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)