Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Paul Weller

Paul Weller has been playing shows in New York this week. The first night he did a concert of Jam songs. The second night was dedicated to the Style Council, and the third night he performed songs from his (now quite long) solo career. I liked the Jam a lot back in the '70's. I still remember a show I saw at the Academy of Music featuring the Dwight Twilley, Cheap Trick and the Jam. And I've liked a lot of Weller's solo stuff, although not as much as most critics have, judging from the almost universally positive reviews his albums always get.
However, I love the Style Council, and still listen to them a lot. The moody, neo-romantic redefining of soul music continues to sound fresh, and Weller's voice seems perfectly attuned to the style.
The Style Council - You're the Best Thing
Fred Perry has a Paul Weller line of clothes. That seems very appropriate for the founder of the Style Council.

Two Gifts from the Internet

Ever since I heard Sally Shapiro's cover of "Anorak Christmas" I have been trying to find the original, by a Swedish pop band named Nixon. I looked in all the usual places: Itunes, Emusic, Amp Camp, Other Music, Amazon, but no luck. I kept checking Hype Machine, the music aggregator, but no luck there, either. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I found it, posted on a blog called Spiked Candy. The collector in me is very happy. However, as much as I like Nixon's version I still much prefer Sally Shapiro's.
Nixon - Anorak Christmas

I met Adele Bertei back in 1979 or 1980, when she was playing keyboards in the Contortions with my friend and former bandmate, George Scott. I lost track of her when that band broke up, but a few years later, her Madonna-esque, vaguely European disco 12" called "Build Me a Bridge" became something of a hit.
At the time, it felt like the whole '70's New York scene had petered out, without much impact outside of the East Village. The clubs that had supported the scene had closed. No one (other than Talking Heads) had sold many records. Most of the bands, both punk and post-punk, had broken up. Drugs had destroyed a lot of lives (including George Scott's) and AIDS was beginning to destroy a lot more. So to see someone from that scene break out into the more commercially viable dance music scene was something of a novelty.
It's interesting how time changes things. Punk and post-punk are now seen as defining movements in popular music, and '80's dance music 12" records are collector's items prized by people like Sally Shapiro. And it's a lot easier to find Contort Yourself then it is "Build Me a Bridge."
Adele Bertei- Build Me a Bridge
I want to thank Dalton Oxfam Shop for reposting this. Check out this blog - it's fascinating.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Great Lost Pop Masterpieces #5 - Alan Price - O Lucky Man!

There is not much to say about this, except that it's brilliant. Came out in 1973. Title song to a film starring Malcolm McDowell. In any discussion of music involving three or more people, at least one will agree with you if you say that it's one of the greatest overlooked songs of all time.
Alan Price - O Lucky Man!

Yachts - Suffice to Say

Idolator recently posted Bram Tchaikovsky's "Girl of My Dreams ," which reminded me of another pop punk song from around the same time. I don't know what happened to the Yachts, but this song still sounds great. (Great lines: "I never wrote a middle eight, so we'll just have to do without/But there's an instrumental break...just after this!")

Yachts - Suffice to Say
"Suffice to Say" is anthologised on Stiff Singles Volume 1, which is available on Itunes.

Friday, January 26, 2007


This week, I found myself doing something I haven't done with any regularity in a long time - I listened to a whole album by a single artist on my Ipod on the way to work. The next day day I listened to another album. And then the next day, I listened to a third album in its entirety.
When I first got an Ipod, four years ago, my listening habits did not change significantly. I played cd's on my cd player, connected to an amplifier, connected to a pair of speakers. I listened to cd's by individual artists in my car. My Ipod was secondary, and when I did listen to it, I did so in the same way I listened to music on my stereo or in my car - album by album. I hardly ever used the shuffle selector on the Ipod wheel.
At some point, this changed. I discovered that, for me, the real attractiveness of the Ipod was in its ability to surprise. It was like listening to a really cool radio station that only played songs it either knew that you liked or that you were planning to like as soon as you could get to it.
Gradually my Ipod (and Itunes), set on "shuffle," became my primary source for hearing music. When we moved last year. I didn't even set up my stereo.
The idea of listening to a whole album began to seem more and more foreign. Once in awhile, I would leave my apartment with my Ipod set to play a new album I had just downloaded, but chances are I would change to shuffle before I even reached the subway stop.
This week that changed. For three days in a row, I set my Ipod to play an album, and i listened to that album (quite happily) all the way to my office. (The trip takes about 45 minutes.)
I've been trying to figure out if this marks a change in my music listening or that I just happened on three albums I really liked. I mean, I obviously liked the albums. (The first day I listened to Malajube's Trompe L'Oeil - see the previous post. The next day it was the Submarine's Declare a New State, which I had never heard of until the day before, when I came across a track of theirs on a blog, and then bought the album on Emusic. The third day I listened to Lewis and Clarke's Bare Bones and Branches, an album I've owned for several months but never listened to all the way through.
As I said, the quality of the music is not in question. All three albums are great. But I've bought other albums I've liked a lot over the past couple of years and haven't listened to them all the way through. So I'm wondering if I've suddenly developed (or rediscovered) a Zen mind music listening consciousness that allows me the patience to listen and enjoy a full album without constantly thinking "What's next?" Or am I just feeling particularly passive and tired this week?
I don't know the answer. I do know that today, after reading a review in Pitchfork, I downloaded The Hammock's Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo and enjoyed it tremendously with my New York Times.
The Submarines - Peace and Hate
Lewis & Clarke - Bare Bones and Branches
The Hammock - Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo

Monday, January 22, 2007

My New Favorite Band

Malajube is a band of musicians from Montreal who record in French and whose music has an intense, hectic kitchen-sink feel that reminds me of early XTC. They play what you might call chaos rock. You feel that, at any minute, their songs might spin out of control. But of course, they never do.
Like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, they bury strong melodic and rhythmic threads in a maelstrom of disparate voices and crazy instrumentation. The sense of confusion is abetted by the fact that they sing in Canadien French. But slowly, over the course of each song, the melody rides to the surface, all the elements lock into a groove, the craziness suddenly makes sense, we are swimming with the current.
Malajube - La Monogamie
Malajube's latest album is called Trompe L'oeil and is available from Itunes.
Find out more about the band here.

Velvet Underground Tracks

Remember the whole story about the lost Velvet Underground album that ended up selling on Ebay for about $25,000? FM Shades has some tracks from the album (which is an acetate of an early version of the first album) posted here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Music

I love the Internet. I love mp3 files. I love music blogs and MySpace and the Hype Machine and yes I love Itunes. I love them all because on any given day I can discover great songs floating in the Internet ether (or on my desktop) just waiting for me to listen to them.
The other day, as I sat at my desk eating lunch and browsing through my Itunes, I came across "Walk In the After Light" by a band called Nobody and the Mystic Chords of Memory, from their album, "Tree Colored See." I had no memory of downloading the song and no memory of where I downloaded it from (although it was probably Motel de Moka.) I liked the name, so I clicked on it, and a glorious pop song, half Moby Grape, half Stone Roses, with ringing guitars, Beatle-esque harmonies and an undertone of anxiety filled my office.

That evening, my wife and I had some friends over for dinner, and I had my Itunes set on Yuppy Shuffle: shuffle-at low-volume-so as-not-to-get-in-the-way-of-conversation. All of a sudden my friend, a musician with excellent taste, interrupted our conversation about the pain of quitting smoking, to ask what was playing. I had to strain my ears because the volume was so low. It was a lovely, guitar-based instrumental, almost but not quite blues, almost but not quite folk music. I had to look at my computer, because I didn't recognize the song. It was a song called "Play Delicate, Desire Quiet," by Grace Cathedral Park, from the album, "In the Evenings of Regret." Again, I have no memory of downloading the song, nor do I remember listening to it previously. But, as with Mystic Chords of Memory, discovering the song felt like the opening of a whole new world with unlimited potential.
Nobody and the Mystic Chords of Memory - Walk In the After Light
Grace Cathedral Park - Play Delicate, Desire Quiet

"Tree Colored See" and "In the Evenings of Regret" are both available from

Lost Pop Masterpiece #4: Trash Can Sinatras - Obscurity Knocks

"Obscurity Knocks" came out in America on the "Cake" album in 1990. It's a pop song through and through, with obvious roots in indie pop. Along with a great melody, there are production flourishes that make the song still sound great 17 years later. Check out the doubled accoustic guitars on the intro, the wall of sound vocals on the chorus, and the slightly cheesy but entirely memorable single note guitar solo about 2/3 of the the way through the song. And finally, the line, "Oh I like your poetry, but I hate your poems." What else can you say?
Trash Can Sinatras - Obscurity Knocks

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Departed

I went to see "The Departed" a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. More than I thought I would, as a matter of fact, since, after seeing "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator," I had begun to believe that Martin Scorsese had lost his ability to tell a story.
However, that's not the reason I'm posting about it. About half way through the movie, I heard a Van Morrison song I didn't recognize. That surprised me, because I thought I knew Van Morrison's oeuvre inside and out. When I got home I checked out the soundtrack and discovered it was a version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," which Morrison had sung as part of an all star ensemble when Roger Waters played "The Wall" live in Berlin in 1990.
I'm not a big Pink Floyd fan, especially from "Dark Side of the Moon" onward. I don't think I'd ever heard "Comfortably Numb" before and I only listened to their version to compare it to Morrison's. However, listening to Van Morrison sing it, I am reminded of: a) how good a singer he is, and b), how much of a difference a great singer can mean to a song. There is so much natural drama in Morrison's voice he invests this fairly lugubrious song with passion and tension and actually makes it dynamic.
Roger Waters Band Featuring Van Morrison - Comfortably Numb

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Sally Shapiro Redux

Pitchfork gave "Disco Romance," the fantastic Sally Shapiro album, an 8.5, which is my excuse to post another great track by the pseudonymed-Swedish singer and her producer, Johan Agebjorn.
This is their cover of the the Swedish band Nixon's indie pop hit:
Sally Shapiro - Anorak Christmas

Friday, January 05, 2007

Kuryakin - Quiet pop

Kuryakin is A.G.F.S.P.B. (another great fucking Swedish pop band.) They are: Petter Gjöres (vocals, guitar, computers) and Johan Norberg (guitar, computers), with additional vocals and synthesizers by Kristina Dahlman
They play brilliant quiet pop: lush waves of strings and background vocals, quirky synth samples, a steady restrained drum beat and whispery vocals. Perfect music if you live in New York City or have a child (or both).
Kuryakin - Take a Stand
More downloads at their website

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

RIP Dennis Linde

Songwriter Dennis Linde died on December 22, of lung cancer. Linde wrote for country music artists, but many of his songs had a sense of rhythm and energy that was rooted in rockabilly and pop music. Linde, based in Nashville, first came to prominence in 1972, when Elvis Presley recorded his song, "Burning Love," which was, of course, a big hit (and, in my opinion, the best of the later Presley performances.)
Linde stuck around Nashville and had many hits for country artists through the years, enough of them to get himself elected to the Nashville Writers Hall of Fame. But his biggest claim to fame probably came in 2000, when the Dixie Chicks had a huge hit with his witty "Goodbye, Earl."
My appreciation for Linde came about as a result of a song on his 1973 solo album on Elektra Records, called "Hello, I Am Your Heart." It's always been one of my "really obscure but that only makes it better" pop gems. In fact, if I could have found a digital version of it, I would have posted it as a Great Lost Pop Masterpiece. But the album has been out of print for years, and no one ever saw fit to issue it in CD form. It has been covered a couple of times. There is a truly atrocious version by Manfred Mann, and Sara Hickman covered it on the Elektra 40th anniversary compilation from the '90's. The best version I can find is by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, from their 1994 "Acoustic" album, but even that doesn't do the original justice, having neither it's balls nor its pop sensibility.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Hello, I Am Your Heart


Jud Newcomb, a singer/songwriter and guitar player from Austin, Texas will be at FreeBird Books, 123 Columbia Street, in Brooklyn, on Saturday, January 6, at 7:00 PM.
Jud (or Scrappy, as he is known) is an ace guitar player who has been winning "Best Guitar Player in Austin" awards since he was a teenager. He was one of the leaders of the Loose Diamonds in the '90's, and also backed up the singer Toni Price for years. He's played with everyone is Austin, and has produced albums for, among others, Beaver Nelson and Mike Hall. He currently plays with Ian MacLagan, the Resentments, Jon Dee Graham and a lot of others he can't remember without checking his datebook.
Scrappy is also a gifted (and probably under-appreciated) songwriter and singer, who uses his encyclopedic, Dylan-like knowledge and love of country, blues, gospel and rock to create beautifully constructed songs, which he sings and plays with restraint and elegance. And most importantly, his songs swing with the grace of Willie Nelson and the swagger of the Stones.
Scrappy is the embodiment of all that is great about Austin and its music.
FreeBird Books and Goods is a wonderful bookstore in "West Carroll Gardens" that is definitely worth a visit any time.

Jud Newcomb - I Think of You

Jud Newcomb - New Location

"I Think of You" is from Jud's latest album, "Byzantine," and is available from Freedom Records. "New Location" is from "Djakarta," which may be out of print. Check that with Scrappy.