Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Teenage Kicks 2008 Readers Poll Results: Positive Dominance

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”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Solo Flight

Teenage Kicks isn't breaking up, and Trip and I aren't experiencing artistic differences. But I have embarked on a solo project, a place for content that doesn't fit neatly with what we do at TK (due to length and/or subject matter). The maiden post is here. Enjoy in moderation.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Playlist for a Weird Year

Instead of a ballot, our pal Dan Rubin supplies us with songs to hear during 2008's fade-out:

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

Last Chance to Vote . . .

in the 2008 Teenage Kicks readers poll. Send your lists of your ten favorite albums and five favorite songs of the year to mwatchison@gmail.com by 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, December 21. No need to rank them, but you may designate one album of the year and one song of the year. Results to be posted on December 31.

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

I'm Grateful For Christmas This Year - Hayes Carll

I saw Hayes Carll perform this song two weeks ago at Philadelphia's World Cafe Live. Now through the magic of the internet and the kindness of Lost Highway Records, I get to share it with you. Carll has channeled his inner John Prine and written a saccharine-free, less goofy, take on Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From The Family".

And since it's that time of year, we've also got a holiday treat from Teenage Kicks favorite Jeremy Fisher, lamenting the lack of his own personal bailout.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bill McGarvey gives you a song for Christmas

Our pal Bill McGarvey has recorded a version of the contemporary classic "(Christmas) Baby, Please Come Home," and he wants you to have it for free. And we want you to check out Busted Halo, the online journal of faith and culture where Bill serves as editor-in-chief.

Bill McGarvey, "(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home"

Winter Wonderland

Where I live, the snow is piling up and the mercury is tumbling down, and thoughts naturally turn to Tom Jones.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is Everyone At Pitchfork A Dork?

Pitcfork earlier today released the bottom half (51-100) of their top 100 songs of 2008. Now while I admit there are certain genres of music that I stay away from almost entirely (I'm looking at you jam band wankery and electronica), I spend an inordinate amount of time chasing down and digesting new music. Maybe I'm just too old, or maybe Pitchfork scribes are trying to out-obscure each other, but the 50 songs listed bear no relation to the music I heard this year. Yes, there's Los Campesinos! and Vampire Weekend (and even two from Lykke Li's refreshing debut), but then there's also Buraka Som Sistema [ft. M.I.A. and DJ Znobia] and WHY's "Fatalist Palmistry" (which, according to Pitchfork's Grayson Currin is "the torturous culmination of Yoni Wolf's cyclical neuroses.") Incredibly, that tune is nowhere to be found on my ipod.

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."

I totally knew that... but didn't the Vander recreation come out in 1994?

Check out this list and tell me how many songs you know:

Last Week for Balloting

Voting for the Teenage Kicks Readers Poll of your favorite albums and songs of the year closes this Sunday, December 21. Details here. A music enthusiast from Philadelphia gave us this list of his favorite albums:

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

Give us your lists!

The Teenage Kicks Readers Poll is coming. Send lists of your ten favorite albums of 2008 and your five favorite songs (no need to rank them, but feel free to pick an album and song of the year) to mwatchison@gmail.com by December 21. Add some commentary and we'll post it here for the world to see.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vanishing Act

You may have noticed that a couple of posts here, including Trip's recent effort praising new Nashville troubadour Jamey Johnson, have disappeared. It seems that Columbia Records has made a policy of asking Google (which operates blogspot, which hosts us) to remove posts that contain mp3s of copyrighted material. We're not going to complain (it's their music, they can do what they want), and we're not even going to comment on the wisdom of a tactic that prevents new audiences from being exposed to the company's products. We'll just spend more time describing music to you than playing it for you, though I'll continue to post mp3s that record companies ask us to share.

Lauren Chapin, 1958-2008

I have occasionally linked to the work of Timothy Finn, the very fine popular music critic for The Kansas City Star, and his Back to Rockville blog has been linked here since we first went on line. This week, Tim's wife, Lauren Chapin, The Star's food and restaurant critic, died unexpectedly after suffering a ruptured aneurysm. A finalist for a James Beard Foundation award in 2005, her weekly reviews of Kansas City restaurants - from barbecue joints to high-end cuisine - were required reading in my house. Survivors include two teenage daughters. Our condolences are extended to Ms. Chapin's family and friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sufjan Beat


Hat tip to our friend Lou for this one. Awesome.

Clark Griswold, circa 2008

My wife actually knows this guy. I am simultaneously impresssed and pleased that he is not my neighbor.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Fifty Years of Popular Songs Condensed Into Single Sentences

They've made a list over at McSweeney's. Some highlights:

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.

Radiohead, "Creep"
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

Vote Now . . .

in the Teenage Kicks readers poll. Make a list of up to ten albums and five songs from 2008 and submit them to mwatchison@gmail.com by December 21. No need to rank them, but you may select one album and one song of the year. Feel free to include comments, and we'll post some of them here. Some random entries thus far:

From anonymous:
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!!
Reckless Kelly-Bulletproof
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

File Under Quizzical

In a Best Buy store last night, I strolled through the classical music aisle and noticed something peculiar. Next to recordings of music by Ludwig van Beethoven was a section (albeit empty) for his long-lost cousin, Camper van Beethoven.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Reber - Stevie Starr!!

Sorry for the second non-music post in a row but my sister and I must have watched this clip -taped on a betamax video recorder (I've always been behind the curve) a hundred times before all those kids (not to mention husbands and wives) started coming around.

Apparently EVERYTHING is on the internet.

Paul Rudd Cuts Loose on Food Poisoning

From a 2004 Daily Show...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

TK Readers Poll: Todd Palmer

Ballots are starting to roll in for the Teenage Kicks readers poll (details here - be sure to vote!), and Todd Palmer, a longtime friend of the site, checks in with a list of his favorite albums of the year:

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
Stay Positive
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.

Alejandro Escovedo
Real Animal
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.

Girl Talk
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
Exit 13
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
Volume One
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
Evil Urges
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.

The Replacements
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.
Todd P

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hayes Carll's Got A Gig

Hayes Carll plays Wednesday (Dec. 3) at World Cafe Live and Teenage Kicks East would like to see you there.

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

The 2008 Teenage Kicks Readers Poll

Democracy has come to Teenage Kicks. Starting today, and running through December 21, you can submit lists of your favorite songs and albums of the year to be included in our year-end wrap-up.

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.

Vote now!

2008 Tracks: Whigs, Weller & Wild Sweet Orange

The Whigs are a scorching three-piece formed at the University of Georgia. Their album Mission Control possesses an ominous sound and a sinister purpose, with all the right punk and post-punk touchstones represented: Husker Du, Gang of Four, Replacements, Nirvana. Turn it up.

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"

Transmissions From the Moon

Our friend Mary Zajac takes a short break from writing about food to give us this profile of one of the last of the great old-school soul DJs.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

2008 Quick Hits # 3 - Sera Cahoone, Glen Campbell, Hayes Carll & Cars Can Be Blue

Here's something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

Sera Cahoone - "Runnin' Your Way" (from Only As The Day Is Long)

Old soul Sera Cahoone spins warm, spare indie folk with a dash of hope added to larger doses of melancholy. Bonus points for the understated banjo and pedal steel sweeteners.

Glen Campbell - "These Days" (from Meet Glen Campbell)

Campbell's honey-dipped vocals get a sympathetic production on a welcome return to form, none better than this graceful take on Jackson Browne's ode to looking back.

Hayes Carll - "She Left Me For Jesus" (from Trouble In Mind)

Evoking the wide open spaces and crusty wit of Texan greats like Steve Earle, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Joe Ely, Hayes Carll injects his alt-country with just enough droopy sincerity to make this coulda-been-a-joke song into an instant classic. Plays in Philadelphia this Wednesday (12/3) at World Cafe Live.

Cars Can Be Blue - "Sun Blows Up" (from Doubly Unbeatable)

Unbearably twee no-fi duo from Athens,GA notable for their manic energy and lyrical bitterness. But "Sun Blows Up" is two minutes of effervescent thrills that answers the question what would happen if The Shirelles made a record with The Waitresses about the cute guy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

David Byrne Speaks (To Me)

A few days ago, I got to talk to David Byrne about his collaborations with Brian Eno, his current tour, and the rumored origin of his famed arm-chopping motion. You can read the interview in the new edition of The Providence Phoenix.

2008 Tracks: The Canadians

Our neighbors to the north provided us with some fine releases in 2008, none more impressive than the latest from Kathleen Edwards, whose Asking for Flowers combines plaintive country, ass-kicking rock and roll, and just the right quotient of dirty words.

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

2008 Tracks: Show Me Songs

A couple of notable releases came this year from my home state of Missouri. Kansas City's Republic Tigers released Keep Color, the first album on Chop Shop, a spanking new Atlantic imprint. It's a lush collection of sculpted guitar pop recommended for fans of The Shins and Death Cab for Cutie. Gentleman Auction House hail from St. Louis, and their Alphabet Graveyard disc came out on Emergency Umbrella Records, a label you need a microscope to see. The songs, however, have a much bigger feel, with hooks galore. GAH occupy the space between Spoon and Modest Mouse.

Republic Tigers, "Buildings and Mountains"

Gentleman Auction House, "The Book of Matches"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Teenage Kicks Readers' Poll is Coming!

Just six weeks remain in 2008, and people's thoughts naturally turn to assigning numerical values to their favorite music. So start making a list of your ten favorite albums and five favorite songs of the year, and check back here soon to learn how to vote.

In the meantime, to stimulate the thinking, Trip has started posting some of his favorite songs of the year, and I'll be joining in that endeavor, which will continue over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2008 Quick Hits # 2 - Birdmonster, The Bittersweets, Bodeans & The Box Social

Four more from 2008 that you might have missed:

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.

That's Agitainment!

Rick Ross, a longtime friend of Teenage Kicks, is an artist, writer, filmmaker, philosopher, and formerly a physicist and chemist. His newest project is Agitainment Comics, an online graphic novel anthology, featuring his own work and creations by some of the best and brightest young writers and illustrators in the biz. I'm working on him to build a story about a couple of middle-aged rock and roll bloggers who fight crime by night (it could happen). Enjoy, and Ex Animo!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Indie Monday Free Download: The Riverboat Gamblers

"Rock and roll" plus "Denton, Texas" equals ass-kicking anthems, and that's just what you get from The Riverboat Gamblers. Mixing the Old 97's dust-caked combustion with a vintage punk sensibility - think Lone Star Calling - this five-piece is set to release the long-player Underneath the Owl in March. While you wait, enjoy the rip-snorting first single, "A Choppy Yet Sincere Apology." Go ahead, take it, it's free.

The Riverboat Gamblers, "A Choppy Yet Sincere Apology"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2008 Quick Hits - Airborne Toxic Event, Augastana, Backyard Tire Fire and The Bellfuries

As a prelude to some year-end list making and reviews, in the next few weeks Michael and I will be posting select mp3s from some of our favorite 2008 discs - a little peek into our ipods. We'll be asking you, discriminating reader, for your input also. Here at Teenage Kicks we belieive "everyone's a critic and most people are djs".

Airborne Toxic Event - "Gasoline" (from Airborne Toxic Event)

Pitchfork's scathing review piqued my interest. Their Arcade Fire/Strokes hybrid hit me hard - the sound of one crushed soul.

Augastana - "Meet You There" (from Can't Love, Can't Hurt)

The American Keane? Coldplay lite? Dunno, but sometimes a kid with a pop song is all it takes. Infectious.

Backyard Tire Fire - "Time With You" (from The Places We Lived)

Hearty, guitar driven alt pop from Bloomington, Illinois' finest. And frankly, how can you not love a band named Backyard Tire Fire?

Power pop lives!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Willy Deville... As You Wish

We all have a favorite artist that flies under the radar, with releases that go barely noticed, yet we'll continue flying the flag and telling anyone that listens how incredible this particular band or singer is and how y'all are nuts for not getting on board. Willy DeVille is one of those artists for me. His latest album, 2008's Pistola, didn't, to my knowledge, even get a proper release in the U.S. It's a hit and miss affair but the highs will keep me listening and the lows will never make the ipod.
DeVille's voice shows the wear and tear of years of hard living but summons the tough backstreet soul of spanish harlem with a raspy croak that can still thrill, especially on the first half of the record. The opener "So So Real" invokes the gritty urban charm of Mink DeVille's 1977 debut Return to Cabretta while "Louise" pitches it's sweet alt-country blues somewhere between John Prine and The Felice Brothers and is sweetened by the understated lilt of Chris Lawrence's subtle pedal steel guitar. "I Remember The First Time" is another in a long line of beautiful lovelorn, pleading ballads that have dotted DeVille's career.
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


I doubt many folks come here for election news, and there are a lot of folks waxing Shakespearean around the web, so I'll spare you. Suffice it to say, it's a new day for America, one that has heartened me, and filled me with pride and relief. But there's an immense amount of work to do, and the new administration will need our patience, our support, and perhaps most importantly, our resolve to hold them to the best of American ideals. Their mettle must match our hope.

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


Election Day 2008! Get out and vote! Tell your friends.

Jerry Lawson - Hope
Bruce Springsteen - The Rising

Monday, November 03, 2008

Coldplay Live!

It was a big Saturday night date night in Philadelphia. Well-heeled yuppies and giddy-to-be-there teenagers were all gussied up for the big show. By the amount of bunnies on the arms of lunkheads singing along to "Yellow" - I proclaim Coldplay the biggest babe magnets since mid-70's Jackson Browne. I've lost sight of how much fun the big arena show can be. Flashing lights, smoke machines, big screens, real crowd anticipation and skinny pasty-faced Brits at the top of their game all added up to a spectaculary risk-free spectacle. Chris Martin was totally engaging as the boy next door frontman with grandiose rock star moves (along with giving Craig Finn a run for the coveted most awkward dancer title) and local market savvy (several Phillies references). But the band certianly gets gigged for their silly, psuedo-military outfits. My advice - go another direction there.

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

Boss says Boo!

As the evening's witching hour approaches, New Jersey's favorite son appears with the tale of New Jersey's diabolical devil.

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

Speaking of Lead Balloons

Nothing good could possibly come of this, could it? I understand Queen going on with Paul Rodgers in the role of front man. After all, Freddy's dead. But Zep without Plant? I hope they open every night with "What Is And What Should Never Be."

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

Everything That Happens Will Happen on a Gravel Road

This post is about a week overdue for reasons that aren’t particularly interesting (got a little busy, got a little virus, etc.), but here goes.

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

Rewriting History

The new Rolling Stone arrived today, and it's notable on a few levels, including a redesign (the oversize format is gone, replaced by something that looks much more like Esquire) and Barack Obama's face on the front (this is getting to be like Oprah magazine, with the same cover model issue after issue). But on my initial flip-through, the thing that grabbed my attention most forcefully was the four-star review of the reissue of the Replacements' 1985 album Tim. Now, I understand that four stars is a good review (or "excellent" on the magazine's stars-to-words conversion chart). I also understand the reluctance to score a new album higher right out of the gate; great albums earn their fifth star over time. But twenty-three years later, does anyone not think Tim is an essential, classic album? Sure, "Dose of Thunder" is a casually rendered flake of Westerberg's dandruff, but it stands alongside "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Bastards of Young," "Left of the Dial," "Swingin Party" and "Here Comes a Regular" (among others), on one of the most swaggering, mesmerizing, mind-blowing records of the post-punk era.

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 1936-2008

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

Phillies Win!

The Philadelphia Phillies are headed to the World Series for the first time since 1993. The losingest franchise in professional sports tries to capture their first World Series championship since 1980 and their second title in 126 years. We are painting the town RED!
To commemorate, here's one of the all-time greatest baseball songs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One Song

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

More Dance Therapy

In a comment on this post, intrepid TK reader juanita has another suggestion for dancing the dark times away, and we're nothing if not responsive to our readers, so back away from the computer and dance some more.

Take that, fascists!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What’s in a Name?

While watching game one of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, I learned that the Tampa Bay Rays have a pitcher named Grant Balfour, an unfortunate appellation for one in his profession, akin to a surgeon named Ima Vivisectya or Chance O’Complications.

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

Random Tune for a Troubling Time

These are dark times, or at least it seems like it this week, with the world's financial markets in a panic, and with some of the worst kind of fear-mongering happening on the campaign trail (I thought this race was going to be contested on a higher road than any in recent memory; I was wrong). It's times like this when you can lean on music as something more than pleasant diversion. Think of it as therapy. So I encourage you to turn up the volume, step back from the computer and dance your ass off.

Dance to this!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Get Harpooned!

Today marks the release of Inside the Human Body (just ordered my copy), the second full-length effort from Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, an indie band you could build an entire world-view around. Three songs from the new album are streaming now at their MySpace page. If those represent a fair sample, the band has tightened and muscled up without sacrificing any of Furman's loopy lyrical charm.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Jenny Lewis & Yuengling!

Oh YES! And rumor has it she cut a recent encore short to catch the end of the Phillies game.
Here's Jenny and boyfriend Jonathan Rice getting all Gram and Emmylou on us with a spare take on "Love Hurts".
Jenny Lewis - Love Hurts
And here's one by Deer Tick - Providence, RI's (Lou?!) contribution to the slightly skewed alt-country sweepstakes and inspired opening act choice for Jenny Lewis' Friday show in Wilmington, DE. Young savant John McCauley (he's only 21) has got one of those voices - battle lines will be drawn. I'm hearing the late, lamented Gear Daddies and a drummer whose high harmonies and over-abundant facial hair were a concert highlight. Not to mention guitarist Andy, who was playing his first show (not with the band... ever!) and bassist Chris, a Napoleon Dynamite doppelganger, who rushed the stage at the end of Jenny Lewis' set like two love-struck schoolboys. I love these guys.
Deer Tick... tis the season.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday's Classic Cover

Maybe this will become a recurring idea, maybe not, but via Let's Sexy Fighting, please enjoy Spoon taking on some prime Rolling Stones at a San Francisco show earlier this week.

Spoon - "Rocks Off"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Accent-uate the Positive

Just back from Walt Disney World, a carnival of conspicuous consumption populated by kids in strollers and adults on scooters, suggesting that the idea for Wall-E was hatched right on the premises.

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


When I was a kid, I valued spectacle. Sure, it would have been nice to be in the front row, but there was something ideal about being two hundred feet away at a rock show, drinking in the enormity and grandeur of it, connecting with fans while not being able to quite touch the object of our adoration, allowing stars to remain in the cocoon of stardom. As an adult, I prefer intimacy, content to be moved by music, where before I demanded to be blown away.

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

Scientific Proof

We've long boasted that Teenage Kicks has the smartest readership of any site devoted largely to idiotic concerns, but now there's some proof to back up the claim. Our friend Kurt, a recurring character around here, just received the Fuller Albright Award for being a kick-ass scientist. More precisely, "The Fuller Albright Award is given in recognition of meritorious scientific accomplishment in the bone and mineral field to [a kick-ass scientist] who has not yet reached his or her 41st birthday before July 1 of the year the award is presented."

Hats off to Dr. Hankenson.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yankee Stadium

Home to Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Gehrig, Scooter, Munson, Maris, Whitey, Donnie Baseball, Reggie and 26 World Series Championships, Yankee Stadium hosted its last baseball game yesterday.

Sideman supreme and rock star in his own right Nils Lofgren salutes "The House That Ruth Built".

Warning - My cause Red Sox Nation to vomit slightly in mouth.

Nils Lofgren - Yankee Stadium

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sin Boldly

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

Hear Us Roar

Well, hear us chat. Go to breakthru radio, look on the left side of the page, and click on "Anatomy of a Blogger" to hear the two of us answer a few questions interspersed with songs by some of our favorite indie acts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Los Peyotes - El Humo te Hace mal!

This is some crazy shit... I think they're singing about the Jackson Five. Thanks Chris K!

The Real Zen of Genius

I upgraded to iTunes 8.0 today, which includes Genius, a new feature that builds a playlist around a single song that you select (it will also recommend other songs and albums for you to buy). Other than perhaps going back to the same artist a few times too many, it’s hard not to be impressed by this trick of artificial intelligence. I mean, I selected Marshall Crenshaw’s “Mary Anne,” and this is the playlist it created:

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

The Fratellis and The Airborne Toxic Event - TLA 9/4/08

Often the best (or worst) part of a concert is the surprise effect - as in surprise at the magnificent power of a band's live show, surprise that yet again the tallest human on earth is directly in front of you, surprise at the song selection, surprise that a beer is six bucks!, surprise at the quality of sound, surprise at the number of folks violating concert laws both # 1 (don’t wear the band's shirt) and # 7 (2 beer minimum, 6 beer maximum... enjoy the show fellas, but try to remain upright), my wife’s surprise that Craig Finn looks just like that, and, as was the case last Thursday at Philly’s TLA, the best concert surprise of all – the great opening act.

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.

The Airborne Toxic Event - Gasoline

The Airborne Toxic Event - Does This Mean You're Moving On?

Indie Hit Parade

Some quick hits today for our friends at Breakthru Radio. Recently, I got a note from the Washington, DC band Bellman Barker (they’ll be at the North Star in Philly on September 22). These guys are a tightly-wound tinderbox, a classic guitars-bass-keys set-up with melodies and harmonies to spare. Fans of The Format (or Nate Ruess’s new band, fun) will dig them. Download a basketful of tracks here. They’re on the road with a hirsute, heavy-rocking dude from Iceland (yeah, I know) named Mugison. You’ll want to check him out, too. Pay particular attention to the embedded video. The man does not lack charisma.

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

Breakthru Radio

This week, we're cross-blogging at Breakthru Radio, a cool online indie radio station. Please check them out. We begin with a post that originated here last week, but that has been tailored to fit the new audience.

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.