David Broderick

My e-quaintance (ha!) David Broderick asked me to give his band a shout-out here, and so I shall. He's a few years younger than me and his recordings sound a lot better than mine. And he sings better too. So, I'll give props where props are due. Plus, I really dig his song "Give a Hand." You'd think I'd have some more info on this matter, but you'd be wrong. Here is what I do know: he lives in Denton, Texas and isn't touring right now. You can check out his music on MySpace here. Anyway, enjoy.


Yes, There Is Something You Can Send Back to Me

I am a big fan of Ida. I have posted about this fact before here. Just like the last time I posted, there isn't much going on with them as far as I can tell. They had a new song in Esopus magazine a few months back. I didn't hear it, but it happened. They also played some shows in NY back in November, but nothing much since then. No word on a new record for the time being.

Anyway, the other day I was poking around to see if I could find any covers of "Boots of Spanish Leather", because I've been listening to a lot of Times They Are A'Changin' lately. It's a wonderful cover, too. I'm not sure why they decided not to divide the verses up between them, since the lyrics are in the voice of a man and a woman, but nonetheless. Some very nice harmony, singing, and playing. Seems to be from this tribute album, which is apparently out of print. Anyway, enjoy.

Ida - Boots of Spanish Leather


Peace on Earth

I should mention that Caleb of It's Hard to Find a Friend has an excellent Christmas compilation up. Benefits charity, too. Buy it here.


It's Already Over in October, Already at Christmas Every Year

Jackson C. Frank's story is perhaps the most tragic in the history of music. Huge statement, I know, but it's pretty hard to even believe once you've read it. He released exactly one full-length record, which has been in and out of print since the mid 60s. The most famous track from it is "Blues Run the Game", which was covered by Simon and Garfunkel, who were friends of Frank's. He recorded some more material in the 90s, but his voice was pretty shot and his various health problems were beginning to catch up with him.

Knowledge of his music has gone by the wayside to some extent, which is a shame, because it's really very good. Even the later stuff has some highlights, including, for example, the excellent "October", which is appended to this post. If you can buy Blues Run the Game, which is a retrospective including Frank's eponymous debut and pretty much every other recording he ever made, I would recommend you do.

Jackson C. Frank - October


Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?

So, I went to see Ted Leo last night at the 930 Club. Some will recall that this is my second time seeing the Pharmacists this year, although the first was under somewhat different circumstances.

Anyway, it was great to get to see a full length show finally. I admit that I am not familiar enough with anything since Hearts of Oak to provide anything approaching an accurate setlist, but I can mention some highlights. There were a couple classic DC punk covers that brought the rock (Government Issue I recognized, the other one (the encore) I did not.) There was the cover of Daft Punk's "One More Time" that ended "Little Dawn," which is a favorite Leo song of mine anyway. There was getting to see a live performance of my absolute favorite Pharmacists song, "Parallel or Together." Oh, and there was that classic Hearts of Oak gem, "Where Have All the Rudeboys Gone?", dedicated to opener Ris Paul Ric (who also put on a pretty good show -- the other opener, Kathleen Young, was unspeakably awful).

Great show, overall.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Where Have All the Rudeboys Gone?


It Tolls for Me

I heart Joanna Newsom. Seriously, with her harps and her Steve Albini production and her Van Dyke Parks string arrangements, and her warbling voice. She also is dating Bill Callahan (smog), which is pretty cool, as well. I do wish she performed more frequently. Alas, not so much.

Here is the big solo centerpiece of Ys, the amazing "Sawdust and Diamonds." Enjoy.

Joanna Newsom - Sawdust and Diamonds

Yes, lame short post, I know. Tired. But going to stick with posting this time. Also, here is a good Joanna fansite.


And Life Goes On and On and On

I have been really digging the Magnetic Fields again lately, in particular 69 Love Songs. They are actually on tour this winter, which would doubtless be an amazing show, were they playing anywhere near DC, where I am currently living. Stephin Merritt's work has, unfortunately, gotten spottier over the years, but then, there are more good songs on 69 Love Songs than many artists write in their entire careers, so perhaps it is forgivable.

Merritt and his labels don't seem to be big on making downloads available, so I hope I don't get any threatening letters as a result of this, but here is one of my favorite tracks from 69 Love Songs. Enjoy.

The Magnetic Fields - I Don't Want to Get Over You


Jana McCall

Pandora really is a delightful little invention, isn't it? I find it really helps me turn up the most interesting obscure stuff, sometimes so obscure it's hard to obtain any information about it. Case in point: Jana McCall. I can tell you approximately three things about Jana McCall. 1) She played bass in an obscure grunge band called Dickless. 2) She put out two albums on Up Records, one in 1998 and one in 2002. 3) She has a MySpace with a newer, non-album track on it. That's about it.

If I had to take a stab at describing her music, I'd say it's sort of like if you crossed pre-You are Free Cat Power with Codeine-type grunge. That doesn't quite capture it, but it'd be hard to get closer on the basis of comparisons alone. Sad, slow-to-mid tempo, female vocals, good stuff. If she still plays shows, or even puts out records, I can't find any information about it.

Here are two tracks from the Up Records site, where you can also buy her albums. They are actually not my favorite songs of hers, but they are pretty good:

Jana McCall - Bloodlines
Jana McCall - Today

...And, We're Back

After a longer-than-intended hiatus, I have returned. Hopefully no more disruptions for awhile now. I am preparing a post right now; it should be up by the weekend, if not sooner. Hopefully tonight.


New(-ish) Neil Young

Neil Young made the long-unreleased track "Ordinary People" available for radio play last week. It will appear on the forthcoming Chrome Dreams II, which promises to be awesome. I am convinced that this is a vintage recording with some modern dubs (or maybe no modern dubs at all), but nonetheless, it's probably the best thing to appear on a Neil Young record since the early nineties. This is hosted on Rolling Stone's site, so the link may die eventually. Let me know in the comments if that happens.

Neil Young - Ordinary People


Better Late Than Never

Here are my Primavera Sound photos, featuring, in order: Dirty Three, Slint, Smashing Pumpkins, Death Vessel, Portastatic, Brightblack Morning Light, Black Mountain, Blonde Redhead, Spiritualized, Modest Mouse, Low, Built to Spill, Kimya Dawson, Oakley Hall, Ted Leo, Mum, Pelican, Isis, Sonic Youth, and Wilco.


Bounce to Disk

TW Walsh, ex-Pedro the Lion member, solo musician, and leader of The Soft Drugs, has a new webzine up called Bounce to Disk about recording music. I still am not entirely moved and transitioned yet, so we are still in spare post mode, but hey, check that out awhile if it interests you.


Yeah, This Again

So, I am in the process of moving and starting a new job. I am finding it hard to update this thing with the regularity I would like. It'll get there though.


Saa Magni

Perhaps my favorite "world music" artist, as awful and broad a term that is, is the Malian singer Oumou Sangare. Her music is descended from the traditional music of the Wassoulou region. Her debut sold hundreds of thousands of copies in Africa, and she rose to international prominence with the help of the late, great Ali Farka Toure following that album. Appended to this post is the song which introduced me to her music, the excellent "Saa Magni" from her second album, Ko Sira. Enjoy.

Oumou Sangare - Saa Magni


Music and the Human Mind

I read an interesting interview in Salon today with Joseph LeDoux, an NYU neuroscience researcher, discussing the importance of music in shaping identity and memory. Oh, plus he plays nerd-rock.


I'm Walking the Line; I'm Visiting Houses in Motion

Some dude posted some live Talking Heads circa 1980 on YouTube. Pretty sick. 1980-1 is definitely my favorite era of live Heads. It's well represented on the second disc of the classic The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, which Rhino reissued a couple years back. Everyone should own that record. Here's a highlight:


Maniac, Slow Down

My previous post (scroll down) about the Stereogum OK Computer tribute reminded me of a personal favorite from that album. The cover from the tribute is a little bit so-so, I think. The original song is not legitimately available online, so I can't post it. However, I do have a really sweet live version from the 2006 Boston show, as recorded by Bradley at Bradley's Almanac. Live versions are something of a rarity as far as this song is concerned, so enjoy.

Radiohead - The Tourist (Live Boston 2006)

PS. I realize my posts have all been short and superficial lately. Sorry. We'll get there.


From the Rooftop, We Can See the Moon Rise High Above the Clouds

Oh man. I forgot about Ida. What a cool band. They are sort of like a little bit jazzier version of Low. Really good stuff. I unfortunately don't have any real interesting stories to go behind them. Oh, I guess the fact that Liz Mitchell was once in a duo with Lisa Loeb, and that both of Ida's primaries appear on Loeb's hit "Stay." I guess that's something. They aren't touring right now, and their website has been "in progress" for like a year, but their MySpace seems to be kept fairly up to date. Here is the excellent "Late Blues," from their most recent album, 2005's Heart Like a River.

Ida - Late Blues


Lazy Post

It's definitely a little hit and miss at times, but you should probably check out Stereogum's OK Computer tribute, if for no other reason than that it contains the debut recording of David Bazan (ex-Pedro the Lion)'s new band, Black Cloud. They do "Let Down", a song that previously appeared on the best Pedro the Lion record ever, their 2004 Tour EP.


Early Day Miners

I started messing around with Pandora again the other day. One of the first tracks to come up was this jam, by Bloomington-based Early Day Miners. I really dug it, and I have enjoyed several of the other tracks. They are on Secretly Canadian, which bodes well for them. Here is a video. (There's also an mp3 coming further down).

Unfortunately, they have few dates scheduled in the near future: one in their hometown, and one in Kentucky. Doesn't help me much. Anyway, here is the song that came up on Pandora. Enjoy.

Early Day Miners - All Harm


Come With Me, My Love, Into the Sea, the Sea of Love

I heart Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall. She is a gorgeous brunette, she has pretty much the sexiest voice ever, and she's kind of crazy. My type, in other words. Awhile ago I found a copy of her KVRX set from a few years ago. It's a short solo set of mostly covers. It's very good. If you poke around you can find the whole thing elsewhere, so I am only going to post one track. This is a cover of a song originally recorded by Phil Phillips, and also later recorded by the Honeydrippers and Tom Waits. It's short, but good.

Cat Power - Sea of Love (@ KVRX)


Fourth of July

Bending the rules a little bit to have a timely song here. To be fair, they are on hiatus. I refer to Azure Ray, the excellent Saddle Creek duo consisting of Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor. I hate to say it, but I feel a little bit like both of their solo output proves that Azure Ray was more than the sum of its parts. Oh well. I saw Maria Taylor a couple years ago on the 11:11 tour where Denver Dalley was playing in her touring band; that was awesome. I wish her solo records sounded more like that. Anyway, this is from their debut, and the title fits.

Azure Ray - Fourth of July


Smashing Pumpkins' Zeitgeist Has Leaked

I am not going to post it here, I am not that stupid. I like my blog, you know, running. I will point out to you though that a number of the major torrent sites have it now, including a certain successor to Suprnova (RIP) whose name may or may not mean "small nova". I will post my thoughts later.

I like it. I don't know why Doomsday Clock is one of the prerelease songs. It's not one of the better songs on the album. I would say about three quarters of the tracks are just good straight up rock songs. The production leaves something to be desired, but what can you do. Feel free to post your comments on it.


Be Mine Until You're Reminded of Something Better

Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. I already posted about them back in April here. I am a big fan of all of Jason Molina's work, and I just found out about the forthcoming Magnolia Electric Co. Sojourner boxed set. (I am almost a month late, I realize, but such is life). They are, as usual, on tour. Right now, they are finishing up some dates in Austria, Germany, and Norway. There are three Australian dates in August, and then a huge coast-to-coast US tour from late August through early October in support of Sojourner.

I am going to put up an old-school classic from Axxess and Ace. You will probably not hear this on the aforementioned tour, as Molina rarely plays anything older than the Magnolia Electric Co (self-titled) album.

Songs:Ohia - How to Be Perfect Men

UPDATE: I just remembered this; I thought some people might want it. There is an extensive archive of live MEC shows on their official site at this link.


There Were Ghosts in the Eyes of All the Boys You Sent Away

UPDATE (4/1): Can somebody clue me in to why I am suddenly getting hundreds of hits on this post in the comments please?

I am not a big Bruce Springsteen fan, in general. Nebraska, yes; Seeger Sessions was also pretty good, and I cover "Dancing in the Dark" sometimes. Nonetheless, I wouldn't count myself as a fan. The version of "Thunder Road", as he wrote it, is a great example of why. The song is desperate and sad; yet he plays it as a tinkling piano ballad in a major key. This is especially unfortunate, since it's maybe the best lyric in the entire Springsteen oeuvre.

For that reason, I was pleased to hear the Tortoise / Bonnie "Prince" Billy version that was released on The Brave and the Bold a couple years ago. The synth is, arguably, a little over the top, but in general, I think this one gets the feeling right. Tortoise is on tour until July 8, Billy is not, at the moment.

Tortoise and Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Thunder Road


Edit the Sad Parts

I used to have a thorough obsession with Modest Mouse. It has subsided somewhat in recent years, as neither of the last two really grabbed me in the way their earlier work did. (I should note, however, that I am not in the "Modest Mouse suck now they sold out OMG" camp.) Plus, I have seen them live four times, and they put on two of the best and two of the worst shows I have ever seen, and that sort of inconsistency didn't help either.

Nonetheless, I was digging around on my hard drive the other day and remembered one of their early gems, one only available on imports since Interstate 8 went out of print many moons ago. I refer to "Edit the Sad Parts." Cool song, somewhat reminiscent of "Broke" from Interstate 8 / Building Nothing out of Something. I always thought the title was pretty great, given the lyrical content, as well. Anyway, since it's no longer commercially available, I am working under the assumption it is legit to post it. Modest Mouse are on tour, but are playing mostly outdoor venues, and they fucking suck in outdoor venues so I wouldn't recommend going.

Modest Mouse - Edit the Sad Parts


Primavera Sound Part III

We also went down to the festival pretty early on Saturday. We went to see Kimya Dawson (ex-Moldy Peaches) in Auditori first thing. She was a funny lady with kind of cool, if not overwhelmingly awesome, songs. It was a very upbeat set, and it was nice to see somebody not taking things as seriously as most of the bands were. Ted Leo was next up. It's funny that I lived in the DC area for four years, and never got around to seeing Ted Leo until I had graduated, on another continent. He made a big show of "La Costa Brava", for what should be obvious reasons, given the locale.

There was nothing I was too stoked on for quite awhile after Leo's set. I went to see Pelican, because I am into similar bands (see the posts on Tides and Jesu, for example), and people often rave about the, but I was pretty underwhelmed. They have no sense of melody, compared to most post-rock and post-metal, in my humble opinion. They were also playing on equipment borrowed from Isis, I don't know if that affected things or not. Isis, on the other hand, were awesome. I was somewhat disappointed to leave their set early, but I had stake out a good spot for what turned out to be the most awesome set of the weekend: Sonic Youth performing Daydream Nation in its entirety.

Holy hell was that awesome. Seriously, I don't even know how to sum up in words how awesome that was. Then, after we had made our way through the auditory orgasm that is "Eliminator Jr", SY left the stage shortly before encoring with some selections from Rather Ripped, which I love. After that was Wilco's set, which the drunken crowd talked loudly through, but who really, really impressed me. Nels Cline is a fucking monster on the guitar. And with that, my time in Barcelona drew to a close. Awesome. Best show ever.

Ted Leo - The Sons of Cain


Primavera Sound, Part II

Friday was a big day at the festival. We came over pretty early. We didn't know anything about Death Vessel, only caught the end of the set, and he was pretty great. Awesome voice, good songs. After that I watched some of Brightblack Morning Light, who really impressed me. I hadn't been familiar with their work either, but their sort of psychedelic blues was really a breath of fresh air. I am a convert.

The next thing I got to see was Blonde Redhead. They were fucking great. I think everyone, including me, was stunned at just how great they were, in fact. When they were done, we went to stand in line for Spiritualized Acoustic Mainlines in Auditori, which was the sweet indoor venue setup. Spiritualized were absolutely amazing. Seriously, you should do your best to see them if you ever get the opportunity.

The late night lineup on Friday was pretty great on paper. Modest Mouse, however, put on the worst set of the four times that I have seen them. The setlist was terrible, the sound was terrible, there was tons of unintentional microphonic feedback. Just, not good. Really great version of "Doin the Cockroach." Fortunately, Low played really well; a lot of songs from the new album (many of which are better live than on the record, even though I like the record). Built to Spill also suffered with a lot of sound problems, but they eventually got fixed, and they put on a great set, which went til about 4 am, after which I went home.

Part Three will come faster than Part Two did.

Death Vessel - Deep in the Horchata


I Lied

Soon though.



Are coming this weekend. Really.


Primavera Sound Part 1

This weekend I had the great fortune to attend Barcelona's Primavera Sound Festival, to which I alluded in several of the previous entries. As also mentioned before, these posts won't be getting my pictures until I am done traveling sometime after the ninth, as I don't have the cable for my digicam with me (D'oh). I am going to write as much as I can before I have to head to the airport now, and then will pick up where I left off whenever I get a chance.

Thursday night, things started off less than perfectly when I learned a little bit more about the venue logistics. While the Parc del Forum is in Barcelona proper, it is way out in no man's land, and took a little over a half hour by Metro to reach from my hostel. Upon arrival, I learned that everyone had to wait in one queue for wristbands (approximately a 35 minute lineup). Before I could get into that, I first had to do will call, which was another half an hour or so. Instead of having plenty of time to see Dirty Three's entire set, as I'd hoped, I only in about a third of the way through. They did put on a great show though. I was converted, at least.

The next big event of the night was Slint performing Spiderland in its entirity. Now, I already was fortunate enough to see Slint on the reunion tour a couple years ago, so I only watched about half before I went over to the main stage to stake out a spot for the Pumpkins, but the part of the Slint set I saw was pretty fantastic. A friend was still calling it his second-favorite show of the entire festival at its conclusion this evening.

The final point, and indeed the one that sold my ticket, was to see the reconstituted Smashing Pumpkins perform. Granted, with no Iha, D'arcy, or even Auf der Maur, one might question to what extent Billy Corgan even should be calling it the Pumpkins, but there you have it. This set was great. It was very hit-centric, perhaps more so than I would have even liked, touching on all five singles from Mellon Collie; "Cherub Rock", "Today", and "Disarm" from Siamese Dream, and "Stand Inside Your Love" from Machina. Fortunately, they went deeper than that, pulling out at least one (maybe two, I forget) cuts from Gish, encoring with "Muzzle," and playing a bunch of the new material.

At this point, you are probably wondering how the new material is. On the whole, it is good. At least one of the new songs kind of sucks, but the other four or so were in the range of above average to downright awesome. "Tarantula," the leaked single, is probably the strongest of the new stuff they played. Corgan was back to his weird outfits, which in this case resembled a very shiny version of a priest's robe. All in all I was very impressed. The only weak link, imho, is the new guitarist, whose playing is competent, but kind of dull.

More later...



So the Primavera Sound entries will unfortunately be sans pictures for about 9 days, as in my hasty packing, I brought my camera but not my USB cable. It starts in about four hours. I'm stoked.


The Malls are the Soon-to-be Ghost Towns

I will be in various parts of Europe from tonight until the second week of June. I will try to post about Primavera Sound Festival when I'm in Barcelona, though I make no promises. Otherwise, posting will resume when I get back.


Don Peris

Don Peris, in addition to being a founding member of the Innocence Mission, the Lancaster PA-based group that had a few minor chart singles in the late 80s / early 90s, also has a couple solo albums. I recently heard one of them for the first time and was very much impressed. I am still kind of busy, too busy to give a lengthy post (and I am trying to cut my post sizes down on everything but my absolute favorite bands, anyway), but thought people might like this. It's an unreleased track of his called "Blossom of May." Very pretty acoustic piece. Have at it:

Don Peris - Blossom of May


Sweet Beliefs

Cyann and Ben, despite the name, are actually a quartet based in France. They used to be on Gooom, now they are on Ever Records. You might have heard of them because they are on the last M83 album, if that is your sort of thing. Regardless, their most recent record, Sweet Beliefs (which is actually not that recent) is something I recently stumbled across on Pandora, and it's worth checking out.

Again, I am in my finals week hell here, so I am going to go for less talk and more rock (well, loosely defined "rock", anyway). This is the title track from that record.

Cyann and Ben - Sweet Beliefs



Helvetia (pronounced Hel-wait-zia) are an excellent rock band from the Pacific Northwest. I first had the pleasure of hearing them as openers for Built to Spill and Camper van Beethoven at the 930 Club back in the fall, an excellent show which is available as a stream via NPR here, although Helvetia's set is absent. They sound a little bit like Built to Spill, especially on their older material, but equally as much like some other things I haven't quite pinned down yet.

Their great misfortune is that their former label, The Static Cult, effectively folded. The label's site says that all future releases will be limited editions, which would put a damper on any band trying to actually, you know, succeed. Right now it appears they are working with Up Records, which isn't a bad place to be, given that label's historic ties to Built to Spill and numerous other great bands.

One of the other great reasons it seemed time to do a post on them is that I can provide you with a whole bunch of music without having to upload any. Their MySpace has four tracks from the forthcoming The Acrobats, all downloadable. You can also get a couple of older tracks here. Give it a listen.


Crunch Time

As many of you know, I am finishing up my last year of undergrad at the moment. I hope you will bear with me if the posting runs a little dry between now and the 20th. Forthcoming at the end of the month though: blogging Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona. Word.


YouTube Roundup

This is a new feature I am working on where I will periodically post three or four cool/weird YouTube clips I have stumbled across of interesting performances.

Emily Haines of Metric performing one of my favorite Neil Young songs at a radio gig. She makes the questionable choice of singing the harmony notes as the melody at a few points, but overall, it captures the feel of the original very well.

Mark Kozelek (of Red House Painters / Sun Kil Moon) performing one of his most recent songs, "Moorestown." The dude who edited the video failed to cut out the end of "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" at the beginning of the video, but be patient, this song is amazing.

I have been trying to post about this band for awhile but can't find their album or mp3s of it. They are called Pale Pacific, and this song, "Sucker Punch", is fucking great. The beginning is cut off, but it's better than the other video of this song where the audio clips constantly.


More on Leonard Cohen

Though I hate to admit it, I still get a lot of my music buzz and news from Pitchfork. I agree with them no more than half of the time, but they are better organized than just about anyone, unfortunately.

Good of them, then, to point out that yesterday marked the Columbia/Legacy reissue of Leonard Cohen's first three albums. They also point to some pretty good YouTube clips. The astute will recall that I recently blogged about Cohen here.

Stranger Song, Live on British TV in 1967:

P.S. - Somebody recently pointed out to me that while Sendspace has a much cleaner interface than MegaUpload, they also kill the downloads a lot faster. For the time being, until I get some server space, I am going to go back to MegaUpload, to which I have reuploaded the mp3 from the Cohen post.


What Am I Doing, Anyway?

As many of my readers are undoubtedly aware, Lindsey Buckingham is, most famously, the guitarist in 70s superultramega bestselling group Fleetwood Mac, writing... pretty much of all of my favorites among the group's songs. He also has done some solo work, including the (in)famous "Holiday Road", featured prominently in National Lampoon's Vacation. Prior to the past year, he hadn't released any new solo material in over a decade.

Fortunately, that came to an end with the release of last year's Under the Skin. I am not going to pretend it's a perfect album. The production is corny and dated, and the songs are somewhat hit and miss. At the end of the day, though, the man is a great guitar player and clearly has some top-notch songs left in him. The best song on Under the Skin is appended to this post, in a live version taken from Buckingham's performance at Philadelphia's Theatre of the Living Arts, soon to be rechristened with the unfortunate moniker "The Fillmore Philadelphia." *Shudder*. Anyway, enjoy the tune.

Lindsey Buckingham - Not Too Late (live 3-27-07)


Staring Straight Across the Silence

Jason Molina is a complicated musical entity. On the one hand, his songwriting and voice are so distinctive as to be instantly recognizable in virtually any context. On the other, he has gone through more stylistic shifts than Radiohead in the last ten years. The self-titled Songs:Ohia "black" album, everything was just Molina and a tenor guitar. As time went on, the music got more ambient and the tenor guitar disappeared, a period exemplified by the excellent The Lioness and the more challenging, but still very good, Ghost Tropic. From there, his music went through a period of rapid changes, moving through my two favorite Molina albums: the blues-folk Didn't It Rain and the heavier blues rock Mi Sei Apparso Come Una Fantasma. More recently, Molina has focused his attention on Magnolia Electric Co, a Neil Young-inspired country-rock band, who put on a pretty damned good live show.

Appended to this post, you will a track from one of those transitional albums, the live Mi Sei Apparso Come Una Fantasma (English: "You appeared to me like a ghost"), recorded in Italy and released locally. The record is, unfortunately, out of print. Well worth finding if you can get your hands on it. The track is entitled "Are We Getting Any Closer?" Enjoy.

Songs: Ohia - Are We Getting Any Closer?


It's You My Love, You Who Are the Stranger

I am going to open this post on a controversial opinion: Leonard Cohen is the greatest lyricist in the history of modern music. Not "one of the greatest." Not "up there with Dylan." The greatest, end of story.

I used to be a Dylanite, to be sure. As I alluded to in my last post, I was raised that way. In ninth grade, I wrote a paper about "It's Alright Ma" as an embodiment of the spirit of the 1960s. But while Dylan was readily accessible, Cohen took me a long time to get into and an even longer time to fully appreciate.

I probably first heard Cohen's music by way of Judy Collins's cover of "Suzanne," although I was too young to appreciate it at the time. Like most people of my generation, what got me interested in Cohen was Jeff Buckley's cover of "Hallelujah," which I first remember hearing at about seven years ago.

From there, it was another four years until I took it upon myself to look deeper into Cohen as an artist, starting with the excellent "Famous Blue Raincoat." I think the inspiration was David Bazan and TW Walsh's constant interview and stage talk about him that finally did it. Gradually I came to understand a basic fact: you simply cannot top Cohen's lyrics. Despite each song's incredible complexity and often considerable length, almost every one holds the listener's attention. Pure poetry, and unlike Dylan, especially post- Another Side Dylan, you actually get the impression that Cohen understands everything he's writing.

The song appended to this post, "Stranger Song," from Cohen's first album, is a personal favorite. In some ways, it's a common, almost archetypal theme: a girl won over by a man's false promises who ends up heartbroken. Cohen manages to make it his own, however, with a recurring gambling metaphor and stunning imagery. Lyrics are here, if you are interested, and you should be. I will note that this version comes from an unreleased BBC session, and except for the slightly lower audio quality, I think it's actually much better than the studio version.

Leonard Cohen - Stranger Song (live at the BBC)


No Regrets

Tom Rush is one of the musicians I grew up listening to. My father, though a fan of rock, and, to a lesser extent, classical music, was first and foremost a folkie. Though he was big on Dylan, John Prine, Phil Ochs, etc, his favorite was Tom Rush. I can't say as I blame him. Rush has a spectacular voice, and an impressive guitar style, not to mention excellent taste in covers and a number of high-quality originals.

Of those originals, perhaps none is better than "No Regrets," perhaps one of the kinder breakup songs ever written. It was a minor hit when it was issued on 1968's The Circle Game (titled after one of his great Joni Mitchell covers). That version is a little schmaltzy, with string arrangements that distract from its power. My father told me repeatedly that the song had to be heard live, with just Rush's voice and guitar. I finally got that chance twice in 2004: the first at the Sellersville Theater, which is historic and has great sound, though it's a little fancy for folk music; the second at the now-defunct Bryn Mawr venue The Point, which was pretty much the perfect place for this type of show.

At the time, Rush was giving away about half a dozen free tracks on his website. He no longer does this, instead opting for one a month plus a digital music web store. One of the best free tracks that did not make its way to the web store was an excellent demo of No Regrets. I have appended it to this post. I hope you enjoy it.

Tom Rush - No Regrets (early version)


Excuses, Excuses

I have been sick and busy. I realize I am doing more apologizing for not posting than actual posting lately, but hopefully we'll be back in the swing of things soon.



Keeping with the previous post about Jesu, the sort of metal-slowcore band, here is a post about a hard rock post-rock band. Tides hail from Boston. I first heard them in a pretty random fashion pretty much totally by accident. The story begins with my former roommate Mike, who plays in a hardcore band called Attrition. Even though hardcore is not exactly my scene, I do like the music from time to time, and Mike's a good guy all around, so I would go to his shows in the area when I got a chance.

At one particular show, Attrition were second on a bill of five that was headlined by Good Clean Fun, the posicore legends, if such a term even makes sense. First on that bill was a band called Backstabbers, Inc., who frankly kind of sucked. Maybe they were just having a bad night, who knows, I haven't heard anything by them before or since, but I'm calling them like I see them. Anyway, one of the dudes from that band had at the merch table samplers from his DIY label, TDB (Teenage Disco Bloodbath). I picked one up, as they were free and all. Not the worst sampler I ever owned, but not the best either. Most prominently featured though was an amazing instrumental band called Tides, from Boston. Picture Explosions in the Sky, only really really heavy, and that gets you somewhere in the ballpark. Or better yet, download this:

Tides - Resurface

You can buy their records here. Everything they've put out is pretty cool, particularly the limited edition etched vinyl EP, which I picked up at a show in University City (Phila) last summer. They are touring in late spring. They put on a good (loud!) show, which I recommend checking out. Dates are on their MySpace.


Sorry, Part Deux

I have been very busy and also sick. It has not been conducive to posting. However, since I am not inclined to go out and make other people sick much this weekend, hopefully I will get a post or two up. Thanks for your patience.


Here We Sit Debating Math

So I have had the forthcoming new Low record for several weeks now, but have been holding out on posting anything because I like this blog the way it is... you know, online, as opposed to shut down by the wrath of Sub Pop. For that reason, I was pleasantly surprised to see that an mp3 from the new record has finally made its way out officially. Unfortunately, it is "Breaker", a song that was better on the Retribution Gospel Choir EP. It's not that it sucks, its just that if you've heard the RGC version, you'll know what I mean. Let's just say I eagerly await the day I can post "Murderer" or "Dragonfly" or "Violent Past" here. Anyway, without further ado, here is the track. Definitely pick up the album when it comes out, or pre-order it now.

Low - Breaker



That Bazan / Iron and Wine post is coming, one of these days. I swear. Today, however, is not that day. I need my roommate to hook me up with his microSD card so I can get my pictures off my phone, and then it will happen.

Today's post will be about something completely different, namely, Jesu. If you don't know much about them, that isn't terribly surprising. Apart from a pretty favorable review on Pitchfork every now and again, they aren't too widely known. Currently, they're on tour with Isis, a combo I may go see in DC next month if I remember and have the money.

Isis actually isn't a terrible point of comparison. Both are a little metal, a little hardcore, a little ambient, but ultimately, not quite any of those things. Tool (for whom Isis have opened) is a band to which both Isis and Jesu clearly owe a great musical debt.

You wouldn't necessarily know it from hearing frontman Justin Broadrick (who, by the way, played in both Napalm Death and Godflesh, not that there is any similarity whatsoever between those bands and Jesu) talk about them, though. He is fond of comparing the tone of his work to Red House Painters (who are perhaps my favorite band of all time). I don't really see the parallel, honestly, other than perhaps in tempo. Jesu writes mostly sludgy, heavy songs in major keys. RHP are... well, not that. I will post about them one of these days when I have the time to put something worthwhile together.

I seem to be a little all over the place, so I'll get to the point. The new Jesu album, Conqueror, which is due out Tuesday, is something you should listen to. The entire thing is available as a stream here. Alternately, I am putting the title track up in mp3 form here since it's available from the band's MySpace. I can't really say it's my favorite of the songs on the album, but you have to take what's available, I suppose.

Jesu - Conqueror



This has been a pretty lame week. I will try to get a post up about the Bazan/Beam show tomorrow.



Drunk was a Jagjaguwar band fronted by Rick Alverson (now of Spokane, who are also signed to Jagjaguwar). They were probably the first "indie folk" band I had ever heard, dating back to my high school days of browsing Epitonic for random bands that seemed interesting. To say information about them is hard to turn up would be a pretty huge understatement. They sort of petered out right around when the internet was really taking off (their last release was 2000's Tableside Manners), and as such, there isn't much in the way of web history surrounding them.

In an interview with Alverson from 2002, he describes a number of reasons that he chose to stop recording as Drunk. Former collaborators were gone, he no longer liked the name, and decided that a fresh start with a new name was the best course of action.

The music is fairly typically Jagjaguwar: quiet, folk-inspired, slightly out of tune, and very sad. It was one of my first glimpses into a world of music like it, and though I wouldn't say it influenced my own songwriting directly, it certainly influenced the way I think about arrangement and mood. Both tracks here come from 1998's Raised Toward. Enjoy.

Drunk - A Mere Passerby

Drunk - Chatter



I have a feeling that for half my audience, a bio of who Slint are/were is going to be insulting, and for the other half, pretty necessary. In a nutshell, Slint pretty much invented post-rock, the dynamic-focused largely instrumental brand of music best exemplified today by Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and Tortoise. The band formed in 1985, releasing a debut, Tweez, in 1987, and their landmark Spiderland for Touch and Go in 1990. Not long after that, they broke up. Of the founding members, only David Pajo has had any significant degree of success in subsequent years, playing in Tortoise, Papa M, and Zwan (though it's probably worth noting that Brian McMahon played in Palace briefly, as well).

The band reunited for a brief tour in 2005, which I was fortunate enough to get to see at the TLA in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, after the tour, it seemed like they were done again for good, as news broke that they sold a significant portion of their gear. However, on the heels of the relatively recent news that Slint will be playing Spiderland in its entirety at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona in a few months, it seemed like a good time to post about them.

In some sense, they are much more conventional than what post-rock has become today. You won't find any Tortoise-esque jazz influence or any Mogwai-style programming on a Slint record. The basic elements of the genre are there though: long tracks, few vocals (and mostly spoken vocals, at that), and a strong sense of dynamics and tension.

The two tracks that accompany this post come from a recording of the band's March 2005 performance at London's Kentish Town Forum. Though I didn't intentionally choose them this way (in fact, they are the set opener and set closer, respectively), they also have happen to be the fifth and sixth tracks on Spiderland. The first is the slow, brooding "For Dinner...", and the second is the band's best known track (which, strangely enough, appeared on the soundtrack to Kids), "Good Morning Captain." Enjoy.

Slint - For Dinner... (live 2005)

Slint - Good Morning Captain (live 2005)


Fade Into You

It's a little bit of a shame about Mazzy Star, in that by the time I got around to appreciating them, they hadn't played in years. For the uninitiated, Mazzy Star was largely a collaboration between Hope Sandoval, vocalist and David Roback, guitarist. Typically classified as dreampop, if such classifications matter to you, they were perhaps the most successful band of that genre, owing largely to the song this post is about, "Fade into You."

Whether you know it or not, you know this song. Maybe I am insulting your intellect by telling you that, but I couldn't tell you the number of people who don't know it by name when I ask them. It was featured in the movies Angus and Starship Troopers, and on the tv shows Alias and Gilmore Girls, among other things I am probably missing. It was a ubiquitous staple of alt-rock radio, as well.

As I said though, I was a bit young when it came out to really get into it. I sort of forgot about it altogether until I accidentally stumbled across this live version of David Bazan (playing as Paperback, I believe) doing it. Since Mazzy Star predate the era of readily available mp3 by quite a bit, I can't even post an mp3 of the original version. Here is a YouTube, however:

Mazzy Star - Fade Into You (video)

And a live acoustic version for MTV Europe:

Mazzy Star - Fade Into You (live acoustic video)

And finally, here's an mp3 of the Bazan version, courtesy of pedro-the-lion.com (no I'm not hot-linking to their bandwidth, since it's an unofficial site).

David Bazan - Fade Into You


Palo Santo

Shearwater got awesome all of a sudden in 2006 with the release of Palo Santo. It's not that they were bad before that or anything, but sounded more like the Okkervil River side project they were (and are). On Palo Santo, it's exclusively Jon Meiburg's vocals and songwriting, and no offense to Will Sheff, but I like the former's songs better.

From that first paragraph, one might be inclined to believe that I was into Shearwater all along and heard about them before you did because I'm just that cool. Actually though, no. Those are my impressions working backward chronologically from Palo Santo. I first heard Shearwater just last year opening for Magnolia Electric Co in DC, and was thoroughly impressed. It's not that their sound is exactly 100% unique, it's just that it's really good. Meiburg's vocals are fantastic. I wish I could put "La Dame et la Licorne" up here so you could get a full grasp of his range, but that one is not and never has been available for free, so not so much.

Instead, I have two other tracks from Palo Santo. Or more accurately, the band does, as this way I don't have to upload them. The first is "White Waves," which has an almost Stones-y riff to most of it that I promise you will find memorable, even if you end up not liking the song.

Shearwater - White Waves

The second is "Seventy-four, Seventy-five", which the band's website suggests "recalls early John Cale." It's basically an enjoyable piano-based number with a very pentatonic sort of sound to it.

Shearwater - Seventy-four, Seventy-five


Sleep Station

Sleep Station are a three-piece band based mostly around the songwriting efforts of one Dave Debiak. They are on Eyeball Records (you know, the home of Murder by Death and The Tiny and former home of My Chemical Romance and Thursday), but don't hold some of those bands against them. I am not quite sure who to compare them to; the first thing that comes to mind is Matt Pond PA, although that isn't quite right. I first heard them while randomly downloading tracks by Eyeball bands after being impressed by the first Murder by Death LP.

All Sleep Station records are concept albums, which, despite being kind of pretentious, works out pretty well for them. Their first release was a Debiak-only solo record called Anhedonia, based around a fairly obscure medical condition (defined as an inability to experience pleasure), which, as far as I can tell, has been out of print for quite some time. I've never really made the attempt to find a copy, honestly, but that's my impression.

The next record, and the first I heard, was Runaway Elba-1, a concept album about a lonely engineer who builds a female cyborg companion, and the ensuing chaos as they flee his employer, who wants to reclaim their property (the she-cyborg). Yes, I know, that sounds Yoshimi-level ridiculous, but it's really got a number of lovely songs, including this gem, entitled "Frustration of Leaving."

Sleep Station - Frustration of Leaving

Their next record was 2003's Hang in There, Charlie, about a pair of astronauts who are sent into space only to discover that one of them will not be returning home. It too is a pretty great record, containing a number of extremely well-written songs, including this one:

Sleep Station - Broke Your Trust (external -- on the Eyeball Records site)

Hot on Charlie's heels came the internet-only Von Cosel EP, which used to be available here, though apparently the server is down for the time being (hopefully not permanently) and 2004's After the War, which sold better than previous efforts and also garnered the band more attention. I can't say I like it as much as their other albums, but I am in the minority on that.

Though Sleep Station still exist, Debiak's other band, the heavily 80's-influenced New London Fire, seems to have consumed most of his time for the last couple years. They aren't bad, though I have to admit, I wish he'd go back to Sleep Station. Fortunately, that seems likely this year. Despite the fact that neither the band's website nor the label's have said much in quite some time, their PureVolume site has two demo tracks from one of (apparently) two forthcoming Sleep Station projects. The second one, "Settle on Your Name," is particularly good.


It's Too Heavy for Superman to Lift

My recent purchase of a ticket to see Sam Beam of Iron and Wine play a solo show with David Bazan (ex-Pedro the Lion) at Messiah College has brought me back into listening to the former.
I first heard Iron and Wine the same way as most people, I think, unfortunately: the Garden State soundtrack. I honestly think that the cover of "Such Great Heights" featured on that soundtrack is one of the five worst songs Beam has ever recorded. I very nearly gave up on ever listening to I&W again after hearing it.

Fortunately, the strong buzz behind Woman King convinced me to download it, and I was converted. I am convinced that the studio version of "Jezebel" is one of the best-written and executed pieces of acoustic music ever written. I wanted to post that here, but unfortunately, it does not appear that it was ever officially available in mp3 format, and the live versions I have don't really do it justice.

What I do have is very nearly that good, however, and it's a three-fer, so you should be thrilled.
First up is an excellent cover of Flaming Lips "Waiting for a Superman," which, as much as I love the Lips, slays their version. It brings out the lyrical beauty of that song in a way Wayne Coyne, how shall I put this, can't. This is only available on a pretty obscure magazine sampler, so I'm pretty sure it's kosher to post (Passing Afternoon also has it)

Iron and Wine - Waiting for a Superman (Flaming Lips Cover)

Second is "He Lays in the Reins", from the Calexico collaboration of (more or less) the same name. I wasn't as impressed with the entire EP as some were, but this song is pretty undeniably great.

Iron and Wine - He Lays in the Reins

Finally, I have a live version of "The Trapeze Swinger" dating back to the In the Reins tour. The original song can be found on the soundtrack to In Good Company, of all things. This song is best live, without all the overdubs, leaving arguably the best lyric of the last twenty years bare and out front. Of these three, it's my favorite. Enjoy.

Iron and Wine - The Trapeze Swinger (Live In Washington DC 2005)


The Year that Got Away

TW Walsh released two LPs and an EP on Made in Mexico, Truckstop and My Pal God between 1999 and 2001 before joining Pedro the Lion as a full-time member. Working with David Bazan, he contributed the opening riff to "Options" and the closing riff to "Second Best," as well as the song "Start Without Me" on 2004's Achilles Heel. His departure from Pedro the Lion led Bazan to give up the Pedro the Lion moniker altogether and start recording under his own name. (The song "Fewer Broken Pieces" off Bazan's excellent 2006 Fewer Moving Parts EP is about this).

As my previous post mentioned, there was a time when I first heard Pedro the Lion when I wanted anything and everything associated with it. Walsh's records were then (and remain now) fairly hard to track down in regular record stores. Insound has Pollensongs, and Amazon has all three records, but otherwise they are pretty scarce, which is a shame, because both Pollensongs and Blue Laws are wonderful records (I can't say the same about How We Spend Our Days, although some people like it).

Anyway, back before I was able to track down much of anything (even on P2P), I found this track. Taken from the Acuarela Songs compilation for the Spanish label Acuarela, it is the demo version of a track called "The Year that Got Away," which also appears in a fleshed out full-band version on Pollensongs. Technically I am bending my own rules a little bit because this is still in print, but as far as I can tell it's import-only and either way, it's certainly out of most people's price range. This song is the most devastating, heart wrenching thing I have ever heard. An absolute must-hear.

TW Walsh - The Year that Got Away (Watercolor, 2000)

Two tracks from Blue Laws and one from Pollensongs are also available here.

As a post-script, I should note that TW Walsh gave up full time music when he left Pedro the Lion. He is currently involved in a part time project called The Soft Drugs that plays shows in the Pacific Northwest and occasionally in Walsh's native Massachusetts. After an attempt to self-release an (excellent) EP called The Soft Drugs in Moderation didn't go well, TW made the music available for free through a Creative Commons license here. Check that out as well, particularly "Defending the Paint."


All of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone

I was late to the Explosions in the Sky party. I first heard them during my sophomore year of college after being encouraged to check them out by my then-girlfriend's roommate. This was shortly before the Friday Night Lights soundtrack, but about that timeframe. The first thing I got my hands on was the excellent The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, which is the only real competition, as far as I am concerned, with Mogwai's Happy Songs for Happy People for greatest post-rock album of all time. They have an incredible sense of dynamic and melody, and the guitar interplay is absolutely top-notch.

As you may or may not know, Explosions in the Sky have a new record coming out next month, entitled All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, which will be accompanied by a fairly extensive tour. (I believe I will be at the Philadelphia date). They have put up the track "Welcome, Ghosts" on their official site, which is pretty impressive (see link below). The whole thing has, of course, leaked, and until someone tells me otherwise, I am going to toss another track up here as well, the damn sweet "Catastrophe and the Cure."

Explosions in the Sky - Welcome, Ghosts (on the EITS site)

Explosions in the Sky - Catastrophe and the Cure (removed, on second thought).

Because I posted that second one, I am going to remind you again to BUY THEIR ALBUMS, DAMN IT.

Not Forever, Just for Now

Like many people, I was first drawn to Uncle Tupelo through Wilco. When Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out, I was impressed, as was the fashion of the time. (I don't consider it the timeless classic that some people appear to, but it is nonetheless a very good record). Anyway, as I looked into Jeff Tweedy's history, I found out that he had played in Uncle Tupelo with Jay Farrar (currently of Sun Volt, whose debut album I later would remember my father listening to back when I was still in middle school). I liked what I read about them and bought the Still Feel Gone reissue on a whim when it came out. By the time the opening track, Tweedy's "Gun", had ended, I was hooked.

Their best album always was and clearly remains the all-acoustic Peter Buck-produced March 16-20, 1992. The selection of traditional songs and covers is excellent, and the originals, many of the best of the band's four-album career. Unfortunately, I don't have any particularly impressive live or rare tracks from that era that aren't included on official releases, so I can't post anything from it.

The track I do have, however, does not disappoint. The song comes from the band's debut album, No Depression, which, as you might guess, spawned the title of a certain well-known alt-country publication. The band's sound was still very rough at this point, and most of the album sounds like traditional country played at punk speed and volume. There are, though, a few exceptions: namely, the aforementioned title track (a Carter Family cover), and the excellent original "Whiskey Bottle." I have a great deal of difficulty believing that anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in a "three hour away town" can't relate to its lyrics, which describe with a startling degree of accuracy the feeling of longing for something bigger and better.

The version I have attached to this post is an acoustic radio session; note, however, that it is not the same acoustic radio version that appears as a bonus track on the Legacy reissue of No Depression. Enjoy.

Uncle Tupelo - Whiskey Bottle (live acoustic)


Down in Flames

Those who know me well know that I am a big fan of a handful of oft-slandered 90's rock bands. I can think of few higher up on that list than Semisonic. Simply put, they wrote amazing pop rock songs, managed two (arguably three) hits, and then vanished from the face of the earth. I have been meaning to read Jacob Slichter (the drummer's) book about his experiences in the music business, which is entitled So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star. Supposedly it's quite good.

I also have fond memories of Semisonic as the first show I ever went to without my parents. I believe it was in 2000, during their tour supporting All About Chemistry, which was criminally underappreciated, and had some wonderful songs on it. The show was in Philadelphia's TLA, which is a good venue for bands of that size. Another weird part of that show was that Pete Yorn opened up before any of us had heard of him, and failed to impress... and then went on a few months later to have a whole string of radio hits.

This song is a favorite of mine, but it is often overlooked because it is from the album The Great Divide, which predates the band's success. Earlier in their career, they often encored with it, but by the time I got to see them, they actually refused to play it when someone requested it. If you look at the lyrics, it's not hard to see why; it's clearly a song expressing frustration toward a lack of success. An excellent one though. This is a live version that was up on their site at one point awhile back.

Semisonic - Down in Flames (live)


One Way Ticket to the Stars

Last spring, I spent a semester in Sweden studying at Uppsala University. It was perhaps the greatest single experience of my life, as it afforded me an opportunity to live in an interesting culture in a beautiful country known for great music and gorgeous women. Plus I didn't have to pay any tuition on it, so it was pretty much win/win from the outset. God bless you, University of Maryland.

Among of the more interesting things I got to experience there were the excellent live music nights put on by the Kalmar Student Nation. Just like any minimal paying gig bar night at any college bar, the results were somewhat mixed. In fact, while there were several decent bands, only one really got my attention in the three times I went. That band was The Grey Brigade, who opened for the atrocious Sci-Fi Skåne.

Their website lists among their influences Phil Spector, The Band, Roy Orbison, Spiritualized and David Bowie, and honestly, that's about right. Picture other large joyful pop bands like the Polyphonic Spree or Architecture in Helsinki... now picture them playing songs that don't suck. That is The Gray Brigade.

They played more songs than they have recorded when I went to see them, but honestly, everything on their self-released eponymous EP (available directly from them here) is worth a listen. Of all of them, this is probably my favorite. The lyrics even manage to avoid Swenglish awkwardness, unlike certain other Swedish bands, although they aren't anything special either. Anyway, check it out:

The Gray Brigade - One Way Ticket to the Stars


Pumpkins, and the Smashing Thereof

You probably don't need to be told to listen to the Smashing Pumpkins. If you were the right age in the mid-nineties and don't own Siamese Dream and/or Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, I have to question why you are even reading a music blog. Simply put, they are two of the best rock albums of (at least) the 1990s, if not all time. But that isn't what this post is about.

The recent news of a Smashing Pumpkins reunion (albeit one that only definitely includes Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain, with D'arcy's participation highly unlikely, James Iha's fairly unlikely, and even Melissa auf der Maur a 'maybe') got me thinking about the band again. I have something of a unique perspective on them, as I got into modern rock later than many of my peers. By the time I started listening to rock radio, Mellon Collie was more or less in its death throes as far as singles were concerned.

As such, the first Pumpkins album I got to experience brand new was 1998's oft-slandered Adore. In case you've forgotten, when that album came out, people HATED it. Passionately. In some sense, it's not hard to see why -- it almost could not sound less like the band's previous output. I always liked it though, and a recent objective listen nearly a decade after its release (Christ I'm getting old) reaffirmed my belief that it failed to establish itself as a classic moreso because of absurdly high expectations and one incredibly poor single choice ("Daphne Descends," after "Perfect") than on its merits.

It's not that it's a bad song, really. In fact, if an up and coming indie band had done this in 1998, blending Depeche Mode dance-pop influences with rock, part of me thinks we would all be hailing it as a revolutionary classic. Unfortunately, the Pumpkins were already mainstream enough that the independent press had turned on them at this point, and "Daphne Descends" was otherwise too 1983 for 1998.

If it had been up to me, the first song appended to this post, "To Sheila," with its quiet simplicity and beautiful melody, would have been the third single, rather than the last, after everyone had stopped caring. Always was, and still is, one of my favorite Pumpkins songs.

The second song I've included here is "For Martha." This probably never would have cut it as a single due to its length, but it's also probably the best track on the album. The song was written for Corgan's mother, who died during the making of the record, and in my opinion, it is one of the best lyrics about coming to terms with loss ever written.

Because the official Smashing Pumpkins site effectively ceased to exist for awhile when Corgan formed Zwan (another underrated project of his that I will probably blog about another time), I have no idea what, if any, studio material was available for free download. Therefore, these two tracks are live versions from the Tower Theater show in Upper Darby PA on 7.28.1998, recorded for the now-defunct Philadelphia radio station WPLY 100.3 (Y100). I recall taping this off the radio at the time it happened and playing the tape til it was nearly worn out. Fortunately, a pre-broadcast version leaked out recently (presumably in the aftermath of Y100's demise), and that is the source of these tracks.

At one point, I considered posting more tracks from this particular show, but many of the other songs were radically rearranged in the live setting, which would sort of defeat the purpose of this post as a defense of Adore. Even "To Sheila" is more rocked out here than on the record, but it's not a huge leap from one to the other. Both tracks are also extended significantly compared to the studio versions.

Smashing Pumpkins - To Sheila (Live)

Smashing Pumpkins - For Martha (Live)

Bonus Round:

Smashing Pumpkins - Satur9 (from the internet-only free album Machina II: Friends and Enemies of Modern Music) <--- Note that this is external and you need to click through it, despite the filename.


(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace

The first time I heard Low, I was a freshman in college. Our campus's excellent (but now defunct) Direct Connect file-sharing network and massive T3 bandwidth allowed me to check out literally hundreds of bands I had heard of but never heard. Somehow, I ended up with a copy of Pedro the Lion's Control, which pretty quickly cemented itself as one of my favorite albums of all time.

My newfound obsession with PtL led me to pick up their 2003 Christmas single, which had "The First Noel" on the A-side and a cover of Low's "Long Way Around the Sea" on the B-side. The latter struck me immediately, because it is a rare occasion that I like any rock band's original Christmas songs.

The first Low album I was able to get my hands on was 2002's underrated Trust, which opens with a song called "(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace." The eerie synth, the quavering and reverb-soaked Neil Young-inspired guitar playing, and spartan rhythm section immediately caught my attention. Then came the vocals, which still to this day give me chills. Though neither Alan Sparhawk nor Mimi Parker is a particularly outstanding vocalist, their harmonies are easily among the most beautiful ever recorded.

Sparhawk never has been one for much lyrical depth, and the first two verses of this song to some extent indicate that. There's nothing wrong with them, exactly, and in fact, they do a pretty good job of setting the mood, but on their own, they don't say much. Then, the third verse enters, and suddenly, somehow it all makes sense:

Oh can you hear that sweet, sweet sound
I was lost but now I'm found
Sometimes there's nothing left to save
That's how you sing Amazing Grace.

That slight and simple twist is chilling, and ties the song together in a way that seems impossible after hearing the first two verses. I will never get tired of this song, as long as I live.

Low - (That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace


Over the coming months, I will be posting on this blog about the songs I love and why I love them. I hope they will mean as much to you as they do to me.