Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How are Things on the West Coast?

By the sound of these songs, just peachy keen

I heard this song over the weekend, and I couldn't believe it was by Pinback. The Pinback I was introduced to my freshman year in college was a group from San Diego that wrote aching lyrics and subtle compositions that rarely rose above an in-doors voice.

Pinback - Good to Sea

they definitely sound more commercial on their new album, Autumn of the Seraphs, but I happen to think they wear commercial appeal quite well.

Portland's Helio Sequence have a new record out too. This reverb-heavy, Band of Horses-like number is lovely.

Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead

and



Sometimes-San Francsisco-resident Thao Nguyen [pictured] released her Kill Rock Stars debut, We Brave Bee Stings and All, yesterday. Thao's lilting vocals and folk bend are infectious.

Thao Nguyen - Bag of Hammers

Thao is currently on tour with her labelmates, Xiu Xiu.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Under New MGMT

Could things be looking up at the majors? Some pretty fierce acts have been signed at Columbia under Rick Rubin's tutelage, including the lovely Nicole Atkins, and sonic chameleons MGMT, who just released my favorite record of the moment, Oracular Spectacular. The band's duo, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, have produced a very indie sound on a very major label, without a bit of artistic integrity lost (they just joke about it on the song, "Time To Pretend.") MGMT manages to occupy territories all across the musical spectrum,

conjuring up Ziggy Stardust

MGMT - Weekend Wars

funk and disco in the song "Electric Feel"



and space rock with "Time to Pretend"



My faith in the big music money machine has partially been restored.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Me and Ms. Jones

Ms. Sharon Jones, teaching a young man from the audience a lil' somethin' about that ladies

I’ve been really excited to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform ever since I heard about their sold-out Apollo show last year. Well I got my chance to hear Ms. Jones and her band on Friday night at Walter’s, and I can say that all the hype about their live show is well-earned. From reading past show reviews, it doesn’t seem like Sharon deviates much from a basic concert itinerary; she kicks of her shoes mid-set so she can really get down and dance, she invites a pasty young lad on stage, coyly asks him if he has a girlfriend, and serenades him to the song “Be Easy” until his face turns a bright tomato color. And then there’s that rad cover of Janet Jackson's “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” that I really think should be recorded one of these days. But I didn’t mind, the set was so intimate, it seemed like Jones’ one-woman show was put on especially for us.
The Dap-Kings were on point as well, giving Sharon the room to shine while their excellent musicianship proved to be the icing on the cake. Guitarist and emcee Binky Griptite was a capable presenter (and he's also a solo artist with Daptone Records.)

When I wrote a concert preview about the show, I hastily concluded that while Jones and the Dap-Kings’ music was very much a nod to the past, it transcended novelty nostalgia and represented something very new and current. After the show and purchasing the band’s very amazing first album, Naturally, I wondered if that was true. Do we need an updated interpretation when we already have JB, Gladys, Aretha and Booker T?

We might not need it, but I’m certainly glad it’s being done. I only recently became a soul fanatic in college, and I revel in the fact that there are artists like Jones and the Dap-Kings regularly touring and bringing a renewed interest to the musical form. And while there are times when songwriter, bassist, and Daptone Records’ head honcho Boscoe Mann follows the old soul formula to an almost faulting tee

There are songs like this one, where the group gets it just right, and then some

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?

Jones and the Dap-Kings are on tour for the next couple of months, you should definitely see them if you have the chance. If you don’t, buy one or two of their records. And you can currently see Sharon Jones in the film, The Great Debaters! She has a really small part, but I liked the movie a lot so there :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Whigging Out


I don't know how The Whigs escaped my radar. They're from Georgia. I love Georgia. They rock. And I usually enjoy those who rock.

This is the first Whigs' song I fell in love with

The Whigs - Technology

The simple phrasing, the silly and nonplussed lyrics, and that break! Isn't that break amazing?! I can't wrap my head around it.

What's even more amazing is that the Whigs were once named the "best unsigned band in America" by Rolling Stone Magazine. Relentless touring and a rad self-released/financed album, Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip, helped the Whigs build an audience, and it wasn't long before ATO snapped them up. Today the guys release their ATO debut, Mission Control.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The King of Love


"...But he had seen the mountaintop
and he knew he could not stop..."

-Nina Simone

Friday, January 18, 2008

Waiting for the Sun to Shine

It's been rainy and grey all day, and I kind of have that disorienting feeling one gets after not seeing the sun during its regular business hours. And then I opened my inbox and found a suitable song by a band from L.A. called From Leaf to Feather.

From Leaf to Feather - Albeit

The band's M.O. primarily consists of stunning lo-fi instrumental compositions, tempered by lead singer Lauri Kranz's ethereal vocals. Perfect for a day like this, or any other day for that matter.

The band's new CD, Themes on an Imaginary Winter, is out on January 29.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Travelin' Music

So I scored some awesome CDs for cheaps on my trip to Waterloo Records yesterday, including Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's excellent debut, Broom.

And it turns out that my favorite song on the album is perfect for my trip back home.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Travel Song


according to the guys who love Boris, expect a new album in March.

and


how fab does Karen O look? According to P4k, she's modeling for a designer named Christian Joy, and! is composing music for Spike Jonze's new film, Where the Wild Things Are. Yes, it will be an adaptation of that Where the Wild Things Are, written by Maurice Sendak and one of my favorite children's books ever. I think it will be awesome.

But then again, I think everything Karen O does is awesome.

So maybe I'm not one to judge.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Anatomy of Melancholy

Jorge Macchi, Untitled (Cool love), 1997 Watercolor and pencil on paper 29 x 23 cm Collection of Luis Augusto Teixeira, Lisbon, Portugal

Strolled through the Blanton Art Museum yesterday. They have a sizable modern art collection , including pieces by Kehinde Wiley and Anselm Kiefer, with an apparent focus on the Latin American scene, which I think is very cool. The current headline exhibition, entitled "The Anatomy of Melancholy," surveys the work of a young artist from Argentina named Jorge Macchi. The piece above is actually quite uncharacteristic from the rest of the show, Macchi mostly dabbles with mixed media, newspaper clippings and intricate cut outs of maps in his pursuit to raise questions about the irrationality and isolation that comes along with the very modern and supposedly 'advanced' lives we lead. It's all very smart and precise and calculated, and I highly recommend.

and

ever wonder what Maureen Dowd was writing about in 1984? No, she wasn't attacking politicians, she was staying out late with Andy Warhol! And writing about it for the New York Times! What a job, eh? You have to pay to read the whole story (I thought Times Select was finito, no?) but you can read a snippet of Dowd's description of "sex evenings" at a Manhattan night club at Kottke.org. Thanks, Fishbowlny.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Bills, Bills, Bills

I'm in Austin for the week. I wanted to hit up a few galleries and museums, but they were all closed today.

So I did the whole history nerd thing and I took a tour of the capitol building
and I spent the entire afternoon in the LBJ Library

Lyndon B. Johnson's political career was extraordinary, both for the negatives and the positives. His rise to prominence as a larger-than-life Senator from Texas was an anomaly; he was a democrat in the South who aspired to build a "Great Society," with education, poverty, and equality as his key issues. As Senate majority leader and as president, Johnson signed some profound pieces of legislature into action; he commissioned the beginnings of the low-income education program Head Start, and he signed the Voting Rights Act and the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964. All this, while the Vietnam War and the fall out following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. threatened to tear the nation apart.

"What is happening to our country?

I heard this cacophony over and over ---
What is our country coming to?
What is happening to us?
Are we a sick society?"

Lady Bird Johnson, A White House Diary

Texas Monthly
did an amazing piece on President Johnson's wife, Lady Bird Johnson shortly after her death in 2007, but you need to be a subscriber to read it online! The Washington Post's article will do.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Atonement


I went on a movie date with la madre last night. I really wanted to see Juno, but I wasn't sure if she would enjoy the humor, so I suggested Atonement. "It's a love story," I explained when I tried to sell the idea. Honestly, that was about all I knew about the film. I haven't read Ian McEwan's novel of the same name, and I haven't kept up with much of the films this awards season.

Well, Atonement is a little more complicated than that, and last night I learned just how many times I can stand to see a certain four letter word that starts with a C in the presence of my mother. (The answer is none, but the movie kind of decided that five or six c-bombs would do.)

Keira Knightley is suitable (and impossibly thin, really) as the upper crust Cecilia, but I have to agree with my film buff friend who says she’d like to wait and see a few more good roles before Knightley wins an Oscar. James McAvoy gives a brilliantly measured and refined performance as the falsely accused gardener’s son/Cecilia’s love interest, Robbie Turner, but oddly enough, it was the film's scenes of World War II that stuck with me moreso than the star-crossed love story.

I think Director Joe Wright captured the devastating scale of a war torn Europe as best we can in 2008. I know I think too much, but it would be one thing to view these images in a hindsight of ‘we know better and therefore we do better.’ At a time when pulling out of Iraq has turned into an “indefinite occupation” for so many presidential candidates' platforms, I’m not sure if that’s true.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Polynya is a phenomenon that occurs when open water space is surrounded by sea ice. Polynya is also the name of a North Carolina band that firmly believes in the phenomena of catchy hooks and two part harmonies.

Polynya - Without a Trace

and

is your town on the list of cities that Radiohead plans to hit up on their expanded North American tour? Because mine is, and I will be all over getting a pair of tickets like "Prince was on Apollonia." Oh yes.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Because It's Monday

And because I like to laugh. Thanks Gawker. Starring Conan O'Brien as Thom Yorke and, wait for it, Conan O'Brien as Edith Bunker. Singing Beastie Boys' "Sabotage."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

So This Is The New Year

Another year, another number after the two-double-O to get used to for the next 359 days. But there are many signs that this year will be one for the books. This is an election year, and to say that it is an important one would be an understatement. The year's first week on Wall Street was a rough one, namely due to fears of a possible recession. Creatively, 2008 has gotten its start off with a writer's strike and a music industry on the verge of flatlining. And on a personal note, I'm beginning 2008 in Texas, three months after I moved here from New York (I can't believe it!)

But the thing that keeps me writing this blog, the thing I practically live for, 2008 will be in no shortage of. I'm looking forward to a lot more great music from artists old and new, particularly the ones that I've managed to memorize every single word and song on fabulous EPs they've made. I'm excited to hear full-length albums from wonderful bands like Ra Ra Riot, The Big Sleep, Black Kids, and The Dimes this year, but no one has me more psyched than Ms. Santi White, aka Santogold.



Santogold has drawn early comparisons to her friend M.I.A., but the similarities really end with their identical Day-Glo trainers. Santogold's voice rings true and unapologetically bold, a voice that is unafraid to call out the posers and the "namedroppers." I simply cannot wait to hear a proper set once it's finished. I think 2008 will be her year.

Santogold - L.E.S. Artistes

Now if only we could get some North American Radiohead tour dates scheduled this year...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Te Amo, Chaka Khan


Whether in the 70s super group Rufus, or on her own as a solo star, Chaka Khan has always been the original Fly Girl. Her stage bombast and vocal acrobatics remain unparelleled even among the current crop of female singers out today. NYTimes interviewed Khan before she begins her run as Sofia (my namesake!) in The Color Purple on Broadway. The Color Purple is one of my favorite books, movies, and now has become one of my favorite musicals, after I saw it last summer. I think that Khan will be a lovely addition to the already amazing cast. If all of the above reasons aren't enough to love Chaka, maybe her answer to the following question will tip the scale:

Q. With the exception of a few small screen roles and the musical “Mama, I Want to Sing” in London in 1995, which you said you hated, you haven’t acted before. How will you become Sofia?

A. I don’t have to. I am Sofia. We’re so much alike. We’re both nuts. Her fundamental application to life is the same emotionally. She’s one of the forefronters of women’s liberation and the first nonslave black woman who wasn’t a slave to anybody. I’m like that. I’d rather be dead. They might as well hang me. And like me Sofia comes from a matriarchal family. My mother’s side migrated up from Georgia. I had a lot of help from my ancestors with this. I saw such a kinship with the character.

Chaka was recently nominated for a Grammy for her new album, Funk This, her best in years.