Tuesday, February 28

DUELING OOMPA LOOMPAS



This won't be a timely post, but as I just got around to watching Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this past weekend, it will have to suffice.

First, I should probably establish the fact that the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a childhood favorite of mine - shown once a year here in the Detroit area, a la The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music. [Of course, there weren't so many channels in those days - for us: just 2 (CBS), 4 (NBC), 7 (ABC), 9 (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) on the VHF (no remote control, so you actually had to get up off your ass and click!-click!-click! that upper dial). On the UHF, you had 20 (Green Acres, Petticoat Junction), 50 (Gilligan's Island; The Brady Bunch), 56 (PBS), and 62 (one-step up from community access) (spin that lower dial!). And that was it. How the hell did we ever survive that primitive, seemingly Amish-dominated era?]

But to get back on point... Johnny Depp certainly amused me in the new version of Chocolate Factory (though no one will ever hold a candle to Gene Wilder in that role), and there were some nice visual bits, as you'd expect from Tim Burton (I especially liked the nut-shucking squirrels). So... C+, I guess.

As for the music, I've always liked Danny Elfman's scores (hell, I even went through an Oingo Boingo stage, though I don't like to talk about that). I was also always a big fan of the Oompa Loompas in the original film. They (and the songs they sang) had a certain "menacing" quality to them that appealed to me as a child (you just know that, given half a chance, they would have turned any number of Munchkins and Von Trapp children into dinner).

I liked the digitally-manipulated Oompa Loompas in the new film as well, though they seemed to be played more for humor than horror. As for their musical interludes, I'll leave it for you to decide which version reigns supreme...

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2005 >>>
[MP3] "Augustus Gloop"
[MP3] "Violet Beauregarde"
[MP3] "Veruca Salt"
[MP3] "Mike Teavee"

From Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971 >>>
[MP3] "Oompa Loompa Song #1"
[MP3] "Oompa Loompa Song #2"
[MP3] "Oompa Loompa Song #3"
[MP3] "Oompa Loompa Song #4"

Monday, February 27

SERGE GAINSBOURG


Not too long ago I wrote about Jens Lekman-precursor Scott Walker [here]. Well, Mr. Walker was big-time smitten with the French, dirty-old-man composer Serge Gainsbourg. Today - in Europe, at least - a tribute album to Mr. Gainsbourg will be released featuring such artists as Portishead, Tricky, Michael Stipe, and Placebo. Entitled Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited, it also sees Franz Ferdinand and Cat Power take a crack at the master - the Monsieurs Ferdinand with Gainsbourg songbird Jane Birkin; Ms. Marshall with White Stripe wife Karen Elson. (The Cat Power track already seems to be drawing an awful lot of vitriol on the web. I don't know; it sounds okay to me. Light. Fluffy. At worst: harmless. And what's up with all these nasty heroin rumors about Cat? I mean, sheesh... I thought the girl just had a grade-A case of stage-fright.)

Regardless, the other three fingers making up today's fistful are originals sung by some of Gainsbourg's too-numerous-to-enumerate female proteges. They are French, and they are fun. No translation required.

[MP3] Franz Ferdinand & Jane Birkin/"A Song for Sorry Angel"

[MP3] Cat Power & Karen Elson/"I Love You (Me Either)"

[MP3] Francoise Hardy/"Comment Te Dire Adieu"

[MP3] France Gall/"Les Sucettes"

[MP3] Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin/"Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus"

Friday, February 24

THE INDELICATES


Normally, I would never so callously cannibalize another blogger's post as I am about to today. But today is not "normally"; it's Friday. And I'm so ecstatic about this band that I just might wet my pants. So I can't help myself, you see. Not guilty by reason of imminent incontinence.

The band I'm urine-ing for you to immerse yourselves in is the British the Indelicates, and the blog I'm cannibalizing is the Italian Indie for Dummies. The Indelicates hail from Brighton and have only been in existence since September 2005. They are led by Simon and Julia Indelicate - whose married-in-name-and-novelty-only vocal interplay brings to mind the Shane MacGowan/Kirsty MacColl dynamic of "Fairytale of New York." Or maybe they're what would happen if you jammed Jarvis Cocker, Black Box Recorder, and Billy Bragg in a blender. You'd get something thick. A bit bitter. Dark. Delightful. Delicious. Ah, leave it to the Brits....

If you like what you hear below, please visit the Indelicates' website [here] and fling your virtual underthings at them. As yet, they are unsigned, and they no doubt could use the affirmation and affection. [Also, go to Indie for Dummies to download another Indelicates song - "Vladimir" - and to thank him for helping get this train out of the station.]

[MP3] "We Hate the Kids"

[MP3] "Julia, We Don't Live in the 60s"

[MP3] "New Art for the People"

[MP3] "Waiting for Pete Doherty to Die"

Thursday, February 23

LOOKS LIKE THINGS ARE GOING WELL IN THE STUDIO...
... OK, MAYBE NOT...

RADIOHEAD GET 'NUDE'

Well, I was none too pleased yesterday when ever-stylish, ever-elegant Achtung Baby! posted the full-band version of Radiohead's "Nude" (aka "Big Ideas (don't get any)"). Like him, I had heard the other day that Radiohead were finally working on a studio version of that long-time fan favorite. No telling whether it will make the upcoming record, be released as a b-side, or perhaps be offered as a downloadable track before the band takes to the road this summer. (There's also no telling, I suppose, whether they'll actually follow through with the thing till it's finished; they tend to be a fickle lot.)

Regardless, below you will find a few different live takes on the song, starting with a full-band version that is similar to Achtung's but is from a separate concert. The second and third are performed by Thom Yorke solo, the first in Japan in 1998, the second in the UK in 2005.

Also, I've included a couple of other tunes that the band has never properly recorded. "Lift," which is from the post-Bends/pre-Computer period and was performed by the band in 1996. And "Follow Me Around," which is newer-but-not-new, and was played by Thom and Jonny Greenwood (I believe) in December of 2003.

[BTW, the sound quality is somewhat erratic with these, but I think the songs are worth it.]

[MP3] "Big Ideas (don't get any)" [aka "Nude"] [live/full-band]
[MP3] "Big Ideas (don't get any)" [aka "Nude"] [live/Thom 1998]
[MP3] "Big Ideas (don't get any)" [aka "Nude"] [live/Thom 2005]

[MP3] "Lift" [live/full-band/1996]

[MP3] "Follow Me Around" [live/Thom/Jonny/2003]

Wednesday, February 22

MATT MAYS
& EL TORPEDO

MATT MAYS & EL TORPEDO

I hate radio. All the stations tend to be owned by the same handful of massive corporations, and they all tend to play the same crappy songs, again and again and again. But last summer, after dropping my sister and her kids at the airport, I had to drive her SUV back to my house. Alas, I hadn't a single CD in the car, and the radio was my only option.

Fortunately, while blindly scanning the stations, I stumbled upon 89X out of nearby Windsor, Canada. They played some songs that I liked just fine (Death Cab, Stellastarr*) and a few that had me longing for the dull, empty drone of rubber on road (Creed, Nickelback). Eventually, I came across a catchy rocker called "Cocaine Cowgirl." by Matt Mays-something-or-other. But by the time I reached my driveway, I'd pretty much forgotten about it.

Fast-forward to about a week ago, when a random scan of the Hype Machine brought me to the MP3 blog Come Pick Me Up and a song called "The Plan." By none other than Matt Mays & El Torpedo.

Ah-hah, said I, suddenly remembering my post-airport, Canadian-radio "Cocaine Cowgirl" moment of a summer ago. I proceeded to Google "Matt Mays," which got me to the band's website. From there, I learned that Matt Mays & El Torpedo are from Nova Scotia, Canada, which we like - as we like bands from Canada (although, truth be told, we like bands from anywhere... so long as they don't sound like Creed or Nickelback). Regardless, Matt Mays released a solo album in 2002, then put together a four-man band to record their self-titled CD (released in March of 2005). Since then, they have been touring extensively and have been nominated for a number of music awards in Canada.

The CD can be purchased at various on-line sites, including the Canadian Maple Music.

Also, the band will be touring Ontario and Nova Scotia throughout March, with one noteworthy stop in Austin, Texas on March 15th as part of the SXSW Music Festival [at the Creekside Cafe - on the same night as fellow Canadians (and MP3 blog regulars) Cuff the Duke]. If you can, catch them. In the meantime, here are some nice tunes to give you a taste of them...

[MP3] "Cocaine Cowgirl"

[MP3] "On the Hood"

Tuesday, February 21

THE ONE THAT ISN'T JOPLIN

JANIS IAN

Let's send a little old-school love out to Janis Ian, whose new album, Folk is the New Black, hits U.S. retail shelves today.

Of course, Ian is best known for her song "At Seventeen," which many deride for its on-its-sleeve, maudlin sentimentality. As somebody who was a kid in the '70s and listened to a lot of such songs on AM radio, I have a certain, no-doubt-unholy attraction to these types of ditties. (Maybe tomorrow I'll post Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me" and that thing where somebody leaves Richard Harris' cake out in the rain.)

Ms. Ian has been a somewhat mercurial performer and personality over the past 30 years, but she deserves at least some kind of credit for taking on subjects like sexual identity and self-esteem long before it became fashionable to do so.

From the LP Folk is the New Black, 2006 >>>
[MP3] "Folk is the New Black"

From the LP Between the Lines, 1975 >>>
[MP3] "At Seventeen"

Monday, February 20

THIS GUY PROBABLY COULDN'T HOLD THE COUNTRY TOGETHER DURING A CIVIL WAR...
... BUT THIS GUY PROBABLY COULDN'T WRITE A DECENT POP SONG

MATTHEW SWEET

Well, this one's gonna be a stretch....

Today, in celebration of Presidents Day here in the U.S., I am featuring the one and only... Matthew Sweet. Yes, THAT Matthew Sweet. "Girlfriend" Matthew Sweet. The oh-where-have-you-gone-we-hardly-knew-ye Matthew-Sweet.

Why on Presidents Day, you probably can't even be bothered to ask? Well, it just so happens that Mr. Sweet hails from Nebraska.

LINCOLN, Nebraska, to be exact.

And there you have it.

And here you have some songs...

From the LP 100% Fun, 1995 >>>
[MP3] "Smog Moon"

From the LP In Reverse, 1999 >>>
[MP3] "Untitled"

From the LP Girlfriend, 1991 >>>
[MP3] "Winona"

[MP3] "Magnet and Steel" [w/Lindsey Buckingham & Susanna Hoffs]

[MP3] "The Ballad of El Goodo" [Big Star cover]

Thursday, February 16

(1991-2001)

CATATONIA

R.I.P. Grandaddy.

That's where this post begins, as that's where the idea of shining a spotlight on a few bands that no longer live and breathe as music-making entities began. (Either that, or VH1's Bands Reunited; who the hell can tell?)

I'll get to Grandaddy at some later time, as a number of other blogs have already written that story and shined that light. Makes sense, too - as Grandaddy's demise at least comes with the casket-sized silver-lining of an impending legacy (the LP Just Like the Family Cat, V2 Music, May 9th).

With the Cardiff, Wales group Catatonia, on the other hand, no such mitigating factor seems to be in the offing. Four-plus years after calling it quits, lead singer Cerys Matthews has already moved on and released a well-reviewed (if little-heard) solo album (2003's Cockahoop).

All things considered, though, a ten-year run in today's dog-eat-doggier-than-ever music biz is nothing to sneeze or cast stones at, and Catatonia has left behind some solid songs to help alleviate the pain of their passing. Here's four-fifths of a handful...

From the LP International Velvet, 1998 >>>
[MP3] "Road Rage"
[MP3] "Mulder and Scully"

From the LP Equally Cursed & Blessed, 2000 >>>
[MP3] "Dazed, Beautiful & Bruised"

From the LP Paper Scissors Stone, 2001 >>>
[MP3] "Village Idiots"

Wednesday, February 15

SAVING MATTHEW RYAN

MATTHEW RYAN

An Aquarium Drunkard featured an interview with singer/songwriter Matthew Ryan on February 10th and offered a slew of songs for your downloading pleasure. Always happy to hop on a bandwagon, I've decided to offer a few of my favorites as well.

I don't know how under-the-radar this guy is, really; it may be that everybody already knows about him. I discovered him with East Autumn Grin, which remains my favorite record of his. He has an attractively raspy voice and isn't afraid of arrangements that feature more than just voice and guitar. No offense to all the Sufjan, Iron & Wine, and Jose Gonzalez lovers out there (and you are legion), but those folks sometimes make me sleepy.

Truth be told, I hear at least a sliver of Springsteen in Mr. Ryan, and that can't be bad.

From the LP Regret Over the Wires, 2003 >>>
[MP3] "Return to Me"

From the LP East Autumn Grin, 2000 >>>
[MP3] "Heartache Weather"

From the LP May Day, 1997 >>>
[MP3] "Guilty"

[MP3] "Little Drummer Boy"

Monday, February 13

LESS LOVE/MORE MASSACRE

THE MAGNETIC FIELDS

Well, everybody's going to have their clever Valentine's Day themed things happening today. I thought I'd keep mine on the simple side and spotlight some of my favorite tracks from the Magnetic Fields' 1999 magnum opus 69 Love Songs.

Stephin Merritt, my papa was a rodeo... too.

[MP3] "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side"

[MP3] "No One Will Ever Love You"

[MP3] "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits"

[MP3] "Meaningless"

[MP3] "Papa Was a Rodeo"
CHENEY MAY HAVE MISSED HIS TARGET, BUT I'M ALL FOR QUAYLE HUNTING

Sunday, February 12

THE 7-UP OF RABBIT-ORIENTED INDIE GROUPS?

UNBUNNY

I just discovered Unbunny's 2004 album Snow Tires rather recently. It's not exactly an obvious knock-out, but repeated listens reveal it to be quite the sly little charmer.

Common camparisons with these guys tend to go to Elliott Smith, Neil Young, and Neutral Milk Hotel. Probably a smidgen of truth with each of them, I suppose, but Unbunny have their own little thing going on, and they deserve their own little spotlight.

[MP3] "I Leave Stones Unturned"

[MP3] "I Knock Things I Haven't Tried"

[MP3] "Nightwalking"

[You can purchase this album (and discover any number of MP3s by other worthwhile artists) at...]

Buy it at Insound!

Friday, February 10

SOUNDTRACK TO JANUARY 2006

Well, this first month of '06 has been a decided mixed bag. On the positive side, my soul-crushing parents finally flocked back to their Florida abode after the holidays. Also, I re-started my NetFlix membership and have been giddily re-submerging myself in the genius of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Freaks and Geeks, The Sopranos, and the British version of The Office. Hallelujah, sayeth I.

On the negative side, my liver continues to limp along under my incessant, self-inflicted liquor assault (while my teetotaling, not-yet-40 cousin awaits her second liver transplant). As somebody has said again and again and again: if there is a god, he/she/it has one hell of a sense of humor.

And now, on a far less serious yet nonetheless highly annoying note, my furnace has gone all a'wobbly on me - something that 5 service calls and $500 worth of repairs have yet to entirely correct. Not that it ever gets cold in Michigan in January or anything....

As always, though, there is music - most, if not all of it, supplied by all the great and generous MP3 blogs out there. Shall I thank a few of them right now? I think I shall: Gorilla vs. Bear, Take Your Medicine, Stereogum, Coast is Clear, Swedesplease. Thanks go to them and to everybody I've linked to and to anyone who has bothered linking to me. I can only assure you: I love and need you more than you love or need me.

I've decided to collect my favorite tracks of the past month in yet another one of those handy-dandy zip files and post it here for those interested in 80 minutes worth of winter bliss (an idea ripped off from the handy-dandy Beat the Indie Drum (if you haven't yet, please go [here] to explore his gorgeous archives).

Anyway, here were the highlights of my month, which can be downloaded, in toto, by left-clicking [in between these here brackets].

TRACKLIST:

1) Midlake/"Roscoe"
2) The Detroit Cobras/"Cha Cha Twist"
3) Gnarls Barkley/"Crazy"
4) The Gossip/"Listen Up!"
5) Meligrove Band/"Our Love Will Make the World Go Round"
6) Stellastarr*/"Love and Longing"
7) The Picture/"It's Alright"
8) David & the Citizens/"Let's Not Fall Apart"
9) Battle/"Demons"
10) Head Like a Kite/"Noisy at the Circus"
11) Quit Your Dayjob/"Sweden We Got a Problem"
12) Los Super Elegantes/"Porque Te Vas?"
13) The Clean Prophets/"Tambourine Crown"
14) The Sunshine Underground/"Put You in Your Place"
15) Calibretto/"When I Think About You"
16) Chris Brokaw/"Move"
17) Viola/"Lovelights"
18) Popgun Pillow/"Thrills"
19) I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness/"According to Plan"
20) The Radio Arts/"Let's Go"
21) Roland Shanks/"August"
22) Irene/"Stardust"

Wednesday, February 8

JENS, I KNEW SCOTT WALKER... SCOTT WALKER WAS A FRIEND OF MINE... JENS, YOU'RE NO SCOTT WALKER

SCOTT WALKER

I was listening to Jens Lekman the other day, and, as usual, finding myself liking but not loving him. Great voice, great atmospheric productions, but the SONGS, for the most part, don't tend to add up to much for me.

But thinking about that VOICE got me thinking about Scott Walker. I always want to preface this man's name with "the late, great" - the way people do with Nick Drake. But Mr. Walker, thank our lucky stars, lives and breathes and every now and again crawls out of his seclusion to remind us of that fact.

Scott Walker, for those who don't know, was rather big in the UK in the '60s - first as a member of the Walker Brothers, and then as a solo artist. Since the '70s, though, he's been downright hermit-like. Still, he has had a huge influence on everybody from David Bowie to Bryan Ferry; from the Divine Comedy to Pulp. (In point of fact, he produced Pulp's last album, 2002's We Love Life.)

I just can't get enough of this guy's sound, from the lush-yet-playful productions to, yes, that VOICE - a rich, almost '50s-era baritone, like some hip-daddy, bizarro version of Andy Williams. Enjoy.

[MP3] "Jackie" [from LP Scott 2, 1968]

[MP3] "Next" [from the LP Scott 2, 1968]

[MP3] "No Regrets"/The Walker Brothers [from the LP No Regrets, 1975]

[MP3] "Birds in Your Garden"/Pulp [from the LP We Love Life, 2002] [have to think that Mr. Walker had something to do with those cool, '60s-styled backing vocals on the chorus]

Monday, February 6

DID DR. PHIL THINK UP THIS TITLE?

THE PERNICE BROTHERS

[Blogger's been a bitch lately, so I can only hope this post goes through...]

If I had heard the Pernice Brothers' Discover a Lovelier You in 2005, it might well have made my Top 10 list. Pansy-ass, self-help-book title aside, the record offers up no end of sunnily autumnal hooks and is a solid listen first track to last. So here's to lovely, if belated, discoveries...

[MP3] "There Goes the Sun"

[MP3] "Amazing Glow"

[MP3] "Snow"

Sunday, February 5

R.I.P. L.P.
PLEASURE CRUISE

JULEE CRUISE

[Blogger ate my longer post on Julee Cruise yesterday, which pisses me off mightily. Here, at least, are the songs I tried to offer...]

[MP3] "Into the Night"

[MP3] "Falling" [Twin Peaks theme]

[MP3] "Summer Kisses, Winter Tears"

[MP3] "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" [w/DJ Silver] [Eurythmics cover]

Thursday, February 2

SINGLE-ARTIST THURSDAY

SILENT TONGUE

Silent Tongue is a relatively new indie collective led by singer/songwriter Matt Durante.

Their latest record, The Formula of Believing, clocks in at just 24 minutes, and its eight songs walk an experimental, pop-rock line that might appeal to fans of Guided by Voices and the now-defunct Grandaddy.

(You can download another Silent Tongue song from their MySpace page [here].)

[MP3] "86 Was a Good Year"

[MP3] "Still Defending"
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