Thursday, May 31, 2012

Teaser Trailer for Divine Fits

It's always a cool thing to get to experience the first sonic snippets of a new band. Divine Fits is a new project featuring Britt Daniel (Spoon), Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) and they just a released a cool 45 second teaser video soundtracked by a tinkling synth, sampled vocals and a catchy electropop beat. Pretty interesting tidbit indeed. It's certainly intriguing enough to have me looking forward to hearing more from them. While there's not a whole lot of info from their camp yet, we do know their debut album (as yet untitled) was produced by Nick Launay and it will be released on Merge Records later this year. You can keep your eyes and ears out for Divine Fits at the following places:

Twitter: @divinefits

"Hey, Mr. Pharisee" - Ethan Luck (with mini-interview)

As Nashville continues to swelter, the perfect summer jam arrives just in time to help make things a little more bearable. Punk/ska journeyman Ethan Luck just released his first solo single "Hey, Mr. Pharisee" under the snazzy moniker Ethan Luck and The High Pressure System and it's a slice of some classic, early roots reggae goodness. While Ethan's current main gig is drumming for Relient K, he's been writing and recording in his garage in his spare time and the results sound so stinkin' good! Ethan wrote, recorded and played mostly everything on it (guitar, bass, drums, percussion, organ and vocals) and then had a few buddies drop by for the horn parts (former bandmates Dan Spencer and Bret Barker) and some bgv's (current bandmate John Warne). "Hey Mr. Pharisee" is available via Bandcamp for only $1 and I guarantee your return on investment will be paid out in spades. With this song on repeat and plans for an EP by the end of the summer, the next few months might not be so bad after all. 

Ethan posted some info about "Hey, Mr. Pharisee" on his blog, but digging the song so much and being the overzealous inquisitor that I am, I just had to know more. I asked Ethan a few questions about the song and about his new solo endeavor and he was nice enough to provide some cool answers. 

While the bulk of your career has been spent behind a guitar or drum kit, you've had experience behind the mic from your days in My Red Hot Nightmare. Now that you're back up front, what are the main similarities and differences you anticipate or have already experienced?
Ethan: To me, there's not a lot that's different about being the guy with the mic.  In the Supertones, I did a lot of back up vocals, so I was up front a ton.  The main difference now is that in between songs, I'll have to say something and that can be awkward if you're no good at public speaking, like me.  I've learned from my little experience as the guy with the mic that it's best to keep it short and to the point.  Or, just say nothing and go right into the next tune.

The sonic vibe of your new single "Hey, Mr. Pharisee" echoes the ska/reggae feel of some of your previous bands like The Dingees and The Supertones. What first drew you to this type of music and what are some of your favorite songs or artists within the same vein?
Ethan: This is true.  I definitely wanted to go with the Ska/Reggae feel that I've done so much in the past.  I tried writing so many other styles I loved, but nothing felt as right as this.  With The Dingees, we wanted to be The Clash, but with some modern influence at the time.  With The Supertones, most of the stuff we did was very 3rd wave and modern.  Now, with this solo thing, I'm taking influence from mostly old music.  Lately, all I've been listening to is Toots & The Maytals, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Lee Perry, The Skatalites...etc.  Plus, a lot of great bands that sound like they were born in the wrong decade like Hepcat, The Aggrolites & Deals Gone Bad.  Simply put, I want to keep this pretty traditional ska/reggae with influence creeping in from the other types of music I know and love.

While it's not a direct analogy, the lyrics of "Hey, Mr. Pharisee" seem to draw from the story of The Good Samaritan. Was this song written from a personal experience with a specific person or from a collective conglomeration of uncaring attitudes and self-absorbed individuals? 
Ethan: It was written from personal experience.  I had help, lyrically, on this one from my friend and solo artist, Shane Tutmarc.  We sat on his porch til around 2am one night.  I was telling him the subject I wanted to write about and a slew of stories to follow, but I wanted it to be very general and not too personal.  Shane encouraged me to get personal and I'm glad he did.  The lyrics may come off as fairly plain, but there's a ton of history & heart in there.  Even though the song is very personal, I think the main point of it is applicable to anyone of any faith or way of life.  The other tunes I'm writing, for an EP, will be pretty personal.  I have a lot of stuff I've been through in my 33 years and I've rarely been able to write about it.  It's time!

As a known vinyl enthusiast, will you be putting out any physical copies of "Hey, Mr. Pharisee" on wax?
Ethan: I would love to put anything I record on vinyl!  I don't think this song, by itself, will be pressed.  When I end up doing an EP, I would love to do a 7 inch or something.  Maybe I can include "Hey, Mr. Pharisee" on that as a bonus.  Either way, I can't wait to have some stuff pressed and I'm sure I'll have it done at United Record Pressing, here in Nashville.  Gotta keep it local.  From this song to anything in the future, I really wanna do it as DIY as possible.  I'm recording it all myself and selling it all through bandcamp.  It's fun to do whatever you want, however you the comfort of your garage. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"The Times" - MxPx (plus Plans Within Plans vinyl)

After a shredded label issue at the record pressing plant and then a snafu with the shirts, my MxPx Plans Within Plans preorder finally arrived from Jump Start Records and boy, she's a looker! With a limited production, physical medium like vinyl, it's understood that things just happen sometimes that can cause delays. As usual though, this one was worth the wait. The vinyl is on gorgeous translucent gold wax and it sounds so thick and amazing! The bass and guitars growl even more and the drums sound so heavy. An album like this really benefits from a vinyl listening and the songs sound even more tight and powerful with the added sonic punch. The pre-order was rounded out with a swanky t-shirt, a cool poster and the clincher, a killer MxPx logo slip mat. I'd have been fine with just getting the album on vinyl but the extras were definitely a sweet bonus. It's certainly one of the cooler pre-orders I've ever seen. Tip of the hat to MxPx and the guys at Jump Start on this one.

For me, one of the standout tracks on Plans Within Plans has repeatedly been "The Times." The whole song has a pretty cool Rancid feel to it, especially the bass intro and the verses. Mike's signature bass tone has always sounded amazing and his opening run on "The Times" just screams out of the speakers on vinyl. Once Tom and Yuri join in, the vibe becomes more powerful, while still maintaining the cool bounce that was set up in the intro. When I first heard the album, the opening of "The Times" became the first thing I wanted to hear once the vinyl was available. It absolutely did not disappoint! If you haven't picked up Plans Within Plans already, you are sorely missing out on one of the great punk albums of the last few years. Give it a shot and if you can, get your hands on a vinyl copy. You'll be glad you did!

"The Times" - MxPx (Plan Within Plans)

Here's a couple pics of the translucent gold vinyl and the entire pre-order haul:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bison - Quill (Album Review)

(Here's my most recent post for the NoiseTrade blog.)

When a band describes itself as “mountain-top chamber music,” you know you’re either in for some serious artistry or some glorious cacophony. Luckily, a few listens through Quill, the debut release from indie-folk ensemble Bison, will show you which side of that line they land on. Hailing form Chesapeake, VA and playing a type of acoustic-based, multi-layered, classical-flavored roots music I call “orfolkstral,” Bison combines a variety of talents, instruments, voices and moods to create a uniquely rich sonic experience all their own. 

Led by the commanding (and occasionally manic) vocals of frontman Ben Hardesty and supported by a melodically woven patchwork of guitars, strings, organ, mandolin, banjo, xylophone, percussion and more, Bison’s songs ebb and flow with powerful rhythmic surges, lush instrumental passages, rich vocal harmonies and deceivingly complex arrangements. While this is never exactly an easy thing to do, it’s even harder to accomplish when you’ve got a stage full of folks rivaling Arcade Fire or The Polyphonic Spree. In a relatively short time, Bison has impressively learned how to make room for the voices and instruments of each of its seven members, without playing over top of each other or muddying the sonic waters. However, one of the most important things to note about Bison is that at the heart of all of these impressive melodic moments lie actual tried and true, well-crafted songs. 

While they will undoubtedly (and unfairly) draw immediate comparisons to bands like The Low Anthem, The Decemberists or even Mumford and Sons, Bison has already crafted a sound that is threaded with their own singular strands of creativity. Songs like “In Your Room,” “Switzerland,” “The Woodcutter’s Son” and “River Rhine” all unfurl in textured, poetic waves that are based far more in inspiration than imitation. Quill is spilling over with these types of musical musings and in my opinion, Bison’s strengths blend together the best on the infectious romp of the titular track “Quill.” Opening with the smooth sway of a mandolin, vocal and strings passage, swelling on a percussive thump and then descending into a whimsical carnival organ outro, “Quill” is a three and half minute thrill ride for your ears and heart. Bison isn’t your run-of-the-mill folk band and Quill certainly isn’t your run-of-the-mill debut album, so head on up to the mountain and give them a listen!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New 7" single from The Gaslight Anthem - "45"

The Gaslight Anthem released the 7” vinyl single for “45” today and man, is it stellar all around. We’ve already had some time to sit and enjoy the bombastic tune since both Rolling Stone and Zane Lowe debuted it at the end of April, but it honestly sounds even more amazing on vinyl. “45” is vintage Gaslight and the all out hugeness of the chorus continues to show Brian’s growth as a bona fide rock & roll songwriter. “45” has whet my appetite even more for Handwritten (out July 24 on Mercury) and I can’t wait until it releases. Not only is the song itself pretty incredible, the packaging for “45” is pretty freaking sweet as well. The front cover has the cool “faces in the broken record” artwork and they went old school on the back by printing all the lyrics for “45” on it. The actual record is classic black wax with the larger jukebox style center hole and the label sticker matches the color scheme of the front artwork. Like I said, classy all around.    

As for the B-side, Gaslight cut a killer cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “You Got Lucky” and it’s quite the rockin’ tip of the hat. Opting for a pretty straight ahead take on it, Brian and the boys turned in an excellent version that paid homage to the original, while still sprinkling in enough of themselves to make it special. The stabbing piano, synthesizer lines and wobbly guitar solo are all their from The Heartbreakers version, but Brian’s intense vocals, Benny’s spectacular drum tone, Alex’s tasty keys and Alex’s smooth bass lines perfectly stamp this as a Gaslight performance. If you listen closely enough, it even sounds like Brian takes on some of Tom’s “Pettyisms” every once in a while, especially in the line “You better watch what you do to me.” It’s totally to be expected for a song this deeply imprinted on the musical collective consciousness though. I’ve heard Gaslight cover Tom before when they played a stirring cover of “Refugee” at Mercy Lounge back in 2009, so it’s really cool to have another Heartbreaker tune in the vault to go along with it. Sonically, visually and thematically, the “45” single is a beautiful piece of wax.

Not to get all “awards acceptance speech” on here, but thanks to Grimey’s for having it in stock and thanks to my awesome girl Amanda for going to pick it up for me while I was stuck at work. Sorry fellas, she’s taken for life!

"45" - The Gaslight Anthem ("45" single)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gasoline Heart - "Everything Matters"

(Another post of mine via your friendly, neighborhood Noisetrade.)

About a year ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Louis DeFabrizio (frontman for Gasoline Heart) open for Mike Herrera’s (MxPx) solo tour and I was really impressed with his rock/alt-country flavored songs. In high school, I was a pretty big fan of Louis’ band Dear Ephesus and after seeing him live so many years later, I was struck again by his new direction and the beautifully ragged tone of his voice. Gasoline Heart has a new album, Thanks for Everything, coming out June 1 and they’re putting up their amazing first single, “Everything Matters,” here on NoiseTrade. Meeting somewhere at the intersection of Pedro the Lion and Tom Petty, “Everything Matters” rocks along on restrained chugging verses and huge harmony-fueled choruses. When I first got my hands on it, I listened to it about 10 times in a row in an uninterrupted stupor of enjoyment. Gasoline Heart self-describes as “sloppy rock & roll” and I whole-heartedly agree as I love the gritty guitars and bombastic drumming pulsing through “Everything Matters.” No slouches themselves, the bass and piano are incredibly tasty as well. We’ve still got a little time to wait before Thanks for Everything comes out, but thankfully “Everything Matters” sounds good enough to tide us over until then.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Features - Still Lost, Volume 1

(Here's another one of my most recent NoiseTrade posts.)

With a major label re-release looming on the horizon (Wilderness will be out June 5 on Serpents and Snakes/BMG), spirited rock 'n' rollers The Features have put together a killer compilation of “demos, outtakes and alternate versions” of some of their previous work for Still Lost, Volume 1. Mixing together a variety of influences with their own signature sound and energy, The Features write music that’s meant to accompany (or encourage) an all out party. You’ll find no ballads or slow dances on Still Lost, Volume 1. Instead, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of energetic, unpolished, melodic rock songs played at a feverish clip. As each song blasts out of your speakers, you’ll find yourself dancing along to the frenzied drums, fantastic bass lines and razor-sharp guitars that bubble underneath the awesome sing/shout vocals. With a handful of EPs and full lengths already under their belt, The Features have certainly shaped a unique sound for themselves. However, it’s still really fun to listen through the tracks and find the crumbs of inspiration they’ve littered throughout. For example, “Kari-Anne” sounds like one of the best songs The Cars never released, “Exorcising Demons” conjures up dreams of what a fleshed out, full band White Stripes might sound like and “I Will Wander” has a sassy Franz Ferdinand pulse to it. With an escalating musical buzz, soundtrack appearances and even a Ford Mustang commercial, chances are you’ve heard The Features somewhere. But if not, Still Lost, Volume 1 is a great place to get in on a good thing!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jack White @ The Ryman (Concert Review)

While most artists spend their time trying to do one thing really well, there are a select few who seem to do everything really well. In his multi-layered, multi-storied musical career, Jack White has not only masterfully fronted 3 successfully innovative bands, he has also just released his first (and recently certified #1) solo album, Blunderbuss. Kicking off his subsequent solo tour with a two-night stand at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, Jack gave each of his equally talented, yet uniquely vibed backing bands a night to shine. Tuesday night’s show featured Los Buzzardos, Jack’s all-male band and Wednesday night’s show featured The Peacocks, his all female band. Reports of Tuesday’s show mentioned all kinds of swagger and bravado, so I was prepared for Wednesday’s show to be a little more laid back and mellow. While the night understandably had a few quieter moments than the previous show, the ladies were certainly no shrinking violets or sonic wallflowers. They complemented Jack’s explosive energy and answered each of his ringleader requests with tasty solos, cohesive playing and creative musicianship. Ever the fantastical frontman, Jack smiled, danced, shrieked and jumped around as he held court in the hallowed hall with a 19 song set that included tracks from Blunderbuss and select cuts from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. With each barked lyric, singalong chorus and fiery guitar solo, Jack continually reminded us all why he’s one of the most talented and most creative musical legends of our time. To set the night off right, Jack chose the five-piece classic soul rockers Alabama Shakes as his opener. Led by the magnetic Brittany Howard, whose voice and stage persona fall somewhere between Otis Redding, James Brown and Janis Joplin, Alabama Shakes rocked and boogied through a great set that warmed the crowd up into an excited frenzy. 
As the stage crew started removing the light blue drop cloths from the drums, amps, piano and keyboards, the buzz in the place was palpable and electric. With each minute that ticked away, the anticipation for the festivities that lay ahead increased and by the time the elegantly dressed Peacocks started (wo)maning their stations, the place genuinely erupted. Jack, ever the dapper gentleman, sauntered out in a snazzy, custom light blue suit, strapped up with a gorgeous light blue B-Bender Telecaster and instigated a full band crescendo that exploded into Blunderbuss opener “Missing Pieces.” As the stark white backdrop fell and Jack’s blue-on-black “III” logo lit up, the band sounded fresh and excitable and the enthusiastic crowd responded appreciatively. “Missing Pieces” held the first of many amazing fiddle solos of the night, showcasing one of Jack’s secret weapons hidden within The Peacocks. Next up was the bombastic “Sixteen Saltines,” quickly putting to rest any “quieter, mellower” questions. The ferocious energy contained within “Sixteen Saltines” found Jack roaming the stage like a caged tiger, ripping through a guitar solo that sounded even more amazing with his B-Bender tricks. A double-timed “Black Math” followed and gorgeously threatened to derail at any moment. For the first White Stripes cover of the night, it was super cool to see Jack interact with the drummer in such a “tip of the hat” kind of way. As Jack exchanged the raging Tele for a stunning acoustic, the next trio of songs displayed the softer, refined side of Jack’s songwriting. “Love Interruption,” “Weep Themselves To Sleep” and “Top Yourself” each had their special moments, like killer fiddle and pedal steel solos and Jack sharing the microphone with the enigmatic Ruby Amanfu. It was during this time that Jack addressed the crowd for the first time with a sly, “How you doing Nashville?” to eruptive response. When Jack grabbed the Tele again, he amped things up a little more with passionate tromps through “Hypocritical Kiss,” a Tom Petty-esque take on “You’re Pretty Good Looking For A Girl” and a tasty “Blue Blood Blues.”

At this point, Jack took off his jacket and took a seat behind the piano for a spirited take on “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and a Jerry Lee Lewis-flavored “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep.” It’s no secret that Jack’s a ferocious guitar player, but his impressive piano skills aren’t anything to balk at either. After these two Ruby-heavy piano numbers, Jack snatched up the acoustic again for a perfectly appropriate run through his collaboration with Hank Williams’ songbook, “You Know That I Know.” Hearing Jack sing a Hank Williams song in The Ryman is seriously about as good as it musically gets, especially when it was followed up by “Hotel Yorba,” one of my all-time favorite White Stripes songs. It was totally a personal euphoric moment for me and judging by the crowd-led last verse, I think everyone else liked it too.

When Jack picked up the Tele up for the third time, his escalating guitar showmanship was picking up speed. The slow burn intro and turnarounds of “I’m Finding It Harder To Be a Gentleman,” the great riffs of “Steady As She Goes” and the slinky sashay of “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” all featured some seriously insane guitar work. As Jack played the last notes and let the rumble and feedback squeal out, everyone left the stage to thunderous applause and shouts for an encore. In my opinion, the crowd could’ve been louder and more appreciative for the amazing show we had just been blessed with, but alas, I could only do my part. After a few minutes, everyone came back out, the “III” logo switched to black-on-blue and Jack asked “Are ya’ll awake out there?” At this point, it’s hard to find the appropriate words to describe the volatile fervor and fury with which Jack played the last few songs. “Freedom at 21” was a frantic concussion, “The Hardest Button to Button” was sledgehammer heavy and “Ball and Biscuit” was genuinely one of the most jaw-dropping live music moments I’ve ever witnessed. Jack played like a man possessed, ripping up the guitar, tearing through the drums and playing one of the most gloriously Jack-stamped guitar solos filled with some of the most beautiful tones and squeals he’s ever conjured up. After he finished playing, he enthusiastically dropped the guitar and quickly exited the stage before the crowd knew the magical night was complete. I’ve seen some pretty incredible shows, even some really special ones there at The Ryman, but there is absolutely nothing that can equate to the experience of a Jack White show. His immense talent, deep catalog of incredible songs and spontaneous moments of transport all blend together in a singular, non-reproducible musical adventure that embeds itself into your heart and brain in a way that will stick with you as long as your memory holds out.           

Set List:
- Missing Pieces
- Sixteen Saltines
- Black Math (The White Stripes)
- Love Interruption
- Weep Themselves to Sleep
- Top Yourself (The Raconteurs)
- Hypocritical Kiss
- You're Pretty Good Looking For A Girl (The White Stripes)
- Blue Blood Blues (The Dead Weather)
- Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes)
- I Guess I Should Go To Sleep 
- You Know That I Know (Hank Williams cover)
- Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes)
- I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman (The White Stripes)
- Steady As She Goes (The Raconteurs)
- I'm Slowly Turning Into You (The White Stripes)
*Encore Break*
- Freedom at 21
- The Hardest Button To Button (The White Stripes)
- Ball and Biscuit (The White Stripes)

(Photos courtesy of Amanda Hodge)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Gaslight Anthem: Album Details and Tour Dates

A ton of cool news just came from The Gaslight Anthem camp and with Handwritten coming out on July 24 and a jam-packed tour schedule, the summer's looking busy! The boys unveiled the snazzy throwback artwork for Handwritten, as well as the 11-song tracklisting (detailed below). Although this will be their fourth full length, it's their first major label release since signing to Mercury Records and the label's logo compliments the classic aesthetic of the cover perfectly. Along with the new album info, they also released a sizable chunk of show dates covering the whole summer. Thankfully there's a Nashville date tucked away in there and you can bet this portly fanboy will be there with bells on. I love that they're returning to Mercy Lounge, the same venue I saw them at in October of 2009. I'm ready for another glorious night of killer songs and I'm already planning to wake up pretty hoarse the next morning. While we wait for July 24 to get here, you can still get "45," the first single from Handwritten, from iTunes and other digital retailers now.

Handwritten tracklisting:
1. 45
2. Handwritten
3. Here Comes My Man
4. Mulholland Drive
5. Keepsake
6. Too Much Blood
7. Howl
8. Biloxi Parish
9. Desire
10. Mae
11. National Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem tour dates (via Consequence of Sound):
05/16 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
05/18 – Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy
05/20 – Asbury Park, NJ @ The Bamboozle
05/29 – Paris, FR @ Le Zenith
05/31 – Berlin, DE @ Zitadelle Spandau
06/01 – Bremen, DE @ Aladin
06/02 – Ulmer, DE @ Zelt
06/04 – Milan, IT @ Arena Concerti Fiera
06/05 – Zurich, CH @ Albart
06/08 – Nickelsdorf, AT @ Nova Rock
06/09 – Munster, DE @ Vainstream Rockfest
06/11 – London, UK @ Koko’s
06/13 – Keil, DE @ Max
06/14 – Hultsfred, SE @ Hultsfred Festival
06/15 – Arhus, DK @ Northside Festival
06/16 – Oslo, NO @ Norwegian Wood
06/17 – Seinajoki, FI @ Provinssirock
06/23 – Atlantic City, NJ @ Orion Music + More
07/05 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
07/07 – Portland, OR @ Hawthrone Theater
07/08 – Seattle, WA @ Crocodile
07/11 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fineline
07/12 – Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
07/13 – St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
07/14 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bunbury Music Festival
07/16 – Toronto, ON @ Opera House
07/18 – Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
07/19 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
07/20 – Washington, DC @ U Street
07/22 – Boston, MA @ Middle East
07/24 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
08/05 – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
08/16-17 – Kiewit, BE @ Pukkelpop
08/18 – Ludinghausen, DE @ Area 4
08/19 – Leipzig, DE @ Highfield Festival
08/24 – Leeds, UK @ Leeds Festival
08/26 – Reading, UK @ Reading Festival
09/21-23 – Pensacola Beach, FL @ DeLuna Fest 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mindy Smith: NoiseTrade Sampler

(Here's my most recent post for NoiseTrade.) 

When people talk about pure voices, it’s usually in regards to some of the legendary songbirds from decades gone by. You know, musical mythics like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Nina Simone and Karen Carpenter. Those angelic ladies whose voices have that singular heaven-sent tone that mixes talent, power, fragility and awe. Like a hurricane wrapped in velvet, they can soothe you and destroy you in equal measure. While that recognition sadly comes too late for some, there’s no doubt that Mindy Smith belongs on the pure voice list right now and actually has been for some time. Introducing herself back in the early 2000s with the one-two punch of stellar alt-country hit “Come To Jesus” and a jaw-dropping cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Mindy cannonballed into the country music pool and made an unbelievable splash that’s still generating ripples. She’s released three incredibly strong full length albums, guested on albums by Olivia Newton-John and Dolly Parton, appeared on a variety of compilations and also created a cozy Christmas record that just keeps getting better with each holiday season. She’s currently readying her first independent album, Mindy Smith, for a June 26 release on Giant/TVX Records and fans are lucky enough to get two new cuts (along with two other great tracks from her previous albums) exclusively on her stunning new NoiseTrade sampler
“Don’t Mind Me” and “If I” are beautiful sneak peeks into the vibe that awaits on Mindy Smith and also into the rootsy, jazzy, bluesy world of Mindy’s entire catalog. “Don’t Mind Me” is a saucy full band barroom number that slinks along on some tasty electric guitar work and Mindy’s confident, assured vocals. On the flip side, “If I” is a gentle acoustic ballad that showcases Mindy’s vulnerable high and lonesome register that signature stamps so much of her work. It’s these quite musical moments that truly seal her place in the pure voice pantheon. These two new tracks perfectly illustrate the unique heartbreaker/heartbroken dichotomy that threads through all of Mindy’s songs and exemplifies what is so special about her creative output. The other two tracks on the sampler are the fantastic “Come To Jesus” from her debut album One Moment More and the bouncy “Highs and Lows” from her most recent release, Stupid Love. I encourage everyone to download this great sampler. Even if you’re already a fan, the two new songs are awesome preemptive gifts from the upcoming album. If you’re not familiar with Mindy’s work, this sampler is a beautiful introduction, but I strongly encourage you to not stop there. Some folks are singles artists and some folks are album artists. You will not be disappointed if, nay when, you pick up her other albums. If you do it in separate pieces, just go the chronological route and start at the beginning with One Moment More, then pick up Long Island Shores and then put a bow on things with Stupid Love. That way you can not only exposure yourself to a flurry of incredible music, but you’ll be well versed and totally prepared for Mindy’s new release on June 26. I promise that Mindy’s pure voice will translate to pure enjoyment for you each time you listen
Mindy Smith will be released June 26 via Giant Leap/TVX Records.

Monday, May 14, 2012

B-sides the '90s: Foo Fighters, Cornershop and The Smashing Pumpkins

"Winnebago” by Foo Fighters (1995) - Back when the news first started leaking that Dave Grohl was going to have a self-recorded post-Nirvana project, there were more than a few questions floating around every radio station, magazine article and MTV News announcement that mentioned it. Looking back now, it’s crystal clear that there has rarely been a debut album as strong and as silencing as Foo Fighters was. Filled with some of the best guitar riffs and hooky choruses of the entire “alternative decade,” the album turned out to be strong enough to handle the baggage that came from the ashes of such a revolutionary, genre defining band. Just ask anyone else who has tried it. It’s no easy task to say the least. Amazingly though, it wasn’t just the entirety of Foo Fighters that was filled with incredibly awesome songs. Even the B-sides to the singles were seriously unbelievable! In fact, one of my absolute favorite Foo Fighters songs of their early material didn’t even make it onto the U.S. release of the album. It did however make it onto the flip side of not one, not two, but three of the singles! “Winnebago” is quintessential early Foo Fighters and it has the unmistakable tone of their “all Dave” debut release. Grohl wrote, played and sang everything on it and it has the gloriously distorted guitar tone and the sledgehammer drumming that fingerprints that first album. “Winnebago” has the distinction of being the B-side to the very first Foo Fighters release. It was on the 12” promotional single of “Exhausted” that was released to radio stations about a week before their first commercially available single for “This Is A Call” came out, which coincidentally also had “Winnebago” as the B-side. “Winnebago” showed up again as the B-side for the “Big Me” single that was released in early 1996 as well.

"Winnebago" - Foo Fighters ("Exhausted" 12" promo single)

“Brimful of Asha” (Norman Cook Remix) (1998) – Amanda and I were lucky enough to get to go to London for our Senior Trip and it was filled to the brim with super cool musical moments. The second I found out we were going, I started making my plans to visit Abbey Road Studios. There was absolutely no way I was going to get that close to my musical Mecca without visiting it in person and I think our principal knew I was going to make it happen one way or another. For one of our outings, he graciously offered to split the class and make a “special trip” with a few of us. The only thing that could’ve made visiting Abbey Road any cooler was having Amanda with me and getting to share it with her was quite an unforgettable moment for me. While Abbey Road was definitely #1, another strong music-related memory was Fatboy Slim’s faster, vibier remix of “Brimful of Asha” playing everywhere we went! I was familiar with Cornershop’s original that had come out the previous summer, but when Fatboy Slim’s remix came out, it straight blew up in the UK. Cornershop even enjoyed greater success over here, eventually re-releasing the single with the remix as the B-side. This song seriously piqued my interest in Fatboy Slim, so when “The Rockafeller Skank” single came out just a few months after our trip, I was a Fatboy fanboy. It’s pretty cool when you get introduced to an artist via a remix and end up enjoying the remixer’s catalog even more than the original remixee’s… or something like that.

"Brimful of Asha" (Norman Cook Remix) - Cornershop ("Brimful of Asha" single)

“My Blue Heaven” – The Smashing Pumpkins (1996) – In my opinion, one of the coolest things to do for a B-side is come up with a really cool cover, especially the “out of left field” ones. While The Smashing Pumpkins were neck deep in the riff heavy, multi-guitar track (70+ on “Thru The Eyes of Ruby” alone) recordings of the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness era, they threw a gorgeous piano-led cover of the 1920’s standard “My Blue Heaven” onto the B-side of “Thirty-Three.” I absolutely adore (get it?) this song for a variety of reasons. First, the song itself is stunning in its simplicity and in the way Billy Corgan’s unique voice somehow carries it perfectly. Second, it was such a stark departure from what The Smashing Pumpkins were doing at the time. Remember, this was the album that gave us “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “An Ode To No One,” “Zero” and “Tales of a Scorched Earth.” Granted, there were a lot of quiet moments on Mellon Collie, but nothing like “My Blue Heaven” had come from their camp. Third, this was the last Pumpkins album I truly loved. I got hooked on Siamese Dream, I went back to find Gish, geeked out on Pisces Iscariot and deeply immersed myself into Mellon Collie. Unfortunately, I just never got into what they were doing with AdoreMachina I and Machina II and they just dropped off my radar as far as new stuff goes. So I guess the B-side of the last single they released from the last album of theirs I obsessed over holds a bit of a significant, nostalgic spot for me as well.       

"My Blue Heaven" - The Smashing Pumpkins ("Thirty-Three" single)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Postcard From 1952" Video - Explosions In The Sky

Symphonic rock instrumentalists Explosions In The Sky just released an incredible new video for "Postcard From 1952," the dreamily bombastic new single from their most recent album, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. Matching nostalgic, suburban images with a wandering soundtrack of innocence and energy, the overall effect of "Postcard From 1952" was achieved by directors Annie Gunn and Peter Simonite recreating shots from some vintage polaroids from the 1950s. I love the way the video sets up the syrupy sweet sheen of yesteryear, eases into some unsettling territory and then closes back on a warm and fuzzy note. While Explosions In The Sky do an incredible job of showing that music can convey specific emotions without lyrics, it's cool to see video directors that understand how to tell a story without linear narratives. I really dig the overall sentiment of the video and I'd have to say that the Christmas scenes are my favorites! Well, that and the dog in the glasses. He/she seems like they'd be pretty cool to hang with.