Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Road Test

Several weeks ago, on an extremely cold Brooklyn morning, at the far end of Red Hook, where Henry and Hicks Streets meet the New York Harbor, I took my automobile road test. Because of some bad luck and a couple of bonehead moves on my part, I had been without a license for several years. Thanks to the wonderful bureaucracy that is the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, I was forced to go through the whole process, from permit through driver's ed through the road test, as if I was a 16 year old kid. It took me a while, but I finally did it. And since I didn't fuck up the parallel parking or run a stop sign, I passed the test, and now I am an officially licensed New York State driver.
To celebrate that fact, I am posting one of my favorite car songs, Tom Robinson's "2-4-6-8 Motorway," a song that was pretty popular when it came out in the punk heyday of 1978, but is rarely heard anymore. I promise to play it at very high volume as I drive at a very high speed over the cracked, potholed surface of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
Tom Robinson - 2-4-6-8 Motorway

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Monsterbuck news

Monsterbuck's album, Land of Make Believers, is finally available via their website. I recommend it highly.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Personal vs Public

There is some music I like that I have no doubt the rest of the world will like too. It seems like a no-brainer, and if I discover it before it becomes a hit, it's only a matter of timing. Lily Allen and Voxtrot come to mind as examples. And if other people seem slow in discovering that kind of music, I will campaign hard for it, whether that means talking to friends or blogging about it or ramming it down people's throats on mix cds.
But there is another kind of music about which my feelings are much more private. It is music that means a great deal to me, but which I'm not necessarily interested in sharing with others. It's not that I want to hide the music or keep it from becoming too popular, it's just that I don't really care if other people like it.
I think that what makes the music personal for me is the impression I get that the music is personal to the artist. My sense is that Lily Allen and Voxtrot are making music with the audience in mind. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, and not to imply that they are pandering in any way.) But there is music I hear which I believe the artist has made for himself or herself, and for which the audience is secondary.
Every artist wants an audience, on some level. But I do feel like certain artists are more inward-looking, and the music they create is made more for their pleasure than for that of any other listener.
This kind of music hits me on a personal level, divorced from the criteria by which I usually decide if I like something (interesting lyrics, great melodies, distinctive vocals).Case in point is a band called Lewis & Clarke, from Delaware Water Gap, PA. Lewis & Clarke is really one guy, Lou Rogai. His music is ethereal and acoustic and sometimes downright pretty, but is always anchored by self-possessed vocals and long, drone-based, meditative guitar lines.
I was introduced to his music when someone posted a cut from a live album he released last summer from a radio show in Philadelphia. I downloaded one of the songs on a Friday afternoon, and then downloaded the rest of the album (WPRB Live) from emusic.com, and listened to it on my Ipod over and over again on my way to the country that night. I found myself encased in Rogai's world, with one song sliding into the next as if each was an extension of the last.
Later, I bought both the American and European version of Bare Bones and Branches (also available from emusic.) And while listening to Bare Bones may not be quite as powerful an experience as my initial experience of listening to the live ep, the music continues to sustain me in a deep and rich way.The point is, I love the music, but I don't have a stake in others loving it. (If this is a characteristic of Rogai's music, that's too bad, in a way. It would be a shame if his music was defined by the fact that the people who loved it had no urge to pass it on to other people. It's possible that, all over the world, there are isolated individuals, unaware they share this passion, listening to Rogai's songs in solitude, with no desire to share them with other people.)Having said all that, I should note that I put this song on a bunch of mix cd's at Christmas time, (before I realized I didn't care if other people heard it) and it turned out that one of the people I gave a cd to, my friend Dannette, loved it so much that she put it on a Valentine's Day mix. So much for the purity of isolated experience.
Lewis & Clarke - Before It Breaks You

I'm trying to think of other artists to whom I have responded like this. Off the top of my head, what comes to mind is Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, John Cale's Paris 1919, and just about everything by Townes Van Zandt.

Visit Lewis & Clarke's website.
Purchase Lewis & Clarke's music on emusic.

Friday, March 16, 2007


I haven't posted anything recently because I haven't felt that excited about anything I've heard. I like the new Arcade Fire album, Neon Bible, a lot, but so much has been written about the band and the album, both online and in the mainstream press, that there hasn't been much to say. (Although I found it interesting that Win Butler went to Exeter, the prep school I attended, for better and worse, in the '60's. Exeter was where I was first exposed to a lot of great music, everything from the Seeds to John Mayall to Jimi Hendrix. It was also where I first played in a band - the Psychosomatic E Train, a Mothers of Invention rip off that featured the New England Prep heavyweight wrestling champion playing stand up bass as if it was a Fender, and also featured Benmont Tench, later a member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, on keyboards.)
The only other comment I would make about Neon Bible concerns the Prefab Sprout references on "No Cars Go." Horns, strings and harmonies are all strongly reminiscent of Jordan: the Comeback, Prefab Sprout's 1990 double album. I've never been that enthusiastic about Prefab Sprout. (I've always associated them with late '80's, early 90's English bands like Deacon Blue, Blue Nile and Everything but the Girl, that I've actually liked a lot more.) But this is the second musical reference I've noticed in the past month, so I'm starting to pay more attention.
Prefab Sprout - Carnival 2000

Other things I've heard recently that I felt like playing more than once: a cover of Love's "Message to a Pretty" by an English band called the Duke Spirit. I have never heard a Love cover I didn't feel was worthy of posting. Love rules, and I applaud any band that seeks to carry that message. This one reminds me of Mazzy Star's cover of "Five String Serenade."
The Duke Spirit - A Message to a Pretty
Click here to purchase Duke Spirit's ep "Covered in Love."

There is band from Wales that I've been enjoying a lot, called Los Campesinos! They sound like a cross between Arctic Monkeys and Camera Obscura. Very hyper verses and very sweet boy-girl harmonies in the chorus.
Los Campesinos! - We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives
Los Campesinos! website: www.loscampesinos.com/

The Grammies were lame, what else is new. I'm glad the Dixie Chicks won a bunch of awards, even though I think Taking the Long Way Home is their weakest album. But in honor of all those trophies, I'm posting a version of Townes Van Zandt's "Snowing on Raton," sung by Pat Green, a country singer/songwriter very popular in Texas and unknown everywhere else, and Natalie Maines, the Chicks' lead singer.
Pat Green and Natalie Maines - Snowing on Raton

Also on the Grammies telecast, Mary J. Blige sang a song I hadn't heard in a long time, Barbara Ellison's "Stay with Me, Baby." The first version of that song I ever heard, back in the late 60's, was by Terry Reid, the English singer who was supposedly offered the job of singing lead in Led Zeppelin, but turned it down to pursue his solo career. Good thinking.
Terry Reid - Stay With Me, Baby

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Paper Moon

One of the first bands I discovered on MySpace was Paper Moon, from Winnipeg, Canada. I have probably put their song. "String of Blinking Lights," on more mix cd's than any other in the last nine months. And their album, Broken Hearts Break Faster Every Day, is entertaining, jingle jangle pop of the highest order.
Besides making great music, the members of Paper Moon are very charming, at least as far as I can tell from reading their periodic blog postings on MySpace. Here is the latest example:
After wending our lazy way through the lush meadows of Q-94's Top 30, running up and then gleefully rolling down the grassy hills of the Top 20, and finally finding ourselves riding the Zipper and eating greasy, sugary treats at the glorious carnival of the Top TEN, it's time to go home. The rides are shutting down, the barkers have stopped ceaselessly urging you to show how much you love the "little lady" by winning her a giant stuffed penguin, and Samson, who runs the travelling show, is telling the rousties to "shake some dust".

Technically, we're still IN the top ten (as we are currently #10), but we knew this time would come eventually, and three concurrent weeks in the Top Ten was more than we hoped for. I wonder what the next "single" will be?

SXSW is fast approaching. All you Austin friends, be sure to make it out to the Co-op Bar on March 14. We're also playing an industry BBQ on Friday at 5pm, but I'm not sure if that's open to the public or not.

I would certainly be at their show if I was going to SXSW, and I strongly recommend that, if you are in Austin, you go hear them.
Buy Paper Moon cd's on the band's website: http://www.papermoon.ca/
Visit their MySpace site.

And check out "String of Blinking Lights."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday Post #1

The Postmarks - Goodbye

(Photo by Tina Barney)
The Postmarks available at amazon.com

Friday, March 02, 2007

No I Was Wrong - This Is the Flavor of the Moment

Forget it, Donovan. it's all about Three Dog Night, the most successful cover band of all time. (And I mean that in a good way.) For two nights this week, Three Dog Night was all over the tube.
Wednesday night, the hills and valleys of the Lost island were alive with the sound of "Shambala" as Hurley and Charley careened crazily down an impossibly steep hill in a beat-up VW bus. Then on Thursday night, those crazy kids from American Idol did a cheesy Up with People version of "Joy to the World."
Can SXSW be far behind?
Three Dog Night - Shambala
The Best of Three Dog Night is available at Amazon.com