Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cleaning House for the New Year

This post is going to be something of a catch all for a few things that I neglected to mention in 2012 and  will just stink to high Heaven a week from now.

+ New Years Eve music: I was going to do a whole post on it, but then I decided I didn't care enough. As far as I'm concerned, there are two songs about New Years– "What Are You Doing New Years Eve" and "The New Year" by Death Cab for Cutie. If there was ever a time of the year to be depressive, I think it's New Years.

+ Some Nights by fun.: A lot got by me this year while in grad school, including the sophomore album of band fun.While I heard the album's singles on the radio in passing, it wasn't until about a month ago that I heard the title track with seemingly new ears and flat out fell for the album. It's youthful and exuberant and lead singer Nate Reuss's voice is bananas. The whole thing is so perfectly stitched together, and most of all, thematically it really makes sense to me right now. That, I consider to be a gift from the musical gods. There are albums you like and albums to get. I also suspect that many feel that way about it. For me the love started with the opening lines of the title tracks, blasting though my headphones. The fullness of the sound is irresistible. More recently, "Stars," which pulls from other moments on the album (like the "come on"s from "Some Nights") and ties everything up so well, might just be my favorite track.   

+ The State of the Independent Musician by Paste Magazine:  Paste had a pretty interesting cover story a week ago by this name and I recommend it. Always good to step back and document.

+ Everyone's depressed: Well, not really. However, holy smokes did TMI's Most Depressing Christmas Songs of All Time get a lot of hits.

Anyway, I might tack on a few other things later, but for now that's all.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Check It Out: Foxtails Brigade

A few weeks ago I got a really nice email from a band called Foxtails Brigade whose song "I'm Not Really in the Christmas Mood This Year" I'd included in my roundup of melancholic Christmas songs. I took their most recent album Time is Passed for a spin and really enjoyed it. It is, in a word, lovely. Anyone who has been reading TMI for a while might remember me going on about a British band called Their Hearts Were Full of Spring who also had a tug-on-your-heart prettiness. Delicate, shimmery, life-affirming chamber pop... when THWFOS disbanded it left a sizeable void in my music world. Foxtails Brigade is all those things. It's the kind of music you're happy to have in your life. 

Anyway, there are many good songs on this album, but the one I like the most is "We'll Always Have the Moon," which is a beautiful, dreamy love song that deserves status as a standard. If you've got a few spare moments, you can take the album for a test run here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mixtape Philosophy: It's Brighter When the Lights are Out

The saga of the mix club continues. For anyone tuning in late, some friends and I have an arrangement for swapping Spotify playlists every week or so. Tonight I posted my second contribution, a mix called "It's Brighter When the Lights Are Out." Like I did last time, I thought I'd post the mix and a walk through.

Some months ago, I found a couple tracks by Simon Dawes (L.A. band Dawes's previous incarnation) and really loved them so I decided to build this mix around "The Awful Things," which is a punky-er turn on the Dawes sound. That set me on a mission to find songs that recalled guitar-bent, west coast music from decades past. That was not hard to do. A few that came to mind immediately were Howler's "Back of Your Neck" which I posted about this summer, "Learn How to Hang" by David Vandervelde, and The Explorer Club's "Do You Love Me," which is an awesomely bizarre combo of the Beach Boys and Phil Spector, essentially.

I also got the chance to work in some Madi Diaz, and because Madi Diaz and Keegan DeWitt are linked in my mind, I followed it up with "Jonti" by Wild Cub. It's a killer track that gets better with every listen. I cant' say enough good things about its sounds and spirit. "Jonti" is also where I got the name for the mix. DeWitt sings, "I see it now, it's brighter when the lights are out." I thought that was a great lyric and great name for the mix.

Record label samplers, NoiseTrade, and the like also helped me out this time around and I really did make some good finds. For example, "It Lingers" by Cheyenne Marie Mize and "How I Roll" by Charlie Mars, both important for the mix in terms of tone and pacing. Speaking of which, I thought the first couple drafts lacked something. Tthe mix needed one more song early on to bring things down just a bit for the middle section. I took to the ever reliable Paste Magazine and almost right off the bat ran into an article about a band from California called Allah-Las that have a kind of sepia-tinged retro thing going on and it was a real "bingo" moment. "Vis-a-Vis" fit perfect.

For the first time I included an instrumental called "Native New Yorker" by Booker T. which set up perfectly for "The Awful Things," and that pretty much brings us back to the beginning.

I've embedded the Spotify playlist above. I hope you take it for a spin. Sometimes you make these things and have no idea if A) anyone heard it or if B) anyone liked it. Anyway. There you have it. The very latest in mixtape philosophy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shine Brighter : DJ Earworm

Besides beaucoup end-of-year lists, we can always look forward to DJ Earworm's annual mashup of the year's top 25 hits. For 2012, he brings us "United State of Pop 2012 (Shine Brighter)" which highlights a surprising number of references to fire and other bright shiny things. Take it for a spin to find out how out of the loop you were this year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Be-Bop Santa Claus : Sweet Daddy Lowe


Writing about this feels a little like telling secrets, but I've got to blurb the finest retelling of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" there ever was. The song, as you might imagine from the title, is a jazz version where Santa drives a red Cadillac and leaves behind Dizzy Gillespie records. Sadly, I don't know as much about it as I would like. "Be-Bop Santa Claus," written by Lloyd Williams, was originally recorded by Babs Gonzales in 1954. The B side of the record was a song called "Manhattan Fable." It's appeared on a few jazz Christmas collections over the years, like Hipsters' Holiday, which features Louis Armstrong on the cover dressed as Santa. Might want to Google that one.

I first heard the song on WMOT, which is a public radio station in Middle Tennessee that plays jazz. The version I heard in 2002 though, was by Sweet Daddy Lowe. It popped up on Blue Note Records' Yule Be Boppin' Christmas compilation in 1997, and more recently on the label's newer compilation Blue Christmas. No disrespect to Babs, but the Sweet Daddy Lowe version is my favorite. It's moodier.

"Be-Bop Santa Claus" is typically my secret weapon when it comes to Christmas mixes, but it's such a cool song, I think you should take it for a spin.

In the words of Be-Bop Santa, "Have a crazy cool Christmas, but don't get knocked out."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Musically Inclined's Top 10 Finds of 2012

I’m always a little fascinated by end-of-year lists. First off, I love them. I love the manic rush behind them. There’s a strange sense that some kind of door is closing and we have a rapidly shrinking opportunity to backtrack and squeeze in everything that was good about the year into December’s remaining weeks. If you missed Jack White’s album Blunderbuss, get it now or don’t bother because it won’t exist in 2013.

In the middle of this frenzy, The Musically Inclined tries to keep it simple. The premise of this list is that you’ve already read all about Kendrick Lamar and whomever else, and the Shins are great but we’ve had them a while. There’s a lot of good stuff out there. These are songs carefully collected over the past twelve months that meet the following criteria:

1. Any artist or band TMI hadn't listened to before January '12.
2. Songs have to have a stick factor to survive the year. Catchy? Bouncy? Quirky? Sure, but mostly they just have to be solid. Doesn't hurt to be fun and mildly screwy, either.

Sound good? Hopefully there are some tunes in here you’ll enjoy or reconsider before... the end. Totally kidding. Here's the Spotify playlist. Scroll on.

1. This Girl : Punch Brothers

The first time I heard Who’s Feeling Young Now?, this was the song that brought me back for multiple subsequent listens. With quirky stringed flourishes and a clever story about a backslider praying to win the heart of a church-going girl, “This Girl” exemplifies the many reasons why bluegrass outfit the Punch Brothers breathes new life into an old genre. Few others play with the precision and zest necessitated by both the tradition of their genre and the spirit of their youth.

2. Everybody Knows : Vacationer

Summer came early this year, and even if the thermometers refused to wise up, Vacationer’s debut album Gone got us through the last throes of winter and straight into some Polaroid your dad took at the beach in 1970. Popping, crackling, looping, and dreamily drifting off, “Everybody Knows” should have shut down all other attempts to make summer music this year.

3. Something Good : Alt-J

A local disc jockey recently compared lead singer Joe Newman’s voice to Adam Sandler. He was right. And yet, with this uncomfortable detail in mind, we listen on. Alt-J generated a buzz storm circa CMJ for their strange can’t-look-away blend of folk and (what is it?). “Something Good” is dark and gorgeous, shifting and flowing to different places, teasing you to listen again to figure out what it is.

4. Generals : The Mynabirds

From the dirty guitars to the vocals both sultry and defiant, “Generals” channels great strength. This track roars.

5. The House That Heaven Built : Japandroids

Japandroids gave us one of the most energetic, flat out joyous records of the year. “The House That Heaven Built” best exemplifies their exuberance. Favorite lyric: “If they try to slow you down, tell ‘em all to go to hell.”

6. Jonti : Wild Cub

Keegan DeWitt is no stranger to the list, which might violate rule no.1, but I’m ignoring that because Wild Cub is DeWitt plus fellow Nashville musician Jeremy Bullock. And "Jonti" is awesome. The song retains all the cool sounds and spunk that landed “Say La La” on the list a few years back. Danceable and worth many listens.

7. Bright Whites : Kishi Bashi

You’ve probably heard this song on commercials pushing Windows 8 (surprisingly not an Apple product because it’s just that kind of song.) It’s upbeat, catchy and hand-clappy. Almost enough to make you consider buying a PC. Almost.

8. Time to Run : Lord Huron

For a while I made some kind of wrong assumption about Lord Huron, expecting their music to be inaccessible and meandering, like Bon Iver gone wrong. I couldn’t really tell you why. Instead what I found was a wonderfully rustic album, Lonesome Dreams. This song in particular moves and shuffles in the most appealing way.

9. Is Your Love Big Enough : Lianne La Havas

I love La Havas’s full sound. The song alternates between slinking and swelling. If you caught her on Letterman a week or two ago, she’s a pretty decent guitar player too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that some serious attention will come her way in 2013.

10. I Love It : Icona Pop

Trashy and I love it. You should too.

Well, that's it. See above for the Spotify playlist and happy listening. 

Review: I Love the Holidays : Office Romance

I just reviewed Office Romance's new EP I Love the Holidays for Chicago-based music site Consequence of Sound. Hop on over there and check it out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The National Perform New Song

So, this is an item making the rounds today. We finally have some fresh material from The National. Apparently they curated and headlined the ATP festival last week, and busted out a few new tracks, one of which being "Lola." Video above. Please also enjoy the minute and a half before the song of Matt Berninger being a generally cool guy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Most Depressing Christmas Songs of All Time

Though hyped as a time of unmitigated joy and good will, Christmas songs can be weirdly depressing. Every time I hear "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," I picture a guy sitting at a bar, crying into a beer with a tiny Christmas tree on the countertop. In a way, there's no better time to be absolutely miserable than when you're supposed to be happy. From the maudlin to the down right dark, I crowd sourced (many thanks to mis amigos) a list of the most depressing Christmas songs of all time. Enjoy?

+ The Christmas Shoes : NewSong
+ Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis : Tom Waits
+ One More Drifter in the Snow : Aimee Mann
+ All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue : Over the Rhine
+ Another Lonely Christmas : Prince
+ 1913 Massacre : Woody Guthrie
+ Christmas in Prison : John Prine
+ Christmas in Jail (Ain't That a Pain) : Leroy Carr
+ Blue Christmas : Elvis
+ I'm Not Really in the Christmas Mood This Year : Foxtails Brigade
+ River : Joni Mitchell
+ Pretty Paper : Roy Orbison
+ Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) : Darlene Love
+ Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto : James Brown
+ Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day (Well, You Deserved It!) : Sufjan Stevens
+ That Was the Worst Christmas Ever : Sufjan Stevens
+ I'll Be Home for Christmas : Bing Crosby

Here's a convenient Spotify playlist, but you know what? Don't listen to all these at once. My God. Throw this in there.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Phoenix Announces New Album

French band Phoenix announced plans for a follow up to 2009's Amadeus Wolfgang Phoenix. No word yet on a title or track listing, but it should hit shelves sometime in April. In the meantime, watch the video for "1901," a song that I probably listened to everyday the summer I bought the album. Here's to a possible new obsession this spring.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gaslight Anthem Covers Bon Iver

And since I'm up blogging tonight, I might as well post this Gaslight Anthem cover of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" that I've had pulled up on a tab in my browser for a month. The band recorded it for an EP called Hold You Up. The EP was a Black Friday exclusive. Anyhoodle. It's a little grittier than the original. Take it for a spin.

Review: 'Nashville' Episode Eight

Liam wasn't really in this episode, but I'm a fan, so here he is.
Alright t.v. watchers, let's talk Nashville. This week was the big winter finale, supposedly a night packing highly explosive material. And you know what it was not? A night packing highly explosive material. I mean, my God. Anyway, let's get this thing going.

The episode opens immediately after Rayna and Juliette's duet last week. In the midst of flower-throwing, Teddy skulks into Rayna's dressing room and urges her home. But... but... the champaign. That night Teddy gets up his nerve and... lies to Rayna about the pictures. You know, Peggy just needed some friendly marital advice from a married male buddy in the middle of the night in a deserted park. Plausible. Well, Rayna doesn't take anything sitting down, which is why we love her, so she goes to see Coleman the next day where he gives her the pictures and says, "If that isn't an affair, I don't know what is." Admittedly, the pics are PG, but eh. Holding it together but still twisting internally, Rayna then goes to talk to her sister Lamar Jr. Tandy who is all baby doll, don't worry about it. He's a good man! Tandy lets it slip that there's a strategy meeting about this hot mess and Rayna barges in minutes before that bastion of good taste and reliability TMZ publishes the pics. But seriously, don't worry! Though, it sure does seem like something Rayna should be worrying about when she gets to Peggy's house and learns that the crazed woman (who earlier showed up at campaign headquarters and got re-jected by Teddy himself) has tried to off herself vis-a-vie sleeping pills. I don't really know what vis-a-vie means, but I was feeling it. Anyway. Surely people don't try to kill themselves over silly misunderstandings. At some point Rayna gets home and finds Teddy lingering in the dark living room and is like... so Peggy tried to kill herself... want to really tell me what's happening here? Finally he comes clean about the money and they have one of those fights where no one yells and you almost wish they would because this is freaking weird. Teddy does not seem to understand why Rayna is miffed at his criminal behavior. Trust = broken. While I'd like to say that sends Rayna into Deacon's arms, it doesn't. They do have a moment together IN BROAD DAYLIGHT IN A PARK NOT BEING SHADY TEDDY where they just talk for a sec about stuff, like how Deacon's gotten an offer to play with a band called The Revel Kings, which is cool because they're all sober and Deacon's not really doing anything right now. Finally, Teddy has a presser and Rayna shows up to make a statement and to let Teddy know that she, of course, did this for the girls.

Meanwhile in Bluebird land, post "Ring of Fire" performance, Hailey suggests that Scarlett audition for a band that's looking for a lead singer. Hmmm... we are left to ponder this while we cut over to The Avery Barkley Band performing for Wyclef Jean, who wants The Avery Barkley Band to come to Atlanta sans The Band. But yeah, back to Scarlett. She tells Gunnar and he gets his knickers in a bunch. Why would you do that and try and split us, Hailey? I saw the way you looked at her, we've always been over! And then in one of the least satisfying television love confessions ever, he shows up at the Bluebird, tells Scarlett she's amazing, kisses her, and she mumbles to him "You can't go kissing people because you feel like it." Jim and Pam had two seasons, Niles and Daphne had about six, for the love of God, Seth and Summer had probably fourteen episodes of build up until proclamations were made. After eight episodes with the occasional pained glance, Nashville just let all the air out of what could have been a much juicier tale of repressed love. Later Scarlett tells Gunnar she wants some time to write separately and he wigs out a bit. Avery turns up to tell Scarlett that things are going well and bring her some champaign they'd been saving for when he made it... which they should have opened when she got the publishing deal. She is far too civil. BUT "Fade in To You" just got put on hold by some artist, so champaign-and-what-now! I'll tell you what, later on Scarlett declines Gunnar's request they sing together at the Bluebird that night. Instead, she shall continue to deliver beer to paying customers.

And then finally, the local newspaper the Tennessean makes a cameo in the hands of Sean who has stopped by Juliette's pad while running. Somehow, he invites her to church with his family the next day. Upon arrival, Tebow's little sister freaks out about Juliette and asks her to sing with the choir. Tebow is pleased. Later his mother reluctantly invites her to Sunday dinner. And the sad thing is that as out of place as you'd think she might be with all this God and family stuff, she looks genuinely happy... until Tebow's mom is like, you're trash, your mom's trash, and you shall not sully my boy. So here's what happens. Imagine now that she's been cast out of paradise. What is Juliette to do? I'll tell you what. Candles everywhere. Pretty dress etc. Invite Tebow over and... she proposes. BOOM. Cut to credits.

Is it possible to jump the shark after eight episodes? I don't know. What I do know is that was stupid. I'm not even that concerned if she's doing this to spite Tebow's mom (she probably is) or what, I just don't get it. If she had seduced him out of revenge or something, I could understand it... but marriage is just so overtly soapy. Now I'm just waiting for someone to slip into a coma. Well. Anyway, that's that. Discuss amongst yourselves and we'll see you in January.

+ Bummer that Liam was largely absent from this episode.
+ Another music-lite episode.
+ We popped the bubbly a lot this episode.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Video : I Feel it in My Bones : The Killers

Presented without comment because the last shot of the video speaks for the whole thing. Enjoy.

Led Zeppelin Talk to David Letterman

In what was the most squandered interview of the year, David Letterman sat down with fellow Kennedy Center Honorees, Led Zeppelin. Here's what went wrong:

+ Letterman referred to John Bonham as "your drummer." Really?
+ Letterman also lumped in Led Zeppelin with the British Invasion and asked if they (The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones) gigged together. No.
+ He then classified Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters as "obscure" blues artists.
+ And then asked Page, Plant, and Jones to help him out and describe their music.
+ Which is weird because apparently he's a fountain of information when it comes to discussing fracking.

So, it would appear that no research was done in prep for the interview, which is sad because Led Zeppelin doesn't exactly sit down with Barbara Walters every week. In any case, the whole affair was redeemed by two things: Jones' caustic wit and John Krasinski later on in the show ripping his dress shirt open to show off a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. God bless, man. Watch the mess here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cat Meets Turntable

I'm cashing in my one-time-only voucher for posting a cat video. Trust me, it's worth it. In the above video, watch a sweet little fur ball try and solve the mystery of "the turntable." Even better is that the record spinning is Bob Marley, and the cat has no idea he's remixing a legend. Sit on that, Jack White.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I Feel it in My Bones : The Killers : Christmas

It wouldn't be Christmas without The Killers. Well, that's not at all true, but it is time for yet another Killers Christmas song. This year's offering is "I Feel it in My Bones" featuring Ryan Pardey once again reprising his role as the menacing Santa Claus. Think Santa with some kind of vendetta... against you. Merry Christmas!

 Money line: "Hey Kringle, you mean to say that when you were young it never got wild?"

 The track goes on sale Dec. 4 with proceeds going to Red, the AIDS charity.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Neil Young Talks to Jon Stewart

Sometimes the more you know a person, the less you like them. For instance, I feel certain that most people wish they knew less about Mel Gibson. Occasionally, however, that mantra cracks open and exposes something cool.

Neil Young, formerly the scowling face in the gatefold pictures in my vinyl copy of Decade, has revealed himself to be a certifiably neat guy in the last few months as he's hit the talk show circuit in promotion of his new memoir, Waging Heavy Peace. Check out his latest stop at the Daily Show as he talks to Jon Stewart about his fear of ghost writers and sympathy for those of us who dwell in the netherworld that is MP3 audio quality. 

As Stewart points out, Young is unexpectedly a patent holder, an inventor, a model train enthusiast, and   then, well, Neil Young. In the wise words of NBC's PSAs, the more you know. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: 'Nashville' Episode Seven

Aaaand we're back in Nashvilleland after a week's reprieve. Episode seven opens with Rayna and Liam back in the studio amid more chatter from Edgehill Record's resident CEO and killjoy Marshal Evans of a greatest hits album. Also, it's the label's 25th anniversary and they're putting on a party Ryman (Auditorium) style. Rayna will perform and you just know it won't be that simple. But that's for later. First, it's movie night at the Jaymes household until Teddy gets an urgent call from Coleman wanting to rendezvous in a spot across from LP Field, no doubt selected for it's beautiousness. Coleman shows Teddy the pics he has of Peggy with her hand on Teddy's wrist and is all "drop out by the weekend or else!" The nerve. But of course, any plot line that has to do with Teddy is nowhere near the most interesting thing that will happen on the show. The real scuffle comes about when Evans gets it in his head that having Rayna and Juliette sing a duet would totes be sweet and not at all apocalyptic. In the second threat of the evening, Evans tells Rayna it's a duet or greatest hits album. She has a quick convo with Liam– who mostly functions as Puck-ish little sprite happily snickering at drama and encouraging mischief– and turns the deal around on Evans. She'll do the duet, but no more greatest hits album and the next record is all hers.

In Juliette's corner of the universe, she's been hanging around Sean a lot. Tabloids, fumbled passes, whatever. In the first of several gross lines of the show, he tells her "It's sure nice to hold something other than a football." This was me cringing on my couch:

Anyway, she gets called in to talk to Evans and her indignation at being reduced to singing a duet with Rayna doesn't get her anywhere. Where it does get her, is to rehearsal with Rayna after a quick moment of withering internal self doubt standing on the Ryman stage. It happens. Whilst trying to select a song to sing, Rayna and Juliette trade jabs about why they're really doing this. Liam giggles. Deacon is all grumpy dad and finally Rayna nails Juliette's butt to the ground with a line about how the starlet hasn't earned this and everybody knows it. AND BINGO WAS HIS NAME-O. Juliette walks out. Back at her place, she places what the kids might refer to as a booty call, and Tebow rushes over accompanied by his unexpected half-sleeve tattoo. After some brief hanky panky, he tells her he wants to wait and she immediately assumes he must be gay and kicks him out. It's probably for the best since Rayna shows up a few minutes later. Deacon defended Juliette's promise/talent and gave Rayna a copy of "Undermine." So. Rayna's proposal is that the both act like adults and write a song together. Fast forward to the Ryman, and the performance turns into a happy family moment. By the end of the "Wrong Song" (which is on par with the best of the early season) they don't seem to hate each other quite so much and even Deacon and Liam are paling around doing that thing guitar players do on stage when they kind of play at each other and scrunch their faces. What's odd for me here, though, is that it feels like some tensions are resolved, but the payoff isn't that enjoyable because the two singers haven't done much with each other since the first two or so episodes, and you don't buy that they're ever really going to make nice. You almost hope not because it feels pointless, like Frank Burns and Hawkeye Pierce swapping niceties. Just... no. With regard to the song, it's spunky. It's one of those you-cheated-and-I'm-not-killing-myslef-about-it numbers and Teddy is standing in the wings just looking sick to his stomach. Fun for next week!

In the wake of the Avery/Scarlett fallout, The Avery Barkley Band is doing well for itself. Man-eater Marilyn booked them a decent gig and is making contacts for them. Scarlett, on the other hand, is working through her feelings by cleaning Deacon's house. He gives her the old "shake it off and get out there spiel." At the Bluebird, she realizes why her uncle's songs are so sad. Love hurts, baby. So she skulks in the background by the bar like this:

And Gunnar skulks behind her like this:

Well, sort of. But because Hailey is the best girlfriend ever, she shows up the next day at Scarlett's and wrenches her off the porch. Hailey dresses her up and takes her out with her and Gunnar to find a warm body to take her mind off Avery. However, Gunnar sees Scarlett and is like holy smokes, she's wearing significantly fewer clothes. Also taking notice of this little moment in time, are some creeper at the bar and Hailey who is wondering why Gunnar is in big brother mode with Scarlett. After a few tequila shots, Scarlett winds up on stage taking a verse on "Ring of Fire" with the band that's playing because that happens in Nashville ALL THE TIME. Personally, I can't go to a show without having to climb up on stage and sing with the band. So tiresome. Creepy guy kisses her and Gunnar flips out, which sends Scarlett running off to see Avery, who has man-eater Marilyn in his bedroom in her bra. Scarlett flees once more, but later tells Gunnar at the Ryman that if she's got to lose someone, she's glad it's not him. Well, shucks. My bet is that this will be another too-soon story arc peak, but we'll see.

Next week is the "winter finale" because we use that term now. Stay tuned, folks. We'll be watching.

Stray Observations:

+ I enjoyed Juliette silently freaking out in her dressing room before the Ryman show.
+ Wow was Peggy bitter when Teddy said that in good conscience they can say they're not romantically involved.
+ Lamar is creepy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mixtape Philosophy : My First Mixtape

Mixtape philosophy is front of mind lately. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, some friends and I have a mix "club" where we swap Spotify playlists. This week we started up on an unofficial round two. For me, making a mix is a long process. I'm shooting for January sometime, but I'm already collecting and corralling songs from my library and scouring digital samplers etc. for new material. Give it another few weeks and I'll be in full on obsession mode, working on song order and taking the tracks for test drives.

My mix madness started crica 1997-8. There was a show on PBS called KidsSongs that featured a cast of children producing a television show that ran music videos they made for oldies.

Already favoring oldies to anything else on the radio, I started bugging my dad to help me find some of the songs that I heard on the show since he'd been known to make many a mixtape. Over the course of a couple Saturdays, we put together two sides of a cassette tape, starting with original versions of songs ("Rockin' Robin" by Bobby Day, "Sea Cruise" by Frankie Ford) that he happened to have on vinyl.

Beyond KidsSongs, the tape also went in a few other important directions as far as taste-making goes. After all, we had 60 min to fill. There were the songs that my dad picked out because he thought I'd like them ("Jackson" by Johnny and June Cash, "The Little Shoemaker" by The Gaylords, "Let Me In" by The Sensations). There were the songs that I requested because I already knew them ("Big Girls Don't Cry" by The Four Seasons), or that I asked for because I wanted to hear more from the artist/group/style (The Temptations were the soundtrack to 3rd grade). I liked saxophones, so my dad picked out a sax instrumental. And then there was the lesson to be found in including the original (and somewhat underrated) Carl Perkins version of "Blue Suede Shoes" over the Elvis cover: Original and rare should be prized qualities in music.

Anyway, after digging up the actual tape, I took to Spotify to recreate it and managed to avoid any lame re-recordings, which was more challenging than you'd think. (I'm looking at you, Roger Miller.) If you're tired of your own memory lane, take a stroll down mine.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everybody Talks : Neon Trees

I suppose you could say it started with a whisper, as do most singles. But lately "Everybody Talks" by Utah-based group Neon Trees has been playing at a full volume just about anywhere you turn. The song is from their second album Picture Show and was first released on December 20, last year. Initially didn't do too much, which is interesting considering it's peaked at no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The music video currently boasts more than 10 million views. It takes place at a '50s drive-in movie theater where the band is watching themselves in a horror flick called Zombie Bikers from Hell. I first noticed the 60's pop-inspired tune when Buick featured the band in an ad touting Pandora in their cars. After that, allow me to make the embarrassing admission that I've been watching the Voice and one of the contestants covered it because sometimes the universe is determined to drive a song into your head. And then there was the Glee version, which has to be some kind of harbinger of decline, but apparently not because Neon Trees made a stop at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. So, where to now? Who knows, but I can assure you we're not done with this song. Check out the video above.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tiny Desk Concert with Ben Gibbard

In case your pre-holiday work week is slowing down and you're watching dust dance in the tedium of the afternoon, here's a great NPR Tiny Desk Concert. It's Ben Gibbard and his Gibson performing three songs, one of which being Death Cab for Cutie's "St. Peter's Cathedral." We also get to hear about Gibbard's stint "working" in a lab.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bloodbuzz Ohio : Theme Park Cover

I recently lighted on a great Tumblr called Copy Cats, which is devoted to posting cover versions of songs, like the Punch Brothers singing "The Weight" or the Avett Brothers performing Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." Today I went through some unread posts in my Google Reader and found a Theme Park cover of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" by The National. It's definitely worth a listen, but even beyond that, its greatest value might be that it made me reconsider the song. And in my mind, that's the best outcome for a cover. A few months back I heard Julia Stone sing "Bloodbuzz Ohio," and my reaction remains the same today: I would have never considered "Bloodbuzz Ohio" a coverable song, and yet, it is apparently so. The National has such a densely layered and distinctive sound, I would have filed away almost any of their songs in the Do Not Touch bin. But what a loss that would be not to hear Julia Stone's old-woman-trapped-in-a-young-body voice focusing attention on the lyrics or Theme Park's shimmery instrumentation. Both bring the song new life. Similarly, there's the version by Oh Land which features very sweet sounding vocals against a blip-y, electronic arraignment. Now I kind of want to hear a really rip-roaring version with a big crowd of people coming in on the chorus. So what is it about any song that lends itself to multiple new and interesting forms? I have no idea, but I like that at least a few people out there have that radar. Check out the Soundclouds below. Hopefully I didn't break Blogger by trying to put three on a page.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: 'Nashville' Episode Six

Nashville is a complicated place. This week we find our soap stars taking all variety of relationships into new territory.

In a continued effort to repair Juliette's damaged reputation, the Barnes PR machine sets up an appearance at a zoo fundraiser in which she meets a Tim Tebow-esque football player named Sean Butler and eventually gets pushed into going on a date. So here's the date: Juliette calls him a choir boy, criticizes his athletic ability, and invites him to party in Miami as soon as he takes a jab at her sticky fingers. Upon exiting the South Beach club, a photographer pounces on them and Sean pushes him to the ground, but not before the insufferable shutterbug snaps a photo that makes Sean look outright trashed. Nevermind he doesn't drink. Photos lie. Fortunately, Juliette has tons of money and strikes a deal with the photog later on to keep the pics out of the gossip pages. Sean, touched as all get out, asks her "in" for a quiet date night at home. She seems intrigued by the novelty of the idea.

Speaking of new ideas, Rayna has the go-ahead from the label to pick a new producer and make a new album. She sets her sights on grammy-winning rock producer Liam McGuinnis. Funny thing: He wants nothing to do with her and barely bothers to step all the way out his door to dis her music. She goes back the next day and delivers a little "don't judge me, bro" speech and he invites her in. Whiskey. Recording. Magic. They're making a record because "Sometimes you've got to blow up the box." The only snag is that Liam isn't on the label's pre-approved producer list. However, Rayna seems fairly adept at speech-making, so even though her label guy walks out, it's probably going to be okay. That's more than I can say for Coleman, though. Lamar, who seems to only exist in wood-paneled rooms stocked with Scotch, has arranged for Coleman to get pulled over for a traffic violation on his way to sign a clean campaign pledge. The cops search his car and find that bottle of Oxy he took off Deacon last week. A hungover Rayna quizes Teddy about possible Lamar involvement in the pullover and arrest and Teddy sort of doesn't say much. The world does indeed go around, though, because Coleman has to decide what to do with some newly discovered pics of what appears to be Teddy and Peggy canoodling from last week. The pictures could destroy Rayna and Teddy's relationship. Dun dun duuuuunnnn.

In the alternate parallel Bluebird universe where Rayna & co.'s decisions get played out by the younger generation, Avery finds himself also juggling morals and ambition. After a gig, Avery chats up a promoter about opening for the Lumineers. After a squirrel-y brush off, professional band manager and man eater Marilyn offers to sign Avery's band. Here's the thing, Deacon knows what's going on and tries to keep Avery and Marilyn apart in an effort to protect wispy little flower Scarlett. He talks to the promoter himself, but still loses the gig, pushing Avery right back at Marilyn via 8 p.m. business meeting at her house. When Scarlett finds out Deacon tried to put the kibosh on Marilyn, he confronts him and  he tells her Marilyn only signs good looking guys under 30 after "a certain closeness." Yikes. Well, Scarlett is pissed, and even though Avery walked out in the middle of making out with Marilyn, she is rightfully is unhappy he went over there at all knowing her intentions. And then she leaves! Good girl. She moves in with Deacon and Avery moves in on Marilyn proving that he's every bit as scummy as we think.

No new episode nest week, sadly, but I'm sure looking forward to whatever comes next, especially since ABC has ordered a full season. Bring on the drama!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Punch Brothers EP 'Ahoy!' Available Today

Because eight months is too long to go without some fresh Punch Brothers tunes, the bluegrass group (oh, but they are so much more than that, aren't they?) has released a new 5-track EP today titled Ahoy!.  It's available in all the usual places. Related: I think it wins for Album Art I'd Most Like to Wear on a T-Shirt.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NPR's Best Practices for Mixtapes

Allow me to direct your attention to some sage advice from the folks at NPR's All Song Considered. It's how to make a mixtape without looking like a creeper. Spolier: Never ever use "Every Breath You Take" by the Police. A move like that's almost restraining order worthy. Anyway, hop on over to NPR and read up on this great piece of mixtape philosophy. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: 'Nashville' Episode Five

This week on ABC's Nashville, we finally started getting somewhere. (Praise the Lord.) We have plot  points. We have erupting emotion. We have a reason to tune in next week. And most of all, we had an intriguing reversal in Rayna and Juliette's likability factors.

As the show opens, we find Deacon playing on a recording session with Juliette on a catchy song about  yelling from a rooftop or something. Apparently it's the never ending session from hell because Juliette's not in the mood to go home and deal with her mother. Deacon, being a pro at recovering from drugs, offers Juliette help in getting druggie mom Jolene into rehab. She's like... no. That is, until she comes back to a suspiciously quiet house, only to find Jolene passed out in her underwear upstairs with a creeptastic looking sketchball, surrounded by bottles and other assorted instruments of the devil's work. And you know that when someone is drunk/high in their underwear, that's business is going to end up on the front lawn. Hello neighbors. After a quick conversation with Juliette's (bodyguard? assistant?), she calls Deacon. Deacon comes over and much to the chagrin of Jolene, sets to convincing her that getting clean is a must because whether or not Juliette knows it, she needs her mamma. Presumably because Deacon is magic of some variety, they all load up in the SUV and head to the rehab center where Deacon confiscates Jolene's pills and ushers her in, but not before she freaks out and slaps Juliette because WHY NOT. Crazy woman. For the first time, Juliette elicits sympathy. A short time later, Deacon and Juliette sit pensively on his front steps. The scene has a helluva father/daughter vibe to it. You know, a verbal "thank you" will suffice, he tells her. He also lays down some sage older person advice about how not everyone wants something from her, and if she feels that way, she should put it all in her rearview mirror.

Over on Music Row, Scarlett and Gunnar prepare to perform some songs for Lady Antebellum's producer in hopes of getting a song cut. A big deal! But those two crazy kids are so good, what could possibly go wrong? That's right, everybody's favorite dirty hipster Avery volunteers to play guitar with them when Scarlett says they're looking to add a guitar player for the performance. What kills me about situations like this one between Avery and Scarlett, is that he offers– clearly looking to weasel in on his girlfriend's success, and somehow fools her into believing it's some magnanimous gesture. She thanks him for being wiling to play, like she thanked him for hanging out with Watty in the recording session a few weeks back. It's disgusting. Fast forward to the showcase, and crazy Avery can't take Gunnar and Scarlett singing a love song to each other, so he takes off an improvised guitar solo– I kid you not– and basically steals the song. Gunnar's pissed. Confrontation ensues. You're making eyes at my girlfriend! We're trying to sell a love song! Finally the tensions are 100 percent in the open. Scarlett overhears the hubbub and later clarifies with Gunnar that she is, in fact, Gunnar's girl. Lucky duck. And he's all "I'm with Hailey," and we ask ourselves if Hailey knows that. And then they find out that the producer passed on the song because Avery friggin hijacked it, leaving Scarlett no choice but to get direct with Avery about why he's so paranoid and such a jerk who would rather go back to the days when she kept her poems to herself. Lordy.

Since we're in the mood to air some laundry, Teddy and Peggy finally exposit their way to an explanation of all the paper-burning-car-rendez-vousing. When the Cumberland real estate deal was tanking, Teddy ran out of money, so he asked Peggy for help. She slides him a cool $2 mil from embezzling shenanigans and he used it to keep things floating until they, well, sank. Peggy and Teddy paid all the money back, but the audit might turn up this shadiness. In a move that would make Rayna pee herself in anger, he goes to Lamar for help. As Teddy spills, you can just imagine Lamar spinning him around in a fine and sticky spiderweb like a fat caterpillar. As long as everyone keeps their traps shut, Lamar can make this, shall we say, go away.

And then there's Rayna, lost and looking for someone to write with now that Deacon's out and the tour's off. Since Juliette's incident at the Kroger, it seems her label is out to make amends. Greatest hits album? Nope. Rayna wants some new material. She also wants to use one of her songs for a commercial to keep the lights on at home, but Deacon's protesting a lyric tweak. He won't give consent as a co-writer. She shows up at his house. "Is this really how you want to do things?" she asks him. Apparently so. Well, Rayna keeps truckin' and cranks out a song she likes on her own. Teddy comes home and because 2:30 a.m. is always a good time to have a serious conversation, he asks what exactly happened with Rayna and Deacon. Did she sleep with him? No. Did she want to? Well... And somehow Teddy gets huffy because she did the responsible thing and avoided temptation? Well, it'll be Rayna's turn to be pissed soon when photos leak of Teddy and Peggy suspiciously together at night. It doesn't matter Peggy was telling Teddy that the audit basically vanished. She put her hand on his wrist. Ladies– never put your hand on a married dude's wrist. But still, there's unresolved icky feelings with Rayna and Deacon. Deacon, who is having Nam flashbacks about rehab and the bottle of pills in his pocket (which he gets rid of) takes his achey breaky heart to the Bluebird to perform one of the night's middling musical numbers. One heckler later, Deacon gets in a fight and winds up making a Collect call from prison to Rayna who declines that sucker and goes back to sleep. Cold. All of a sudden we don't hate Juliette so much since she's willing to bail his sorry ass out of prison because friends don't let friends rot in lock up. In any case, Deacon caves on the lyric thing.

And there you have it. A mostly successful episode of Nashville. The songs weren't as outstanding, but I guess they all can't be hits.

Stray observations:

+ Avery reminds me of Matthew McConaughey's addled, possibly inbred truck driver from Larger Than Life.  See below.

+ Did Gunnar and Hailey just do it at work? Gross.

Frightened Rabbit to Release New Album

Behold, new Frabbit!
This just in from press release land, Scottish rockers Frightened Rabbit are set to release Pedestrian Verse, their fourth studio album. It's also the band's major label debut on Canvasback/Atlantic records.

Says singer Scott Hutchinson via label statement, "If you call your album Pedestrian Verse, you can't settle for any old lyric. It forced me to be better myself. In fact, I think we all stepped up on this album and I believe that our producer Leo Abrahams had a major role in that step."

The album comes on the heels of September's State Hospital EP

Expect Pedestrian Verse to hit shelves Feb. 5


01 : Acts of Man
02 : Backyard Skulls
03 : Holy
04 : The Woodpile
05: Late March, Death March
06 : December's Traditions
07 : Housing (In)
08 :  Dead Now
09 : State Hospital
10 : Nitrous Gas
11 : Housing (Out)
12 : Oil Slick

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pontoon : Little Big Town

It's a wet, cold, disgusting day here in Nashville, so it only seems appropriate to post a song that shakes its fist at the bad weather. Here's a performance from last Thursday's Country Music Awards of a tune by Little Big Town called "Pontoon." The performance was easily the most dynamic of the night, and it's just about impossible to resist a song that celebrates warm weather and cold beverages, especially when the sky is acting like someone died. Check it out.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Video: Teardrop Windows by Ben Gibbard

Well, bless his heart. Ben Gibbard is apparently very normal, according to his manager in the amusing new music video for "Teardrop Windows" off Gibbard's recent release Former Lives. Follow the "Death Can for Trudie" frontman as he tries and fails to earn some street cred to boost album sales via Jack Daniels bottle filled with Snapple and "Hug 4 Life" tattoo. Why? Because people don't want to buy music from normal people and it's totally necessary to "turn this construction paper cutout of what used to be a man into a bad boy."

On a somewhat related note, the legendary one-off Postal Service album Give Up has finally been certified as platinum, almost ten years after its release. How's that for cred.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: 'Nashville' Episode Four

Putting on a good face.
The big take away from tonight's episode of ABC's Nashville, is how little actually happens in the show. And yet, there's so much going on, so much bouncing from character to character, it's not immediately noticeable. All story lines inch forward, but only just so.

The show opens with a bang (har har) as we find Rayna and Deacon in bed together. But wait! It's a dream Rayna wakes from as boring Teddy walks into the room. Her face shows the confusion and shame that halmark her relationship with Deacon. The main story line this week on the Rayna front revolves around a fundraiser for Teddy at "the country club" where Rayna will perform, despite the negative feelings she harbors for the Belle Meade bimbos she grew up with, including Peggy (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) who Teddy seems a little too eager to greet. The night of the fundraiser, Deacon shows up late and takes a generally undeserved tongue lashing from Lamar. Deacon opens fire on Teddy (Everybody knows you're a straw man for Lamar!) and Rayna tells the boys to shut up. The performance is super unpleasant. Deacon stares down Teddy from the stage, who's swapping glances with Peggy of a different nature. And after? We get another vaguely written scene between Deacon and Rayna. She asks how he could put "us" in this situation and he asks "which us?" Tears are shed. Back at home, Rayna tells Teddy she's going to fire Deacon. But wait! At the end of the show, Teddy, who is becoming less boring and more scummy, meets up with Peggy in a secluded park type place and they discuss coming clean with something. He insists "no." Is it an affair? I'm hoping it's a shared cookie jar collection like that one episode of 30 Rock.

Switching over to the Juliette channel, she's in denial about the aftermath of her shoplifting scandal. Consider this episode rock bottom for her. Juliette bombs out on what was supposed to be a mea culpa interview with Good Morning America and storms out after 1) claiming that she was trying to keep the nail polish from slipping out of the basket and forgot to pay, and 2) refusing to answer any questions about her mother. On that last one, you really can't blame her. It's a messy relationship. Juliette's mom cooks her some goodwill mac and cheese and Juliette freaks out and empties her mom's bag expecting to find stolen items from the house. Guess what she doesn't find. Tears are shed. Oh, and sponsors pull out of her tour effectively shutting it down. So, what do you do when you hit rock bottom? Call someone else to come share your misery, i.e. post fundraiser brawl Deacon.

Meanwhile in East Nasty, Scarlett stresses about the publishing deal and just as she starts to make out with psycho boyfriend Avery, everyone's favorite third wheel and Zachary Levi lookalike, Gunnar busts in with the news that they got the deal. Hugs all around! Except for Gunnar. Womp womp. But here's where things get spicy. While Gunnar and Scarlett get a tour of the publishing office, he meets Hailey, an office assistant... and you know... yogurt-related flirting and what not. That night Hailey and her boss take Gunnar, Scarlett, and Avery to dinner at Watermark in the Gulch (hiyo local readers!) and Avery gets weird when Scarlett spins some songwriting philosophy at the table and then talks up his band. He bails pronto and in his most convincing turn as a hipster, says to her outside the restaurant, "My music speaks for itself!" Garbo– I mean, Avery, walks home alone. Next shot: Gunnar and Hailey the next morning in bed. Character-wise, I think it's weird because Gunnar's got a kicked puppy dog thing going on, all achey for Scarlett, so him jumping into bed with a girl he just met and the self satisfied look on his face the next day walking her to her car cheapens his character. Example, even when Jim was dating the purse girl on the Office, you knew his heart wasn't in it. It was always with Pam. Anyhoodle, oh snap Scarlett catches them on the walk of shame because she drove to his house for some reason. One lunch with uncle Deacon later, she asks Avery to support her the way she's supported him and the little pisser says "I'm trying" and slinks away, presumably to not wash his hair.

Basically, we got a lot more of what we already knew: Rayna's confused. Juliette's unlikeable. Avery's jealous. Scarlett's sickeningly loyal. Teddy's even shadier than we thought, real estate deal aside. And we didn't even get a song until about 45 minutes into the episode.

Apparently there will be fisticuffs next week. Can't wait.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Typing Karaoke

I regret peaking at the keyboard during elementary school when we were supposed to be learning to type without looking. Maybe if I'd applied myself, I'd have higher scores on Typing Karaoke.

Typing Karaoke is a cool little flash game that made its round yesterday on the interwebs. The premise is basically that instead of singing along with a song, you type the lyrics. It's maddening and sometimes impossible, but lots of fun. The game has eight songs ranging from "Call Me Maybe" and "Love Lockdown" to "Creep" and "Home." For a while I was worried my high score would be from "OMG" by Usher, but it turns out I can type to Bon Iver like nobody's business. Try to beat my 2182 on "Skinny Love." Also see if you can do worse typing to "Sexy and I Know It" than 555. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dawes Tweets 'New Record is Done'

Occasionally Twitter bears some pretty sweet fruits. Today, if you were paying attention, you might have caught Dawes sending out a tweet that said they've finished their new record. No more details beyond that, but in a steady stream of food-related Instagrams and political douchebag-ery, this is definitely news worth tweeting about.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: 'Nashville' Episode Three

Stepping into something.
On week three of ABC's new drama Nashville, we find the characters all perched on a ledge, facing decisions that involve them stepping into a situation from which there's little chance of stepping out. Life is precarious on the ledge. They all know that one foot forward leads straight down.

To start, there's Deacon, who is still living in Juliette Barnes's crosshairs. He has a hesitance about Juliette. She wants to get him under an exclusive contract to come and play with her. He doesn't quite know how to handle her, but keeps letting himself be further reigned in by answering her call to come and record last week's "Undermine," and then heading back to her place for the night. Deacon's got his toes hanging out there, and that maybe in part because of Rayna. After their emotion-dredging performance at the Bluebird Cafe, Rayna knows that going out on an intimate acoustic tour with Deacon could lead to the situation many a country song has been written about– cheatin'!  The most insight we get on this predicament is a revelation from Rayna's sister Tandy that their mother was involved for a decade with a singer songwriter (which is why Lamar disapproves of Rayna's career). Tandy says of their mother's boyfriend and Lamar, that it was like "the two men together made a whole marriage." Sound familiar much? What's more, Teddy and Rayna are hemorrhaging money and Lamar is willing to shell out a half million attached to a laundry list of career-related stipulations on Rayna's part.

Then there's the ongoing saga of the Bluebird trio. Gunnar and Scarlett go to the studio to record their demo with Watty, and Scarlett flat out chokes. Gunnar tells Avery that he thinks Scarlett might be scared Avery will leave her if she succeeds, so she needs to throw herself into this or face being replaced by another girl.

And finally, Juliette's druggie mom shows up at the studio and later at her house because she's got nowhere else to go. Juliette absolutely does not want to get tangled up with her mother.

It's a mixed bag as far as which characters take the step over the ledge. With some coaxing from Avery via "if not for yourself, do this for me," Scarlett heads back to the studio with Gunnar. Juliette is forced to take in her mother after an incident at the bus depot downtown. But, Rayna and Teddy ignore the check (for now) and Deacon somehow summons the chutzpah to turn down Juliette.... but not after Rayna asks to meet with him. In what was the most cryptically written scene of the show, Rayna basically says she's confused and she should probably be letting Deacon move on with his life. What that means for the tour? It's probably off, but I don't really know. What I do know is that Deacon and music are the same thing, according to Rayna. Whatever that means.

This episode revisited a few songs we've already heard, like "Undermine" and "I Should Have Known Better," but once again knocked it out of the park music-wise with the closing number between Gunnar and Scarlett, "Fade Into You." Gunnar sings to Scarlett and Scarlett sings to Avery who is in the booth chatting up Watty. Whadda dog.

Speaking of dogs, next week expect fallout from Juliette getting caught shoplifting nail polish from a Kroger.

Anyway, I thought this episode was better than last week, mostly in that it moved us along story-wise and fleshed out the characters through action v. exposition. The writing still flirts with cheesy at times (see the paragraph about Deacon being music), but with substance and movement elsewhere, it's less noticeable. We're moving and that's the important thing, folks. Stay tuned!

Stray observations:

+ I have a hard time believing that Avery doesn't have a psycho streak. He had crazy eyes when he found Gunnar and Scarlett (gasp) writing a song in their living room.

+ Teddy is way boring. He stopped by the credit union whose board he sat on and found out that they're being (gasp) audited. Trouble ahead!

+ Teddy and Rayna's kids, also known as the adorable Youtube Stella sisters, performed at a school talent show and killed it.

+ Even through the revelation about Rayna's mom, it's damn near impossible to humanize Lamar because he's so incredibly creepy, working his jaw and starting ominously at people. Yeesh.

Mr. Frosty Man : Sufjan Stevens

Because the world isn't grim and unsettling enough, please enjoy the latest from Sufjan Stevens's forthcoming Christmas album Silver and Gold, entitled "Mr. Frosty Man."

The premise: A nuclear reactor spills radioactive goo on a graveyard and zombies attack a little family who lives near by. Fortunately, the family's snowman is part Rambo. Much blood is spilled. Intestines wind up EVERYWHERE. And it's a claymation– the quintessential childhood Christmas special medium. So yeah, might need to spike your eggnog after this 2-minute Christmas bonanza of joy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Killers Perform "All These Things That I Have Done" on Colbert

When the first track of the The Killers' debut album Hot Fuss started playing from my jog-proof portable CD player way back in 2004, it gave me my first real "WTF" moment, long before anyone started using the abbreviation. The alien buzzing and charging guitar that open "Jenny Was A Friend of Mine" sounded totally foreign. I didn't know what it was, I didn't even know if I liked it, but I stuck with that album and it's half the source of my pain when I hear The Killers these days and miss what they were (Sam's Town being the other half). If you're at all wired in a similar manner, you'll appreciate that during the band's recent appearance on The Colbert Report, they performed "All These Things That I Have Done," and that video is housed on the Colbert Nation website (also embedded above).  Needless to say, if you need direction to perfection, check it out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: 'Nashville' Episode Two

I think Tom Green would have said something like "Her head is on his bum."
After a strong premiere, ABC's Nashville failed to top itself in week two. In a way, it's not unexpected. The show set up so much plot last week, it probably needed a follow up episode devoted to shading in the details of all the characters' stories, but it didn't make for anything terribly exciting.

As the show opens, the audience is dropped into a Juliette Barnes music video shoot in front of the Musica statue at the Demonbreun roundabout here in Nashville. Juliette overhears a production assistant of some sort making a dig about her music and its appeal for teenage girls. She demands he be fired. The war for Deacon rages on as Rayna's people propose that she and Deacon go on tour together booking smaller venues and singing songs from the old days, and Juliette continues her efforts to nab him for her band... or something, by giving him a $50,000 Martin guitar and wooing him in the wilds of (no doubt) rural Williamson County. They start of writing a song together in the back of her truck and wind up not. That's one of the puzzling things about Deacon. His character seems too sharp and world worn to involve himself in this type of mess, but I guess it proves that a dude can't resist a topless blonde. Back in the Bluebird, Rayna's producer Watty offers to produce a demo for Scarlett and Gunnar after last week's duet, but Scarlet is reluctant because perhaps she feels guilty that hipster boyfriend Avery can't make it out of the 5 Spot, and all she had to do to attract some attention was crack open her notebook. Teddy's campaign basically serves an expository function in this episode as both Teddy and Rayna are interviewed for the "vulnerability study" and we learned about Teddy's bad real estate deal and the fluid start and end dates of Rayna's relationships with Deacon and her husband. Fun fact: Deacon had a drug problem.

So as you can see, there were no new twists or plot developments in this episode, which is bad because it allows some of the show's weaker spots to gain visibility. There's a logic gap in Juliette's story, for example, regarding what exactly she wants from Deacon, beyond a guitar player or a way to screw over Rayna. My best guess is that it has to do with her desire to be taken seriously outside of the teenage girl demographic, but we don't really know why she wants that, only that it's an emphasized theme. This frustration over perception leads to two of the night's most cringe-worthy lines. Juliette first tells Deacon, "Don't be fooled by this shiny exterior, there's more than meets the eye," and then later when she shows up unannounced at his house and says, "There's something about you that makes me want to grow up." Gross.

The other weak spot is the Bluebird triangle. They are so boring, and Scarlett seems to have barely anything more than a vague awareness that Gunnar exists, so this potential romantic cataclysm is not even that fun to watch.

To the show's credit, Nashville is developing a knack for killer final performances. After a scuffle between Rayna and Deacon earlier in the show about you can imagine who, Rayna shows up at the Bluebird to watch Deacon sing. Also present is Juliette. So when Deacon intros a talented friend who is  going to come up and sing with him, nothing is quite as sweet as Juliette getting ready to stand up and Deacon saying "Rayna Jaymes." The pair sing one of their old songs. If you're wondering why Rayna and Teddy have no chemistry, it's because it's all with Deacon. They sing together and inevitably dredge up old feelings, but it's a great moment. The lines on their faces match each other and you lament they ever split.

Overall, a lackluster showing this week. Hopefully now that all the ground work has been laid, we can get on to some actual plot. Sitting tight for now, folks.

Stray observations: 

+ Avery and Scarlett's house looks like it belongs to a nice, affluent middle aged couple living in the Belmont/Woodmont area. In other words, out of their price or taste range.

+ A shot of Teddy burning some papers and drinking is not enough intrigue to keep people watching.

+ Avery is an awful hipster.

+ The Musica statue is a terrible place to shoot a music video unless GIANT frolicking naked people are your thing.

+ Using songs actually written by Nashville songwriters is great. This week, check out Trent Dabbs and Kacey Musgraves who penned tonight's "Undermine."

The Gregory Brothers Work It Out

Debates are better as musicals. That's been the mantra of The Gregory Brothers the past three weeks as the quartet that brought us Autotune the News cranks out songified versions of the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates, all in the name of political absurdity and catchy hooks. Check out the latest from last night's town hall debate between Mittens and Barry. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Something Good" : Alt-J

A few weeks back I ran across a grim yet gorgeous music video for a song called "Something Good" by British indie band Alt-J. Much like the video itself, the song and the rest of the album, An Awesome Wave, is a lot to process. Beyond deciding if you love or hate singer Joe Newman's old man Marcus Mumford voice, you've got to accept the marriage of electronic and folk music, occasionally structured by 14th century monks. In any case, it's weird and addictive and I'm thinking Alt-J is about to be one of those bands people will not be able to shut up about this year. "Something Good" is true to its name. It's got some really lovely shifts and rhythms, and it's the best gateway into the rest of the album. Check it out.

Ben Gibbard Releases 'Former Lives'

Ben Gibbard's solo album Former Lives hits shelves today. If you haven't heard it, the whole thing is up on Youtube (legally!) so you can take it for a spin like I did last night. My first thought? This is definitely not a Death Cab album, and I'm also painfully aware it's not a Postal Service album so that leads me to believe that this might just be a first shot at pure Ben Gibbard. Anyway, stew on that for a while, and expect a full review of the album soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: 'Nashville' Episode One

As a longtime Nashvillian, I've been apprehensive about ABC's new drama Nashville. I was expecting a strong reaction either way, love it or hate it. That's why the most surprising part of Wednesday night's premiere for me was how neutral I felt about it.

Out of the gate I'll say the writing was good, the characters were mostly down to Earth, and Nashville mercifully didn't come off as some kind of hick town. The show also didn't really feel as if it had to be set in Nashville. For locals watching, shots of the skyline, iconic buildings, and Little Jimmy Dickens sightings are fun, but they feel mostly like props.

To give a brief synopsis of the episode, we meet country legend Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) at a point in her career where she's not bringing in the bucks she used to. Her album and tour are flailing financially and her label is pressuring her to co-headline a tour with up-and-coming country princess Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) who is absolutely unlikable as she disses Jaymes and attempts to seduce any male in her sight line. In this episode we also meet Rayna's father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe), who has to be one of the most fantastically evil SOBs on television. Whilst looking for a puppet candidate to run for mayor, he lights on Rayna's husband Teddy, played by Without a Trace's Eric Close, also known as the whitest man on Earth. Manipulation ensues. Then there are the peripheral characters– Rayna's producer Randy (seduced by Barnes), Rayna's guitar player Deacon (about to be seduced by Barnes), and a love triangle of twenty-somethings at the Bluebird Cafe (Methinks one of them is supposed to be a hipster).

The previews would have you believe Nashville is basically Dirty, Sexy Money– all scandal, tears, and histrionics, but it's much more restrained than that. So, when Rayna's father subtly threatens to let slip to Teddy that her youngest isn't his if she doesn't support the campaign, Lamar's scary rottenness has all the room to fester instead of competing with fifteen other gasp moments. And that's a good thing because with as many characters as we met, effective and even character development is going to be tough. For example, the trio in the Bluebird Cafe remains largely a sketch. There's a waitress named Scarlett who is Deacon's niece, her kind of boyfriend Avery, an aspiring alt-country artist, and the Bluebird sound guy Gunnar who encourages and actually helps Scarlett to put her little book of poetry to music. Despite the fact that we know very little of them so far, Gunnar and Scarlett deliver the episode's best musical performance at an open mic night, as in, I'm considering buying the song off iTunes. Other songs sung on the show by Juliette and Rayna were definitely believable as current country tunes...  and somewhat forgettable.

So where does this all shake out? I think the show is good enough to stick with. Connie Britton indisputably gets who Rayna is supposed to be. Hadyen Panettiere is going to be one of those love-to-hate characters. Nashville is good but not killer, and that just might be because of all the little story strings it dangled so soon, like Declan and Rayna's suggested past or Juliette's meth head mom. It's a lot to establish. But it is a pilot. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, I'm just waiting for Belmont president Bob Fisher to pop up somewhere. That's for all you Belmont alums out there. Go Bruins.

Stray observations:

Edgehill Republic Redords = Nashville's Edgehill community + Republic Records

Lamar Wyatt and henchmen discuss building a ballpark downtown. Lordy, can't even escape the talk in TV land.

Next week I'm starting a tally of how many people say "darlin" every episode.

Nashville looks incredibly glamorous.

Rayna's daughters are definitely those cute sisters who had that Youtube video where they sang "Call Your Boyfriend" while keeping rhythm with solo cups.

Deacon look familiar? You must be a Whose Line is it Anyway fan. Chip Esten was a rotating performer.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Punch Brothers Live Sampler on Noisetrade

If you're into all things Punch Brothers lately, you'll be pleased to know that the Chris Thile lead bluegrass/folk group has a live sampler on offer over at It's four songs recorded at the Fillmore and obviously worth the download. Or better yet, you don't even have to leave this page to get it. Download thingy above.

In other news, the following two search terms brought people to the blog: "machine that helps stretch your face" and "James Mercer British accent." SEO FTW, as the kids say.