Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: 'Nashville' : 'When You're Tired of Breaking Other Hearts'

After almost a month of reruns, we finally got a fresh episode of Nashville tonight. I'll be honest, it was a wincer. Here's what happened.

When we left off, Juliette's assistant had shoved a puppy in Deacon's arms and walked away. Picking back up, we find Deacon singing to the poor dog, trying to soothe the adorable little beast. Unsure what  else to do, he takes it to the animal hospital where the vet just happens to be young-ish and blonde. She is weirdly crabby, hates on country music, and mocks Deacon for being a musician, but you immediately know where this damn thing is going. He asks her out for lunch and apparently "lunch" is the code word for doing the nasty in Nashvegas. (It's not.) As the pair put their clothes back on at his place a little while later, vet lady protests that she usually doesn't do this and then leaves inexplicably pissed just after she snaps at him to name his dog. I found her character to be confusing and I started to backtrack to figure out what went wrong seeing as how she was by no means obligated to even hit up Baja Fresh with him, let alone sleep with him, but then I remembered Nashville's tendency to introduce and quickly dispose of characters, so I stopped worrying. Later on, Deacon sits on his front porch with Coleman who advises him not to sleep with the vet (too late!) and delivers the following analysis of why Deacon prefers the ol' one night stand: "You try and keep yourself available for Rayna." He follows that up with: "You're strung out on Rayna Jaymes."

Deacon later goes back to the animal hospital and asks the vet out on a proper date. She is not amused at his whole "Dog named Sue" joke.

Meanwhile in the Bluebird universe, Gunnar and Scarlett wake up the morning after their weird grief/sex escapade. In this episode, Gunnar does everything to make the audience hate him. He tells her that what they did didn't have to mean anything. He goes to the police station to see if they've caught Jason's murderers, but the cop basically tells him it's unlikely. Jason was a bad guy in a bad place and there are innocent murder victims out there who need more attention. This upsets Gunnar who decides to go m.i.a. on the day he and Scarlett are supposed to audition for Rayna's label. After a bajillion worried phone calls, she's forced to perform alone. That night Gunnar comes home drunk and they have a skirmish where she tells him, Yo, I get you're grieving, but that doesn't mean you can treat me like crap. He generally acts like a shit, pushes her off him when she tries to hug him, and leaves. Next thing you know, Scarlett is pounding on Deacon's door because she thinks that Gunnar's gone off to do something stupid. They rush off to find Gunnar with his hood up (because he's a badass) lurking outside the bar Jason had gone to before he died. Deacon busts out a story about blaming himself for getting his best friend killed in a car accident. We go WHOA WHAT. After spinning some poetry about getting dark and twisty, Deacon tells Gunnar, "You want to hang on to something, hang on to her [Scarlett]." Gunnar and Scarlett go home. He apologizes but she affirms that the other night was indeed a mistake. Later on that night, they meet in the kitchen because LOVE. In case you're all awww, Scarlett gets a call the next morning that she's been signed as a solo act. I hate Gunnar now, so I'm not upset about it.

Juliette is upset though, only it's directed at the record label because their digital plan is not cutting edge enough. She takes it into her own hands to tweet about playing what was supposed to be a small gig at awesome-store-in-the-Gulch Two Old Hippies. The place gets packed. Deacon makes worried faces and sees Maddie in the crowd even though she's supposed to be grounded. The crowd gets pushy and Maddie gets pinned under a smallish shelf, sending Deacon cutting through the crowd pull her out. It's been rough lately for the kid. The Jaymes household continues to crumble. Rayna and Teddy will take shifts at the house with the girls. Maddie calls her mother a bitch, blames her for Teddy leaving, and it just all sucks. Deacon takes Maddie to the hospital and Rayna and Teddy rush over. It's awkward, especially when Rayna thanks Deacon and he tells her Maddie is like family.

Family? Why would you say that?
Still, Rayna and Teddy clash about her staying away that week because it's Teddy's turn. Thankfully, the pettiness subsides somewhat when Rayna turns up at the house again that night with her sentimentality and a guitar for Maddie.

Meanwhile at camp Barnes, there is mucho fallout from the show and the multiple injured teeny-boppers. Rayna even calls to yell and tell her "You hurt people around you all the time!" Other stuff happens on the road to emotional recovery between Addiction Counselor, Druggie Mom, and Juliette. The end result is that Juliette is taking them both on tour and picking up the hospital bills for the kids since she kind of incited the whole thing.

Hmm.. what else. Earlier, Teddy had a presser announcing Coleman as Deputy Mayor. I half expected Lamar to be hanging upside down from the rafters bearing his fangs. Later, Lamar busts in the mayor's office drawing power from the mahogany walls. He wants to know about plans for building the stadium since Coleman opposed it. They're doing it, but not on Lamar's land. Coleman and Teddy look like boys being reprimanded by dad. This show tries so hard to push the political intrigue, but it's so boring.

Much like Avery! So boring. Dominic continues to bulldoze him. He literally utters the words  "Nashville meets dubstep." Long story short, after Dominic tells Avery he owns him and his music, Avery steals his tapes and torches them. He gives back the car and $75K as Dominic yells threats. Finally, Avery turns up at the Bluebird to sing a song about learning life lessons.

Stray Observations:
+ "Nashville meets dubstep." LULZ
+ To be honest, I would have put Gunnar's ass on the street after that whole mess.
+ Rayna stopping by Katie Couric's new show was a worthless bit of ABC synergy.
+ I think Deacon's revelation about his buddy's death is supposed to further cement the parallels between Deacon and Rayna and Gunnar and Scarlett. I wish they'd stop.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Noah and the Whale Ready New Album

I can't even understand how this got by me. Noah and the Whale announced their fourth album Heart of Nowhere, out May 6. Here's a trailer they released a bit back. If you're looking for some indication of where they're going, you probably won't find it here.

Better yet, check out the first video from the album. The song is "There Will Come a Time." Along with the album, the band is releasing a short film directed by frontman Charlie Fink. It's got a definite Orwellian vibe.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Catchy TV Commercial Songs | Review: Caitlin Rose

Here are a couple items from recent editorial efforts elsewhere.

First up, I did a feature on the 10 catchiest songs from TV commercials lately. Besides curating the list, I got to talk to Nashville artist Keegan DeWitt about JC Penneys using his (excellent) song "Say La La"for an Oscars campaign.


Speaking of Nashville artists, I also got to spend some time with the new Caitlin Rose album, The Stand-In.  Check out what I had to say about her solid sophomore offering.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dawes Play Grimey's Too

Props to my friend Emily for taking this for me.
For weeks I've been looking forward to catching Dawes play an in-store performance at Grimey's Too here in Nashville. So after standing in a line outside in the cold, 150ish people crammed into Grimey's new indie bookstore extension where it was considerably warmer and brighter. Dawes played for just about an hour, opening with "From a Window Seat" and hitting a bunch of new tracks from their April 9 release Stories Don't End, including "Just My Luck," "Something in Common," "Hey Lover," "Someone Will," and "Most People." They also worked in "Time Spent in Los Angeles" and closed with "A Little Bit of Everything" from Nothing is Wrong

There was a lot to enjoy about the afternoon. For pre-ordering the album earlier in the month to get a spot at the show, the audience also recieved really nice screen press posters to get signed. It was also exciting to see these guys in a smaller space. Since they've just announced a Ryman show June 9, I get the idea it's all up from here.

Dawes is an easy band to love. Especially after seeing them live, you get a picture of how solid their musicianship is. Plus, the lyrics. They always get me. There's so much music I like, but Dawes' songs fall into the category of music I react to. I'm particularly crushing on "Most People." There are a couple of lines that go "Most people don't talk enough about how lucky they are. Most people don't know what it takes for me to get through the day." That's some good drama.

Anyway, if you weren't there, you can hear several songs the band played earlier in the afternoon for local radio station Lightning 100 at a secret show.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Natalie Maines to Release Solo Album

In the process of consuming massive amounts of SXSW coverage the past week, I stumbled on one final news bit of interest this morning. Natalie Maines, formerly the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, is releasing a solo album called Mother on May 7 with help from Ben Harper.

Off the bat, I'm excited. I always thought the way the Dixie Chicks' career flamed out after Maines' comments about Bush and the Iraq war was a shame. So many other artists survive sex scandals, drug scandals, etc., it seems absurd to think about a flap like that lasting more than 48 hours.

And yet, there's a sense that it's still not over. The Washington Times did a story on Maines at SXSW and the picture painted is one of a singer who is still in recoil, muted by the severe blowback from a decade ago. The writer even mentions that Maines was the one to bring it up in their interview. That's a bummer because I wish she could shake it off. Natalie Maines as damaged was never the image she conjured. She was fiery and her voice could bowl you over with its sheer power.

Anyway, back to the album. You can check out the electronic press kit above. It seems like working with Ben Harper's been a good thing. After hearing a few tracks, I'm excited about Maines making more rock-bent Americana. The Washington Times article aslo said that Mother will feature multiple covers including Eddie Vedder's "Without You," Pink Floyd's "Mother," and Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should Have Come Over."

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Downside to Songwriting?

For the past week I've been spending a lot of time thinking and writing about Death Cab for Cutie's fourth album Transatlanticism because I'm working on a piece about its ten-year anniversary. While researching, I found an article in Spin where frontman Ben Gibbard talked about getting sober. What really struck me is how he lumped in the emotionally-draining processes of writing songs with the self-destructive habit of drinking. He went as far to say "Once you realize that a positive act [getting sober] helps to balance out the negative act of being a writer, you become a more balanced person emotionally."

I've talked to a lot of songwriters of the past few years, and I've never heard any of them describe their trade as something negative. Gibbard's quote really fascinated me because most of the time writing is framed anything from a love of storytelling, to therapy, to straight up catharsis. Though, Gibbard's words did bring to mind a George Sands quote I wrote down some time ago: "The writer's trade is a violent, almost indestructible passion. Once it has entered a poor head, nothing can stop it." While I've never written a song, I've written a lot of other things ranging from fiction to lengthy non-fiction features. Weirdly, I've always liked the idea of there being something slightly sinister about writing because it's hard not to wonder how anything that requires so much stress, anxiety, and emotional output could be remotely healthy.

Anyhoodle, I thought this was something worth pondering. Obviously, no, songwriting is not unhealthy. I hope.

Review: 'Wild Chorus' by Anders and Kendall

My favorite thing to say about what happened to Americana in the past ten years is that it came in from the fringes. Check out the other things I said about the genre and where this lovely little album fits in it.

Read more... 

Review: 'Wishbone' by Bobby Long

Bobby Long and I have something in common. We've both written papers on Americana/folk music. Good story, no? Check out what I had to say about his sophomore album.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Vacationer Play Carson Daly

About a year ago I found a band called Vacationer by way of a couple friends, and the band's debut album Gone basically destroyed the remaining weeks of winter in Syracuse, NY.

Vacationer is a little hard for me to explain. Both the band and the album almost qualify as "concept" pieces– Gone is essentially about getting out of town, and the band's sound reflects that in its chilled out vibe. They use samples, loops and retro-sounding beats. You couldn't really say it's pop or rock or electronica or ambient. It's just really addictive, relaxing, catchy music.

When the album came out, I couldn't find out much about them beyond the fact they're from Pennsylvania.  Then Paste Magazine did a short feature on them a little while later and I had some hope they'd pick up steam and become the indie world's newest darlings. Occasionally Vacationer's newsletter rolls into my inbox with tour dates I can't get to, including SXSW this week. Other than that, I don't know that too much else is shaking. Anyway, I have about a hundred questions I'd love to ask them if I ever had the chance, but more than that, I've got a whole love for that album.

That said, I was pretty pleased to see that they played Last Call with Carson Daly at the end of  February. It got by me, but thanks to the Music on the TV section of Grimey's New and Pre-Loved Music's weekly newsletter, I dug it up after all. Check out their performance of two songs from Gone, "Trip" and "Good As New." If you feel about these guys the way I do, you'll want to tell everyone you know about them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

So You're Not at SXSW 2013

Hey, friend. So it's time once again for half the country to funnel into Austin, Texas for the annual South By Southwest Festival. There will be show-hopping, elbow-rubbing, and sadly you won't be there. And you won't be able forget about your misfortune because of your Twitter feed. My God. Your Twitter feed.

But never fear! You can still enjoy some of SXSW from the comfort of your laptop. When life gives you lemons, find a high speed Internet connection. Here are a few ways you can keep up with the music portion of the festival from wherever you are.

+ NPR is streaming both audio and video March 13 and 14 straight from Stubbs and Auditorium Shores. The lineup is as follows:
Wednesday, March 13:

9:10 p.m CT - Waxahatchee
10 p.m. CT - Cafe Tacvba
10:40 p.m. CT - Youth Lagoon
11 p.m. CT - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
12 a.m. CT - Le1f
12:30 a.m. CT - Alt-J

Thursday, March 14:

5 p.m. CT - Jovanotti
6 p.m. CT - Bajofondo
7 p.m. CT - Molotov
8 p.m. CT - Cafe Tacvba

You can also check the NPR site for other streamed events, like Dave Grohl's keynote speech.

+ Both Paste Magazine and NPR are offering free samplers of SXSW music. Check out Paste's Stages on Sixth sampler from NoiseTrade, and NPR's Austin 100.

+ The festival itself is offering SXSWfm again this year, which is basically an online station where you can stream music from acts playing there this week. It's not live, but it's worth checking out. 

+ For any Nashvillians out there wondering why we can't have nice things, here's an in-depth article from the City Paper about Nashville's history with music festivals and if we might ever have one of our own. 

+ Wired's SXSW blog is a pretty cool mix of pictures, quotes and text posted in a Tumblr-esque fashion. So there's that.

+ Oh, and um... #SXSW

The Zombies Play Nashville's War Memorial

Made this with Cinemagram. 
A quick dispatch tonight (this morning?). I got to see The Zombies at Nashville's War Memorial Auditorium. If you don't know, The Zombies are a British group that started recording in the early 60s and are probably best known for their hit song "Time of the Season" though they have many other popular and notable tunes like "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No." The remaining members are Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, both solid performers who had solo careers of their own when the band broke up. Without getting into a ton (because it's late and I'm tired), it was a great show. Both Argent and Blunstone seemed so satisfied to be performing for a receptive crowd. It was also cool to hear them weave in some of their history in between songs, especially since the audience was by no means solely comprised of Baby Boomers. But wouldn't you know in room full of gray hair, I got stuck next to three elementary-aged kids. Well. Good for them. This would have been a heck of a first concert. Besides sampling the hits and other favorite tracks from the past, they also played new material off 2011's Breathe Out, Breathe In. As someone who is not overly familiar with all of their work, I couldn't distinguish between which songs were old and which were new.

I really want to go on about how Argent wailed on the keyboard, or how Blunstone nailed "Summertime" by George Gershwin, or how the other guys in their band were pros... or even how Nashville's own The Ettes opened and their drummer has to be the hardest working drummer I've ever seen, but really the best way to wrap this up is by saying this: Fifty years later, and The Zombies are still kicking.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mixtape Philosophy: How to Ride a Tornado / 500th Post

I haven't posted anything in a few days because I was trying to scheme up something cool for The Musically Inclined's 500th post.

Well. Here we are. Happy 500th post to us.

Last night while watching the local news, I heard the weather person say that this week is the beginning of Tornado Season. If you grew up in an atmospherically volatile place like Nashville, Tornado Season conjures up a whole range of feelings from anxiety to annoyance. Never been through a bad tornado warning? Picture the Helm's Deep battle from Lord of the Rings. You cower inside while all hell breaks loose outside. And the worst thing is when a storm hits in the early hours of the morning. There were a few years in the 90s when it felt like I was woken up every other night in the spring by epic thunder, lightning, and the general sense that the gods were unhappy.

But the thing is, after 18-ish years of living here, I can't muster up a good fear anymore. Anyway, I thought it would be cool to make a themed mix in honor of the start of the season called How to Ride a Tornado. Themed mixes can be a little on the nose sometimes, but the last one I did (Flight Notes) was pretty fun.

I see this mix as a pre-storm calm down. Most of the songs have some repetitive or ambient quality, good for taming nerves. I'm most excited about "Surrender to the Storm" by Joseph Arthur off his recent 2-part album Redemption City. "Surrender to the Storm" breaks my rules about song length in mixes, but for good reason. At 11 minutes, it's an accurate mix of emotions and tensions during a rough weather system, from an awe for the power and drama of the storm, to the final soothing stages when the worst is over and it's just rain. There are also songs like "Windstorm" by School of Seven Bells that have interesting, mysterious sounds to them, not unlike the weirdness you hear in a storm. And then to close out, I picked "Rise to the Sun" by Alabama Shakes, partly because it's the perfect segue from "Surrender to the Storm," but also because the morning can be the best consolation.

Anyway, Happy Tornado Season.

PS ("Weather of a Killing Kind" by the Tallest Man on Earth might not show up on Spotify.)