Friday, March 31, 2006

The Daily Grind

Friday, finally. Been a long week. In the latest news...

Back in my hometown of Lex, KY, a man turned himself in for carrying 56 pounds of marijuana in his trunk...in 1989.

The NCAA Final Four tips off Saturday from Indianapolis. As of time of publication, no rules had been changed to allow Kentucky to compete based solely on our impeccable tradition (UCLA qualifying on the usual grounds of winning games didn't help our chances). As it is now, I like Florida to win it all, though I hate them. Rick Pitino is bad enough, but Billy Donovan is a bargain-bin Pitino-wanna-be.

In other college basketball news, Indiana has a new coach, but the future looks bleak. Pat Forde of ESPN.com profiles the decline.

Major League Soccer kicks off its 11th season this weekend. Most of you don't care, but the early season games take on added significance in a World Cup year, especially for US players as they vie for the final roster spots on the National Team. ESPN Soccernet previews the teams here.

Today's music news...Some HUGE releases coming up in the next couple weeks. The Flaming Lips made us wait 4 years for the follow-up to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but Tuesday will see the release of At War With The Mystics.
Built to Spill made us wait through a couple tours, a decent Doug Martsch slide blues solo album, before their proper follow-up to Ancient Melodies of the Future. Thankfully, the wait is over, and You in Reverse will come out on April 11th (unfortunately the band has postponed the spring tour due to Martsch's eye surgery). If the sample songs on their MySpace page are any indication, there's a lot of triple-axe guitar heroics to look forward to.
The Drive-By Truckers will release their latest, Blessing and a Curse on April 18. They're also gearing up for a Spring Tour on the West Coast and through the Midwest.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The 'Mats are back

Breaking News:
Pitchfork reports today that everyone's favorite losers, the Replacements, have recorded new material for the first time since 1990. Chris Mars, Tommy Stinson, and Paul Westerberg are all back, and the two new songs will appear on an upcoming Best of compilation.

Destroyer/Magnolia Electric Company

Metro'd up to U Street last night to catch the Destroyer/Magnolia Electric Co. double bill at the Black Cat. We got there a bit early, so we walked around the corner (go up 14th to the next block, turn right, go one block) to a little corner store and picked up a couple tall boys. We like to make this a small tradition for Black Cat shows, and I highly recommend others follow suit.

There was a second opener on the bill, somebody called Friends of Avalon (I think, please correct). They looked pretty young, local perhaps, and sounded like Zeppelin with a less powerful front man and a female lead guitarist (Magnolia Electric leader Jason Molina would later smugly note that, between the three bands on the bill, "We got just about all of the 70s covered") . Not bad, and I wouldn't mind catching another one of their sets. Destroyer came on about 10 pm. Not having heard much of their stuff I didn't know what to expect, but found their set very enjoyable. Bejar has some interesting turns of phrase and the band backing him up was pretty rockin'; I'd compare their live sound to something like Centro-Matic's -- twangy guitar rock with a bit of a dark side to it.

Magnolia Electric Company announced their intentions from the get-go: they would be playing 5-8 minute, mid-tempo, Crazy Horse style jams, all night long. The pace and tone didn't vary too much, but it wasn't a problem. Both Molina and the band's other guitarist get great tones out of the instruments, and the mix on the night was sharp. Highlights included "North Star", "The Dark Don't Hide It" (requested loudly by yours truly), and an unexpected cover of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London". The band played for about an hour and fifteen minutes, and left with no encore.

Initially I was a little disappointed, but I've though about it and come to admire them. Every bad you see gives you an encore, whether you want it or not. It's become an obligation, rather than an audience privilege. If they play a great set and you want more, then you've got to cheer and clap and work hard to get them back out there. At the same time, I've always wondered if the audience simply refused to go home and kept cheering -- what kind of band wouldn't come back out and play one more? Misanthropes, probably.

Off the Record - Tracklisting and Liner Notes

I recently finalized a compilation that had been in the works since Christmas. Part of the delay was tinkering, part of it involved a still ongoing debate with comanche/soul records' parent company over the "lack of commercial appeal" of the music. I'm happy to say that it's now officially done. Here's the tracklisting with a little commentary.

(warning: the rules of indie rock say that none of these things are as cool now as they were when I first started putting this mix together. I find it still holds up fine, but be warned that your local record store clerk is "definitely over" the Wolf Parade by now.)
1. Our Love Will Change the World – Outrageous Cherry. Detroit psych-rock band reportedly refuse to let their drummers play with cymbals, resulting in Motown style beats to back up their textured guitar pop.
2. Emily Kane - Art Brut. British buzz band's half heartfelt, half tongue-in-cheek plea to a childhood sweetheart whose name actually is Emily Kane.
3. Ageless Beauty - Stars. Of all the super-serious bands coming out of Canada today, Stars are one of my favorites, exuding a little more pop smarts than most. Plus, they had the audacity/talent to pull off a decent impromptu cover of "Blue Moon of Kentucky" during a show in Lexington last year.
4. Ibi Dreams of Pavement - Broken Social Scene. An anthem for nothing in particular, the production's a cluttered mess...that somehow works. I like the horn charts at the end.
5. Tell Me Why - 20/20. Classic power-pop from the overlooked Oklahoma band.
6. Heartworm (Ooh Ooh Song) - Four Volts. More power pop, this time a heftier dose of power, grit, and punk. Former Carleton College professor Theo Cateforis on drums.
7. Baby C'mon - Stephen Malkmus. Malkmus' post-Pavement albums blow hot and cold for me, but they all have a few undeniably good tracks; this is the best off his latest, Face the Truth.
8. Kindling - Architecture in Helsinki. Australian umpteen-piece do schizo-pop that's a few times catchier and more manageable than "genre" pioneers the Fiery Furnaces. This is off their first, Fingers Crossed, but I recommend checking out 2005's In Case We Die.
9. You Didn't Have to Be So Nice - The Lovin' Spoonful. The Lovin' Spoonful don't get enough credit. "Do You Believe in Magic?", this song, and "Darling Be Home Soon" were some of the greatest of the Sixties, and their folk harmonies directly influenced some of the Beatles' stuff (see "Good Day Sunshine").
10. Shake Some Action - The Flamin' Groovies. Maybe the best power pop track of all time?
11. Freak Scene - Dinosaur, Jr. Terrific song, frequently cited as the band's tour de force. One of the best rhymes in rock history in the last chorus.
12. Road to Joy - Bright Eyes. I find Conor Oberst's work is very much love-it-or-hate-it, and I'm proud to declare myself on the former side of the fence. Closing track from his best album so far, I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.
13. Hey Man (Now You're Really Livin') - Eels. The Eels latest studio release, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, was a bit watered down over the course of two albums, but it had plenty of good moments like this one.
14. In This Home on Ice - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Everybody loves these guys...or rather, everybody loved these guys. It's pretty good, but hard to see what the fuss was all about. Lead singer sounds a hell of a lot like David Byrne.
15. Off the Record - My Morning Jacket. Kentucky boys continue to put out consistent material, even with the shift to the reggae-inflected, keyboard heavy sound.
16. Cool - Gwen Stefani. Graham's guilty pleasure of 2005. I love this song.
17. I Turn My Camera On - Spoon. Not the best song on the album ("Sister Jack"), but still a very fine track. Pretty soul Prince homage for a bunch of skinny white guys from Texas.
18. Incandescent Hearts - The Russian Futurists. The Futurists' (really just one guy with some synths and a laptop) Our Thickness is one of my favorite albums of the past couple years. Very catchy synth stuff, set behind beats that are almost hip hop (at any rate, the closest thing to rap I've listened to all year).
19. Shine a Light - Wolf Parade. Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock produces. Another bunch of Canadians.
20. Love Me Like You - The Magic Numbers. Double bro-sis quartet from Britain. Recently had the pleasure of seeing their show at the 9:30 Club. One of the most gracious, warm, and joyful performances I've seen in a while. Looking forward to their second album.
21. Killer Parties - The Hold Steady. From their debut, ...Almost Killed Me, and also one of the most fitting closing tracks in a while. I love the bassline and the lyric, "If they ask why we left in the first place/ Say we were young and so in love and I guess we just needed space/ So we heard about this place they call the United States".

Hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Welcome All

New to this whole blog thing, but based on boredom and curiosity, decided to start it up. Not sure what's to come. Expect weekly updates in the worlds of music, sports, and culture.
I'll let you know soon.

In the meantime, check out a good interview with power-pop underdog/stalwart Tommy Keene, recently off tour with Bob Pollard's (former GBV) dynamite new band. I had the pleasure of catching them at the 9:30 Club in January, and they tore the roof off. If you have the chance, download "Dancing Girls and Dancing Men" and "Love is Stronger than Witchcraft" off Pollard's latest, From a Compound Eye.

Also, Ween has announced a series of summer tourdates with more to follow. The closest they'll be to the DC area right now looks like Charlottesville, but I wouldn't hold my breath for anything closer. The band tends to stick to slightly off-beat venues and towns, though I would count on another Philly area show to be added. Of course, I have no basis for reporting any of this.

Finally, Wilco concluded the first segment of their spring tour last week at the historic Val Air Ballroom in Des Moines. Check out the setlist; looks like Des Moines was treated to a relatively rare cover of the oft-skewered classic "Don't Fear the Reaper" (but better yet, looks like they've started breaking "Red Eyed and Blue/I Got You" back out for encores).