Thursday, August 30, 2012

NPR Streams New Avett Brothers Album

Here's what you need to know today: NPR is streaming the new Avett Brothers album The Carpenter.

Here's some additional info: It's pretty good, especially "Pretty Girl from Michigan," "Geraldine," and "Paul Newman v. The Demons."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teardrop Windows : Ben Gibbard

Pretty much all I can say is thank God this teardrop has nothing to do with a waterfall.

Enjoy this breezy track from Ben Gibbard's October 16 solo release Former Lives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dawes and Mumford Cover the Beatles

I took great joy in writing that headline, in case you were wondering. Last week Mumford and Sons played a show at the Chicago Theatre and tackled a cover of "With A Little Help From My Friends" with a little help from opening act Dawes (see what I did there?) Folks, it is quite lively. Frontmen Marcus Mumford and Taylor Goldsmith alternated verses. There was much bouncing around on stage. It's a performance like this that makes me wildly jealous of musicians. Check it out.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Year Zero by Rob Reid

If for some reason, you don't think the music industry is absurd enough, Rob Reid's new book Year Zero is here to lock up any competing perceptions.

The basic premise is that back in 1977, the great many alien populations of our universe discovered Earth's music, namely the theme song from Welcome Back Kotter. The discovery of Earth music changed everything. We turned our intergalactic neighbors into the most intense variety of music junkies you could imagine. But all these years later, a few aliens realized that Earth essentially owns the universe a few times over because of the nonstop music piracy that fuels their outer space music addiction. So, two aliens in particular seek the help of a copyright lawyer named Nick Carter who they mistakenly think to be the Backstreet Boy, and shenanigans ensue as they all try to settle the debt and save the Earth from other aliens who think the best way solve the debt problem is just to destroy the planet.

Year Zero walks a fine line between incisive satire and utter cheeseball-ery. The author (Reid, who founded which was responsible for Rhapsody) likes to drop in cringe-worthy phrases like "crosstown traffic" or "free bird," making the writing too cute and too on the nose at times. Characters have names like Carly, Frampton, and Ozzy. Beyond word choice, the book loses some punch amid the sheer exposition involved in constructing a universe from scratch. (Ask me how many toes Perfuffinites have!)

But if you push aside these bits of fluff,  it's a fun read that takes jabs at an industry that mostly feels too big and dumb to believe, something that's so muddled up it can hardly move beyond merely wishing the Internet would go away and on to any real action. At one point Nick breaks it down. He characterizes the music business as paralyzed by fear, or worse, paralyzed by the thought of doing something that might inadvertently benefit someone else. Because, as the book says, music execs seem to hate everyone– the musicians, the radio stations, the fans, the Internet, the retailers, the concert industry, and God knows who else. How could any kind of consensus on anything ever be reached?

In this way, Year Zero does a slick job of splicing in discussion of items like the Berne Convention (for all you Comm Law aficionados out there) without having to resort to bad Bruce Springsteen jokes.

That's not to say that the book should have scrapped all humor. One of the most enjoyable parts of Year Zero is its grounding in modern culture that's both funny and familiar. Take Reid's description of Nick's love interest Manda, who also happens to be an indie artist signed to Merge.

"Manda's something of an It Girl on the independent music scene. Her haunting, melodic songs have obtuse lyrics, and meld folklike arrangements with swish electronica."

I could describe 20 percent of my iTunes library with that sentence. There are also other funny references to things like an Amish v. Aliens Facebook game and a store called Forever 29– "a store for older women who like to dress like trashy youngsters and lie about their age." For all the absurdity, the reader gets the sense that while music-loving aliens plotting our destruction is mercifully not our problem, we've still got our hands (or headphones) full down here.

First Concert: Matchbox Twenty

First concerts are magic. That's why I suggest adding Gigs Reflex to your Google Reader, or whatever you use to keep up with your interweb reading list. To borrow the tag line, it's a Tumblr devoted to "First concerts. Concert firsts." And now my own first concert tale is happily housed there. Check it out and read all about how Matchbox Twenty and Sugar Ray set me musical track I'm on today.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Cabin Sessions : Ivan & Alyosha


Consider this today's tip for living a happier life. This morning while bouncing around NoiseTrade I found this EP from Seattle band Ivan & Alyosha. My first memory of this band is hearing them on NPR's All Songs Considered, scribbling down the name and probably horribly misspelling "Alyosha." But that's neither here nor there, is it?

The Cabin Sessions is an EP featuring a handful of songs off their Aug. 7 release All the Time We Had, including acoustic versions of "Be Your Man" and "On My Way." Ivan & Alyosha has some really nice breezy harmonies. I particularly like the little shuffle thing they've got going on during "Don't Want to Die Anymore."

So yes. Damn enjoyable. Have at it courtesy of NoiseTrade. Be a sport, kick in a couple bucks and check out The Cabin Sessions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Boxer : Mumford and Sons, Jerry Douglas, Paul Simon

Lest you think Pinterest is merely a website for planning a wedding you don't have a finance for or bookmarking DIY projects you'll never try, let me introduce you to this afternoon's big find. It's a cover of the Simon and Garfunkle song "The Boxer" by dobro player Jerry Douglas, featuring Mumford and Sons and Paul Simon. According to an article I found in Relix, the track comes from Douglas's June album, Traveler. 

In related news, I started a Pinterest board for The Musically Inclined. It's got a whopping 3 pins so far, but if you're into all that, you can (as the Beach Boys would say) come go with me.

Dawes at the Cannery Ballroom

Photo: The Musically Inclined
Dawes returned to Nashville and the Cannery Ballroom Sunday night, headlining the venue for the first time.

Frontman Taylor Goldsmith remarked that the band has gotten used to introducing themselves and their songs to unfamiliar audiences, but playing in Nashville it felt like "we know each other." The show had that kind of ease of familiarity to it, like the highest goal was not so much to win fans as it was to please the ones who came out. Even from opener Simone Felice of the Felice Brothers, who brought Nashville's own Apache Relay out to sing tribute to the late Levon Helms via "I Shall Be Released," the night sprawled from a place of community and comfort.

Seeing Dawes perform live certainly brings out a greater appreciation for Taylor Goldsmith's guitar skills. He gets a chance to showcase more than his voice and his songwriting. It's a kick watching him play. Goldsmith moves at the mercy of the music, balancing on his toes or side hopping across the stage.  A live show also means the audience gets the most out of songs like "When My Time Comes" and "How Far We've Come," which naturally demand crowd participation.

Fun fact: Taylor Goldsmith is actually this blurry in real life.
The set list consisted mainly of songs from their last album, Nothing is Wrong, with a handful from their debut album North Hills. They also played two songs, "Something in Common" and "From the Window Seat," off their next record. The latter is about getting "a case of the fears" after being in an airplane for too long, Goldsmith told the crowd.

Early in the set John McCauley (Deer Tick and Taylor Goldsmith's Middle Brother bandmate) joined the band for a few songs, taking verses on "Million Dollar Bill" and "When My Time Comes."

Dawes spaced out well the tunes from their repertoire that best let them jam and expand, like "Peace in the Valley" and "My Way Back Home." Those songs were also a good chance to watch drummer Griffin Goldsmith's intense drumming faces.

Thank you, Google Images. 
For the encore, Dawes played three more songs including "The Way That You Laugh" and heartbreaker "Moon in the Water." Then came those chords we'd been waiting to hear. Cannery Ballroom went into full singalong mode and Felice came back on stage and perched by the drum kit to belt along with everyone else: "You've got that special kind of sadness! You've got that tragic set of charms!" For a band from across the country, it sure felt like they were playing on home turf.

Here's to hoping they'll be back soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zero Plays Project: Part 2

This week the universe brought me some slow burners, including tracks from Joshes Rouse and Ritter. Nevertheless, here's installment no. 2.

Band: Sebadoh
Song: Rebound
Why it's worth a play: When a song starts off with a line like "Heartbroken and attractive," you've just got to see where it's going. For background, this song comes to you courtesy of 1995. Sebadoh is part of Sub Pop's roster. The band formed in the late 80s and started playing lo-fi indie rock blah blah blah. "Rebound" is decently catchy, and comes in at barely over two minutes. There's something amusing about frontman Lou Barlow's low power delivery. Take it for a spin.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Killers : Runaways

We're inching closer to the September 18 release of The Killers' 5th album, Battle Born. In the meantime, the band put out the music video for the album's first single, "Runaways." I looked really hard for the hook, and I think I found part of it in "Jilted Lovers and Broken Hearts" from frontman Brandon Flowers 2010 solo effort, Flamingo. But maybe that's just me.

Anyhoodle, "Runaways" drips with that straight-faced faux epicness the band does so well– even when they're vaporizing or singing against a cloudy but still blood red sky.

This came to mind.

Compare for yourself. I promise it's somewhere in there.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Tallest Man on Earth Packs the Cannery Ballroom

No full review here, but I do want to take a second to blurb a rare great concert moment. On July 23 I caught The Tallest Man on Earth at the Cannery Ballroom, here in Nashville. It was a solid show. Until I saw Kristian Matsson (The Tallest Man) take the stage, though, it never occurred to me what great security performing with a band must provide versus stepping out alone. Luckily, Matsson and his guitar can hold the wonder of a crammed venue. And crammed it was with a crowd that included everything from hipsters to pooka shell-wearing frat boys.

Matsson seemed genuinely surprised at the the crowd, which brings me to that moment. Every now and then at a show you'll catch something that has nothing to do with showmanship or entertainment. When Matsson launched into the final chorus of "The Gardener," he stopped singing and let the crowd finish out the line "So I could stay the tallest man in your eyes, babe." I'd say it was like every other time a artist lets the crowd sing if it were not for the way he scanned the audience in disbelief of how so many people knew every single word. I could be wrong, but that experience had to have been pretty cool.