Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Morning Shorts

Dan Bern has announced a bunch of European tour dates in March; he'll hit Germany, France and the UK before a few Alaskan shows in April.

Gorilla vs. Bear catches a newly announced SXSW show previously playing only in my dreams: Vashti Bunyan, Nina Nastasia & Jim White, Tom Brosseau, David Karsten Daniels, and Jana Hunter, March 15 at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin. GvB has a Bunyan download, too.

Lucinda Williams tells the New York Times what she's listening to. On Carrie Rodriguez: "She started out accompanying other artists on violin and then spent some time as part of a duet with Chip Taylor, who is famous for writing “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning.” Now she is finally striking out on her own as well, and I have to say I am very impressed. She’s got something unique in her voice that’s very subtle and a little smoky and sweet."

You can get a taste of the new Beirut EP, Lon Giland, via AmpCamp's song of the day.

MP3: Beirut - Carousels

Largehearted Boy is auctioning off the very limited-edition Mountain Goats LP Come, Come to the Sunset Tree, a collection of Sunset Tree demos. All proceeds benefit Farm Sanctuary, which aims to improve the lot of farm animals. Bid early and often. The cause is just, the record is rare, and The Sunset Tree is shout-along-worthy. I had no idea there was a great clip for that album's "This Year".

Monday, January 29, 2007

New Release Tuesday

Lou Barlow - Mirror Eye (buy it)

A new Lou EP from Spanish label Acuarela, which gives the full scoop here. No preview tracks from the EP are around, but Lou's web site is a labyrinthine trove of downloads, video, scrawled notes and ephemera. A quick curiosity is 7 Before 17, "16 years old, crew cut and straight-edge". Of the batch, most of which are about a minute long, my pick is "17 in July".

MP3: Lou Barlow - 17 in July

Catherine Howe - What a Beautiful Place (buy it)

The first release of the year from the Numero Group, this is the first time Howe's debut album has been on CD. Los Angeles City Beat has a fine story on this album:
"Made in an era when singer-songwriters were flexing their rock muscles and Carole King’s Tapestry ruled the charts, What a Beautiful Place is a lush, heavily orchestrated record that feels more a product of the early or mid-’60s. In its day, it would have sounded square, but it may be that very squareness that plays compellingly now. It’s an off-the-wall mixture of slightly shlocky old-school pop and neo-trad English folk (though Howe denies such leanings), with some jazzy seasoning provided by Scott’s own stabbing, bluesy piano work. At its center is Howe, whose chilled, half-swallowed, vibrato-free vocals maintain a sustained, charming purity."

MP3: Catherine Howe - It's Not Likely

Other notable releases include a pricey double-CD live import from Nick Cave and the new Beirut EP.

Jared Mees - If You Wanna Swim With the Sharks...

The record I'm listening to right now, Jared Mees' If You Wanna Swim With the Sharks..., with its unashamed, unvarnished emotions and wordy proclamations of love and misery, should really be heard by all the teenagers out there being force-fed whatever Clear Channel is playlisting these days. It's in the same universe, but stripped of the sneer and ugliness, full of hooks and charm and hope. You can sing along.
It's a good listen no matter your age, but it helps to remember when the highs were a little higher, the lows lower. If you're willing to do that - if you can appreciate, say, Bright Eyes' Letting Off the Happiness without rolling your eyes - you'll be really glad you heard this. If You Wanna Swim With the Sharks... is a full of songs mixing highly palatable pop-punk and sincere and rambling indie-folk, with a wide-eyed exuberance not unlike what we've recently heard on Tilly & the Wall's records.

Listen to "Loboito": "as your holiday crescendo begins/it's like when christmas came a thousand times each year/once on the 25th, the rest when she was near/and you could lose yourself in all the coke and beer". It's a fist-pumping anthem, in its own small way. Album opener "Suicide Squeeze" is folkier but in the same emotional vein; poetry girls, exploding stars, and the like. This could be terrible, but the close-miked male-female vocals, and a snaky low-key melody full of tiny refrains, saves the day and makes this a wallow worth sinking in to.

Mees will be playing a CD release show along with Leigh Marble, Ross and the Hellpets, and Hush Records' Reclinerland February 3rd at Portland's White Eagle Saloon. You can buy the album and hear a few more songs here.

MP3: Jared Mees - Suicide Squeeze
MP3: Jared Mees - Loboito

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Weekend Shorts: New Innocence Mission; Jeffrey Lewis Comes Alive

Badman has blessed us with a song from the upcoming Innocence Mission album We Walked in Song, due March 13th. It's got the typically immersive, shimmering beauty you'd expect from the group; combined with dreamy lyrics on the joys of morning walks in Brooklyn, it's almost narcotic.

MP3: The Innocence Mission - Into Brooklyn, Early in the Morning

Dave Fischoff contributes a list of favorite musical things to Dusted Magazine, and mentions one of my very favorite Leonard Cohen songs, "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong":

Yes, Dylan is probably the more important songwriter, but it was Leonard Cohen who made the bigger impact on me as a lyricist. This song, from his first album, is a perfect example of what he does so well. The lyrics are strange, even surreal at times, but out of this weirdness come emotions that are completely universal. I think the third verse is my favorite: "I heard of a saint who had loved you / so I studied all night in his school. / He taught that the duty of lovers / is to tarnish the Golden Rule. / And just when I was sure / that his teachings were pure / he drowned himself in the pool. / His body is gone, / but back here on the lawn / his spirit continues to drool." This is also the only song I’ve ever covered since I started making records; there’s a version I recorded a long time ago for an obscure vinyl-only Norwegian compilation that’s (thankfully) very out of print. Mr. Cohen’s version is much better.
Kirstiecat posts a review, pictures and setlist from Ron Sexsmith's Chicago show. As usual the pictures are amazing. Ron cancelled his show here in Northern Virginia due to voice issues but with any luck will reschedule soon.

Behold, a video for Jeffrey Lewis' "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror".

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Morning Shorts

The Salt Lake City Weekly on Laura Gibson's good press: "Laura Gibson is living the liberal indie musician’s dream. Both The New York Times and NPR recognized her work as some kind of wonderful." Is "liberal indie musican" redundant? Do any musicians reviewed in the NYT or on NPR think, "good thing I agree with their stance on agricultural subsidies"? And where do the GOP indie crowd get written up in dreamland? The G. Gordon Liddy Picayune-Dispatch weekend supplement? So many questions.

Lisa Germano is a guest on public radio interview show Studio 360, and you can stream it. She talks about her first big influence (David Lindley's playing on Jackson Browne albums) and how John Mellancamp tours drove her to therapy ("Pink Houses" every night will do that), and plays a few songs. It's engaging and funny, so please check it out. Lisa also has some upcoming tour dates opening for and playing with Michael Brook, starting tonight:

Thu-Jan-25 Los Angeles, CA Largo
Fri-Jan-26 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
Sun-Jan-28 Vancouver, BC St. James
Tue-Jan-30 Toronto, ONT Revival
Wed-Jan-31 Montreal, QBC La Tulipe
Thu-Feb-01 Boston, MA Paradise Lounge
Fri-Feb-02 New York, NY Joe's Pub
Sat-Feb-03 Philadelphia, PA North Star
Mon-Feb-05 Baltimore, MD Sonar
Wed-Feb-07 Chicago, IL Schubas

Stereogum has the scoop on a new Joni Mitchell web site from the CBC loaded with neat video archives, as well as the depressingly Starbuckian lineup for an upcoming tribute album on Nonesuch.

Pitchfork talks up Jennifer O'Connor's new tour with Kevin Devine, Koufax and Pablo, and her 7" subscription project: "What's more, Jennifer jumpstarts her own Kiam Records imprint-- on which she released her first couple solo discs-- this January with a new limited edition collaborative 7" series. For a mere $25 (including shipping), she'll treat series subscribers to five different 7"s over the course of the year, each featuring a joint effort and individual tracks from O'Connor and a quality act of her choosing. Those quality acts include Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, Dump (aka James McNew of Yo La Tengo), Mascott (ex-Helium and Sparklehorse player Kendall Meade), Hotel Lights (ex-Ben Folds Five drummer Darren Jessee), and Boston rockers Choo Choo La Rouge."

The other day I posted on F.J. McMahon's disc Legend of the Golden Juice, which I mistakenly thought was unavailable on CD. F.J. set us straight in the comments and told us where to write for a copy of the album, but left out the price. F.J., if you're still out there, fill us in.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Release Tuesday: It's Raining Records

After weeks of skimpy NRTs, a motherlode of discs lands today. The mainline indie releases are getting saturation coverage in the blogosphere: The Shins, The Broken West, Of Montreal, Deerhoof. Some other discs you might want to pick up:

Arboretum - Rites of Uncovering (buy it)

Oldham associate Dave Heumann's band Arboretum brings the stoner folk like no other, with a hat-tip to Paul Bowles. Check it out on their MySpace.

Julie Doiron - Woke Myself Up (buy it)

Eric's Trip is back for a few songs on the new Julie Doiron solo outing. Tiny Mix Tapes likes, says 3 1/2 stars.

MP3: Julie Doiron - No More

Chris Garneau - Music for Tourists (buy it)

At first his voice was a little too...mewling, but it grew on me. Spare piano ballads get me every time. This interview in the Village Voice is pretty funny, too: "I suggest he might get compared to Rufus Wainwright. This riles him up. "Just because I play the piano?" he says. "So do a lot of other people." I inadvertently annoy him several times actually—earlier I had told him that his album was great, and that it had the potential to resonate with housewives and young girls and Ryan Adams fans alike. He responded with a distant "OK.""

MP3: Chris Garneau - Not Nice

David Kilgour - The Far Now (buy it)

Sixth solo album from Clean member; the advance track, "BBC World", is great overcast sunshine pop.

MP3: David Kilgour - BBC World

Drakkar Sauna - Jabraham Lincoln (buy it)

My exposure to these folks is limited to a few songs, but I love what I hear. The vinyl came out last year; this is the CD issue. "Instead of taking the easy coffee-shop route, Drakkar Sauna infuse their front-porch folk music with an absurd Captain Beefheart spin ... it's an extremely smart, hilarious, musical, and oblique combination for all you fans of The Fall that keep a couple of Elliot Smith singles under the mattress," says the Portland Mercury.

MP3: Drakkar Sauna - Om, John Surratt
Listen to their Daytrotter session

Madeline - The Slow Bang (buy it)

Sweet and lonesome folk songs from Orange Twin. "To Hell and Back" is especially worth your download time.

MP3: Madeline - To Hell and Back
MP3: Madeline - Sleeping Dogs

MV & EE with the Bummer Road - Green Blues (buy it)

These guys are hard to pin down; pscyh-blues-folk rave-ups built to last, from the little I've heard. On Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label.

MP3: MV & EE - East Mountain Joint

Alasdair Roberts - The Amber Gatherers (buy it)

Supposedly, this is more upbeat than the usual vintage Scottish folk; lead track "Old Man of the Shells" says no.

MP3: Alasdair Roberts - Old Man of the Shells

Monday, January 22, 2007

Night Shorts: Damn Bloggers!

Brooklyn rocker Paula Corino rightly hails Mark Eitzel as a brilliant live performer, but calls bullshit on NYC opening act Ola Podrida, as well as several prominent blogs and their readers:

But here's what you can't be. You can't be a bunch of dull, bearded, brown-sweater-wearing Will Oldham wannabees, with nothing but slow and almost-midtempo songs, no personality, no chops, no hooks, no banter, and, worst of all, a packed audience of your clueless fans cheering for you.
It was that last clause that made me flee the room and feel really sad about the state of indie music in this country. Anybody can be a Pitchfork darling now--you don't need anything resembling talent, you just need a couple of webzines telling the kids that you're good. And that sucks.

Yikes. If she's bitter that more people don't treat Eitzel like this: yeah, it's a crime he's not playing the Enormobowl. I felt not unlike this at a sold-out Band of Horses/Chad VanGaalen show...but c'mon now, there are far worse bands to pick on than Ola Podrida, who sound nice and pleasant to me. Unspectacular, maybe. Folks have been flocking to buzz bands (and worse) and ignoring the greats well before blogs came on the scene. This isn't exactly Enid and Seymour having to endure "Pickin' Cotton Blues".

Speaking of BPB, The Runout Groove has posted a Will Oldham Peel Session from 2002, featuring Palace moldy oldie "(I Was Drunk At the) Pulpit".

D!M (a new blog doing good things) features FJ McMahon's super-rare 1969 folk LP "Legend of the Golden Juice". The Lama Workshop fills in some details with an FJ Q&A. This track sounds dated in the best possible way. Hey reissue labels, this has never been on CD.

MP3: FJ McMahon - Sister Brother

Saturday, January 20, 2007

RIP Denny Doherty (The Mamas and the Papas)

Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas has passed away at 66 after "a short illness", leaving Michelle Phillips as the only living Mama or Papa.

I only recently became acquainted with the backstory of the short-lived group via the liner notes to last year's great John Phillips reissue John the Wolfking of LA, and have added Phillips' out-of-print autobiography Papa John to the mental list of books I keep in my head to look for in used book shops. Doherty appears in Wolfking as the "drunken gigolo" in "April Anne".

This AMC cover was an unlisted track on San Francisco.

MP3: American Music Club - California Dreamin'

Friday, January 19, 2007

Sonya Cotton - Out of the Ocean

Sonya Cotton lists folks like Iron & Wine and Cat Power as among her influences, but at first, she bears only passing resemblance. Her voice has the practiced power, assurance and cadence of a professional singer, clear and sweet. Songs are arranged with a light, tasteful touch - mostly voice and guitar with occasional piano, drums and backing vocals. It's all a bit smoother than my usual rotation, but her new album Out of the Ocean has found a near-permanent home in my car stereo for the last few weeks.

Along with those great, pure vocals, Cotton's songs have self-effacing charm, vulnerability, and low-key melodies that really stick. The effect is something like The Innocence Mission recast in a more confessional mode. Give a listen to "These Days"; the way she sings this line, especially, get me every time:

"These days I’ve got little to say/what am I losing in these lonely rotting streets?/You say you miss me darling/well, I miss you too, my sweet."

MP3: Sonya Cotton - These Days

See her on tour:
Jan 20 2007 - Loaded Joe's, Avon, Colorado
Jan 28 2007- The Lab, Missoula, Montana
Feb 2 2007- The Funky Church, Portland, Oregon

Buy the album at her site and hear more songs at her MySpace.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Morning Shorts

Please complete your life and see Mark Eitzel live on his mini-tour. It's ostensibly to promote Candy Ass, which came out ages ago and contains lots of Pro Tools wankery and a few great tracks, including "My Pet Rat St. Michael".

Along with every other musician, Mark was listed in Chunklet's Pay Not To Play issue. A LTE appeared the following issue from Mark, protesting that his career options were limited to music and prostitution, and really, the latter might be even less lucrative. Prove him right by showing up with all the love in your heart.

THU 1/18/2007 New York NY - Tonic
FRI 1/19/2007 Brooklyn NY - Union Hall
SUN 1/21/2007 New York NY - Winter Garden (American Beauty Project - free!)
MON 1/22/2007 Boston MA - Middle East Upstairs
TUE 1/23/2007 Northampton MA - Iron Horse
WED 1/24/2007 Philadelphia PA - Northstar Bar
THU 1/25/2007 Arlington VA - Iota

MP3: Mark Eitzel - My Pet Rat St. Michael

Speaking of Chunklet, they've got a fine blog going on; before you read some Jaded Robot, see this post on Bill Cosby's To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.

gojohnnygogogo is booking shows for Kimya Dawson in the UK in June, and your living room isn't doing anything that month, right?

Laura Gibson has a tour diary going, and also a West Coastish tour.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Morning Shorts

Papercuts - who doesn't love 'em? Signees to Gnomonsong, the Banhart/Vetiver label that counts wunderkind Jana Hunter among their acts, they've made available a fine preview track to tease you til their album arrives March 6. "John Brown" is a nice slice of upbeat psych-pop, with hypnotic vocals and subtle tempo changes. They're on tour with Grizzly Bear in the coming weeks:

Fri 02/16 Seattle, WA Neumo’s
Sat 02/17 Vancouver, BC Plaza Club
Sun 02/18 Portland, OR Mission Theatre (2 shows)
Tue 02/20 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
Wed 02/21 Los Angeles, CA Troubadour
Fri 02/23 Tucson, AZ Plush
Sat 02/24 Marfa, TX Ballroom Marfa
Mon 02/26 Norman, OK Opolis
Tue 02/27 Dallas, TX Club Dada
Wed 02/28 Austin, TX Emo’s
Thu 03/01 Baton Rouge, LA Chelsea’s
Fri 03/02 Atlanta, GA Drunken Unicorn
Sat 03/03 Chapel Hill, NC Local 506
Sun 03/04 Washington DC Black Cat
Tue 03/06 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
Wed 03/07 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom

MP3: Papercuts - John Brown


Gorilla Vs. Bear has a track from the first Numero Group reissue of the year, Catherine Howe's 1971 album What a Beautiful Place.

Hand Made Luck revists Rush's epically cheeseball record Caress of Steel and somehow invokes a Moldy Peach: "But there's something about that second side. One track on the CD. It's so dark, it feels like it was written while under the influence of a high fever. Much like how Kimya Dawson's music seems like it was written watching a Real World marathon while drinking a couple bottles of cheap wine."

Bonus tracks have been announced for the first round of Leonard Cohen reissues, and they're mighty skimpy: "1968's Songs of Leonard Cohen will come with incomplete tracks "Store Room" and "Blessed Is the Memory". 1969's Songs From a Room will include early takes of "Bird on a Wire" and "You Know Who I Am", titled "Like a Bird" and "Nothing to One", respectively, with the latter featuring harmonies by David Crosby. And finally, 1971's Songs of Love and Hate will come with a full-band version of "Dress Rehearsal Rag"."

Fionn Regan has announced what I think are his first US dates, ever: January 17th at the Mercury Lounge, and January 18th at Union Hall. A&R men will be there. He'll be back in the states for SXSW, and has plenty of UK dates in February and March.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Release Tuesday: Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy

In 1947, musicologist Byron Arnold travelled around Alabama collecting recordings of traditional folk songs from 16 women. The children's songs he recorded have been collected by the Alabama Folklife Association as Bullfrog Jumped: Children's Folksongs from the Byron Arnold Collection. AllMusic talks up the unique nature of the recordings: "They were often recorded in the singers' own homes, and because of this the recordings often take on the quality of old snapshots: a bird sings in the background, a train whistle howls. They're glimpses of a then-vanishing America — a nation that still knew, often first-hand, the folklore, lullabies, and ballads handed down from the previous century...These songs serve as a window into the past, a glimpse of family life in an extinct America. These are deeply human relics."

Misty yet? This release comes with a detailed 72-page booklet detailing the recording process and the singers involved. Buy it here.

MP3: Katherine Leggitte - Shoemaker Song
MP3: Martha Drisdale - The Old Gray Cat
MP3: Mozella Longmire - Little Sally Walker
MP3: Mary Chapman - Cornbread Crumbled in Gravy

Friday, January 12, 2007

Interview: Liz Isenberg

Liz Isenberg's Seeport Seaport Seeport deserves more than the usual huzzahs you read here. It's a fantastic album, especially for anyone who wished folks like Elliott Smith and Cat Power stuck to the sound of their early records, to transporting room noise and close-in confessionals. I use names like that not just because they and Liz share an aesthetic sensibility; Liz's voice, songwriting and creative arrangements are textured and distinctive, and set off all sorts of future-star alarms. Luckily for you, she agreed to an interview to fill you in further.


Seeport Seaport Seeport hit me as an immersive record - I have favorite songs, but I always listen to it as an album. Did you intend for these songs to go together when you wrote them?

The songs are related, but I never wrote a song with another in mind. I didn't even think I was going to release an album or anything based on them. I wrote these songs as they came to me. The amount of time that passed between the earliest recorded song and the last has to be at least two years, and the fact that it could appear as whole is flattering, like reading a diary from start to finish and realizing that all the entries were written by the same person – they definitely cover a specific and personal time in my life.

Your lyrics often have a dreamlike quality, full of specific details joined by seemingly loose associations. "People Who Die in the Desert", for example: "This is my mother's pen, and she's twenty again, kissing boys in the backyard". What's the process of writing lyrics like for you? Are they written before, after, or along with the music?

I'm writing lyrics constantly. Before and After. I steal lyrics too. I take lines from peoples conversations or street signs or advertisements and then use them to provoke my own ideas and connotations. A lot of times I'll write pages and pages at a time and then go back and circle the ones that stick. I don't think nor write linearly. I see circles. So there are gaps in my lyrics but there are gaps in my memory. Other times I'll write a guitar part, hum a melody over it, and scribble words down that match the syncopations of my singing.

What were some of your favorite records of 2006?

Beirut – Gulag Orkestar!! I fell in love.
Benoit Pioulard -- Precis
Sibylle Baier – The Colour Green.
Joanna Newsom – Y's (obviously)
I got really into Hank Williams this year. And R. Kelly. I honestly listened to a lot of hip hop and R&B during 2006. Ive been studying Sound Art for three years and needed to TAKE A BREAK.
Nina Nastasia – On Leaving
Chris PaddockPretzels (My favorite Providence local!)
A. Weather – "The Feather Test" (mp3)

SSS stands out for its stark intimacy. You say on your MySpace that "I recorded sloppy on lo-fi equipment but i think i like it better that way." How much of this recording style is an aesthetic choice and how much is out of necessity?

Aesthetics and necessity are probably the same for me – and for most people. I was given pro tools as a gift, but freaked the fuck out, because the options, and the potential for "perfection" was too much, there was no constraint. The aesthetic and function of using the iBook input mic was far better suited to my personality, as well as the urgency that these songs demanded to be recorded.

The Amherst music scene: discuss.

Ive always found the Northampton scene to be elitist and a little scary. Lots of Noise junkies. Its strange that a scene so new can have such a strong and concentrated history in one seemingly random town. You can go out to brunch and run into Thurston Moore or J Mascis, and that may lend a strange sense of purpose or imagined destiny to the whole Amherst music scene. Whether this is actually reflected in the talent of new bands is arguable. I'm living in this amazing Victorian house with a bunch of friends and we have started organizing music shows there. Friendly, unpretentious music shows. So maybe our purple house will create a little scene too.

You used to play in the band Sweater Weather (now called A. Weather). Do you have any plans to collaborate with the A. Weather folks in the future, or pursue other band projects?

I would love to play with Aaron Gerber and or/ A. Weather again! They're pretty lame for moving all the way out to Portland, Oregon, but Aaron promised that If school doesn't fit my fancy I can always move west and play the tambourine or something. I'm always excited to collaborate with other people, it's nice to play music as a social act opposed to just me in my room with the door locked.

Do you like performing live? What are your touring plans for '07?

I'm terrified of playing live and for awhile had to be pretty drunk to do it. It's been getting better though, and overall I find live performance to be enthralling. After about two songs into my set I sort of get over my stage fright and switch between trying to understand the environment I'm in and ignoring it altogether. I'm interested in how sound travels differently in each new space, how my songs feel different depending on the crowd or the lights or the acoustics and how I need to adjust to all those elements. Although when I'm especially scared, I pretend nobody is there and just play like I'm sitting on my bed. I'm pretty awkward.

I'm touring in April with Vio//Mire (Brendan Glasson) and Leisure Class Exec/navigator Ben Segal. We are going up and down the east coast and probably as far as Cleveland, Ohio.


Liz will be playing this coming Monday, January 15th, with The Curtains (feat. Chris Cohen from Deerhoof and Kill Rock Stars singer/songwriter Nedelle) and Chris Garneau (Absolutely Kosher) at Flywheel in Easthampton, MA.

Her album is available from Leisure Class Records.

MP3: Liz Isenberg - Hello Christmas
MP3: Liz Isenberg - Two Weeks Till the Midwest

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Morning Shorts: The Lite-FM Lazarus

A must read: Rob Harvilla's oddly touching piece in The Voice on the unlikely resurgence of Duncan "mom-rock" Sheik's career on Broadway. Yup, Duncan has written the music for hit Spring Awakening, a story of sexually curious 19th century German teenagers who like to spit...no, really! "He's a fantastic schmaltz apologist, a water filter for grating musical cheese. Thanks to him, you can safely drink from Spring's well." Harvilla is barely breathing in awe. They're toasting Duncan at Sardi's tonight...someone forward this to Tal Bachman.

Unfinished has the scoop on Novi Split, whose new record from Hush is due in March. Lead Splitter David J used to play in Kind of Like Spitting (he and Ben Barnett duet throughout their Phil Ochs tribute Learn), and J has this to say about his relationship with Ben: "There’s no reason Ben & I should be friends at all. I met him while I was on tour with The Real Diego. He’s the kind of guy who will invite you to a vegan dinner at his house, but when you get to his house you realize that he’s not vegan and your not getting dinner cause he ate like a half hour ago."

Aquarium Drunkard has a great solo acoustic live set from Neil Young done for the BBC in 1971.

One of the original music blogs, from the 90s, Glen McDonald' War Against Silence now mainly resurfaces to crunch music poll numbers in new and interesting ways. He's produced "critical alignment ratings" for Idolator's Jackin' Pop poll - in other words, how much each ballot was similar to other ballots. iff is 459th out of 476 ballots, but for impressive lack of synch you'll need to visit the choices of Stefan Shepard, the most singular list among voters that actually voted for 10 albums. (He's #475; #476 voted for one album.)

New Release Tuesday - Oh Canada!

Today brings the late US arrival of two discs that musically savvy, poutine-loving folks have been enjoying for some time now.

Ron Sexsmith - Time Being (buy it)

Ironworks is bringin' Sexsmith back...to the US. Out almost a year in Canada, Ron's latest finds him reliably serving up more of the throwback mope and chiming melodies you love. Catch him and band tonight on Conan, see him on tour, and stream the video for lead single "All in Good Time" here. It's a cartoon, and Ron's hair looks like a big ball of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Sloan - Never Hear the End of It (buy it)

Idolator noted the fine, fine stylings of Sloan today, who chug along the pop-underground railroad, unstoppable. This new release, another Canuck-job from 2006 that's just made it across the border, has a whopping thirty tracks, including the awesome "Listen to the Radio", which just sounds like something good you'd hear after Badfinger circa 1970-something FM. Check their MySpace for the track.

Also out...

Which Side Are You On? The Best of the Almanac Singers (buy it)

Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, planting the seeds of urban folk that would one day bloom again thanks to the fine folks at Rev-ola. Appalachian folk meets big-city rabble-rousing, this is the soundtrack you need for all your 1940s picket line reenactment plans. 30 tracks on a single disc, their whole output in one swoop.
(Allmusic lists this in their new releases for tomorrow, but Amazon says this came out in November. In any case, it's new to me.)

The Lost Songs of Nick Garrie-Hamilton: Selected Recordings 1968-2002 (buy it)

Another Rev-ola reissue with release date issues, this psych-folk collection compiles various and sundry obscurities from a man with an All Music bio that's hard to believe. Between cutting a legendary album (The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas), topping the Spanish pop charts and opening for Leonard Cohen, he operated a ballooning company and managed a ski resort. Popjunkie.tv calls him "Nick Drake on Prozac", and has a ridiculous domain name.

Stream some NGH at his MySpace.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Morning Shorts: Fionn Regan is in moving pictures

I don't watch very many videos, so this is played-out gimmickry for all I know, but Fionn Regan's new clip for "Be Good or Be Gone" had me transfixed; you get five seconds apiece of him playing everywhere from supermarkets to cow pastures with the acoustics adjusted accordingly. You can watch a short clip quickly here and download the whole honking thing here. (YouTube has let us down).

The Guardian gives us 2007's "Original Soundtrack", and covers The Shins' James Mercer's harrowing experience of buying a first house next door to a crack house.

Some nice concert pics have popped up, of Bill Callahan & Joanna Newsom (via The Rawking Refuses to Stop!) and Jeffrey Lewis (via The Merry Swankster).

Blogroll update! Please visit: News Items from the Heights, The Un-Scene, and Raven Sings the Blues.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Shot Heard 'Round the World - Ten Songs for Town and Country

Emerson described the opening battle of the Revolutionary War as "the shot heard 'round the world", and a few centuries later a descendant would start an indie-pop band in Brooklyn and choose the phrase for their name. Really, their name is irony; the band is many good things, but revolutionary ain't one of 'em.

Anti-revolutionary, maybe; this is pop that draws from can't-miss 60's influences: the Byrds, Motown, Phil Spector, et al. This ground has been re-covered in a modern-indie context by plenty of bands, some of them really well (Beechwood Sparks, Aislers Set, Saturday Looks Good To Me). The Shot Heard 'Round the World, though, is a great addition to the list, lending their tunes a real homespun intimacy that brings out the gentle melancholy at the heart of the best of this sort of music.

Ten Songs for Town and Country is a record clearly made with care. Layers of vocals, tasteful piano, positively weepy trombone, all sound great in a casual listen but really shine with headphones. Listen to the ending of "Cassiopia" carefully, and you hear how great arrangement and production can really create an atmosphere, a space.

The vocals are enjoyably shaggy, the lyrics hitting the sweet spots of longing, hope, and resignation. On "Town & Country", the band leaps from a pretty intro into full-on retro bliss, channelling The Mamas and the Papas' best moments of hazy wistful reflection ("and the day is passing on...").

Check out their website, where you can buy the record and hear more songs, and catch them live January 25th at the Cake Shop in NYC.

MP3: The Shot Heard 'Round the World - Casseopeia
MP3: The Shot Heard 'Round the World - Town & Country

Monday, January 01, 2007

Morning Shorts: Tea, oranges, bonus tracks

Leonard Cohen's back catalog will be reissued by Columbia Legacy, with the first three albums due March 27th, along with unspecified bonus tracks. Depending on the bounty I could well be suckered into padding Columbia's bottom line. What will the bonus tracks be? A good bet would be the 1968 BBC session Cohen recorded, including the otherwise unavailable track "There's No Reason Why You Should Remember Me"(thanks, Kwaya Na Kisser). The brief singalong is a good reminder of the power of Cohen's early catalog; see if listening to this doesn't make you dig up Songs and bedsit the night away.

MP3: Leonard Cohen - There's No Reason Why You Should Remember Me

The great Bishop Allen slip in under the wire with the final two EPs of 2006, November and December. The two preview tracks are below.

MP3: Bishop Allen - Calendar
MP3: Bishop Allen - Tea for Two

Will Ferrell must have been unavailable; John C. Reilly has been cast as the lead in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a parody of music biopics co-written by Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks, the 40-Year-Old Virgin). What's more:

After writing song titles and lyric fragments into the screenplay, Kasdan and Apatow reached out to musicians they admired who could use the script cues for songwriting inspiration. The brainstorming has resulted in songs like Cox's first huge hit, "Walk Hard"; a tune from his "dangerous period" called "Guilty as Charged" and songs from a protest album he turns out during his socially conscious political phase named "These Are My Issues." Marshall Crenshaw penned the title song, and indie singer-songwriters Dan Bern, Charlie Wadhams and Candy Butchers co-founder Mike Viola are contributing material. The filmmakers have also recruited Van Dyke Parks, a legendary composer and producer who wrote lyrics for Brian Wilson, produced early Randy Newman and Ry Cooder records, and composed the feature soundtracks for "Goin' South" and "The Two Jakes," to write a musical sequence.

This blockbuster-to-be starts filming in LA in January, to be released in time for Oscar season, one only hopes.