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.