Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas - I've Built My Dreams Around You

I can say with absolute certainty that at least 50% of the Teenage Kicks staff is 100% positive that The Pogues "Fairytale of New York" is better than 99.9 % of all other Christmas songs, and 78% sure that it's almost impossible to ruin. It blends the sweet and sadness of Christmas, gives equal import to both the hope and desperation prevalent during the holidays. It also lends credence to the notion of Shane MacGowan as one of rock's greatest songwriters, as only he could conjure up this mixture of blood, beer, sweat and junk commingling with simple dreams of domestic bliss.

Pogues (with Kirsty MacCool) - Fairytale of New York

Florence And The Machine (with Billy Bragg) - Fairytale of New York

Stars - Fairytale of New York

Jesse Malin (with Bree Sharp) - Fairytale of New York

In-Flight-Safety (with Jenn Grant) - Fairytale of New York

KT Tunstall (with Ed Harcourt) - Fairytale of New York

Cold Blow These Winter Winds - Fairytale of New York

The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - Fairytale of New York

Yoni Gordon & The Goods - Fairytale of New York

Matthew And The Atlas - Fairytale of New York

Pilate - Fairytale of New York

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

No Time To Cry

Two songs have been sustaining me over the past few weeks. Thanks to all those who have reached out and my apologies to those I have not been able to get back to - I will soon.

"Up above my head, up above my head
I can hear music in the air, I hear music in the air
Up above my head, up above my head
I can hear music in the air, I hear music in the air
Up above my head
I hear music in the air, oh lord.
And I really do believe
I really do believe
There's a heaven somewhere
There's a heaven somewhere"

"Up Above My Head" is a 1940's gospel song by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. It brings together two things that loom large in my life - music and religion. My faith in music never wavers and quite frankly dominates my thoughts. Kicks ass all over my religious faith. Not something I am terribly proud of, although I often wear that dichotomy like a badge of honor. But this old gospel song (brought into my world in the mid-80's in a wondrously upbeat version by alt-country stalwarts The Jayhawks) brings both together in such a simple way that it seems to give ample weight to both faiths. The last few weeks have had these lyrics swirling around and above my head like an oncoming tornado.

"No Time to Cry" by Iris DeMent is a simple portrait of dealing with grief in the most ordinary way, which is really what we do - bills still get paid, phones still ring, children still need help. I guess when the music stops is when things get truly desperate. So I guess the only way to make sure you make it through the tough times is to make sure the music never stops. And to make sure you're making that house a home.

The Jayhawks - "Up Above My Head"

Iris DeMent - "No Time to Cry"

p.s. I promise the next post will bring the rock.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Little Light Reading

Today, the inbox brings "Chandeliers," a divine slice of pop from Summer Fiction, the brainchild of singer/songwriter Bill Ricchini. For our Philly followers, Bill & company are slated to play Johnny Brenda's on December 1.

Summer Fiction, "Chandeliers"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Neil Young" & Bruce Springsteen - Whip My Hair

I assumed Jimmy Fallon's staff had written a song parody for "Neil Young" and Bruce Springsteen to sing as Bruce commandeered Fallon's show last in an entertaining hour where Springsteen let his hair down a little while still maintaining the requisite amount of Boss-ness. But now that I know that it's a current pop hit by Willow Smith, the obviously fabulous progeny of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, only one word comes to mind... genius.

Go buy The Promise - fanatics need the full boat six disc enormo-package, casual listeners can settle for the two disc version that contains 21 unreleased top shelf castoff gems from what is arguably Springsteen's creative peak.

Jimmy Fallon & Bruce Springsteen - "Whip My Hair" (live 11/16/10 on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

Bruce Springsteen & The Roots - "Because The Night" (live 11/16/10 on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair"

Pat yourself on the back if you even knew Will Smith had a daughter, much less one with the current # 13 chart hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Promise

For guys like us, the only thing better than Darkness on the Edge of Town is a three-CD, three-DVD exploration of every crevice in that spectacular record's creation. It comes out next week, but I'm told that if I wait five weeks or so, it might show up under some radom tree. In the meantime, read Joe Posnanski's lovely meditation on the connection between Darkness and real life. And while you're reading, listen to the treasure chest of previously unreleased Darkness-era tracks now streaming on Spinner.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Front Row at The Bon Jovi Concert

"To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts"
---Sapphire (Almost Famous)

Bon Jovi - "Bad Medicine"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Field and Fire

I’ve been meaning to wax poetic about this for weeks now, but I haven’t found the time, so instead I’ll just wax.

Field Music has made the best album I’ve heard all year and nobody gives a damn.

It’s arty, it’s quirky, it’s melodic. It’s accessible without being obvious. It’ll appease those (like me) who think Dirty Projectors are a little too out there (and in case I've buried the lede, it's called Field Music (Measure)).

It’s impossible to know how a band or a record is going to strike the public. Kings of Leon are the biggest contemporary rock band going, and they’re a nifty little combo I suppose, but why them and not The Gaslight Anthem?

I fall victim myself. Arcade Fire, whose first two albums I liked, released an album earlier this year, and I had it within five minutes. Field Music, whose first two albums I loved, released one, too, and it took me five months. Both albums are ambitious, arty and anthemic. One of them has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The other one is great.

Arcade Fire captured the zeitgeist. Field Music captured my attention and little else.

Trip has been carrying my sorry ass on this blog for months now. I’ll try to do better. Let’s call this a start.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me

"Thanks for asking, but things have never been worse"

So goes "No Shame", from Two Cow Garage's 2007 album III, and it just about sums up the band's worldview. Singer Micah Schnabel posits there's no shame "in just giving up and walking away". While that might be true for some bands, it would have been a terrible shame if Two Cow Garage had packed it in back in 2007. They wouldn't have hit on the career detours, one night stands, broken promises, empty rooms and deep self analysis that have led to Sweet Saint Me (out this Tuesday on Suburban Home Records), their no-doubt-about-it high water mark as a fierce rock and roll band.

Main songwriter Schnabel spares no one, least of all himself, as he examines the rock life choices he and his friends have made in pursuit of the perfect riff. On Sweet Saint Me, Andy Schell's piano and B3 sweeten and deepen the self-loathing that threatens to sink the band in a morass of self pity. But hold off on the pity party for this band, because they've delivered one of the most vital rock records of the year, sown from seeds of desperation and heartbreak.

Soak in the glorious sing-along "Lydia", about a troubled woman-child, an Adam and Eve vision that haunts every barfly on a bender. There are no happy endings here, except for the 75 minutes on stage each night. The album's title track may be Schnabel at his most self-flagellating, flinging self-inflicted daggers like "my own words are turning on me like a gun inside my mouth". but a thumping rhythm section, swirling B3 and clackety guitar make the medicine a little easier to swallow. And the age old question of every indie band that scuffles even remotely with success is dissected in "Soundtrack to My Summer", as the band are "going to sleep as punk rock kids" and "waking up part of the machine". For those who like their rock straight, no chaser and abhor dj dance club culture, check out this diatribe from "My Great Gatsby":

"Since Dylan went electric, man, things just ain't been the same
Now djs are making records, could you please just be ashamed
Of your raping and your pillaging of this thing we love
Now I'm stuck down here on the killing floor and I need someone to shove.

The album's relentless, claustrophobic wallow is leavened somewhat by contributions by bassist Shane Sweeney, he of the Civil War-worthy muttonchops. "Wanted To Be" and "Closer to You" feature Sweeney's warm, craggy baritone that sees the light, knows the shared blood spill is worth it, and seems to prop up his world-weary brother. This is a band with a bond that runs so deep that they had to close the album with the call-to-arms of "Brothers in Arms" that celebrates not only their own shared struggles but those of any desperate band of brothers. And that bond is passed on to the next generation in "Jackson Don't You Worry", an unsparing chronicle of bringing kids into the rock crucible, where you celebrate "birthdays and graduations through a telephone", but physical absence doesn't have to mean spiritual absence. Note the bookend cribbing of Big Star and Springsteen.... is there a better pair to pilfer from?

For those despaired that Westerberg went soft as The Replacements ended, Sweet Saint Me seems to fulfill that hard/soft quiet/loud pop song cycle that would have fit nicely after Pleased to Meet Me. It's a rock band that is sick of itself, so much so that the only cure is transcendent rock and roll.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just 'Cause You Feel So Good, Do You Have to Drive Me Out of My Head?

Just finished watching the movie Pirate Radio, and while it appears to be a rather sanitized version of British pirate radio in 1966, it is hugely entertaining and worth two hours of your time. The above is a deleted scene from the movie, and one of the best music videos of the last ten years.

I am also certain that 1966 was the single best year in the history of rock and roll. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Kinks, The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Beach Boys and even the Prefab Four, the Monkees, were in their prime. Radio ruled with a wide-ranging diversity and endless supply of three minutes songs whose heart and soul have provided the blueprint for every rock band that followed.

Watch Pirate Radio with measured expectations, enjoy the fab music and dry, awkward humor and revel in the notion that not one song from 1966 has aged a day.

The Rolling Stones - "Get Off of My Cloud"

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jason And The Scorchers Tonight!

For those of you in the Philadelpia-New Jersey-New York corridor, there is a show tonight that demands your attention - the return of Jason and The Scorchers. Unfortunately it's in the godforsaken hinterlands of Bucks County, and even though I've been to the Sellersville Theater three times, I still don't where it is. God bless GPS.

Take a look at this clip and skip this show at your own peril.

The Scorchers latest, Halcyon Days, is among the best releases of 2010 and bonus show points for spitfire opening act, Sarah Borges and The Broken Singles.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tommy Keene - Songs From The Film - LIVE!!

Guess what is exactly 2 hours and ten minutes from Havertown, PA (going north) and 2 hours, 10 minutes from Red Hook, NY (heading south)? Brooklyn, And that's where worlds collided at The Rock Shop, a tiny new venue in the heart of Park Slope that brought together me and my old college pal, JM, plus trusted accomplice Chopped Liver for a night of reliving our debauched late 20's (no wonder we couldn't find wives until our 30's). The soundtrack? The magnificent Tommy Keene, currently on a limited 8 date tour that features Tommy and band zipping through the power pop landmark Songs For The Film from start to finish. How could we not go see that?

Songs From The Film, you say? You bet - it stands with the best of Big Star, Matthew Sweet, The Plimsouls and The Raspberries as the cream of the crop of the critic wet dream genre of power pop. The night began with the first sighting of JM in four years (and a great burger at Bonnie's Grill), the last being a disastrous screening of the Jack Black stinker, Nacho Libre, that apparently JM's kid still hails as a classic. And for chrissakes, isn't it time for a moratorium on Jack Black movies? The guy has been in about 700 movies in the last 10 years, and by my count has been tolerable in maybe two, High Fidelity and Tropic Thunder. And don't even start with Tenacious D - that is some horrid, unfunny pain. Jack Black makes Will Ferrell look like he has range. But I digress.

The first time JM and I saw Tommy Keene was on a hellacious double date / double bill (Peter Case opened - don't get me started on all you fuckers that refuse to acknowledge Case as one of the great under appreciated American songwriters of the last quarter century) at Maxwell's in Hoboken. It was all going so well until JM and I tried to answer the question "What if we tried to drink all of the beer in New Jersey?" I can't say we satisfactorily answered the question, but I can hazard a guess our dates might have given the night a slightly unsatisfactory review. I do remember a night spent in my date's bathroom, alternately heaving and lying prostrate on the floor, reveling in the refreshing flop sweat respite delivered by the icy cool blue and white bathroom floor tiles. Yep, I was a keeper. But again I digress.

Tommy Keene circa 2010 is enjoying a slight burnishing of his alreay considerable legend based on the absolutely essential career spanning double disc compilation, punnily titled Tommy Keene You Hear Me? Filled with alternate universe hits like "Places That Are Gone", "When Our Vows Break", "Love is A Dangerous Thing" and "Back to Zero Now", it's a power pop nerd's treat as it includes 7 tracks each from the difficult to find Songs From The Film and the almost impossible to find Based on Happy Times. Keene is an exceptional guitarist (just ask acolytes Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg) and his music is defined by his crunchy jangle, as well as his sharp (and sometime opaque) songwriting and plaintive vocals.

Last night's giddy romp that ran from "Places That Are Gone" through "The Story Ends" was a glorious and nostalgic celebration that happened, according to Keene, "because it seemed like it was time. It's everyone's favorite album. Not mine, but everyone else's". The songs crackled with urgency as Keene smacked us in the face with his meaty but lean guitar leads, playing only was absolutely necessary. Especially thumping was his reading of Lou Reed's scathing account of his institutionalized electro-shock therapy, "Kill Your Sons", each note a crushing blow. Keene has aged remarkably well and his vocals still carry just the right mix of heartache and sneer. And major kudos to the soundman, whose mix was clean and crisp and still loud enough to rattle walls. Excellent, excellent sound. Also of note was the abundant appearance of homo obscura, rock nerds dedicated to the pursuit of obscure power pop bands (and yes... guilty as charged.). Openers Valley Lodge (fizzy glam pop featuring wise guy singer Dave Hill's deadpan asides on selling songs for commercials, Gary Glitter and pedophilia) and Title Tracks, whose debut It Was Easy is one of 2010's best pop records (and whose set included The Who's "So Sad About Us"), set the stage perfectly for Keene's valentine to long-time fans.

JM - I hope you got home OK. Let's do this again.

Tommy Keene - "Places That Are Gone"

Tommy Keene - "Love Is A Dangerous Thing"

Title Tracks - "Black Bubblegum"

Valley Lodge - "Comin' Around"

JM, Tommy Keene, TK

Chopped Liver, Tommy Keene, TK

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Because once isn't enough

Here's Cee-Lo again. The song remains Not Safe for Work, and Not Safe for Not Dancing.

Cee-Lo's Shawshank Redemption from Dallas Observer on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Best Song of 2010 is Not Safe For Work, Children, Parties, The Supermarket, School, In Fact, Almost Any Social Gathering... But Oh My, Is It Good

Back in the days of historically bad break-ups, broken hearts and the occasional restraining order, I dreamed of a song that would combine the cavity-inducing bubblegum smarts of the Grass Roots, the urgency of primal rock and roll and the screaming soul chops of Otis Redding and Little Richard all wrapped in an exuberantly profane chorus that focuses on the one word that gets daily workouts from all walks of life, but still maintains it's hard-earned bad boy image.

That song has finally arrived and "Fuck You" by Cee-Lo Green is the best song you'll hear all year, and it'll be despite the saucy chorus, and because it imagines that Terence Trent D'Arby had fulfilled the promise of his debut and decided to mash 50 years of soul music into 3:45 of spleen splitting, piano driven, loaded with oh-oh-oh's call and response euphoria. And it's even better than that.

And because we love a good kiss-off as much as the next guys, here's a few of our favorites including two more NSFW entries by the similarly agitated Tonio K and Harry Nilsson.

Ain't that some shit.

Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You" (from the upcoming Lady Killer)

Tonio K - "H-A-T-R-E-D" (from Life in The Foodchain)

Nilsson - "You're Breaking My Heart" (from Son of Schmilsson)

The Beat Farmers - "Goldmine" (from Tales of The New West)

Lyle Lovett - "God Will" (from Lyle Lovett)

New Video from The Duke and The King

If "Shaky" is any indication, the sound on The Duke and The King's new album has a sound that's a little bit fuller (horns, group harmonizing) but the songs will retain that looking forward/looking back wistfulness that characterized much of their debut, Nothing Gold Can Stay. TD&TK mainman Simone Felice heads out for some solo dates, including a local stop at the intimate First Unitarian Side Chapel, and you will not see a show in a better venue this year.

Nottingham (Sold Out!) 08/25/10 UK
Newcastle 08/26/10 UK
City of Edinburgh 08/27/10 UK
Sheffield 08/31/10 UK
Liverpool 09/01/10 UK
London, London 09/02/10 UK

Toronto, Ontario 09/17/10 10:00pm CA
Toronto, Ontario 09/18/10 10:00pm CA

Philadelphia, PA 10/09/10 8:15pm US
Freehold, NJ 10/10/10 3:00pm US

Monday, August 16, 2010

Teenage Kicks in a nutshell

If there were a pedal steel in here somewhere, it would be the perfect synthesis of our record collections.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Long Live The Duke & The King!

Teenage Kicks faves The Duke and The King return with their new lp, Long Live The Duke & The King, on September 27. No specific label, track info or cover artwork yet, which in the internet age is a bit of a treat as the band and their new release retains a bit of mystery as we wait for the actual release day to hear the new record.

Nothing Gold Can Stay, their debut, was an introspective, soulful stunner, with Simone Felice emerging as a significant voice among the alt-indie-folk dream weavers. It's been an event-filled couple of years for Felice, including recent open heart surgery. Earlier this month he self-released an acoustic disc, Live From A Lonely Place, where he re-interprets the five best songs from Nothing Gold Can Stay, reclaims a handful of Felice Brothers songs and offers up two new songs. The treatments are really spare, with just acoustic guitar and the occasional harmonica for accompaniment.

Simone Felice - "The Morning I Get to Hell" (from Live From A Lonely Place)

The Duke And The King - "Long May You Run" (Live - Stills-Young band cover)

The Felice Brothers - "Waterspider" (early version of song that appears on Nothing Gold Can Stay)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Ike Reilly Week in Philly

The Ike Reilly Assassination, a searing , combustible mix of the DIY punk rock of '77 and the classic rock of Dylan and Springsteen, went three years between Philadelphia gigs and by the end of the week they'll have played 4 Philly shows in three months. Lucky us.

Ike Reilly's current media blitz is in support of Hard Luck Stories, one the best releases of 2010 (and 2009 too, since it was a digital only release in Novemeber 2009). Reilly is, quite simply, one of the best current songwriters working, and he's still getting better. Just don't ask him to "magic rat" you.

Tonight come join the faithful as Reilly and crew take Girard Ave. by storm by smacking you in the face at the M Room, a perfectly seedy hole in the wall right near Frankford and Girard, about a block away from Johnny Brenda's. And get there early (ten?) for Standard Fare, a Brit-pop three piece wallowing in romantic angst, featuring the slightly agitated, wobbly warbling of one Emma Kupa and three minute post-punk songs that sound like a cross between Art Brut and Liz Phair (Guyville Liz Phair, that is).

And then Friday at noon, Ike Reilly will play a FREE show at World Cafe Live. You can go (remember it's FREE) or listen to show on WXPN. I suggest a go route. Get your FREE TIX HERE.

Ike Reilly - The War On The Terror and The Drugs (from Hard Luck Stories)

Ike Reilly Assassination - When Irish Eyes Are Burning (from We Belong to The Staggering Evening)

Ike Reilly - Farewell to The Good Times Part 2 (from Poison The Hit Parade)

Ike Reilly Assassination - Garbage Day (from Sparkle in The Finish)

Ike Reilly Assassination - She's So Free (from Sparkle in The Finish - bonus track)

Ike Reilly Assassination - Heroin (from Junkie Faithful)

Ike Reilly - Hip Hop Thighs # 17 (from Salesmen And Racists)

You can order his music here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Gaslight Anthem: "People Wanted Something Honest"

I recently chatted with Ben Horowitz, drummer for Teenage Kicks faves The Gaslight Anthem. The fruits of that conversation are in the new issue of The Providence Phoenix.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Here Today

One of the most remarkable things about Paul McCartney’s astonishing show on Saturday is that it told just half a story.

All of the songs that McCartney and/or John Lennon wrote for the Beatles are credited to both of them, but most are regarded as either Paul Songs or John Songs, and with a couple of exceptions (including “A Day in the Life,” which is a Paul Song and a John Song welded together), Saturday’s set consisted entirely of Paul Songs:

Venus and Mars/Rock Show; Jet; All My Loving; Letting Go; Drive My Car; Highway; Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady; The Long and Winding Road; Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five; Let 'Em In; My Love; I've Just Seen A Face; And I Love Her; Blackbird; Here Today; Dance Tonight; Mrs. Vanderbilt; Eleanor Rigby; Something; Sing the Changes; Band on the Run; Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da; Back in the USSR; I’ve Got A Feeling; Paperback Writer; A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance; Let It Be; Live and Let Die; Hey Jude. First encore: Day Tripper; Lady Madonna; Get Back. Second encore: Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)/The End.

In the early days of this blog, in a brief rumination about John Lennon, I wrote “Every once in a while, don’t you stop to wonder what he might have done these past twenty-six years? And doesn’t it break your heart a little every time?” Watching Paul play, I had those thoughts again, and I wondered what a comparable Lennon show in 2010 might be like.

Your first reaction might be that Lennon wouldn’t do a comparable show, that he had little interest in visiting his past. But there’s no telling how his thinking might have changed over the past three decades. He clearly was more at peace with himself and his past just before his death at age 40 than he had been ten years earlier. So, if you have disbelief, suspend it for a moment.

In my imagination, this is the set of John Songs that he would have played, and it is as titanic as the show Paul performed. How is it possible that these two men were in the same band?

Power to the People; Whatever Gets You Thru the Night; The Ballad of John and Yoko: Eight Days a Week; A Hard’s Day’s Night; If I Fell; Help!; And Your Bird Can Sing; Come Together; Jealous Guy; Working Class Hero; Norwegian Wood; Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds; Dear Prudence; #9 Dream; You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away; Mind Games; Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey; (Just Like) Starting Over; Nobody Told Me; I’m a Loser; Ticket to Ride; Happiness is a Warm Gun; Across the Universe; A Day in the Life; Watching the Wheels; Strawberry Fields Forever; Revolution; I am the Walrus; Instant Karma! First encore: Imagine; Nowhere Man; Tomorrow Never Knows. Second encore: In My Life; All You Need Is Love; Twist and Shout.

In this fantasy, John is alive, but George is not, so just as Paul played “Something” as a tribute to the Quiet Beatle, John might slip in “Here Comes the Sun.” And at some show, somewhere, John’s friend Paul emerges unannounced during the first encore for a duet on “Two of Us.”

If I’m going to dream, let me have big dreams.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Universal

About an hour into his show Saturday night in Kansas City, Paul McCartney’s band retreated from the stage, leaving the man alone with an acoustic guitar to play the Beatles’ classic “Blackbird” and “Here Today,” the open letter he wrote to John Lennon’s memory. Without tricks or adornment, McCartney strummed and sang simple melodies and words, and it was spellbinding, the mystery of music encapsulated in six minutes. How can something so stark be so stirring?

The whole night was like that, though most of it was appreciably louder. Three hours of some of the best and most famous songs ever written, each mangifiying the power of the one that preceded it.

I was born in 1968, just old enough to remember “Silly Love Songs” and “Let ‘Em In” as hit singles on the radio. But I don’t recall a time without most of the songs that Paul played. For me, the Beatles catalog is like the oceans and mountains, things that help define the earth. There is no hyperbole when it comes to this stuff. A recital of Beatles songs in 2010 is nothing more or less than a performance of the great cultural artifacts of the past half-century. Some of it, like “All My Loving” and “Drive My Car,” brought a smile, and much of it was pure majesty – “Eleanor Rigby,” “Let It Be,” the monstrous sing along to “Hey Jude.” And I’ve never felt my heart swell at a rock show the way it did during the opening chords to “A Day in the Life.”

Three songs from the set – “Dance Tonight,” from Memory Almost Full, and “Highway” and “Sing the Changes” by Macca’s alter ego The Fireman – earned their first release within the past three years, but most were three or four decades old. Still, the show was no more an act of nostalgia than a performance of Hamlet is. These are important songs, living things, and they stand on their own without need for any personal context.

The fact that there’s no one else left to play them made the evening feel even more poignant, as did the easy intimacy McCartney shared with the audience. He mentioned three people by their first names only – Linda, George and John – and 15,000 strangers knew who he meant and that they are all gone, lending him a humanity that’s sometimes hard to appreciate. Yes, he’s a titan, but he’s also a man who has known more than his share of loss. Beatles songs have long represented myriad things, and now they also represent the finite nature of life.

The depth of that cache of songs was further revealed when Paul came out for his first encore, after a murder’s row of classic to close the set. I thought “what else can he play?” and he pulled out “Yesterday.” Oh yes, that one.

Very few can make any claim to being McCartney’s peers, and all of them come with obstacles to appreciation. The Rolling Stones carry a hint of menace, with a junkie vampire guitarist and songs that have not always reflected the most enlightened attitude toward women. Bob Dylan is the definition of inscrutable, with his blown-speaker voice and labyrinthine lyrics making for disciples more than fans. And a Bruce Springsteeen show, joyous as it is, can have a clubby feel, as die-hards work to one-up one another by getting the Boss to play the most obscure requests. But there is no obstacle to McCartney. He is the last universal in music, with the best songs and the broadest appeal. Saturday may mark the only time I ever see him, and it was a privilege to be there.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 69 - Gimme, Gimme, Gimme Pop Music

I haven't seen this commercial on TV (I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a commercial since April when I got a DVR, except maybe during ballgames) but this song is yet another example of why the three minute pop song is king. Sounds like the Juno theme song crossed with my boy Jeremy Fisher. I love it, but those who have a low tolerance for sunshine pop should sit this one out.

And check out the remix, which actually doesn't ruin the song.

Kyle Andrews - "You Always Make Me Smile" (from the Kangaroo EP)

Kyle Andrews - "You Always Make Me Smile" (remix)

Jeremy Fisher - "Scar That Never Heals" (from Goodbye Blue Monday)

The Moldy Peaches - "Anyone Else But You" (from the Juno soundtrack)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 68 - Digging The New Superchunk

Superchunk have a new album, Majesty Shredding, due out on Merge on September 14. I would like to nominate them as the band I should know more about because everything I hear by them seems to be pop genius. I would also like to publicly flog DJ Mertter for failing to deliver his long-promised Superchunk Supermix. Boo DJ Mertter!

Anyway, "Digging For Something" is 3 1/2 minutes of why music matters. Dig it.

Superchunk - "Digging For Something" (from Majesty Shredding)

Superchunk - "Learned To Surf" (from Leaves in The Gutter EP)

Day 67 - Twelve Random Thoughts While Thoroughly Enjoying Deer Tick and Kenzingers on A Sweltering Hot Night at Johnny Brenda's

1. Beer + Music = Bliss.

2. Fat, bearded drummers are the best.

3. Why does every single band have at least one quite serviceable 3-4 minute song that they feel must be extended into a ten minute jam. And why do audiences inevitably cheer wildly for this excruciating number?

4. Deer Tick is much better live than on record. And they are very good on record.

5. Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia is the best rock club in the country.

6. The $3.00 PBC Kenzinger draught beer at Johnny Brenda's is manna from heaven.

7. "Everybody loves a cover" - John McCauley of Deer Tick on 7/20/10. He is absolutely right. Every band should have at least three cover songs in their set.

8. Usually skinny-ass, shirtless, tatooed, sunglass-wearing frontmen are insufferable. Deer Tick's John McCauley pulled off that quite unfashionable look with aplomb.

9. The fat, bearded drummer's show-closing encore cover of "Let's Get It On" brought to mind the cover by Barry Jive and His Uptown Five in High Fidelity, and was equally impressive.
Speaking of which - Jack Black is almost 100% insufferable.

10. A band with a sense of humor is quite appealing.

11. Deer Tick also covered the Replacements "Can't Hardly Wait" (impossible to go wrong with that one) and Chuck Berry's "Maybelline". Apparently every Chuck Berry song except "Johnny B. Goode" sounds great in a bar. And "Johnny B. Goode" only fails the acid test because it's been played over a billion times by bar bands large and small. Please stop playing "Johnny B. Goode". Thank you.

12. Chuck Berry's The Great Twenty-Eight is probably the greatest greatest hits collection ever assembled. It is the Ten Commandments of rock and roll.

Deer Tick - "When She Comes Home" (from The Black Dirt Sessions)

Deer Tick - "Little White Lies" (from Born on Flag Day)

Chuck Berry - "Maybelline" (from The Great Twenty-Eight)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 66 - Little Richard

Has rock and roll ever sounded more primal, urgent and alive than 1950's Little Richard? And dig the Stepford audience.

Until yesterday, I had never heard Little Richard's "Poor Boy Paul", "I Got It" or "Heeby Jeebies" (a "Tutti Frutti" knockoff). At 55 years and counting, there is no end to the rock and roll gems that wait patiently to be discovered. All three are part of The Specialty Sessions, an essential touchstone of unadulterated rock and roll (nowwww I know!).

Little Richard - "Heebie Jeebies"

Little Richard - "I Got It"

Little Richard - "Poor Boy Paul"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 65 - The District Attorneys - "Splitsville"

Everything about The District Attorneys screams "FUN", from their cheeky name , to their myspace info (sounds like "Plain Cheese Pizza" and influences "Love Wars Baby"), to the goofball facebook pictures. And indie rock fun is an elusive and tricky commodity that seems to be in short supply these days. But FUN plus songwriting chops and a slapdash production that includes gang vocals (and why don't more bands use them?), a little banjo, wooooaaaahs aplenty, and guitar sounds borrowed form the late, great Rave-Ups make "Splitsville" a freewheeling feel-good anthem for the relationship-challenged that walk among us.

And since it's 2010 and impossible to overcome internet overload, promising young bands (actually bands of all age) are forced to share their songs for free. And that's just what the D.A.'s have done, throwing y'all a bone by giving away their spiffy 7 song EP, Orders From..." for free right here. You've been served.

The District Attorneys - "Splitsville"

The District Attorneys - "The Deep End of You And Me"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 63 - Alejandro Escovedo

Yesterday we told you about the XPoNential Fest in Camden,NJ and picked our highlights for the three day AAA gathering of greybeards and aspiring greybeards. Well the early (and I imagine post-fest) pick for the undisputed champ is Alejandro Escovedo, who six months shy of sixty, burns with the fire of a man half his age.

He has survived punk rock (the Nuns), alternative country (Rank And File), glam-roots-rock (True Believers), hard rock (Buick MacKane) and even a critical bout with Hepatitis C, but it's his solo records starting with 1992's Gravity that have made him one the most revered artists of the last two decades.

Maybe because he's never come close to anything resembling mass market success, Alejandro Escovedo is still making records filled with passion, rage, anger, tenderness and an unquenched hunger for the truth. He is nowhere near that soft white overbelly most legacy artists settle for once they get past their first taste of success.

His new album, Street Songs of Love, is filled, quite simply, with songs of love from the street, a rare case of truth in packaging. And according to his 18 year old rebel-punk-graffiti artist son, it's filled with "old music for old people". Alejandro took that shot as a compliment that he had instilled in his son a healthy distaste for the status quo. That uncompromising spirit is captured poignantly ("I hope you live long enough to forget half the stuff they taught you") and proudly ("I want to see you out on the street making a scene for everybody") on the set's highlight "Down in The Bowery", but ultimately looks to the kid to tear it all down and build it back up his way.

The show opened and closed with songs Escovedo has performed on record with Bruce Springsteen - "Always A Friend" from 2008's Real Animal and the blistering encore "Faith" from his new record. Like Springsteen, Escovedo operates a false move free environment, with uncommon grace and dignity, an artist whose career by sales standards may seem slight, but whose creative output ranks among the best of the last 30 years.

Go see him while you still can.
Alejandro Escovedo - "Down In The Bowery" (from Street Songs of Love)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 62 - The Sun Machine Is Coming Down...

and we're gonna have a party.

Here's a plug for WXPN's annual XPoNential Music Festival that runs Friday through Sunday. There are over 40 bands (some of them aren't even granola singer-songwriters!) that will share three stages in a pretty Camden setting overlooking the Delaware River. All three days offer must sees and you can't beat the festival price (although early bird XPN members got the best deal - three day pass for $35.00).

Get there by dinner on Friday to make sure you catch the never less than fantastic Alejandro Escovedo (6:45) and skip over to the smaller Marina Stage for local folk rocker Ben Arnold (&:40) and current buzz band, power pop throwbacks Free Energy (8:55). Leave after their set and head out early to avoid MOR jam band bores Big Head Todd and The Monsters and the inevitable barf-a-rama that will accompany the mass exodus of the Warped Tour's baked cookies.

On Saturday, must sees include the best-of-weekend murderer's row of The Walkmen (3:45), Yo La Tengo (5:20), Roseanne Cash (6:55) and scumbag folkies The Felice Brothers (8:50), all on the big Camden County River Stage. But make sure you get over to the Marina Stage at 8:00 for an ultra-rare 21st century appearance by Jersey homeboy Ben Vaughn.

Sunday's highlights include early in the day appearances by classic rockers Blood Feathers (1:00) and the rising Laurel Canyon lilt of Dawes (2:15). Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes' weird hippie folk is set for 5:20 and local psych popsters Dr. Dog follow at 6:55.

There's loads more, plus sunburn, $8.00 beers and old hippies. See you there.

Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes - "Memory of A Free Festival" (David Bowie cover)
Dawes - "When My Time Comes"
Blood Feathers - "The Same Mad Part"
Free Energy - "Bang Pop"
The Walkmen - "Stranded"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 61 - Another New One From Jenny And Johnny - "Big Wave"

Jenny Lewis (and Johnathan Rice) ride the "Big Wave", but this time it's mostly TK heartthrob Jenny. A sweet slice of americana-surf-indie-pop that's a little Bangle-y in all the right places. It's the second track to surface from their debut disc, I'm Having Fun Now, out 8/31 on Warner Bros.

Jenny... call me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 60 - Take Me Out to The Ball Game (Or It's On, Joe Wilhoit!)

For those of you keeping score at home, Teenage Kicks passed DiMaggio on Saturday with Day 57's "Lust For Life". Now it's on to the great Joe Wilhoit, who in 1919 set the minor league baseball record with a 69 game hitting streak for the unforgettable Wichita Jobbers of the Western League. Guess who has the second longest minor league hitting streak? Joltin Joe, of course - 61 games in 1933 playing for the San Francisco Seals.

By the way, how about that National League? I think it's wonderful that the Braves' Brian McCann just helped clinch home field advantage for my Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 World Series.

The Hold Steady - "Take Me Out To The Ball Game"

Eddie Vedder - "Take Me Out to The Ball Game"

Steve Goodman - "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"

Bruce Springstone - "Take Me Out to The Ball Game"

Obligatory 2010 track, Today's most popular search on the wonderful Hype Machine:

Local Natives - "Wide Eyes (Fool's Gold Remix feat. Aristotle Pop A Bottle)"

One comment: Is it me, or are 98% of all remixes needless exercises in knob twiddling?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 59 - HELEN STELLaR - "Telescope Eyes"

In recent weeks, no song has made me do the ipod double take more than HELEN STELLaR's "Telescope Eyes", whose addictive "I'm standing right in front of you, why can't you see" chorus is an end credits soundtrack closer waiting to happen. Which shouldn't be a surprise since these guys have placed songs on Friday Night Lights (best show on TV over the last 5 years!), the L Word and Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown soundtrack.

Opening with a 30 second hypnotic tribal thump, "Telescope Eyes" soars on ringing guitars and a pleading vocal that would find a comfortable home next to Coldplay or The Verve on your local AAA or alt-rock station. It seems destined to appear 15 years from now on one those groovy, righting past oversights comps that will help a new generation discover unjustly ignored guitar bands from the early 10's.

HELEN STELLaR - "Telescope Eyes"

Day 58 - The Head And The Heart

The Head and The Heart are a loose collective of indie folkies whose "Sounds Like Hallelujah" sounds like Rufus Wainwright leading a midnight reverie with Mumford and Sons. The Seattle group join a growing list of young bands (Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Avett Brothers, Felice Brothers) who sound like old souls blending acoustic roots music and heavenly harmonies to create nu-folk sounds that can reach across generations.

They apparently have a self-titled debut that was released at the end of June, but dang me if I can find any way on the interent to order the thing. Can anyone help out with a link?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 57 - Lust For Life

Last year the google-phobic Girls released one of the year's best debuts with the equally search engine unfriendly title Album. In addition to the fantastic "Hellhole Ratrace", "Ghost Mouth", "Laura", Album also featured the narcotically ringing wish list, plea for love and mission statement that is "Lust For Life", no relation to Iggy's classic of the same name. The above video would have made these guys stars back when MTV had actually had something to do with music.

Now American actress C.C. Sheffield has released a throbbing, Gaga-riffic cover that should be filling dancefloors all over the world. You probably know Ms. Sheffield from her sterling one episode turn as Sienna in the 2007 "Devil in Disguise" episode in the low water mark for situation comedy that is According to Jim. (Yeah, I know, I never heard of her either, but she does possess many qualities treasured by the shallow male - see photo).

C.C. Sheffield - "Lust For Life"

Girls - "Lust For Life"

Friday, July 09, 2010

Day 56 - Three Greatest Alison Songs EVER!

The first two you know but the last one is by (relative) newcomer Justin Kline, whose "Alison, We Cannot Be Friends" makes me think of Mungo Jerry, The Fountains of Wayne, Superdrag, Pilot, The Beach Boys, sunny days at the beach and those faded jeans with holes in the knee and the crotch - you know you should toss them but you can't because they fit just right and feel so-o-o--o--o good.

Elvis Costello - Alison (from My Aim Is True)

The Lemonheads - Alison's Starting to Happen (from It's A Shame About Ray)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Day 55 - Frightened Rabbit Covers The Lemonheads

Frightened Rabbit covers The Lemonheads

Every Tuesday since March 16th, the kind folks at The A.V. Club have had a battle of the songs as they have invited the hipperati to cover a predetermined list of 25 songs, each band getting to choose a song until there's only one left. I wonder what poor saps will get stuck with Billy Squier's "Everybody Wants You"?

It's an inspired idea that started with the odd pairing of Ted Leo covering Tears For Fears, the more natural matchup of Justin Townes Earle covering Springsteen, the righteous hookup of Rise Against covering Nirvana and last week the opposites attract combination of Frightened Rabbit taking on the Lemonheads. Scott Hutchinson's sad sack world weary melancholia would seem to be miles away from Evan Dando's zippy pop tunes, but Hutchinson finds the deeper blue on Dando's shoulda-sorta-woulda unrequited love story.

Don't forget to check out Frightened Rabbit's Winter of Mixed Drinks, one of 2010's best.

Frightened Rabbit - "Confetti"

The Lemonheads - "Confetti" (from It's A Shame About Ray)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Day 54 - A Garage Grows in Harlem

There is a certain purity in songs that sound like Harlem's "Friendly Ghost" that make them almost unassailable. It's the old three chords and the truth - bang it out... and move on. Harlem was recommended to me by Jersey Bob with this pithy overview of the band's music - "garage band sounding, short songs". On the band's myspace page, they list their influences as: "the only band we like is Nirvana. the only album we like is nevermind. the only song we like is smells like teen spirit." Ok... I'm sold.

This Austin band marries the anything-goes shang-a-lang of the early Kinks with the yelping franticism of Richard Hell lost inside Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilation, all wrapped in a goofball delivery that is more ingratiating than annoying. And god damn if they don't bash out 16 breakneck songs, with only three breaking the 3 minute barrier. And they've got an unreleased song called "Psychedelic Tits". They have to be good!

Harlem - "Friendly Ghost"
Harlem - "Gay Human Bones"

Day 53 - Robbie Fulks Does Michael Jackson

Robbie Fulks gives Michael Jackson the full tribute treatment, and as so often is not the case with Mr. Fulks, this is (mostly) no joke. The arrangements are mostly countrypolitan, with a feeling of genuine warmth, and in the end, there are the songs, which are lay bare the talent of both Jackson and Fulks. While it can get a little too over-the-top (the hoedown of "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough", the clatttering noise of "Privacy"), the highlights (Black and White", "Ben" and especially "Mama's Pearl") are mile wide smiles of cover songs done right.

And of course no Robbie Fulks blogpost would be complete without the genius of "Fountains of Wayne Hotline".


Monday, July 05, 2010

Day 52 - The Thermals - "I Don't Believe You"

The Thermals don't knock every song out of the park, but when they do get a hold of one, they can create quite the adrenaline rush. Their new single, "I Don't Believe You" will make you happy you still care about music. It marries a perfect power pop riff to many glorious oh-oh-oh's, adds snotty lyrics to Hutch Harris' eternally teenage yelp, and tops it off with an exhilarating refrain that makes clear the belief defecit belonging to the ever-popular you.

Has anyone else noticed the vocal similarity bewtween The Thermal's Hutch Harris and the late, lamented Pooh Sticks' Hue Pooh?

The Pooh Sticks - "Young People"

"I Don't Believe You" will be available as a 7" single or digitial download (with b-side "There's Nothing You Can't Learn") on August 10th. Their new album, Personal Life, lands September 7th. Both on Kill Rock Stars.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Day 51 - Jason And The Scorchers

Jason And The Scorchers have no business making a record as good as Halcyon Times in 2010. Jason Ringenberg still sounds like an escaped nutjob from Deliverance with a heart as big as his ever-present cowboy hat. Warner Hodges is still one of the five best guitarists alive. And the record includes a made-in-alt-country-heaven Dan Baird collaboration on the classic country regret "When Did It Get So Easy (To Lie To Me)".

This record is steeped in unapologetic nostalgia for the good times, no regrets for the roads not taken and blasts off with the best opening song you'll hear all year, sporting the unwieldy title "Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners" and featuring what may well be the Scorcher credo in this hard-to-top chorus:

"And he yells, and he roars
Loves the Stones, hates the Doors
Thinks the Beatles sing for girls
He's a moonshine guy in a six-pack world"

Why this band consistently fell through the cracks is an on-going mystery. Buy this record so they get to make another. And go see them before they go on permanent hiatus. Because there are only so many GREAT rock and roll bands, and this one will sweat on you and thrill you with amazing feats like Jason's rebel yell and Warner Hodges' oft-imitated, never better around-the-horn guitar flip.

Jason and The Scorchers - "Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners"

Jason and The Scorchers - "Absolutely Sweet Marie" (from the Fervor EP, and without a doubt the greatest of all Dylan covers)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Day 50 - Seth Swirsky's Summer Rainbow

Seth Swirsky, half of the great Red Button, returns with Watercolor Day, a fragile pop song cycle bursting with great arrangements and melodies. Where the Red Button finds its inspiration in Beatle-y power pop, Watercolor Day oozes Brother-era Beach Boys and the ambitious orch-pop of the Zombies.

While some songs seem like lyric fragments, the gentle strum of "Watercolor Day" is bolstered by gentle pedal steel and a horn blast that wouldn't sound out of place on a Los Lobos jam. The "Summer In Her Hair" is what I'd hope The Shins aspire to - simple, direct songwriting that wafts through the speakers like a rainbow over a hammock. There is little to no negativity on these album except the odd plea of "Twenty Minutes to Myself" with its "I love the silence" refrain. The gorgeous "She's Doing Fine" sounds like it could have been the flip side of the Beach Boys "Caroline No" and the Nilsson tribute "(I Never Knew You) Harry" pays respect to an unsung inspiration (love the vocals on this one).

But what really stands out and elevates the album are the sterling arrangements - it's one of the finest produced albums I've heard all year. If you swoon to the Bacharach-David catalog, the Walker Brothers regal pop or just need a dose of west coast sun-splashed magic for you summer soundtrack, look no further than Seth Swirsky's Watercolor Day.

And keep an eye out for the second album by the Red Button, due in February 2011.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Day 49 - Two Cow Garage

The pride of Columbus, OH covers Bruce Springsteen - it's the sound of nicotine on concrete.

Two Cow Garage - "No Surrender"

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Day 48 - J Roddy Walston & The Business

Saw these guys at SXSW, and I remember thinking Jerry Lee Lewis fronting Lynyrd Skynyrd. So yeah... I dug them.

J Roddy Walston & The Business - Brave Man's Death

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 47 - Danny And The Champions of The World - Streets of Our Time

I loved this album based on the cover alone. Danny George Wilson (former Grand Drive kingpin) leads the Champions of the World (might as well aim big) through nine freewheeling folk spirituals that sound like they were recorded in one room, with one mic, in one take. Wilson sings like a less adenoidal Neil Young fronting Room to Roam-era Waterboys and each song is gently flecked with plonky banjo, luscious pedal steel and it all seems effortless.

Those who loved Ronnie Lane's Faces contributions and especially his solo stuff will recognize kindred spirits - there's a ramshackle, raggle-taggle feel to the Champions' gentle nostalgia that is hypnotic and life-affirming. So far not available in the U.S., Danny And The Champions of The World's Streets of Our Time is available from U.K.'s Loose Records.

Danny And The Champions of The World - "Henry The Van" (from Streets of Our Time)

Danny And The Champions of The World - "These Days" (from Danny And The Champions of The World)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 46 - The Postelles!

Due out in the fall on Astralwerks/Capitol, it seems impossible to find out much about The Postelles and their self titled debut, and that is wonderful. We need more mystery - too much access dilutes the rock star-ness of our rock stars. But from their The Kids Are Alright pose to their Knack-y skinny ties, you know you're in for short spasms of teenage symphonies to mod.
I stumbled upon these guys in their primo SXSW slot opening for the Big Star tribute, and they brought merseybeat via New York City to Austin. There's the staccato guitar, the ecstatic call and response vocals and an extra helping of fab, all wrapped up in 2:40, which I think we can all agree is the exact perfect length for a pop song.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 45 - "Waterloo Sunset"

Original Kinks bassist Pete Quaife died last week at age 66, another rock and roll pioneer gone in what seems like an unending procession of recent passings. Rock and roll can be hard but few songs were as perfect as "Waterloo Sunset". It captures the moment when you feel you're home, where loneliness or the world passing you by ceases to matter. Buffalo Tom main man Bill Janovitz, in his fantastic blog Part Time Man of Rock, reminisces about Pete Quaife and his "descending intro line on one of pop music's most beautiful songs" and offers up a heartfelt, bare bones cover of the Kinks greatest song.
If you're only having one, make it a "Waterloo Sunset".

Bill Janovitz - "Waterloo Sunset"
The Kinks - "Waterloo Sunset"
Elliott Smith - "Waterloo Sunset"
Robyn Hitchcock - "Waterloo Sunset"
Islands - "Waterloo Sunset"