Thursday, May 29


SOUTH: what an incredibly forgettable, generic, unGoogleable name for a band. Hell, why not just call yourselves Beige? Or Bland? Or Yawn? (Though, come to think of it, some dream-pop outfit out there might do pretty well with Yawn.)

South is/are a London trio who have been mentored by the likes of THE STONE ROSES' IAN BROWN and UNKLE's JAMES LAVELLE. I first became aware of them with their 2001 album, FROM HERE ON IN. At the time, I considered them a sort of shoegaze version of TRAVIS (damn those Brits & their incredibly forgettable, generic, unGoogleable names! Why not Bob? Or Bill? Or Larry?)

Generally-speaking, South are a standard, guitar-centric Britpop band with a few electronic accoutrements. Indeed, every now and again, they can sound quite a lot like NEW ORDER (see/hear "A Place in Displacement" below). The new album, YOU ARE HERE, dropped in April.


From the LP YOU ARE HERE, 2008 >>>
MP3] "The Pain"
MP3] "Lonely Highs"

MP3] "A Place in Displacement"
MP3] "Safety in Numbers"

From the LP WITH THE TIDES, 2003 >>>
MP3] "Loosen Your Hold"
MP3] "Silver Sun"

From the LP FROM HERE ON IN, 2001 >>>
MP3] "Too Much Too Soon"
MP3] "All in for Nothing"

Wednesday, May 28


Shiver-me-timbers-and-blow-the-man-down but I can be one dumb motherf*ck sometimes. Here I'd been resisting listening to MARTHA WAINWRIGHT's sophomore CD, I KNOW YOU'RE MARRIED BUT I'VE GOT FEELINGS TOO, because I'd never been all that impressed with her much-ballyhooed work with FAIRPORT CONVENTION and husband RICHARD THOMPSON.

Uh... hmmm....

So, you see, what I'd been doing was... I'd been confusing Martha Wainwright (a 32-year-old Canadian-American) with LINDA THOMPSON (a 60-year-old Brit). I mean, how the hell is that even possible?

Well... I can only defend myself by hook and by crook (a flow-chart might also be helpful): Martha Wainwright is the daughter of LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III (61; American) and KATE McGARRIGLE (62; Canadian). These two were apparently friends -- back in the day -- with Linda and Richard (59; Brit) Thompson. Loudon & Kate have a singer-songwriter son (RUFUS WAINWRIGHT; 34; Canadian-American). Richard & Linda also have a singer-songwriter son (TEDDY THOMPSON; 32; Brit). Rufus & Teddy were friends (until Rufus went to rehab). Like Rufus, Teddy has a singer-songwriter sister (KAMILA THOMPSON; 26; Brit). In 2004, Rufus Wainwright appeared in the film "The Aviator" (as "Cocoanut Grove Vocalist #1") with Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2002, Leonardo DiCaprio appeared in the film "Catch Me if You Can" with Tom Hanks. In 1995, Tom Hanks appeared in the film "Apollo 13" with Kevin Bacon. And there you have it. Endgame. Amen. Hallelujah. Yahtzee!


MP3] "You Cheated Me"
MP3] "So Many Friends"

From her self-titled LP, 2005 >>>
MP3] "Factory"


MP3] SNOW PATROL [w/MARTHA WAINWRIGHT]/"Set the Fire to the Third Bar"

Tuesday, May 27


Last week's THE BLUE SEEDS hailed from Montreal; so do this week's ISLANDS. Beyond geography, however, the two groups would seem to have little in common.

Islands play a quirky brand of indie-pop that never wants to sit still. Maybe they just suffer from ADD, or maybe they're actively experiencing seizures while laying down their tracks. Whatever the case, the results can be exhilarating and/or exhausting -- sometimes simultaneously.

Their second album, ARM'S WAY, hit the bricks-and-mortar shops on May 20. "In the Rushes" is one of their typical, schizophrenic manifestos, while "Creeper" is their catchiest effort to date -- complete w/dance-y backbeat, snake-charmer guitar, and a cute-'n'-clever synthesizer breakdown that puts it over the top (in all the right ways). If ADD is to blame for this, hold the Ritalin.


From the LP ARM'S WAY, 2008 >>>
MP3] "Creeper"
MP3] "In the Rushes"

From the LP RETURN TO THE SEA, 2006 >>>
MP3] [VID] "Rough Gem"
MP3] "Volcanoes"

Monday, May 26


Married musicians KORI GARDNER and JASON HAMMEL -- aka MATES OF STATE -- released their latest long-player on May 20. Despite its title, RE-ARRANGE US is not a remix album (as I initially assumed). With age, the band seems to be shedding some of its trademark quirks & eccentricities and settling into a more refined, mature sound. Thus, new listeners may find this to be a most warm and welcoming effort, while long-time fans bitch & moan (& yawn) over the blanketing lushness of the production and the relatively unadventurous song structures.

Me, I'm kind of liking it. Probably more than IMPERIAL TEEN's last LP, which seemed to have similar, "grown-up" ambitions.


From the LP RE-ARRANGE US, 2008 >>>
[MP3] "My Only Offer"
VID] "Get Better"

From the LP BRING IT BACK, 2006 >>>
MP3] "Beautiful Dreamer" [REMOVED BY REQUEST]
MP3] "Nature and the Wreck" [REMOVED BY REQUEST]

Sunday, May 25


Okay, I'm going to level with you now.... I am very, very white. Literally, figuratively. Inside, out. Up, down & around. I can't dance. Can't jump. My crib is unpimped ('70s suburbia split-level; straight "Brady Bunch"). My fingers & grill are blingless. My rims are factory-issue. My coiff is more congressional comb-over than Superfly 'fro or cornrow.

Sadly, my skin is the color of a Croatian cadaver. A Scandinavian vampire. An albino agoraphobic. Which is to say: It's pale, baby. Pale as a potato's pith; a drinker's piss; an Irishman's ass. (Have I mentioned that I'm half Irish? And very, very pale?)

There is also the fact that I reside in the"whitest" city in these united states of America, located a mere two miles from the second "blackest" city in these united states of America. While EMINEM made his bones amongst 8 Mile's strip joints & storefront Methodists & Baptists, I willingly gave in to inertia amidst 6 Mile's strip malls and set-back Presbyterians & Catholics. Mere miles apart... yet Mr. Mathers' Devil's Nights were likely spent watching abandoned buildings burn to the turf, while mine were occupied with egging '70s split-levels and toilet-papering unsuspecting evergreens. Represent!

So, you see, what I'm trying to say is... I am decidedly unfunky. I lack soul (literally, figuratively). I have no rhythm. And even my blues are of the pale, powdered, suburban variety. Hell, I needed a fellow honky like Eminem to slip me a glimpse of African-American musical culture. Quentin Tarantino, as it turns out, too.

While, over the years, I've come to regard "Pulp Fiction" as ferociously overrated, I've remained a fan of its oft-forgotten follow-up, "Jackie Brown." It was the soundtrack to that latter film that introduced me to BOBBY WOMACK, a man with rampant rhythm, an abundance of funk, and some serious soul.

Well... last week, PITCHFORK trumpeted the news that a new compilation -- THE BEST OF BOBBY WOMACK: THE SOUL YEARS -- will be released this Tuesday (along with digital editions of the man's albums, spanning 1968 to 1976). Say no more. Time to get my groove on. Or, at least, as much groove as a half-Irish vampire cadaver can manage....

[MP3] "Across 110th Street" [1972]

MP3] "California Dreamin'" [1969]

MP3] "Harry Hippie" [1972]

MP3] "Lookin' for a Love" [1974]

MP3] "I Can't Take It Like a Man" [1970]

MP3] "Fly Me to the Moon" [1969]

Friday, May 23


[MP3] THE DANDY WARHOLS/"Mission Control" [2008]

MP3] THE NATIONAL/"Forever After Days" [2008]

MP3] SEBASTIEN TELLIER/"Sexual Sportswear" [2008]

MP3] THE BEATLES/"It Won't Be Long" [1963]

MP3] THE CARS/"Stranger Eyes" [1983] [BY REQUEST]


Thursday, May 22


More MySpace namechecking...

For Montreal's THE BLUE SEEDS, it's PORTISHEAD and COWBOY JUNKIES that get mentioned as kindred, "sounds-like" spirits. And it's true enough -- especially in the case of the latter. (I'd go ahead and toss THE WALKABOUTS into the mix, as well.)


MP3] "That Night in Amsterdam"

MP3] "Lost and Delirious"


L.A.'s LOW VS. DIAMOND namecheck U2 and THE STROKES on their MySpace, but, to my ears, THE KILLERS are the far more obvious touchstone. To see if you agree, you can cozy up to their self-titled debut LP on iTunes, wait for the physical release of said debut LP sometime this summer, or download and listen to 18% of said debut LP right here, right now. The choice, as always, is yours....


MP3] "Don't Forget Sister"

MP3] "I'll Be"

Wednesday, May 21


Much the same way that Oprah has gained godlike influence over the bestseller lists with her book-club selections, Apple/iTunes/iPod has become something of a finger-in-the-wind arbiter of what's hot & what's not in the pop-music milieu. Indeed, it's all-but-impossible to escape those digital silhouettes of teens & twentysomethings (one can only assume they're teens & twentysomethings) dancing the mess around and getting jiggy with the likes of GORILLAZ ("Feel Good Inc."), THE CAESARS ("Jerk It Out"), U2 ("Vertigo"), and, now, THE TING TINGS ("Shut Up and Let Me Go").

I must admit, these do tend to make for addictive snippets: the commercial as catnip. But... the "artistic" context and delivery system here almost can't help but cheapen the material, nevermind the fact that 30 seconds of music that's good to groove to does not in any way guarantee a three-and-a-half to four-minute song with an extended shelf-life.

That said, Twinkies are known to have excessively extended shelf-lives, and those sweet 'n' spongy treats are probably a pretty fitting metaphor for the Ting Tings' sassy brand of party pop. Highly-appealing in small doses; a wee-bit nauseating when over-indulged.

So, eschewing the obvious, Apple-endorsed ditty here, we present to you, instead, the following creme-filled confections for your responsible consumption....


MP3] "Be the One"

MP3] "We Walk"


OKKERVIL RIVER side-project SHEARWATER will release its fifth full-length effort, ROOK, on June 3. JONATHAN MEIBURG's eggshell-delicate voice is at its best when working against a steady, borderline-tense musical backdrop. "Rooks" demonstrates this in spades, while "Leviathan, Bound" might go all gossamer on us without its persistent, ringing piano and strings that somehow sound both sad and exultant. In short: darned purty stuff.


MP3] "Rooks"

MP3] "Leviathan, Bound"

Tuesday, May 20


I am happy to admit that I have never, ever watched an episode of "American Idol." From the beginning, it simply didn't interest me. Glorified karaoke without the booze-fueled, bowling-alley charm? No thank you. I'll stick with "Top Chef."

(I can only assume that the people watching "Idol" are the same ones watching "America's Funniest Home Videos," "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," Oprah, and NASCAR. If they're Democrats, they favor Clinton. If they're Republicans, they favor Jesus. If they're independents, they're watching "House.")

But nevermind all that. This post is about AMANDA JENSSEN, of Sweden. Of "Swedish Idol," actually. Yes, there really is such a thing. In fact, there are 34 national "Idol"s, including Turkey, Slovakia, and Kazakhstan. (Rumor has it that CLAY AIKEN garnered his special-guest slot on "Serbia, Montenegro & Macedonia Idol" after he was mistaken for BARRY MANILOW. Which, of course, is entirely understandable.)

Turns out that Amanda Jenssen (like Clay Aiken) was the runner-up on her "Idol" season. The winner? MARIE PICASSO -- who, it turns out, also appeared on "Swedish Big Brother." Yes, there really is such a thing. Also: "Russian Big Brother," which, even post-Cold War, still seems like it would be very, very scary....

Amanda Jenssen has released her first album, the nicely-titled KILLING MY DARLINGS. It's pop music, with hints of WINEHOUSE-styled retro-soul. For example: "For the Sun," which is sort of "Winehouse + SHERYL CROW." "Come On (You Have Arrived)" sounds like THE SOUNDS or SAHARA HOTNIGHTS making a pass at BILLY SQUIER's "Rock Me Tonight." And "Greetings From Space" is a no-holds-barred ballad -- complete with sweeping strings & celestial choir. Think: SKEETER DAVIS' "The End of the World" mashed with DOLLY PARTON's "I Will Always Love You" (if Dolly had gone all WHITNEY on its ass).


MP3] "For the Sun"

MP3] "Come On (You Have Arrived)"

MP3] "Greetings From Space"


[MP3] SKEETER DAVIS/"The End of the World"

[MP3] DOLLY PARTON/"I Will Always Love You"

[MP3] BILLY SQUIER/"Rock Me Tonight"

Monday, May 19


You know, ever since last Tuesday's regrettable-in-the-extreme JASON MRAZ post, I've had FREDDIE MERCURY on the brain. Eat your pale-pretender heart out, PAUL RODGERS....

[MP3] "Love Kills" [Star Rider remix]

MP3] "There Must Be More to Life Than This"

MP3] "I Can Hear Music" [pre-QUEEN]

MP3] "Love Kills" [Sunshine People Radio mix]

Sunday, May 18


You know, ever since Tuesday's almost-assuredly-regrettable JASON MRAZ post, I've had NELLIE McKAY on the brain. I sure wish she'd Get Away From Me and stop bothering My Pretty Little Head....

From the 2-LP GET AWAY FROM ME, 2004 >>>
MP3] "Ding Dong"
MP3] "Respectable"
MP3] "David"

From the 2-LP PRETTY LITTLE HEAD, 2006 >>>
MP3] "The Big One"
MP3] "There You Are in Me"
MP3] "The Down Low"
MP3] "We Had It Right" [w/k.d. lang]

MP3] "Identity Theft"


[Unfortunately, "Calendar Girl" had some technical issues this morning. My apologies for that. A new, glitch-free copy has been substituted.]

You know, ever since Tuesday's perhaps-now-regrettable JASON MRAZ post, I've had NEIL SEDAKA on the brain. Only one way I can think of to get him offa there....

[MP3] "Calendar Girl" [1960]

MP3] "You Mean Everything to Me" [1960]

MP3] "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen" [1961]

MP3] "I Must Be Dreaming" [1961]

MP3] "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" [1962]

MP3] "Laughter in the Rain" [1974]

MP3] "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" [1975]

Friday, May 16


Lately, I've been traipsing my way through the back-catalogue of the Nashville collective LAMBCHOP. ALL MUSIC GUIDE begins its overview thusly:

"Touted as 'Nashville's most f*cked-up country band' by their label Merge Records, LAMBCHOP was arguably the most consistently brilliant and unique American group to emerge during the 1990s. Their unclassifiable hybrid of country, soul, jazz, and avant-garde noise seemed at one time or another to drink from every conceivable tributary of contemporary music, its baroque beauty all held together by the surreal lyrical wit and droll vocal presence of frontman KURT WAGNER."

For me, Lambchop misplaced much of its mojo after 2000's NIXON. Wagner's twisted tales became less... well... twisted. Less funny, in a nutshell. Not that the man had to continue to write songs with titles like "Soaky in the Pooper," "Your Fucking Sunny Day," "My Face Your Ass," or "I Sucked My Boss's Dick," but hey, that was certainly part of the charm. Even more troubling, though, is the fact that the musical backdrops have gradually become more stagnant & stale. Long, dark dirges bleed into still more long, dark dirges. I guess I miss those cosmopolitan country '60s strings. I guess I miss that electric transition when Wagner ratcheted his rusty croak into full-fledged falsetto. It all seemed vaguely insane. Sure, the train was always on the verge of jumping the tracks, but that was exactly what made it such a thrilling, invigorating ride.

Anyway... the songs below are meant to be of-a-piece -- an EP with song-to-song flow, as opposed to individual tracks all alone by their lonesome. Ultimately, this collection does not serve as a particularly useful career-spanning sampler (there are four songs from 1998's WHAT ANOTHER MAN SPILLS alone), but I like the general ebb and flow, and I think it works as a reasonable introduction to the highly peculiar charms of Kurt Wagner & Co.


MP3] "Give Me Your Love (Love Song)" [1998]
MP3] "Low Ambition" [2004]
MP3] "It's Not Alright" [1998]
MP3] "N.O." [1998]
MP3] "King of Nothing Never" [1998]
MP3] "Theone" [1996]
MP3] "Again" [1996]

Thursday, May 15


Hey, you learn something new every day....

While I was already familiar with the fact that RADIOHEAD took their name from the TALKING HEADS' song of 1986, "Radio Head," I was not familar with the fact that post-punk popsters THE FUTUREHEADS lifted their label from THE FLAMING LIPS' album of 1992, HIT TO DEATH IN THE FUTURE HEAD. (PORTISHEAD, of course, molded their moniker from the Washington Redskins' running back of 2004-2008, Clinton Portis.) (No, really, look it up.)

Near as I can tell, the Futureheads' new album, THIS IS NOT THE WORLD, will be released in the UK (and Europe?) on May 24 and North America on June 3.

(I have to say, there's something a bit off-putting about the production on the new disc. Everything seems to be turned up to 11 and pushed to the front, creating a highly unsupple and artificial-sounding Wall of Sound. Has the air of music made by machines, not men. I don't know... maybe I just prefer to get my "angular" fix from the likes of FRANZ FERDINAND, MAXIMO PARK, and BLOC PARTY....)


From the LP THIS IS NOT THE WORLD, 2008 >>>
MP3] "The Beginning of the Twist"
MP3] "Think Tonight"

From their self-titled LP, 2004 >>>
MP3] "Decent Days and Nights"


Brooklyn's THIS IS IVY LEAGUE have been compared to SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, BELLE AND SEBASTIAN, and PETER BJORN & JOHN. Enough said? You make the call....


MP3] "The Richest Kids"

MP3] "Visions of Tokyo"

Wednesday, May 14


THE VEILS' NUX VOMICA was my second favorite album of 2006, and that fact alone should have sent me scurrying to hear their 2004 debut, THE RUNAWAY FOUND. For whatever reason, that didn't happen. Perhaps because that earlier LP was recorded by almost entirely different musicians. Perhaps because it just slipped my then liquor-ridden mind. Perhaps both.

Whatever the case, I have now corrected that wrong by giving THE RUNAWAY FOUND the careful listen it has so long deserved. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it's not nearly as assured and/or distinctive as NUX VOMICA. But it still warrants some time and attention today.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the Veils, here's a bit o' the backstory, cribbed from my previously liquor-ridden self:

"THE VEILS are singer/songwriter FINN ANDREWS' baby, especially after he fired all of his bandmates after their 2004 debut, THE RUNAWAY FOUND. As he was barely 20 at the time, that deed no doubt seemed premature and precipitous -- the act of an emotionally unsteady enfant terrible.

Be that as it may, if the guy continues to produce thrillingly schizophrenic albums like 2006's NUX VOMICA, I say let him lay as many sacrificial heads on the chopping-block as his cold, dark heart desires.

Andrews' music has a shape-shifting, chameleon-quality to it (as does his voice, which is one that some listeners will have to grow to love). Just when you've got the record pegged as a well-executed exercise in breezy indie-pop and bright, joyous choruses ("Calliope!," "Advice for Young Mothers to Be"), the guy hauls out his hairshirt and starts going to town ("Jesus for the Jugular," "Pan"). But once that's done, he'll find the time and inclination to lighten up and do the BRUCE/E STREET BAND thing ("A Birthday Present"), or put his own stamp on the whole FRANZ FERDINAND/EDITORS/etc. trend ("One Night on Earth"). Through it all, that aforementioned voice of his rises and falls; sags and soars. At times, it's highly evocative of STARSAILOR's JAMES WALSH. But on the slow-burn-to-explosive title track, he could just as well be JEFF BUCKLEY's bitter big brother, angrily lurching his way through a DOORS/LED ZEPPELIN bender."


From the LP THE RUNAWAY FOUND, 2004 >>>
MP3] [VID] "The Tide That Left and Never Came Back"
MP3] "The Leavers Dance"

From the LP NUX VOMICA, 2006 >>>
MP3] "One Night on Earth"
MP3] "Calliope!"
[VID] "Advice for Young Mothers to Be"