Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
As an additional bonus, here's the tracklist to Mindy Smith, out June 26:
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
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
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.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
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.
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
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 here:www.jarsofclay.com/tour
Sunday, March 18, 2012
(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.