Miles Davis - "Sanctuary"
Miles Davis – “Sanctuary”
I’m not much of a jazz connoisseur. I mean I like jazz, but it’s not the first thing I pull off the shelf. That said, I know what I like and what I like is Miles Davis’ “Sanctuary.”
There has been a lot written about Miles Davis’ seminal 1970 release, Bitches Brew, so I won’t go into great detail, but I will say that the second to last track of the record is my personal favorite. In fact, I like “Sanctuary” so much that I’d go so far as to say it’s my all-time favorite Miles Davis tune. The somber opening with its solitary trumpet that builds to an almost cacophony of sounds is at once beautiful and bittersweet. It’s a great listen while coming down and an even better listen while waking up. In short, it’s the kind of tune other artists aspire to create and one that I’ll continue to enjoy over and over again.
The National - "Exile, Vilify"
The National – “Exile, Vilify”
Mellow indie rockers The National wrote a song for the latest Portal video game called “Exile, Vilify.” It’s a pretty good song in that made-for-a-video-game-I’ll-never-play sort of way, but what really turned me on to the tune was the video contest that The National had in conjunction with its release.
The National asked all of their fans to make videos for “Exile, Vilify” and post them on YouTube. The winner would be chosen by the band and the corresponding video would become the official video for the song. Well a winner has been chosen and his name is C.F. Meister.
Meister’s video is pretty simple in that it’s just a guy with a sock puppet walking through all sorts of scenery. That said, it’s actually pretty moving. The sock puppet, which is the most depressed looking sock puppet I’ve ever seen, lip-syncs along with the song in such a way that it actually keeps your attention for the whole 5 minutes. It’s a beautifully shot and well executed video that probably won’t turn anyone on to Portal 2, but will at least serve as a reminder of the power of music fans.
Wild Flag - "Romance"
Wild Flag – “Romance”
Everyone is eagerly anticipating the release of Wild Flag’s self-titled debut album on September 13. I mean who wouldn’t be excited about a supergroup consisting of members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders? I know I am. I’m even more excited now that they’ve released a video for the lead single, “Romance.”
“Romance” is playful little song about dancing, music and of course, romance. It’s a nice bit of pop heaven that’s equal parts sing-along and driving indie rock. In other words, it’s a song that goes perfectly with a video about four office buddies wreaking havoc during their lunch hour. Not only do the four don silly masks, but they also get some basketball in, ransack a record store and win a bit of money playing dice. All in all, it’s a very productive lunch break that makes me want to throw my frozen meal across the office and dance until I get fired. That said, bills won’t pay themselves so I guess I’m stuck living vicariously through the members of Wild Flag.
The Modern Lovers - "Pablo Picasso"
The Modern Lovers – “Pablo Picasso”
I recently bought a new truck which means it’s time to sell my old 1986 Cadillac Eldorado, Eleanor. I do love her and will miss her, but unfortunately I can no longer afford the maintenance required for upkeep on such an old vehicle. That said, Eleanor is a luxury vehicle and as such she will inspire awe wherever she goes. Much like Picasso’s Eldorado in The Modern Lover’s tune “Pablo Picasso.”
The Modern Lovers self-titled debut record, released in 1976, introduced the world to Jonathan Richman and helped pave the way for punk, alternative and indie rock. Its impact on music is so far reaching that new bands today still cite it as a major influence. A simple example of this is the sheer number of famous “Pablo Picasso” covers.
Songs get covered over and over again, but seldom do those covers pop up in mainstream media. The Burning Sensations covered “Pablo Picasso” for the 1984 feature film, Repo Man. The movie became a cult classic and helped jumpstart Emilio Estevez’s career while putting the soundtrack into the hands of new fans everywhere. Thus opening up a whole new group of people to the genius of Jonathan Richman. And if that’s not enough to impress you, fast forward to 2003 and yet another cover of “Pablo Picasso” pops up on David Bowie’s album, Reality. Now David Bowie covering a song isn’t anything new. I mean he did release a whole album of covers in 1973 called Pin Ups. That said, we can all agree that Bowie is a rock & roll god so having him cover one of your songs is a pretty big nod of approval. It certainly helped turn me on to The Modern Lovers.
You can debate back and forth which version of “Pablo Picasso” is the best, but my vote is for the Modern Lovers original. It’s got a raw, lazy sneer that Jonathan Richman delivers so well with a guitar that would make Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison jealous. It literally leaves me wishing I could keep my Eldorado just so I could “never get called an asshole.”
Washed Out - "Amor Fati"
Washed Out – “Amor Fati”
This past weekend a friend and I went to the beach. It was a nice little weekend getaway that involved lots of seafood, sand, sun and fun. However, living in San Antonio, the drive down to the coast takes about 3 hours so I took it upon myself to use that as an excuse to buy some new music. I picked up Wild Flag’s debut and the latest from Washed Out. Both proved to be exciting road trip records in their own right (individual reviews will be posted later), but I was surprised to find that the new video for Washed Out’s “Amor Fati” revolved around one guy’s own vacation.
The video for “Amor Fati” isn’t anything groundbreaking. Just one guy’s solitary trip around what looks to be northern Europe. That said, it does include some beautiful picturesque landscapes while managing to convey the loneliness and excitement of travelling on your own. All in all, I’d say it’s a pretty good fit for a pretty good song and while it won’t top my list of new music videos, it does confirm my initial road trip vibe. And that affirmation alone is good enough for me.
Guided by Voices – “My Kind of Soldier”
Yesterday I was listening to Guided by Voices’ 2003 release, Earthquake Glue. I found myself singing and dancing along to “My Kind of Soldier,” the album’s opening track. After a few repeats, I decided it was Song of the Day worthy. But when I YouTubed “My Kind of Soldier” I quickly forgot about the song and became obsessed with the video’s star, Beatle Bob.
Beatle Bob (AKA Robert Matonis) is apparently a staple around the St. Louis music scene and is well-known for his unique style and dance moves. I don’t want to ruin any surprises so I won’t go into any more detail. That said, check out the video for “My Kind of Soldier” and I guarantee you’ll be Googling Beatle Bob before the day’s end.
James Brown & The Famous Flames
James Brown & The Famous Flames
I don’t own any James Brown records. I’m not really sure why other than the fact that I’ve always thought of him as more of a performer than a recorder. Don’t get me wrong. I love James Brown and, in my book, he was and always will be the “Godfather of Soul,” but, besides a party situation, I hardly ever find myself wanting to jam one of his records. That said, whenever I come across a clip of the “Hardest Working Man in Show-Biz” strutting his stuff on stage, I have to immediately stop what I’m doing, pay attention and wait for the smile that will inevitably grace my face. Such was the case when a friend of mine hipped me to James Brown’s performance of “Night Train” at the TAMI Show.
In 1964, American International Pictures held a free concert over two days in Santa Monica for local high school students. It had an all-star line-up including Chuck Berry, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and several others. The whole thing was filmed and released to movie theaters later that year. There were many stellar performances, but James Brown & The Famous Flames ultimately stole the show.
James Brown’s performance not only showcases his talent as a singer, but also as a stage performer. He belts out note after note while using the stage as his own personal dance floor. The band keeps up and The Flames even join in with some “choreographed” dancing. It even includes Brown’s now famous I-can’t-go-on move. Needless to say, the high-schoolers eat it up. It really is an awe-inspiring performance that everyone should see. In fact, it was so powerful that Keith Richards has gone on record several times saying that deciding to follow James Brown & The Famous Flames at the TAMI Show was the biggest mistake of The Rolling Stones’ career. A bold statement, but one I think you’ll agree with.
Wild Flag - "Electric Band"
Wild Flag – “Electric Band”
I’ve been pretty obsessed with Wild Flag since they released their “Romance” video a few months ago. I mean who wouldn’t be? It’s a supergroup consisting of Mary Timony and members of Sleater-Kinney. They’re cute, fun and catchy. The best part is that their self-titled debut album rocks from beginning to end. And if that isn’t enough, their new “Electric Band” video is so charmingly playful that you’ll want to give each of the band members a loving pat on the head.
“Electric Band” wouldn’t be my first choice for a follow-up single. I’m more partial to the driving snarl of “Racehorse,” but that’s just me. That said, “Electric Band” does have a lot to offer. Catchy lyrics, a nice lead guitar and some awesome harmonies. It’s a fun little tune about comradery that’ll have you tapping your toes while simultaneously making plans for an outside playdate. A sentiment perfectly portrayed by the video’s imagery of a little league game. Now you might be saying to yourself that sports metaphors are overdone, but imagine cutting between scenes of Wild Flag playing the song in the outfield and Wild Flag playing baseball. If you’re still not convinced, then imagine an opposing team consisting of nothing but bears. That’s right. It’s that adorable.
Christopher Owens’ Solo Performance
Christopher Owens’ solo performance
I’ve been a fan of Girls since their “Lust for Life” video hit YouTube. Since then, I’ve picked up both of their full lengths and recently added their Broken Dreams Club EP to my Amazon wish list. So, naturally, when an 8 song performance by Christopher Owens (Girls frontman) popped up on the web, I was super excited.
The performance took place about a year ago and finds Christopher Owens playing acoustic guitar at an art opening in San Francisco. It includes a few covers, a few Girls songs (unreleased at the time, but now available on Father, Son, Holy Ghost) and a few songs that haven’t shown up on anything at all. The whole affair is very singer/songwriter-esque and is quite refreshing in a disarmingly charming sort of way. Needless to say, it offers up a nice alternative to Owens’ usual fuzzed-out fun.
Top 5 Albums of 2011
I’ve never made a top 5 list for a year before. Sure I’ve had favorite albums every year (Gorillaz – Plastic Beach, Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul), but I’ve never compiled an ordered list of any kind. Well this year I consumed an awful lot of new music and thought I’d take the time to actually do it up in list form. So here it is, in ascending order of awesomeness (for suspense of course), my Top 5 Albums of 2011.
5. Sonny and the Sunsets – Hit After Hit (Fat Possum)
I absolutely loved 2009’s Tomorrow Is Alright. Sonny Smith and his Sunsets captured my heart with their jangly guitars and summer coated, sing-songy lyrics. So, naturally, I was excited about their follow-up, Hit After Hit.
Hit After Hit doesn’t disappoint, but it doesn’t surprise either. The songs are catchy and fun, but not as groundbreaking or lovable as anything off of Tomorrow Is Alright. In other words, it’s a solid follow-up, but nothing to write home about. That said, it will get your toes tapping and your hands bopping.
4. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop)
The acoustic renderings of Several Shades of Why will immediately bring comparisons to Mascis’ seminal Martin + Me, but, by doing so, you’d be doing yourself a disservice.
Several Shades of Why is indeed solo acoustic J Mascis, but it is so much more than that. These original songs (as opposed to the many Dinosaur Jr. covers used on Martin + Me) are somber and heartfelt. They are disarming and at the same time warming. Mascis has the power to break down any emotional walls you’ve built up and pull at your heart strings while at the same time comfort you by showing that you’re not alone. I know it sounds a bit bleak, but the occasional electric solo and general attitude will make it a new rainy day favorite.
3. Wild Flag – Wild Flag (Merge)
I’ve said many good things about the supergroup Wild Flag (Mary Timony and members of Sleater-Kinney) and all of it is well deserved. Their self-titled debut is infectious, powerful and delightful. With driving energy, catchy lyrics and a cute yet snarling punk-like energy, you’ll be singing, dancing and begging for more. If you thought chicks with guitars were hot, well these chicks are smokin’. I don’t mean that in a sexist way. Wild Flag will literally melt your face and your heart with their awesomeness.
2. Mikal Cronin – Mikal Cronin (Trouble in Mind)
Mikal Cronin is best known for his work with Ty Segall and, while listening to Mikal’s self-titled solo debut, his much more famous counterpart won’t be far from your mind. But that doesn’t change the fact that Mikal Cronin is one of the year’s best and underrated records.
Mikal Cronin combines elements of surf, pop, proto-punk, garage and folk to create a lo-fi masterpiece that’ll make you pump up the volume while simultaneously hitting the repeat button. You’ll hear The Beach Boys combine perfectly with The Velvet Underground and Roxy Music. And if you listen closely, you’ll even hear a bit of Jethro Tull thrown into the mix. While all these references to other groups may have you wondering about the originality of the record, I assure you that Cronin borrows and fuses in such a way that it is both refreshing and invigorating. In other words, if you can find it, Mikal Cronin is totally worth the price of admission.
1. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther)
Father, Son, Holy Ghost is topping a lot of people’s year-end lists and for good reason. Christopher Owens and Co. have managed to craft a mature and riveting album without losing the child-like excitement of their debut. This is “Lust for Life” and “Laura” all grown up. You have droning guitars, evocative organs and disarming, heartfelt lyrics. Father, Son, Holy Ghost will capture your attention immediately and hold it for the entire 50 minutes. You’ll sing along with “Honey Bunny,” cry your eyes out to “Hey Ma” and get lost in the swirling guitars of “Vomit.” Father, Son, Holy Ghost is a must-have for any collection and while it isn’t a 5 star album, it’s pretty close and definitely, in my opinion, the best album of 2011.
Last edited by reverb1080; 2011-12-22 at 09:08 AM.