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.