They came. They saw. They constructed.
We asked, you voted, and The Hold Steady dominated the 2008 Teenage Kicks Readers Poll, taking the top spot in the album category with Stay Positive, and placing first and third on your list of the year’s top songs.
Dozens voted, 168 albums were nominated, and 138 songs earned mentions. The results speak to the impeccable taste of the best looking readers on the internet. Here are the albums and songs that received a critical mass of votes.
Albums of the Year
1. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
2. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
4 (tie). Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
6. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
7 (tie). Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal
Felice Brothers – Felice Brothers
9. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
10. She & Him – Volume One
11(tie). Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!
Kathleen Edwards – Asking for Flowers
13(tie). Blitzen Trapper – Furr
Hayes Carll – Trouble in Mind
Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
17(tie). Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
R.E.M. – Accelerate
Santogold – Santogold
Teddy Thompson – A Piece of What You Need
21. Kings of Leon – Only By the Night
22(tie). Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
Shelby Lynne – Just a Little Lovin’
Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
25. Reckless Kelly – Bulletproof
26(tie). Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology
Airborne Toxic Event – Airborne Toxic Event
The Baseball Project – Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails
David Byrne & Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Dr. Dog – Fate
Flogging Molly – Float
Joe Jackson – Rain
The Kooks - Konk
Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster
Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch
Pretenders – Break Up the Concrete
Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust
Butch Walker – Sycamore Meadows
The Whigs – Mission Control
40. Mates of State – Re-Arrange Us
Songs of the Year
1. The Hold Steady – “Sequestered in Memphis”
2. The Felice Brothers – “Frankie’s Gun”
3. The Hold Steady – “Constructive Summer”
4. Black Kids – “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You”
5. Elbow – “Grounds for Divorce”
6(tie). Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
R.E.M. – “Living Well is the Best Revenge”
8(tie). Alejandro Escovedo – “Always a Friend”
Los Campesinos! – “You! Me! Dancing!”
10(tie). Airborne Toxic Event – “Gasoline”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!”
Nada Surf – “See These Bones"
13. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I wish we could just hit PLAY here, because this is a playlist, not a greatest albums or songs list. It's meant to move. To be honest, I didn't listen to albums that often in 2008. Or buy them, unless you count that Neil Young show from 1968 that just came out. So this is the best I can do -- a livable, listenable list of song recordings made or released this year. I have been hunting and gathering for several weeks, and am grateful for Largehearted Boy, who each year links all these blogger lists of the best this and that, and I have been waking up early and right-clicking merrily. Here's the result. It, like I, is rockist and unrepentant. It starts with murder, and features smoking guns, philosophy, Cleveland, `70's guitar licks, a two-cow-garage, truckers to drive by, a girl from Philly, and a remake of Ronnie Laine' s arrangement of a Derroll Adams song. And they say rock is dead.
Playlist for a Weird Year
Friday, December 19, 2008
Here's the ballot submitted by juanita, one of our favorite readers:
Favorite 2008 CD’s
Calexico - Carried to Dust
Elbow - Seldom Seen Kid
Byrne/Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Los Campesinos - Hold on Now, Youngster...
Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
TV on the Radio – Dear Science
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Joseph Arthur - Temporary People
R.E.M. – Accelerate
Beck – Modern Guilt
Favorite 2008 Songs
Elbow - Grounds for Divorce
Calexico – House of Valparaiso
Decemberists – Valerie Plame
Firewater – Borneo
Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire
TV On The Radio - Family Tree
Los Campesinos – You! Me! Dancing!
Byrne/Eno - Wanted for Life
R.E.M. - Supernatural Superserious
MGMT – Time to Pretend
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Bill McGarvey, "(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home"
Monday, December 15, 2008
You've also got "Poison Dart" by The Bug (ft. Warrior Queen) which PFer Matthew Murphy claims "seems broadcast from some post-apocalyptic future where little of the urban landscape remains intact but somehow dancehall culture has managed to survive and flourish." What!?
But my favorite bit is this description of "Enfants (Chants)" by Ricardo Villalobos written by Phillip Sherburne - ""Enfants" was essentially an extended edit of the introduction to "Baba Yaga La Sorciere", Chrisitan Vander's 1995 recreation of his group Magma's Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, from 1973."
Check out this list and tell me how many songs you know:
I'd give this list a 1.7.
1. Mates Of State- Re-Arrange Us
Having played this cd a thousand times, I've come to the conclusion it doesn't suck
2. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend
For all you cardigan wearing, ivy league attending, afro-pop referencing nerds out there...have I got a record for you.
3. MGMT- Oracular Spectacular
A younger, hipper Flaming Lips.
4. The Explorers Club- Freedom Wind
Delivers everything you loved about the Beach Boys, minus John Stamos.
5. The Raconteurs- Consolers of the Lonely
As side projects go, holds up much better than the "Meg White sex tape"
6. Attic Lights- Friday Night Lights
This being an obscure import release, I feel smugly superior including it in my top 10.
7. Santogold- Santogold
Santi White: hip hop hipster goddess.
8. Glen Campbell- Meet Glen Campbell
The shine came off a little when I heard he was spoon fed these songs. But c'mon, Glen Campbell doing a Mats cover!
9. Brazilian Girls- New York City
Though this is their third album, I've only recently discovered they're not actually from Brazil.
10. Tokio Hotel- Scream
Finding out the lead singer is really a guy...embarrassing. Still thinking he's cute...disturbing.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Marvin Gaye, "Let's Get It On"
I want to do it with you.
Led Zeppelin, "Whole Lotta Love"
I want to do it with you.
R. Kelly, "I Believe I Can Fly"
I believe I want to do it with you.
Frank Sinatra, "Strangers in the Night"
I'm drunk and I want to do it with you.
Little Richard, "Good Golly Miss Molly"
I'm doing it with Miss Molly, and she's totally into it.
Pulp, "Common People"
I once met a stuck-up European who wanted to do it with me.
I'm filled with self-loathing, and, though outwardly I hate everything you represent, I want to do it with you.
Let's add some of our own, shall we?
Cheap Trick, "I Want You to Want Me"
I want you to want to do it with me.
KISS, "Rock and Roll All Nite"
I want to rock and roll all nite and party every day.
The Kingsmen, "Louie Louie"
I wanna mumja deesel aye-aye-aye.
Bruce Springsteen, "Born to Run"
I want to do it with Mary in the backseat of my hemi-powered machine and then die in a cloud of mist in the shadow of an amusement park.
The Vapors, "Turning Japanese"
I want to do it with myself.
Nick Lowe, "Cruel to Be Kind"
I want to do it with someone nicer than you.
Derek and the Dominoes, "Layla"
I want to do it with George Harrison's wife.
Barry White, all songs
I want to do it with you.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Peter and the Wolf - Mellow Owl
Blind Pilot - 3 Rounds and a Sound
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
Laura Marling - Alas I Cannot Swim
Okkervil River - The Stand Ins
The Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave
Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
Peter and the Wolf - "Bottle Rockettes"
Laura Marling - "My Manic and I"
Fleet Foxes - "Blue Ridge Mountains"
The Hold Steady - "Constructive Summer" (song of the year)
The Felice Brothers - "Frankie's Gun"
The Hold Steady-Stay Positive--album of the year
The Gaslight Anthem- The '59 Sound
Kings of Leon-Only by the Night
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals-Cardinology
Butch Walker-Sycamore Meadows
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds-Dig Lazarus, Dig!!
Vampire Weekend-Vampire Weekend
The Streets-Everything is Borrowed
Two Cow Garage-Speaking in Cursive
The Hold Steady-"Sequestered in Memphis"--song of the year
The Felice Brothers-"Frankie's Gun"
Black Kids-"I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend . . ."
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds-"Dig, Lazarus, Dig!"
Hayes Carrll-"Bad Liver and a Broken Heart"
Friday, December 05, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Apparently EVERYTHING is on the internet.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Here's the album list, no particular order.
The Gaslight Anthem
The '59 Sound
Thanks TeenKicks! A classic that will stand the test of time for me. For sure. Really great songwriting, and the band is as tight as last year's underwear. The drummer seems to eschew a normal drum kit in favor of a machine-gun, to good effect. Even the slow songs are excellent, which isn't always the case with the young punks. Drop the needle on 'Great Expectations' and you're off.
The Hold Steady
You know it was coming, but they found another new way to come at you and surprise you with a totally different vibe and technique for song construction. This album seems to be built for live shows, but still works well turned up to 10 in the car as well. I have to say, it's also perfectly sequenced; it just flows.
His best work as far as I'm concerned, 'Real Animal' was a gift that kept on giving this year. Every time I cued it up in the office I had people stopping by to ask about it. And every time I listened to it another song turned into my favorite, which is the mark of an classic with legs. Let's hope he keeps it up for another 20 years or so.
Two Cow Garage
Speaking In Cursive
I have a hard time being objective about these guys. One of my favorite live acts, I have real trouble separating their live and recorded stuff. I'll just say that this is a more diverse set of songs than they have displayed on any previous album, and all the songs hold up when played live. They beefed up their sound earlier this year with the addition of a keyboard player, and I think the addition takes a little pressure off the vocals, so there's less shouting and more singing. And playing. Buy this for God's sake, it's only $8.99 on their myspace page.
Feed The Animals
OK, I lied. I do have one favorite album this year, and this is it. 14 songs, each made up only of samples from other songs, assembled by one guy (Gregg Gillis) and his computer. Pitches bent, beats sped up and slowed down, vocals from one song inserted over beats and melodies of other songs. Not for the kids, but I dare you to download it (www.myspace.com/girltalk), listen, and not be TOTALLY addicted. It's free to download (pay what you want), so there's no reason not to do it right now. You can thank me later. Possible top music moment of 2008: Girl Talk's 'Like This': Mya's 'Ghetto Superstar" into Diana Ross' 'Upside Down' into The Carpenter's 'Superstar' into Meallica's 'One'. Genius.
LL Cool J
Old school hip hop, from the guy who practically invented it. Tough, hard, begs to be played loud. If you ever liked his beats back in the day ('Radio', 'Mama Said Knock You Out', etc.) give this one a shot. Back to the roots of the genre.
She & Him
Unexpected. Heard this one on NPR and was shocked at the depth of the whole thing. M. Ward is a genius arranger, and plays in a subtle manner that stays out of the way of Zoe D.'s soaring vocals. Great stuff, and gets better with repeated listening.
Kings of Leon
Only By The Night
I have their entire ouevre, but this is the first of their recordings that I loved right out of the box. It's a lot more accessable, with meoldies that flow and vocals that don't sound like nails on a chalkboard the first time through. It may help that I saw them live, where it became abundantly clear that every song on every album was built to play live. Once I got that, this album became a masterpiece. As with most of the other stuff on my list, this is an album that gives up more and more upon repeated listening. Get this one, even if you never liked their other ones, and please go see them play live if you get a chance. Stunning.
My Morning Jacket
These guys are the new face of "southern rock", and as a longtime fan of the genre I'm OK with that. Their albums deliver that creepy, swampy feel that you got with the best albums from Wet Willie and The Dixie Dregs, while several songs sport those lyrical turns that you came to expect from Skynyrd or the Allmans. They are virtuoso players as well. Bonus: Lead singer Jim James is now Obama's national security advisor. Or at least that's what my friend Pete told me. We need more beards in the White House.
Sorry Ma, Hootenanny, Stink, Let It Be, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me
I cannot let the reissue of these seminal works pass by. Any one of them would belong on their respective year's best-of list, especially if the included bonus tracks were, well, included. Shining them up and adding songs makes this a great year to be a Replacements fan. These were the albums (along with REM) that turned it all around for me. I didn't think that it was possible to love them more than I did, but the bonus tracks are great additions that lift the curtain a bit on the process of writing and recording these gems, plus they add missing songs that probably should have been included in the first place. Now if they would just remaster "When The Shit Hits The Fans" and release it, their story would be complete.
Keep up the good work Trip and Mike.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Check out his entertaining (read: kinda funny, low production values, hilarious acting) video for "She Left Me For Jesus" and mp3s of "Hey Baby Where You Been" from his 2004 release Little Rock and "Beyond The Blues" from the Peter Case case tribute A Case For Case.
His 2008 release Trouble in Mind is one of the year's best - laconic tales of hard living and hard loving all sung in an exaggerated drawl that lets you in on the secrets, jokes and battle scars. Let's say a hungry Steve Earle... with a sense of humor.
Hayes Carll - "Hey Baby Where You Been"
Hayes Carll - "Beyond The Blues"
Monday, December 01, 2008
Submit a list of up to ten albums and up to five songs from 2008 to MWAtchison@gmail.com. No need to rank them, but you may designate one album of the year and one song of the year that will get bonus credit.
We'd like to post some individual readers' lists, so feel free to include comments along with your lists, and let us know what name you'd like us to use (i.e,. your real name or a secret identity). If you don't want your list posted, or if you'd prefer anonymity, please tell us that, too.
The Whigs, "I Got Ideas"
Paul Weller is himself a walking rock and roll touchstone, thirty-plus years into a stellar career. His 2008 release, 22 Dreams, is a meandering, pastoral song-suite that shows off his broad range and a strong sense of restraint.
Paul Weller, "All I Wanna Do (Is Be With You)"
Birmingham, Alabama's Wild Sweet Orange comes off like a southern Buffalo Tom, with gentle country colorings tempering their full-bore American rock and roll. Their album We Have Cause to Be Uneasy is one of my favorite indie releases of the year.
Wild Sweet Orange, "Either/Or"
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Kathleen Edwards, "The Cheapest Key"
Ron Sexsmith, uber-troubadour, went to Cuba to record Exit Strategy of the Soul. I'm not sure it quite measures up to the epic three album run of Blue Boy, Cobblestone Runway, and Retriever from a few years back, but few artists today can match his warm introspective soul.
Ron Sexsmith, "This is How I Know"
Jason Collett picked up where he left off on his solo debut with Here's to Being Here, another example of first-rate alt.country with a sharp eye and a caustic wit.
Jason Collett, "Through the Night These Days"
Sloan's 2008 release Parallel Play doesn't match last year's sterling Never Hear the End of It (not by a long shot), but it still features some quality power pop.
Sloan, "Believe in Me"
Monday, November 24, 2008
Republic Tigers, "Buildings and Mountains"
Gentleman Auction House, "The Book of Matches"
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Birdmonster - "I Might Have Guessed" (from From The Mountain to The Sea)
A quirky, mandolin spackled bit of americana that makes me wish Ryan Adams still had the capability to conjure an effortless melody like this. Indie roots heartbreak for the aughts.
The Bittersweets - "Goodnight, San Francisco" (from Goodnight San Francisco)
Do we need another soul baring lament about leaving home to become a rock and roll star? I think we do - this wistful piano driven ballad is a slow burn that will appeal to Kim Richey and Tift Merritt fans.
Bodeans - "The First Time" (from Still)
Sam Llanas' nasal squawk and Kurt Neuman's warm, clear voice are still capable of providing Everlys inspired comfort food for the soul. Still may not rise to the heights of their magical 1986 debut, but there is still plenty to savor 20 years on.
The Box Social - "Hot Damn!" (from Get Going)
Starting off with a cowbell and a bubbling bass line, the Box Social's spiky "Hot Damn!" is full of a fuzzy, scuzzy Westerberg-ian ache that begs for more. Which apparently will not happen, as Teenage Kicks breaking news reports that The Box Social has broken up. Too bad.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The Riverboat Gamblers, "A Choppy Yet Sincere Apology"
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The album takes an unfortunate turn into psuedo-Waits-ian talking blues of "Stars That Speak" that has none of Waits oddball charm or special brand of weirdness. And the less said about the spoken word piece "The Mountains of Manhattan", the better.
This post was inspired by an email exchange with my Teenage Kicks partner, the yin to my yang, the chocolate to my vanilla, the right to my left, the Boulevard Pale Ale to my Yeungling, Michael Atchison, who claimed he can't hear "Storybook Love", despite an avowed fondness for The Princess Bride.
Willy DeVille - Louise (from Pistola)
Willy DeVille - Storybook Love (from The Princess Bride OST)
Mink DeVille - Just Your Friends (from Return to Magenta)
Thursday, November 06, 2008
But before getting down to the hard work of governance, it's worth exhaling and savoring the moment. Yesterday, WFMU spent an hour playing 14 different versions of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," and you can hear them all here. A towering, utterly indestructible song.
(hat tip: Heather)
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
It really is an exceptional sight to see 20,000 fans explode as one to the opening chords of "Viva La Vida", "Speed of Sound" or "Yellow". I felt like part anthropologist, part proud papa as I surveyed not only the crowd but my 12 year old son Sean blissed out at his first big rock concert. He sang, he pantomimed, he danced (unfortunately my rhytmic genes did not skip a generation), he fist pumped... he was completely immersed in the music. And my very understanding wife was jumping around like a teenager and having a tremendous time.
So it was hard not to love for all those reasons (plus the tix were free), but still... the sound was your basic, bad, cavernous, echo-y hockey rink sludge we've endured forever at the local enormo-dome. You also had your $7.00 beers and $12.00 roast beef sandwiches (two waters - $8.50!!) and $35.00 t-shirts! Sean wouldn't even let us buy him one. That's how ridiculous a $35.00 t-shirt is.
But certainly Coldplay was better than I expected. All four of their cds reside in my house, yet I've never actively played a role in listening to any of them. Viva La Vida (at least 4 or 5 songs) has been my son's constant car companion for at least 2 months so I've heard those songs A LOT and enjoyed them. So I was surprised at how many other songs I recognized during the concert - I gotta assume that's mostly through exposure via local public radio station WXPN.
Coldplay has two speeds - ballad and mid-tempo. I'm never gonna love them and I'm never gonna hate them. But I'm always gonna dig them for giving my son his first hit of a big time rock show and giving my wife that rock and roll buzz that I get so often I sometimes take it for granted.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Download the song for free here.
And in the spirit of the day, enjoy these moments that rocked my youth, from the epic Paul Lynde Halloween Special:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
On the other hand, if it's half as good as this, I say go for it:
(Hat tip: Back to Rockville)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
If, in order to save humanity, I were forced to give away all but 20 of my albums, odds are good that the remaining collection would include Talking Heads’ Remain in Light and Lucinda Williams’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. The former is, in my judgment, the apex of a great band, where their more exotic influences were consumed, tamed and fused with their own jittery punk rock sensibility to create a bracing, enduring masterpiece of brooding, high-concept funk. The latter, quite simply, is the most perfectly realized vision of any singer/songwriter working in the alt.country field. The yearning in the words, the well-worn creak in the voice, the tremolo of the guitar – these things get me every time.
And so it was my great pleasure last week to see Talking Heads’ mastermind David Byrne and Lucinda Williams play on back to back nights, from seats in the first four rows, at the same theater in my hometown.
As has been noted here before, Byrne recently released Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, his first collaboration with Brian Eno in roughly a quarter century. When he hit the stage last Sunday night, Byrne first explained that the evening would consist of songs produced in collaboration with Eno, including songs they created with “other musicians,” the only oblique reference of the night to Talking Heads, who Eno produced on More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light. To understand my glee at this, project yourself back to age eight, and imagine your mother saying that tonight’s dinner will consist of Smarties, taffy and Cool Whip.
The show that followed the announcement exceeded even those expectations (imagine if, for an encore, mom presented a dessert of powdered sugar donuts and Twizzlers). With no opener, a prompt start (8:15 on an announced 8:00 p.m.), and a tight, briskly-paced set, the night was perfect for the roughly 75% of the crowd who had to get home to relieve babysitters. Byrne was one of eleven figures on stage, all clothed head-to-toe in white, in an ensemble that included three back-up singers and three dancers, whose quirky choreography – sometimes featuring Byrne himself – reflected the off-kilter energy of the music.
Byrne opened with “Strange Overtones,” the first single from the new album, and segued into “I Zimbra,” the lead track to Fear of Music. After that, it was off to the races, with new songs seamlessly integrated with the old. An early high-point was the rousing slow-boil of “Houses in Motion,” a key Remain in Light track. But the show really began to take flight mid-set, when Byrne played the elegant, pristine “Heaven” to set up the murderer’s row that followed. “Crosseyed and Painless” was sheer catharsis for the packed house, and the one-two of “Once in a Lifetime” and “Life During Wartime” sent the show through the roof. Maybe it’s because there has been no one to play these songs for the past twenty years – and maybe because some, like me, never saw Talking Heads live – but it all came off with a fresh intensity that eradicated any trace of nostalgia.
The first encore began with the crowd-pleasing “Take Me to the River,” but the second encore provided the biggest bang. After playing “Air,” the lush Fear of Music track, Byrne swapped out his electric guitar for an acoustic and announced that “this next song departs from the dogma of the evening.” He then played the stuttering opening figure to “Burning Down the House” (from the non-Eno Speaking in Tongues), and proceeded to do just that, sending all us middle-aged crazies into paroxysmal fits. The hymn-like title track to the new project followed, and then we all walked out into the night, minds thoroughly blown.
Lucinda’s show on Monday could not have possibly lived up to what we saw the night before, and it didn’t. But the comparison is unfair. I haven’t seen five shows in the past fifteen years that could have satisfied that standard.
A Lucinda Williams show is complicated, because she’s complicated, at once enormously gifted and deeply damaged, unable to believe that she is as great as she really is. I’ve seen Lucinda triumphant (on the Essence tour) and tentative (the times I’ve seen her since), but on this night, she walked a line in between, comfortable in her skin but more humble than she has any need to be. It’s amazing that the woman who wrote “Crescent City,” “Sweet Old World” and “Drunken Angel” would lack for confidence, but she seems to need the encouragement of a good audience to have faith in herself, and when that wave of affection comes back at her, she seems genuinely surprised. Good natured but a tad sheepish, she soldiers on and finds that the crowd loves every song. Twice, she almost apologetically introduced songs from “the album we released on Rough Trade,” and it was all I could do to resist shouting “it’s called Lucinda Williams,” wishing that she would own up to her talent.
Still, it was a fine set, twangy and swampy and - relatively rare for her - happy. Through the bouts of stage fright, a contentment showed through. Her band Buick 6 (led by longtime accomplice Doug Pettibone) wrapped her in a comfy, crackling cocoon, on a rocking, bluesy set that perfectly matched her moan-at-the-ceiling drawl. And by the end, when she let loose with covers of Waylon’s “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” and AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” everything began to flow in the right direction.
Monday, October 20, 2008
If the star system is consistent, then the magazine declares that Tim is of roughly the same quality as new releases by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Eagles of Death Metal, Kaiser Chiefs, Raphael Saadiq and Juana Molina. Those may all be terrific albums (I've heard the Adams record, and it's sensational), but if, in 2031, there's a consensus that any of them are in the same league as Tim, be sure to check back here for the live video stream of me eating my own head.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Levi Stubbs, dynamic soul singer supreme, died today. You may not recognize the name, but I guarantee you'll recognize the voice.
There’s never been a time I can remember when The Four Tops were not a part of my life. My older sisters loved Motown and they played and danced (quite poorly) to “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” for just about their entire adolescence. I can still see that blue Motown map label spinning on that 45 – back when 2:42 was my entire attention span. I guess not much has changed.
The Four Tops (Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton) remained together for over 40 years without a lineup change. They were the greatest of all Motown groups, and Levi Stubbs Motown’s most powerful singer. And I got to sing with him. Fortunately no audio exists to document the momentous occasion, but I’ll never forget it.
It was April 1981 and The Four Tops were well past their commercial mid-60’s peak but still a tremendous live act. This was before the repackaging of oldies acts as nostalgia bon-bons and many of these genre-shaping bands were playing small nightclubs because… well, because that’s what they did. The Tops that night were at Ripley’s, a South Street fixture that hosted hundreds of 80’s rock shows, and this night’s crowd was a curious mix of hipster rock scuzzballs in jeans and sneakers (who you looking at?) and stylish 30-40-something African American couples dressed to impress.
The Four Tops were a human jukebox, singing and dancing (oh yeah, their moves were still breathtaking) for an incendiary 70 minute performance that seems to have elevated to almost mythic “Bigfoot”, Ming-Ling-ish status in the intervening years. Were they really that good? And late in the set, during “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”, Levi Stubbs crouched down, put his arm around me, and we belted the “I’ll Be There” refrain together. A moment frozen in time that still provides goose bumps.
But tonight, let’s toast Levi Stubbs, and let's remember that voice.
The Four Tops - I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)
The Four Tops - Reach Out (I'll Be There)
David Johansen Group - Reach Out (I'll Be There)
David Johansen - Frenchette
Billy Bragg - Levi Stubb's Tears
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
There is always at least one song that is constantly buzzing my brain, wreaking havoc with my thought process, often making me sing out loud and therefore wreaking havoc with others' thought processes. Currently that song is "Dog Bumped" by Tim Barry. Prior to Friday night, I had never heard of Tim Barry or this song, and now its an indelible part of my DNA. Barry was in Philadelphia as part of The Revival Tour, a loose aggregation of punk rock rebel rousers who amped it down to loosen it up. The other songwriters were Hot Water Music's Chuck Ragan, Lucero's mercurial Ben Nichols (hobbled by a "dancing incident in Atlanta), and a poorly recieved, lackluster set by special guest Jesse Malin.
But Tim Barry, lead singer for Avail, stole the show. I can't comment on Avail (allmusic.com calls them a "gritty punk quartet from Richmond,VA"), but Tim Barry seems located at the intersection of Joe Strummer and Charlie Daniels, a good ol' boy who's seen his share of barroom fights and backstreet brawls. But it's his tough guy vulnerability that carries the day and, as my freind Allen noted "I'd go to NASCAR with that guy... and I hate NASCAR".
"Dog Bumped" is a cathartic, self-defense revenge tale brought to life by Barry's vivid storytelling and anthemic crowd sing-along that had us shaking our heads - how had this song escaped us for two years?
Check out Barry's excellent 2006 release, Rivanna Junction, and look for his upcming new disc Manchester, due in November.
Tim Barry - Dog Bumped
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
It’s not, of course, the first time one has possessed a name uniquely suited (or unsuited) for his chosen field. I have friends who know Lester Wang, a medical doctor specializing in urology, a line of work that former NASCAR driver Dick Trickle, lamentably, did not pursue.
Joe Strummer? Sounds like a coffeehouse singer. Shoulda been Joe Kingofthefreakinguniverse. Barry White? The Barry’s right, but no one of my hue has ever owned such a boudoir baritone. James Brown? Close, I suppose, but as his song goes, James Sayitloudimblackandimproud.
The phenomenon even strikes here at Teenage Kicks. You know the only way to stop a certain middle-aged rock and roll blogger in a pickup hoops game? Trip McClatchy.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Dance to this!
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
While there, it struck me that It’s a Small World isn’t just a popular ride, it’s a metaphor for the whole wonderful place. I heard fellow tourists speak Spanish, Portugese, Japanese, German and French, not to mention the many, many folks fluent in the unmistakable tongue of the magical kingdom of Lawn Guyland.
More than languages, I noticed accents that revealed that English has more varieties than Baskin-Robbins. I overheard a man from the deep South talking to his wife, two-syllable Kim. On the beach at the Polynesian resort, there was a fawtha from Bawston exhorting Lee-um to get ouhtta da watta. And there were many friendly folks from Minnesconsin havin’ a grand time, dontcha know?
But nothing hit quite as hard as that moment at Animal Kingdom when we encountered the cast of Oliver! and their mum, Shrewy Spice, whose lone parenting tactic was to speak loudly and threaten ‘er children. A note to Shrewy’s husband, Ian – excuse me, Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-an: the dagger tattoo on your pipe-cleaner arm cannot disguise that you are one seriously hen-pecked bloke.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I got a little of each last night when Robert Plant and Allison Krauss brought their tour to town. In a gorgeous outdoor theater, on a night that strained the definition of perfection, with a pristine band led by J. Henry Burnett (T-Bone to his friends), the rock god and the bluegrass queen delivered something grand, spellbinding and intimate, as they reworked classic American roots music and a handful of Led Zeppelin tunes. The band, which featured fretboard wizards Buddy Miller and Stuart Duncan, bathed the stars in dreamy, tremolo-drenched atmosphere, evoking a history deep and wide, as two of popular music’s most distinctive voices danced on top, together and alone.
A little Allison Krauss can go a long way for me, as her keening voice can verge on cloying to my ears. But there’s no denying its crystalline beauty, and when she delivered an a cappella version of “Down to the River to Pray” (with vocal support from Miller and Duncan), time all but stopped. It was one of the most elegant things I’ve ever heard live.
Krauss, petite and demure, held her own on stage next to Plant, but he was – without doubt – the night’s most riveting presence. At age 60, he’s beginning to show his age, but not to act it. Much of his music has been explosive, but the current tour is based on restraint. Not a laconic restraint, but a tension-filled whisper that threatens to blow the whole thing open at any moment. When Plant slides to the microphone, picks up the stand, and leans in to it, there’s no doubt that he’s a rock star. Even his smallest movements convey electricity.
The night’s third song was a banjo-fueled duet on Zep’s “Black Dog.” When Plant sang “gonna make you burn, gonna make you,” he hesitated ever-so-slightly before the word “sting,” and his sideways glance at Krauss was an act of subtlety and audacity that few could pull off.
I could go on. Suffice it to say that this is a terrific show, sophisticated and sexy, smart and sassy. Highly recommended.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Hats off to Dr. Hankenson.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
I spent the weekend in Columbia, Missouri enjoying my 15-year law school reunion, the best offense in college football, and the company of some world-class journalists. The University of Missouri’s world-famous School of Journalism celebrated its centennial this past week, and thanks to my friend T.J. Quinn (a world-class journalist himself, and a recurring Teenage Kicks character), I was able to hang with some of the finest purveyors of the printed word (hi Annie, Colleen, Sonja, Courtney, et al.), one of whom has a new book to plug.
Cathleen Falsani, the acclaimed religion writer at the Chicago Sun-Times and author of the much-beloved The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, is back with Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, a memoir that sees her traveling around the world to find and explore connections to the divine. The book is reaping mountains of praise, and you are heartily encouraged to pick it up.
Ms. Falsani also writes the popular blog The Dude Abides, which has been added to the links at the right of this page.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
1. Marshall Crenshaw, “Mary Anne”
2. Nick Lowe, “So It Goes”
3. Squeeze, “In Quintessence”
4. Dave Edmunds, “Girl Talk”
5. John Hiatt, “Thing Called Love”
6. Richard Thompson, “I Feel So Good”
7. Big Star, “September Gurls”
8. R.E.M., “Sitting Still”
9. Elvis Costello and the Attractions, “The Only Flame in Town”
10. Pete Townshend, “Slit Skirts”
11. Elvis Costello, “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”
12. Marshall Crenshaw, “Starless Summer Sky”
13. Utopia, “Love in Action”
14. Squeeze, “Annie Get Your Gun”
15. The Replacements, “I Will Dare”
16. Rockpile, “Teacher Teacher”
17. Nick Lowe, “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass”
18. The Posies, “Golden Blunders”
19. Marshall Crenshaw, “There She Goes Again”
20. Joe Jackson, “On Your Radio”
21. XTC, “Earn Enough For Us”
22. Cheap Trick, “So Good to See You”
23. Graham Parker and the Rumour, “Passion Is No Ordinary Word”
24. Graham Parker, “Hold Back the Night”
25. The Clash, “Hitsville UK”
I might nitpick a little (couldn’t it have thrown the dB’s in there?), but I think I could listen to that list once a day for the rest of my life.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Since I missed the Electric Touch’s set, my de facto opener was The Airborne Toxic Event. The band’s atrocious name was apparently taken from a passage in White Noise, a novel by Don DeLillo, a central figure of literary postmodernism. (Seriously, I never heard of Don DiLillo prior to googling the band’s name earlier today. And literary postmodernism – puh-leeze. I assumed the band had a flatulence issue.) The band sits between the literary yelping of Will Sheff and Okkervil River and the alt rock and reel of the Arcade Fire. Opening with the spastic roll of “Papillon” (which recalls a caffeinated version of po-facers The National) and the thumping lamnet of love lost “Gasoline”, it’s quickly evident that Airborne Toxic Event’s live show will be tough to top. After playing the bulk of their debut, including standouts “Happiness is Overrated”, “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” and the desperate “Sometime Around Midnight”, it’s clear ATE main man Mikel Jollett, who seems to be having an absolute blast on stage, has penned a cathartic groups of songs that all seem to deal with deep loss and heartbreak. And in time honored fashion, he’s added soaring arrangements and urgent melodies to clearly still healing emotional scars… life strife makes good art. Personally he may be coming apart, but Jollett’s band feels on the edge of exploding in a different way.
While the ATE gave a great bar show in a theater, The Fratellis provided a by numbers arena show in a bar. While their debut cd remains on the short list of 2007’s best discs, the new Here We Stand dials down the hook happy bubblegum spunk of Costello Music in favor of more muscular but less satisfying arena rock. It ain’t no sin to shoot for the stars, but The Fratellis seem to have lost some of that youthful glow in the last year. Playing with a modicum of stage presence and a boring psych-rock light show complete with fog machine, The Fratellis alternated between pop punk brilliance and too many aimless, jambling pedestrian bluesy rawkers. There’s no denying the giddy rush and exuberance of “Flathead”, “Chelsea Dagger” and “Whistle For The Choir”, it’s textbook pop hitmaking, but The Fratellis seem to have already peaked.
This particular night, it was ATE in a TKO.
We mentioned regional biases in our introductory post, and here’s a midwestern band I discovered on Breathru Radio. It’s Jumbling Towers from St. Louis, a rock and roll collective with arty flourishes, spiritual descendants of the original American new wave bands. The vocals remind me of Dan Bejar of Destroyer and New Pornographers fame, and the music bears more than a passing resemblance to Modest Mouse. Definitely worth your while to download their free EP, Classy Entertainment.
And I know these guys don’t technically qualify as “indie” inasmuch as they’re on a tiny Atlantic imprint, but (musically, at least) it’s a distinction without a difference. Kansas City’s Republic Tigers make lush, classic pop music (think the Shins) with subtle hooks that dig in deep. They’re ambling about Europe at the moment, opening for Travis, which seems an ideal pairing. Plus, the bass player’s in-laws live across the street from me, and they’d rather the kids not have to move into the basement, so as a personal favor to me, please give them your support.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Hello Breakthru Radio listeners. Thanks for having us. You don’t know us and we don’t know you, and since we’re going to spend the week together, some introduction is in order. First, we’re probably a little older than you are, and that may be reflected in what we do (and don’t) write about. Second, one of us lives in Philadelphia and the other in Kansas City, which may explain any regional biases that pop up. And third, we might not have the conventional mindset for a place like BTR. We love lots of indie music, but we like what we like regardless of the business model that delivers it to our ears, and we rarely ponder the distinctions. If we lapse into discussing a band that’s on a Sony subsidiary, rest assured that it’s only because we’re not paying attention.
We don’t much engage in music criticism at Teenage Kicks. We engage in music enthusiasm. I get no kick out of telling you what I don’t like, because it might be something you like, and no one likes a killjoy. Every once in a while I hear someone say that The Hold Steady sucks or that Bruce Springsteen is an irrelevant old relic, and I know in my bones that they’re wrong, but I can’t put an equation up on the board to prove my thesis. Recently, when discussing the Booker Prize for new literature, Nick Hornby wrote “there is no such thing as an objectively good book, and there is certainly no such thing as a ‘best book’; there are only books we love, for reasons too complicated and personal ever to articulate convincingly.” While I think there’s a one-percent exception (saying that London Calling is better than The Clash’s debut is an opinion; saying that it’s better than Cut the Crap is a fact), I know it’s true. I recently got an e-mail taking small umbrage to something I wrote in praise of a certain album, and offering in rebuttal a heartfelt appreciation for a record I believe to be a stunning mediocrity. I was surprised to read an impassioned case for music that sounds like audio mayonnaise to me, but heartened, too. Being a musician is a hard job. You take something deeply personal, give it over to the world, and watch as your bones get picked by the public, the critics and the hipper-than-thou blogging crowd. If you can make a connection to even a few people, you’ve succeeding in communicating your vision and bettering their lives in some unexplainable but undeniable way. Who am I to tell you that what you feel isn’t valid? And why would I want to do that?
So that’s what we’ll do here for the next few days. We’ll enthuse. We’ll enthuse about Ezra Furman and Ike Reilly and The Broken West. We’ll enthuse about Langhorne Slim and Delta Spirit and Gaslight Anthem. And hopefully we’ll engage you and you’ll enthuse back to us about some band we’d never otherwise know. We think that’s how this is supposed to work. We’re looking forward to it.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Real rock and roll never goes out of fashion. I won’t bore you with the names of the non-real rock and rollers, but you know who they are. New Brunswick, NJ’s favorite sons The Gaslight Anthem have unleashed The '59 Sound, a stunning sophomore album that ranks as one of the year’s best. Combining the urgency of punk rock’s explosiveness with rockabilly’s shuffling backbeat, these Jersey greasers are classic American rockers who can unabashedly and un-ironically write lines like these from “Meet Me By The River’s Edge”:
“See I’ve been here for 28 years
Pounding sweat beneath these wheels
We tattooed lines beneath our skin
No surrender, my Bobby Jean”
Which brings us to the elephant sitting in the middle of the room – this band owes such a debt to Bruce Springsteen that to ignore that influence would be to overlook one of their greatest strengths. The small town struggles, Mary’s red dress, washing these sins away, rock and roll as escape, carnival lights and yes, Bobby Jean, can be part of more than one songwriter’s lexicon. And who better to be influenced by than Bruce Springsteen? Do we really need another bunch of anorexic, pasty faced wallflowers citing Can, Kraftwerk and Eno as their heroes?
The Springsteen comparisons are not really for the band's sound but for the small town, heart on your sleeve songwriting and lyrics that either were lifted directly from Springsteen songs or feel like they were cobbled together from scraps on the Boss' cutting room floor. If I didn't love this record, I'd almost cringe at the overt lyrical Bruce homage, but it feels so natural that it’s endearing. Non-Bruce heads will have a field day tearing it to shreds.
But there are plenty of other influences – many referred to directly in the lyrics. Besides the many nods to Springsteen, there’s also the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, Bobs Dylan and Seger, Lou Reed, Elvis, Tom Petty, Miles Davis, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Gary U.S. Bonds, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett and Marvin Gaye. If that doesn’t sound like your record collection, it should. And if that list doesn’t wanna make you buy this record, it should.
So do who do they sound like? I hear a scuzzier Rhett Miller mixed with the less preening bits of Brandon Flowers, crossed with Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent and, I kid you not, a little bit of the Fonz (the one that cruised back alleys, not the malt shop). The album kicks off with the exhilarating 1-2 adrenaline blast of “Great Expectations” (complete with an opening needle drop on an old soul record) and “The 59 Sound” that doesn’t let up until the wistful valentine regrets to old lovers of “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” (Bogie, Hepburn and Marilyn also appear).
This is a record for those who haven’t bought one since Born to Run as well as those captivated by current backstreet kings The Hold Steady. Even though it seems to have ignored most of the pop culture of the last 40 years, this is a record that feels so fresh and invigorating, it reminds me how I feel when I hear Chuck Berry or The Four Tops on the radio. Yeah, maybe it’s been done before, but real rock and roll never goes out of fashion.
The Gaslight Anthem - "Great Expectations"
The Gaslight Anthem - "Casanova Baby"