Friday, March 30, 2012

"Ladykiller" Video - The Horrible Crowes

Side One Dummy Records posted a great new video for "Ladykiller" by The Horrible Crowes and though I may be a bit biased since it's one of my favorite cuts from Elsie, I've got to say this one looks really, really good. Directed by Kevin Custer (who also did the videos for Gaslight's "The '59 Sound" and "Great Expectations") and shot completely in black and white, "Ladykiller" combines cool slo-mo urban decay imagery with a tight performance filmed at L.A.'s famed Troubadour club. Brian and Ian, ever the dapper duo, look like they are having a really good time and the crowd definitely appears locked into the show as well. Every time a cool band puts out a cool video, there's always a tinge of sadness for the minimal exposure opportunities afforded to it. However, I'm just glad bands are still doing it and doing it so well. "Ladykiller" has a super cool aesthetic to it and my favorite moment is probably the one with the stoic ferris wheel in the background. Keep 'em coming gentlemen!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Closer" - Mindy Smith

While richly talented singer-songwriter Mindy Smith preps her self-titled fifth album for a June 26 release, she's putting out her first single "Closer" to an eagerly awaiting audience. With a sound more akin to her earlier albums, "Closer" seems to hearken back to her initial successes, while still allowing her to move forward as a creative artist and a mature songwriter. Mindy describes "Closer" by saying, "Personally this song paints a picture of how I see my musical career and that I see NOW is my moment." With such a fresh and energetic outlook, I'm really looking forward to hearing what she's got in store for the rest of the album. With four great records under her belt already, "Closer" shows that Mindy is continuing to build a prolific and much-deserved catalogue of emotionally rich songs and organically textured performances. Take a listen to "Closer" in its entirety below.

As an additional bonus, here's the tracklist to
Mindy Smith, out June 26:
1. Closer
2. Take Me Back
3. Pretending The Stars
4. Don’t Mind Me
5. Tin Can
6. Everything Here Will Be Fine
7. Sober
8. Devil’s Inside
9. Cure For Love
10. When You’re Waking On My Grave
11. If I

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vintage Trouble - NoiseTrade Sampler

(Here's a post I recently did for NoiseTrade.)

Warning: Please be advised that listening to Vintage Trouble may cause you to experience uncontrollable bouts of dancing, involuntary finger snapping and/or toe tapping and vocal adlibbing that may fluctuate between a grunt and a wail without warning. Please proceed with caution.

Imagine Otis Redding with a fuzz pedal, The Black Crowes with a punk rock drummer or James Brown with just a tad more attitude and you’ll start getting somewhere near the ballpark of L.A.’s finest soul-rockers, Vintage Trouble. With a vibe bred for rowdy juke joints and back alley speakeasys, Vintage Trouble blends Motown grooves and the Delta blues with a powerful modern backbeat and a fireball frontman. After a few singalong listens through their new NoiseTrade sampler, I had to wipe down my speakers from all the funk dripping out of them. Vintage Trouble released their debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions, in the UK in 2010 and it’s set for an American release on April 24.

The first single from The Bomb Shelter Sessions is “Blues Hand Me Down,” which is also the bombastic opening track on the 4-song NoiseTrade sampler. Pounding drums, greasy electric blues riffs, danceable bass lines, frantic tambourine and ringleader Ty Taylor’s howl and scat deftly propel “Blues Hand Me Down” into a fleet-footed frenzy. (In the spirit of full disclosure, there’s a little spicy language on this track, so you may want to pre-screen it before having a living room dance party with the young ‘uns). The other three tracks on the sampler include a live recording of “Love With Me” complete with audience participation, an acoustic bluesy romp through “Nancy Lee” for Q Radio and the gospel-tinged “World’s Gonna Have To Take A Turn Around.” I love this closing track as it almost sounds like a Tom Waits song with Sam Cooke on lead vocals. Vintage Trouble plays with intensity and force but they let their songs breath and groove as well. It’s a beautiful mix and one that would seem even more fun in a live setting. Just be sure to wear your dancing shoes!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Justin Townes Earle - Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (Album Review)

If you’ve ever listened to more than one album by Justin Townes Earle, you’re already aware of a few things. First, Justin refuses to color within any musical genre lines. Second, Justin refuses to put out the same album twice. Third, Justin refuses to write predictable songs. Fourth, Justin refuses to stand still. It’s that last characteristic that really sticks out and helps to define his newest album, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now. With an ever-building catalogue of amazing albums under his belt and an impressive musical pedigree behind him (his father is outspoken country-rock icon Steve Earle), Justin could certainly play things safe and comfortably tread the same musical waters album after album. But what makes him so authentic, so talented and so fun to listen to is his seemingly fearless affinity for rawness and his inability to repeat himself. His last album, Harlem River Blues, was one of my favorite albums of 2010 and I (along with a host of others I’m sure) wouldn’t have been too terribly upset with a new album that continued in that rich, soulful, alt-country vein. But that’s just not the Justin Townes Earle way. Instead of attempting to create Harlem River Blues Volume 2, Justin holed himself up in an old, converted church in the hills of Asheville, North Carolina and recorded Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now… completely live, with no overdubs… in just a 4 day period. Not only are the results absolutely stunning and pleasantly surprising, but they are also completely different than anything Justin Townes Earle has ever come close to releasing. However, like any great artist who is more concerned with making great music than with anything else, the songs are completely and wholly him. Thankfully, no matter what sounds and moods he may experiment with, Justin’s unpolished vocals, laid back grooves, interesting characters and peculiar take on life are threaded into every song.

While listening through Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, the biggest sonic addition to Justin’s arsenal turns out to be the horn section that shows up on almost every song. The brassy lines certainly add an interesting texture to Justin’s soulful, folk-tinged songs and the end result totally works in a fresh and unique way. If the geographical feel of Harlem River Blues was a blending of New York and Nashville, then the horns place Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now somewhere between Memphis and Muscle Shoals. In fact, the bluesy, unsettled tones found throughout the album help show Justin’s talent for skillfully writing in a variety of vibes. For example, album opener “Am I That Lonely Tonight” feels like an old doo wop ballad, “Maria” has an upbeat 70’s sway to it, “Memphis in the Rain” sounds straight out of a Stax Records outtake session and “Down on the Lower East Side” could’ve been a Bruce Springsteen or Tom Waits song. However, far from feeling like a “various artist” compilation album, Justin has a few songs that take on a transitional role, easing the listener from what he’s done before to what he’s currently doing now. Songs like “Baby’s Got a Bad Idea” recall his perfect rockabilly touch, “Won’t Be The Last Time” encompasses his hushed vocal/finger-plucked story songs and “Movin’ On” shuffles along like any good, folksy Justin Townes Earle song should. In fact, as a poignant album closer, “Movin’ On” captures the album’s themes and Justin’s overall spirit perfectly. With lyrics that touch on his ever-shifting wanderlust, his repetitive struggles and his relationship with his parents and a musical track comprised of bouncy acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, railroad drums and harmonica, “Movin’ On” is Justin Townes Earle.

While an album titled Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now may come across as indignant detachment, I actually read it more as a call to trust Justin’s new directions and to continue on the musical journey with him. Because of his transparencies and his gifts, listeners are invited to become fans of his music and not just of an aesthetic or a particular sound because those most likely will (and should) change over time. By taking risks and trying new approaches, Justin has included a certain battle of familiarity vs. unfamiliarity and bravado vs. vulnerability in his music. This translates into a truly engaging and stimulating experience for the listener throughout the entirety of Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now.

"Look The Other Way" - Justin Townes Earle (Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Part-Time Cover: "Sour Times"

When I was first introduced to the unique soundscape of Portishead back in the mid-90’s via my much loved and oft-mentioned 99X, I remember having a few questions. One, where can I get a little more of this loungey, female-led, real guitar and bass with electronic drum loop goodness? Two, what is this “trip hop” the deejay keeps talking about? Three, is it okay for me to dig “real bands” (meaning they used “real instruments” ) like Nirvana and Rancid… AND this type of music with its programmed, synthetic beats? Lucky for me, the answers came pretty easy. For one, I found similar vibes in bands like Ruby (“Paraffin” is still such a killer song), PJ Harvey (To Bring You My Love is still such a killer album), Angelfish (Shirley Manson’s pre-Garbage band) and Sneaker Pimps (they totally won me over with their Lego cover art for the “6 Underground” single). For two, the deejay in question (Yvonne Monet for those playing along at home) did her best to fill her various shows (The Beat Factory and The Pleasuredome) with all the dancey, electro thumpers coming out of the UK to keep us suburbanites in the loop. For three, well contrary to what my middle school cliques would’ve had me believe, you absolutely can listen to anything and everything you enjoy without wholly accepting some genres and wholly dismissing others. So, back to Portishead… throughout 1994-1995, 99X played “Sour Times” like the station manager had written it himself. I ended up picking up their debut album Dummy and their Glory Times EP, a cool release that had all the B-sides from their “Sour Times” and “Glory Box” singles. Portishead kinda did the standard 90’s “success equals disappearance” routine and I never really picked back up with them when they released their self-titled album a few years later. However, I can still listen to Dummy all the way through and get lost in its creativity and spaciousness.

"Sour Times" - Portishead (Dummy)

It’s no secret that The Civil Wars are no slouches when it comes to pulling off amazing cover songs. I’ve seen them cover Sade, Leonard Cohen, Michael Jackson (both solo and with The Jackson Five) and The Romantics in person and their version of “Disarm” by The Smashing Pumpkins is awesomely solid as well. For their current tour of the UK, they’ve added a great cover of Portishead’s “Sour Times” to their repertoire to gain some addition love from those cheeky Brit crowds. As if they needed anything extra! Back in October, they recorded a little DIY, guerilla style video for it in a London alley and even with the lo-fi audio, it sounds incredibly cool. Word on the street is that they’re going to release their cover of “Sour Times” as the B-side to their “Billie Jean” 7” single for Record Store Day this year. The Civil Wars… covering Portishead and Michael Jackson… on vinyl? Man, I’m no good at math but those factors equal out to absolute perfection in my book.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jars of Clay 2012 Spring Tour Sampler with Leagues and Matthew Perryman Jones

(Here's a new post I recently did for NoiseTrade.)

Starting in mid-April, Jars of Clay is hitting the road for a short run of shows and they’re bringing along special guests Leagues and Matthew Perryman Jones for added sonic oomph. To commemorate the event, all 3 bands have joined together to produce a killerTour Sampler here on NoiseTrade, with all tips going directly to help out Blood:Water Mission. No matter where on the familiarity meter you fall with each band, this sampler is definitely worth the download. Each artist contributed two songs a piece and even at EP length, this sampler is totally spilling over with incredible music, intriguing lyrics and impressive musical talents.

As far as the specific songs, there are some really nice gems to be found on here. The multi-faceted musical creators in Jars of Clay offer up the driving “Small Rebellions” fromThe Shelter and the hard-to-find meditation of “Body and Wine.” Leagues (the super exciting new group made up of musical journeymen Thad Cockrell, Tyler Burkum and Jeremy Lutito) chip in two tracks from their self-titled debut EP, the snappy “Haunted” and the downright danceable “Mind Games.” Golden-throated singer/songwriter Matthew Perryman Jones sweetens the deal with the previously unreleased “O, Theo” and the smooth pulse of “Until The Dawn Appears,” which just so happens to feature the vocal stylings of fellow tourmate Thad Cockrell. As you can see, this is no ho-hum, run of the mill compilation. It’s jam-packed with some of the best music, melody and musings you could find in one place and I highly recommend downloading the sampler, giving to Blood:Water Mission and (if you’re geographically able) supporting the tour.

Jars of Clay 2012 Spring Tour:

4/12 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe

4/13 – Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s

4/15 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall Ballroom

4/16 – St. Louis, MO – The Old Rock House

4/18 – Fort Wayne, IN – University of Saint Francis

4/26 – Monroe, LA – Monroe Civic Center

4/27 – Dallas, TX – The Door

4/29 – San Marcos, TX – Texas Music Theater

Tickets can be purchased directly from the Jars of Clay website

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We're Putting The Band Back Together: Five Iron Frenzy and The O.C. Supertones

(Here's a piece I recently wrote for NoiseTrade.)

(For best results, try singing the Peaches and Herb classic “Reunited (And It Feels So Good)” in your head while reading.)

During the all-too-short-lived ska revival of the 90’s, Five Iron Frenzy and The Orange County Supertones were two of my favorite go-to bands. Having seen them both a handful of times in concert (thanks to AtlantaFest and super cool clubs like The Pterodactyl) and wearing out their respective albums throughout high school, I can safely say each band genuinely earned their spot at the top of the horn-laden heap. Both bands had some of the best animated front men, melodic horn blasts and danceable bass lines since the days of Madness, Fishbone and The Specials. Not to mention, whether it be suits and shades, Star Trek uniforms, basketball shorts or camo gear, both bands were full of snazzy dressers. But the similarities don’t end there! Currently, both bands have reunited, are working on albums AND have brand new singles available on NoiseTrade!

Five Iron Frenzy are currently offering a new song called “It Was A Dark and Stormy Night” and a quick listen will show they’ve picked up right where they left off. The punchy music, hopeful lyrics and Reese’s unmistakable vocals are all there. After launching a Kickstarter campaign back in November, they reached their $30,000 goal in just 55 minutes. Yep, go ahead and read that sentence again, I’ll wait… I know right?!? Well if that wasn’t enough of a vote of confidence from their fans, they are currently sitting at over $207,000 pledged, with all extra money going to promotions and touring. You can check out Five Iron Frenzy’s Kickstarter campaign here.

The Orange County Supertones have just released their first single “On The Downbeat”and I dare you to listen to it without jumping up and dancing along. I first listened to this one at work and I’m STILL cleaning up the mess I made of my cubicle. I completely love the sound of the new song and the lyrical nods to The Ramones and The Offspring certainly bring a smile to my face. The O.C. Supertones just started their Kickstarter campaign and with a little over a month to go, they still need a little help to get the album funded. You can check out The O.C. Supertones’ Kickstarter here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Far Away" Video - MxPx

MxPx's new album, Plans Within Plans, will be released on April 3 and they've put out a cool video for the first single, "Far Away." Recorded at Monkey Trench Studios during band practice and directed by Bryan Buchelt (Snaproll Studios), the video for "Far Away" boasts some killer performance shots of MxPx just doing what they do and the black and white filter really adds a cool crispness and clarity to the visuals. Sometimes videos have a lot going on to help tell a story or convey an emotion, but with a band as dynamic as MxPx, sometimes it's super cool to just unleash the hounds and roll tape. Plus, the song is absolutely amazing! Fast, heavy punk rock with a singalong chorus, guitar solo, bass solo and a killer bridge breakdown? Yes please! MxPx is one of those bands that I eagerly anticipate every single release from and Plans Within Plans is shaping up to be one of their best albums yet.

Plans Within Plans will be released on April 3 and MxPx has some great pre-order options, including some tasty translucent blue vinyl, on their webstore HERE.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Recap of "Bruce Springsteen Week" on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

In honor of next week's release of Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball album, Jimmy Fallon devoted the whole week of shows this week to The Boss. Bookending the week with phenomenal performances by Bruce and The E Street Band on Monday and Friday nights, along with some special guests covering Springsteen songs in the middle, "Bruce Springsteen Week" turned into a celebration of not only the new album, but the man himself. For the trio of guest musical performances throughout the week, John Legend did a cool, laid back jazz version of "Dancing In The Dark" (backed flawlessly by The Roots might I add), Kenny Chesney kept his "I'm On Fire" pretty true to the original and Elvis Costello doubled up with killer takes of a reggae-flavored "Fire" and an awesomely reworked "Brilliant Disguise," with both songs supported amazingly by The Roots, the absolute slickest band in late night. Elvis even played a little bass for the lounge-trio run through of "Brilliant Disguise."

On the nights Bruce was in the house, he did more than just play a few songs. He did a cool couch interview with Jimmy, was a good sport as they went through some photographs of his various looks throughout the years and hilariously revisited the Bruce Springsteen and "Neil Young" duo for a fun romp through LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It." When Fallon and Springsteen performed as the duo before, doing Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair," Bruce was dressed up as his old floppy hat and sunglasses 70's self. For "Sexy and I Know It," Bruce decided to go with his denim and bandana, "Born In The U.S.A." era 80's vibe. Wiggle, wiggle indeed.

However, the performances are where Bruce really made things super special for the week. He absolutely rocked his way through some of the new songs from Wrecking Ball, including "We Take Care of Own" and "Wrecking Ball" on Monday and "Death To My Hometown" and "Jack of All Trades" on Friday. For Friday's set, Springsteen was joined by his buddy Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman) who really added a nice touch, both sonically and thematically, with his signature guitar playing and untouchable solos. Plus, I always love seeing Tom play his old "Arm The Homeless" guitar any chance I get. Wrecking Ball has been described as being Bruce's "angriest album" and watching him play so passionately and sing through clenched teeth has got me jacked for the new album. Much like "Born in the U.S.A." was incorrectly used as a patriotic anthem throughout the 80's, I have a feeling that "We Take Care of Our Own" might be ironically co-opted at some point by some political person/group who doesn't take a closer look at the lyrics. Springsteen's no stranger to that though, so we'll just have to wait and see.

In an already overwhelmingly awesome week, the crowning jewel was the raucous 7 minute closer on Friday night. Joined by 20+ musicians, including Jimmy Fallon on cowbell, Bruce led the band, and eventually the entire crowd, through a jaw-dropping, explosive version of "The E Street Shuffle" from his 1973 album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. The performance showcased Bruce's innate showmanship at its finest and it reiterated the countless reasons why, even at 62, he can still led a band, an audience and perhaps even a fractured country into a time of joyous, celebratory rock and roll release. Also of special note, holding down saxophone duties for The E Street Band since the unfortunate passing of "The Big Man" Clarence Clemons last year, is his nephew, Jake Clemons. Thankfully, the spirit of The Big Man lives on.