy Fallon folk it up

This has probably been on all other blogs in existence, but I can't resist posting David Cross' straight reading of the Bank of America employees' cover of U2's "One".

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Uncommon Folk: Jennifer O'Connor

Uncommon Folk is a feature in which artists we admire talk about the music that inspired and influenced their own work. We are thrilled to have Matador artist Jennifer O'Connor provide the latest entry, on her album Over the Mountain, Across the Valley, and Back to the Stars. On this album O'Connor hits the sweet spot between honesty and mystery, aided by her engaging, conversational voice, indelible melodies and lyrics that confide of abject darkness and guarded hope in an all-too-believable way.

I wrote my most recent record, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley, and Back to the Stars, during the summer of 2005 (for the most part). The album that I remember listening to quite a lot during this time was Wilco's Summerteeth. I'm not really sure why, but I kept coming back to that record, especially whenever I was driving around in my car. I think I hoped that I could create something as far-reaching and ambitious as that record felt to me when I was listening to it. (In the end, I think my record kind of feels like the opposite of that!) I think another reason I was drawn to it was the failing/struggling relationship theme that runs through most of the I was dealing with a similar issue at the time.

I also remember listening to Spoon's Gimme Fiction quite a lot. But they are one of my favorites and one of their records seems to always be in my current rotation. I think the exceptionally strong sense of rhythm on this release may have inspired me to do a few things differently rhythmically than I had done previously.

MP3: Spoon - I Turn My Camera On

Oh, and Laura Veirs' Year of Meteors. That was my favorite record of last year so I'm sure that got some play during that time as well!!!

MP3: The Young Rapture Choir - Magnetized (Laura Veirs)


Matador has put up a few tracks from Over the Mountain:

MP3: Jennifer O'Connor - Exeter, Rhode Island
MP3: Jennifer O'Connor - Today

Her new eMusic-exclusive EP, with a Dylan cover and three originals, is yours with a free trial (along with 21 others) - just try to resist the pull of the eMusic siren song...

Max out your JOC bag with an incredible Daytrotter session full of stripped-down goodness.

After you've filled your satchel with all that free musical swag and bought Over the Mountain, catch her live:

December 13 (tonight!) New York, NY Happy Ending Lounge (Happy Ending Reading Series w/ readers Leanne Shapton, Chris Leo and Marcellus Hall, 8pm, FREE)
December 29 Tampa, FL New World Brewery
January 5 Hoboken, NJ Maxwell's w/ Kevin Devine & Pablo
January 10 New York, NY The Living Room w/Anders Parker
February 16 Washington, DC Rock and Roll Hotel w/Kevin Devine, Pablo, Koufax

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Best Reissues of 2006

5. Sibylle Baier - Color Green (Orange Twin) (buy it)

Y'all can quibble over whether this is a reissue or merely a lucky unearthing (Baier's only real, official release was a song in a Wim Wenders film - these recordings were apparently only heard by a lucky few friends and family), but these early-70s songs by Baier, recorded in her home in Germany on reel-to-reel, are gracefully simple, haunting and almost too contemporary-sounding to be true (not unlike Big Star's 3rd in terms of being ahead of its time). Just add the sepia cover and wallow in wistful nostalgia all afternoon.

Stream - At MySpace

4. Karen Dalton - In My Own Time (Light in the Attic) (buy it)

There's an unlikely rush of new versions of "Katie Cruel" (Bert Jansch also has a version on his new album) but this is likely one of the best. The late Dalton's voice (praised by Dylan as akin to Billie Holiday's) practically duets with the violin. While the rest of the disc doesn't rise to these heights, her voice has a beautiful raggedness to it throughout that makes vocorders run and hide. Fine liners by Lenny Kaye (a critical part of a good reissue) make this a must-purchase.

MP3: Karen Dalton - Katie Cruel

3. Tim Hardin - 3 Live in Concert (Lilith) (buy it)

I've gushed enough about this incredible recording, with Hardin walking the tightrope, likely high, playing a pawned guitar, with unfamilar but ace jazz musicians, running through all his greatest songs to a rapt NYC audience. Even though the liner notes are in Russian on this reissue, it's an easy, inexpensive and excellent-sounding way to get this show.

2. Wayfaring Strangers - Ladies from the Canyon (Numero Group) (buy it)

This crate-dug collection of female folksingers from the 60s and 70s yields all sorts of treasures, along with fascinating liner notes on what happened (or what's unknown) about all 14. Many of these records emerged from school and church youth projects, lending the proceedings an eerie innocence. This track is from Mary Perrin, an influence on Karen Carpenter, who died in 2003.

1. John Phillips - John, the Wolfking of L.A. (Varese Sarabande) (buy it)

Another disc I've already sung the praises of. Let's just say, though, that knowing the Mamas and the Papas output does not prepare you for the self-doubting autobiography and Cali-country tunes contained herein. Elvis wanted to cover one of these songs, people (his manager wouldn't let him). If you only buy one reissue this year...

What reissues were y'all thankful for this year?

Tower Records finds

In the DC area there are a generous five Tower Records locations to pick over (it was six until last year, when the Annapolis branch closed), and with prices now 60-70% off pop/rock discs, there are still some serious finds to be had.

I've got a lot of nostalgia for Tower; for a music obsessive growing up in the record-store-deprived suburbs in the 80s and 90s, a rare visit to a deep-catalog mecca like Tower was a big event, especially in the pre-internet age, when one never knew what unheard-of compilation or import single would magically be waiting in the racks. My tastes and my access to shops changed, and Tower became an overpriced corporate behemoth.

The feeling I get trolling the aisles like a vulture is that of nostalgia not just for Tower but for the collector's age, when dropping $12 on an import single with one bonus track was no big deal. You loved the artist and wanted the music, but the fact that this was the only way to get the song (in digital format, at least) made such ridiculous purchases fun. To see that Tower still had thousands of import singles it likely won't be able to give away confirmed that no one does this anymore; even for those who still purchase CDs, it makes no sense to pay inflated import prices for single bonus tracks these days. It's one more symptom of the end of collector culture, which was always at least half the fun. The internet has removed all the foreplay; there's not much anticipation, just instant gratification, and that is something worth mourning, I think.

Anyway, here are some choice finds from the Tower blowout, all purchased for around $6-$7.

Kevin Coyne, Pointing the Finger/Politicz: The Cherry Red Albums 1981-1982. Coyne, the ultimate eccentric British songwriter known to several dozen people in the US, passed away in 2005, leading Cherry Red to reissue this comp with new liner notes paying tribute to one of his final concerts at a small dinner theater in the UK. Now, if whoever owns the rights to Coyne's debut album Case History is reading this, it's going for $500 on Amazon.

Gillian Welch - Hell Among the Yearlings. Acony Records marketed this release with a sticker on the plastic lauding this record as "A Dark Classic of Acoustic Slowcore". That this was seen as a viable marketing strategy warms my heart.

What have you picked up at Tower?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Monday Shorts: Jandek special

So Jandek made yet another live appearance (his 7th) on Saturday in Indianapolis. Now, Jandek has made an undeniably important contribution to the indie scene over the last twenty-five-odd years, but not by playing out. As the fine documentary Jandek on Corwood demonstrated, the Jan man was always best as a mystique, a cultural code word, a mirror for indie snobs' obsession with obscurity for its own sake. For him to emerge as a flesh-and-blood performer is just about the worst thing he could do. Someone lock Jandek up before he plays again.

In much better show news, the incredible Joel RL Phelps is emerging to play a show with James Mercer from the Shins and Eric Bachmann, at Seattle's Nuemos January 7th. In other news, I'm not making this show up. Seattleites, please report back.

Kimya Dawson reports that Adam Green found a stash of old Moldy Peaches t-shirts to sell; fans post their homebrew MP wardrobes.

Crate-digging reissue heroes Numero Group have a good deal going: subscribe and get the next six Numero reissues for $100. It kicks off with Numero 013 Eccentric Soul: Twinight’s Lunar Rotation. Before then, last year's subscription will be fulfilled with a reissue of Catherine Howe's never-really-released 1971 album, a cross of English folk and chamber pop produced by Bobby Scott. Hours of soul, folk and other finds are sure to follow. A guaranteed great gift for the indie fan brother whose collection stops at Arcade Fire.

Hefner's got a new live album out, Maida Vale:
On the 23rd August 2000 Hefner played a very special show from BBC’s Maida Vale studios to an invited audience for the John Peel show. This was the highlight of a relationship between the band and the greatly revered DJ which saw 5 Peel sessions and four live concerts broadcast on his Radio 1 show.

The concert on this CD features an 8 piece version of the band with includes a brass section, pedal steels, ukuleles and violin alongside their own guitars bass and drums. It also features several contributions from Amelia Fletcher, (Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Wedding Present, Marine Research). The songs have been newly remixed from the original master tapes and the CD features photos from the night and sleeve notes from Darren Hayman.

The CD captures an exceptional performance of many songs rarely played live during Hefner’s short career. Maida Vale follows the release of The Best Of Hefner and Catfight (a collection of unreleased recordings) and is the premier release on Belka, a label which will continue to release re-mastered and expanded versions of Hefner’s back catalogue through out 2007.
Secretly Canadian has posted another track from Dave Fischoff's The Crawl, "Landscape Skin".

MP3: Dave Fischoff - Landscape Skin

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pernice Brothers, Black Cat, Washington, DC, 12/6/2006

For your consideration, some pictures from Wednesday's Pernice Brothers show at the Black Cat. I'll defer to DCist's fine review, except to say that Joe's evolving songwriting makes for an increasingly rollercoaster-y emotional experience when the songs are mashed up in a set list (the bliss-out fatalism of World Won't End classics like "Flaming Wreck" and beautiful bummers like the title track from Pernice debut Overcome by Happiness juxtaposed with the semi-hopeful, romantic tunes from Live a Little ("Somerville", "PCH-1")) . There's a slow creep of satisfaction and acceptance that's a welcome counterpoint to a catalog thick with power-pop misery. Great show all around!

MP3: Pernice Brothers - Somerville

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Morning Shorts

Forget fooling around all over town with Gene Hackman; Julie Doiron's new cover of Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard", exclusively downloadable at Pitchfork, is more like tent time with Luke Wilson. "Well I'm on my way, I don't know where I'm going/taking my time but I don't know where" fits Doiron's typically slow, sweet presentation better than you'd expect. Get ready to get sleepy and nostalgic...for Julio.

Doiron's new album Woke Myself Up is out on Jagjaguwar January 23rd, and the Jag have posted this track.

MP3: Julie Doiron- No More

In other "on Pitchfork"/Paul Simon-cover-related news, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone covers "Graceland" in typical CFTPA style. I may be one of the few that actually doesn't know the original, so this probably comes off as a bit different to me than you at first blush (i.e. a slightly more emotive CFTPA song). It's on a limited-edition 7" you can get at Rococo Records, along with 2 other non-LP tracks.

MP3: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Graceland

Badman reports that the new Innocence Mission album will be officially released on March 13th, with copies available off their website in February. No songs or other info posted yet, but stay tuned.

Next week (or so): best albums, reissues, songs of the year.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Morning Shorts

Matthew Sweet, Velvet Crush, John Doe, Peter Case and others are contributing to the soundtrack for the retro-sexy flick Camp Burlesque, on Rick Menck's new Birdsong Records label early next year. Speaking of Menck and Velvet Crush, the Tower I plundered tonight (60% off pop/rock!) literally had about five dozen copies of minor power-pop classic Free Expression, and similar numbers of other Bobsled releases from the Chamber Strings and the Waxwings. Did some Tower buyer think these would be blockbusters circa 2000?

Looking for year-end best-of lists? Wonder how so many bloggers can top-rate all the same stuff? Head over to Largehearted Boy for a staggering compendium of Voxtrot enthusiasts and other listmakers.

Secretly Canadian has quietly put up a new track from Richard Swift, a songwriter with a classic Brill Building bent; think a less ostentatious Rufus Wainwright. "Kisses From the Misses" is from his sophomore release Dressed Up for the Letdown, due in February.

MP3: Richard Swift - Kisses for the Misses

Monday, December 04, 2006

New Release Tuesday

Reissue label Wounded Bird nobly rescues the work of everyone from Renaissance to Romeo Void from out-of-print purgatory. Today they reissue three albums from David Blue, friend to 60's Greenwich Village stars from Dylan to Cohen to Ochs to Joni Mitchell (legend has them as lovers, with Mitchell's Blue named after him).

Blue issued seven solid confessional folk albums in his brief, unsuccessful career; only his eponymous debut was overly Dylanesque, but the comparison dogged him. He apparently appears as something of a hanger-on in Dylan's long-lost Rolling Thunder movie Renaldo and Clara. But his music distinguished itself in its warm, generous, yet cryptic nature (as in "Troubador Song", from Nice Baby and the Angel).

Blue, having never achieved the success of his friends, died while jogging in Washington Square Park in 1982 at the age of 41. Leonard Cohen delivered a touching eulogy at his memorial service:

"David Blue was the peer of any singer in this country, and he knew it, and he coveted their audiences and their power, he claimed them as his rightful due. And when he could not have them, his disappointment became so dazzling, his greed assumed such purity, his appetite such honesty, and he stretched his arm so wide, that we were all able to recognize ourselves, and we fell in love with him. And as we grew older, as something in the public realm corrupted itself into irrelevance, the integrity of his ambition, the integrity of his failure, became, for those who knew him, increasingly important and appealing, and he moved swiftly, with effortless intimacy into the private life of anyone who recognized him, and our private lives became for him the theaters that no one would book for him, and he sang for us in hotel rooms and kitchens, and he became that poet and that gambler, and he established a defiant style to revive those soiled archeypes."

The three albums reissued are Stories (1971), Nice Baby and The Angel (1973) and Cupid's Arrow (1976). Wounded Bird promises to bring the remainder of his discography back into print soon.

Steam: Several songs at MySpace

Sunday, December 03, 2006

iff contest #2: Win a copy of Simon Joyner & the Fallen Men - To Almost No One: Singer Songwriter Series

"Singer-songwriter music is a passport to obscurity by definition. But even as they begin to resemble Sisyphus in these liner notes, the incredible thing is how they distinguished themselves from Dylan. They carved out niches. Dylan couldn't do Tim Buckley or Leonard Cohen and he couldn't do Neil Young. He couldn't do Loudon Wainwright or Gene Clark or Paul Siebel or Jackson C. Frank either. So it isn't that I'm talking about 2nd rate Dylans here. Because Dylan was so good, it made everyone work harder and we get these distinct artists out of the competition." - Simon Joyner, from the sleeve notes to To Almost No One: Singer Songwriter Series, Volumes 1 to 5.

Joyner released this box set of five 7" records with two covers apiece in 2001. Limited to 500 copies, packaged in a beautiful box with a print of an oil painting on top, this is a true gem of devotion to the song, of not forgetting those who were mostly not known to begin with. Spooky, genuine and truly educational. The nature of the medium, requiring regular flipping, means you'll spend more time with each tune. A pretty good idea in the digital age.

Volume 1 To Live Is To Fly (Townes Van Zandt)
Midnight Through Morning (David Blue)
Volume 2 Sandman's Song (Anne Briggs)
For A Spanish Guitar (Gene Clark)
Volume 3 The Visit (Jackson C. Frank)
Casey's Last Ride (Kris Kristofferson)
Volume 4 Janet Says (Jerry Jeff Walker)
In Search Of An Audience (Jim McCarthy)
Volume 5 My Town (Paul Siebel)
No More Songs (Phil Ochs)

iff has one copy of this box set to give away to a lucky reader this holiday season. Just email indiefolkforever and put "iff contest" in the title. We'll pick a random winner on Monday, December 11th.

WE HAVE A WINNER. Congratulations to Richard.

MP3: Simon Joyner - Medicine Blues

Friday, December 01, 2006

Idiot Love - Donald in the Bushes with a Bag of Glue (Ballboy cover)

Scottish indie-pop group Ballboy have, like lots of UK artists, an undercurrent of social and class critique in most any song they write - something US pop musicians seem largely unable to capture (either from on low or on high, which is kinda odd seeing how many indie musicians are trust fund trudies). They also share the ability to wrap this in irresistable, bouncy pop songs full of heartbreak and of-the-moment glee (see their generous downloads page).

They've recently added a section of covers of Ballboy songs and woo hoo, the group Idiot Love have covered one of my very favorite Ballboy songs, "Donald in the Bushes with a Bag of Glue". And while most of the covers in this section are predictably middling, "Donald" comes through great, fairly faithful but a little grittier and more danceable. It's a compact song of self-doubt, nostaligia, keeping-up-with-the-blokes and the process of settling into adulthood: "Yesterday I met the boy I used to spend my Christmas with/he used to be a monk and now he deals cards and seems happy with it/and there's something to be said for lifelong love and sex and security/a good-looking girl who gets on well with your family". Or even better: "I'm not a poet/and I'm not illiterate/and I can't get through it/and I can't get used to it".

MP3: Idiot Love - Donald in the Bushes with a Bag of Glue (Ballboy cover)