Friday, June 28, 2013

Avett Bros to Release New Album Fall 2013

Perhaps I've underestimated as a source for breaking news in the music world. The Avett Brothers tweeted a link earlier today to an interview with Elle discussing a new album, set for release in the fall.

The songs come from the same session that gave us The Carpenter last year. "The album was sort of made naturally on its own," Scott Avett told Elle. Not all of them were written specifically for the session, though. Avett said some are as old as seven or eight years.

Check out the rest of the interview here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

'Rouse Yourself' : JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

When I read that JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound's new video for "Rouse Yourself" paired Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Rec) and Jake Johnson (New Girl) together as a couple with minor communications issues, I watched primarily because it sounded like some genius match-making.

I got so much more from this 4-min investment, though. "Rouse Yourself" is a silky little groove with a strong hook. The best part is the chorus which goes, "If we are forever, I hope we just get better, better, better. That's why it's such a shame, the ways we stay the same, same, same." This is one of my favorite types of lyrics– simple but well put.

The video itself is a little wacky. I didn't initially get the premise, but Plaza and Johnson being their signature deadpan and cheese ball selves made up for it.

But back to the track, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound is an indie soul (Lord, whatever that means) group from Chicago. They've been around since 2007. "Rouse Yourself" comes from their third and latest album Howl, which was released last month. By the way, I took the album for a spin yesterday and it's pretty good.

Check it out.

A Decade of Concerts

Things I learned in Grad School: Wordle
Today marks the end of the first decade of my concert-going life. Back in 2003, my dad got me tickets to see Matchbox Twenty with openers Sugar Ray at the AmSouth Amphitheater here in Nashville, and ever since I've been chasing the good spirits that come with catching a much-loved band live.

If you're interested in a full account of that first show, you can check out a post I wrote last year for all-around-cool Tumblr Gigs Reflex.

I'm a big believer in documenting things, so I got a little excited when I found a MB20 concert DVD tapped in Atlanta, a mere three nights after their Nashville date called Show: A Night in the Life of Matchbox Twenty. Rest assured it's on my Amazon Wish List.

But beyond capturing MB20 on video or blogging about some of the bigger shows I see, I decided this year to put together a Google Docs spreadsheet with the nuts and bolts of every show I've been to in the past ten years– headliner, opener, venue, date, and who came along. While seeing shows shouldn't be a numbers game, I can't say I don't enjoy adding rows to the document. I used the columns devoted to venues and artists to make a word cloud using Wordle. I suppose the big story of my concert-going life is that I end up at the Ryman Auditorium more often than not. I was surprised to see Syracuse's Westcott Theater as big as it is since I was only up North for a year, but I guess looking back, I made more than a few stops. I was also pleasantly amused to realize that I've seen friends' bands as many time as I've seen some of my favorite acts like Andrew Bird or The National.

Style-wise, the outliers in this mix are definitely T.I. and Public Enemy, but yes, I have indeed seen them. Dawes should probably be a bit bigger considering that the three times I've seen them have been well inside of one calendar year. Special points for that, right? What else. I'm weirdly proud to have seen the Flaming Lips. Even if they're not my favorite or even most familiar band, they are probably my favorite live show to date for not only being a joyous spectacle, but for this particular performance at Rites of Spring when it started raining lightly as they came on stage and we were just all so happy to have survived the mosh pit for N.E.R.D.. The show that represents the biggest achievement is probably the Avett Brothers from last month. You can't even really make it out on the Wordle, but know that it took me six years to catch them on tour.

So, that's the decade. It's been great and my hearing has probably suffered as a result, but I've also found that going to shows is one of my favorite things to do. I'd call that a gift.

Here's to the next ten years.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Theme Songs : 'Long Hard Times to Come' from 'Justified'

My latest pop culture obsession has been, without a doubt, the FX drama Justified. I'm somewhat late to the game as the show started in 2010, but as Amazon Prime is streaming the show for free, I'm almost totally caught up on the fantastic exploits of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and the criminal elements of Harlan County, Ky.

I could write pages about the tight story telling and the complex characters– I could write pages alone on Raylan's not-quite friend, not-quite enemy Boyd Crowder who finds Jesus after getting shot, though probably not the Jesus you or I met at Sunday School.

In many ways, starting with the unceremonious fashion in which I decided to give a few episodes a shot, I've been surprised at how this show works for me. Is it a little violent? Sure. Is it occasionally so intense that I hit "pause" and do a lap around the living room? Definitely. Does watching more than one episode at a time make it difficult to maintain my non-regional accent? Yes. In that vein, should the theme song work at all? No. But. It does. Very well, in fact.

Allow me to introduce you to Gangstagrass, a group that fuses bluegrass and rap– the group responsible for Justified's theme song "Long Hard Times to Come."

FX "Justified" Main Titles from Elastic on Vimeo.

Gangstagrass has been around since 2006, but only really saw any attention when their song got picked for the show, and then later again when they got nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. In case you're wondering, the award went to the theme from Nurse Jackie.

I love that the first time you watch the credits, the rap is so unexpected. Decaying barns and silhouetted cowboys don't exactly scream "rap," but Justified isn't your typical Western. As such, it would be ridiculous to stick with a conventional sound to intro the show.

More importantly, the lyrics are so well-suited to Raylan, whose ex-wife describes him in the first episode as the angriest man she's ever known. Raylan's got a lot to be mad about. He's also got a certain concept of justice and morality that are finely tuned to who he is and where he's from. "The devil's hugging on my boots, that's why I own a gun," goes a long way to explain him even if it's a line not featured in the 30-second main title. Still, "On this lonely road, trying to make it home, doing it by my lonesome-pissed off, who wants some. I'm fighting for my soul," etc. rings pretty true for him in words, as well as the defiant tone of the delivery.

Anyway, check it out. Gangstagrass put out a new album in 2012 called Rappalachia, and I can't think of a better closing note than that.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

'New Words of Wisdom' : Brendan Benson

In case you've been feeling productive lately, let Nashville artist Brendan Benson put you to shame. He's nearly half way through his song-a-month campaign of 2013. The newest track is a waltzing little number called "New Words of Wisdom." My words of wisdom to you? Give it a listen and then get crackin' on whatever it is you do. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

'The District Sleeps Alone Tonight' : Frank Turner, Ben Marwood and Franz Nicolay

Here's something cool the Internet spit up today. Back in 2011, Frank Turner, Ben Marwood, and Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady) performed a cover of "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" by Postal Service. I never knew how much I wanted that song to be sung with an English accent until hearing this. The video comes from the last night of a tour they did together in Winchester, England. Check it out.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Five Reasons We Still Love Spinal Tap

When talking about the 1984 "rockumentary" This is Spinal Tap, there are two camps of people: the ones who get it and ones who think it is some ridiculous ****. I happen to be of the former group. God bless Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Chistopher Guest and Co. for so deftly channeling the very worst tropes and pretentions of rock 'n' roll into an air-tight satire about a band on the downswing. In that spirit, check out the latest piece I wrote for Consequence of Sound in honor of this June's reissue of the This Is Spinal Tap soundtrack on vinyl, encased in soulless black packaging. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dawes Plays the Ryman Auditorium

From a balcony seat.
Last week things went silent here at TMI as I was in Peoria, IL most of the week doing bridesmaid duties at my college roommate's wedding. It was an intense weekend capped off by a quick flight home Sunday and a trip to the Ryman Auditorium that night to catch Dawes. 

The show was great for a couple reasons. For one, this was my third Dawes show this year and it was definitely the best. They seemed genuinely happy and appreciative of the significance of playing the Ryman. It's holy ground. The vibes were just so good and the audience was particularly vocal. They were basically hitting on the band the entire night. It was great. The other reason it was a memorable night is that it was my Dad's first Ryman concert. I thought it was a good match with Dawes' Ryman debut. Plus, it's a band that we both can agree on.

Dawes played about 19 songs. You can check out a Spotify playlist the Ryman made here. They mostly performed tracks from Stories Don't End and Nothing is Wrong, throwing in "When My Time Comes" and "That Western Skyline," which they used to close out the show because it's the first track from their first album North Hills. They played pretty much everything I wanted to hear: "From a Window Seat," "Most People," Time Spent in Los Angeles," "Peace in the Valley" etc. "Something in Common" was particularly nice. They put a little echo on Taylor Goldsmith's vocals and tamed the arrangement on the verses, making the song even more desolate and heartbreaking than usual. Dawes also performed "Moon in the Water," which they said they don't normally trot out because it's a quieter song that needs an audience responsive to the song's tone.

Midway through, Goldsmith brought out Jonny Fritz (formerly Corndawg) to sing "Goodbye Summer" off his recent album Dad Country, which Dawes played on. Fritz is something of an odd and interesting figure in these parts, so it was fun to actually see him sing live. He was wonderfully quirky and sort of scooted/shuffled around the stage and off it when the song ended.

Another quick point– opening act Shovels and Rope is worth your attention.

So, that was that. I'll stop here before I start to gush. Dawes remains one of my favorite bands to see live, if not my favorite. From the first few notes of opening song "From Window Seat," I marveled how strong they are as a band, even though it's a fact I know well.

Catch a show if you can.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Did You Know Psychobilly is a Genre?

If you're looking for a way to drown your afternoon, I've got just the thing. Check out Every Noise at Once. It's a website that maps out music genres based on an algorithm. The map is huge, including just about every genre you can think of (bluegrass! chillwave!) and a bunch you've probably never heard of (psychobilly!). If you click on the names of the genres, you get a 30 second clip from a song deemed representative. If you click on the >> you get a map of the artists within the genre, so for example, Riot grrrl plays a Heavens to Betsy clip and brings up a map that lists Sleater-Kinney, Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, Bangs and about a hundred others. Most of the bands have playable clips as well. You can also hit "scan" at the top of the page and it'll bounce around from genre to genre, following tejano with gothic symphonic metal and God knows what other delights.

I'm sure you could find things to whine about with this site. After all, I don't know I would have picked "We Are the Champions" by Queen to represent the entire genre of rock, or put Dire Straits in the art rock category, and don't ask me why jazz fusion is below Nashville sound, either, but that's almost beside the point. This is a cool data-driven exploration of music, and more importantly, a possible doorway to finding new bands to love. On a goofier note, it's a good time reading all the genres names. (What is anti-folk? Apparently, Kimya Dawson. And just so you know, there's a difference between deathgrind, grindcore, and goregrind.) On one last note, God bless this site for attempting to sort out "indie rock," whatever the heck that is anymore.