I cannot overstate how good the new Built to Spill is. Seriously. Streaming here at the moment.


A Few Thoughts on Mary Travers

So... I've come out of my blogging hole to write a bit about the passing of a musician whose music was tremendously important to me. Mary Travers died overnight at the age of 72 after a long battle with leukemia.

Peter Paul and Mary were never cool to like in my lifetime. They were too commercial to be remembered fondly by many folk purists, and most people of my generation remember only their 1971 children's album, Peter Paul and Mommy. That's a mistake, though. They were so popular in 1963 that all three of the albums they'd released to that point were in the top ten simultaneously, a feat matched by relatively few artists in the history of popular music.

They were not prolific songwriters. Other than "Puff the Magic Dragon", most of their best known songs were written by other artists. What they were, however, were skillful arrangers, guitarists, and vocalists who brought pop sensibilities to the storied traditions of folk. My first concert was a Peter Paul and Mary show in Reading, PA, before I entered elementary school. I don't remember very much about it, but my parents tell me that I sang along with every song. Their version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Mornin' Rain" is one of my favorite songs of all time, and as I told a friend this morning, the amount of time I spent listening to their records left a mark on my tastes so deep and indelible that I find it hard to fully comprehend.

Though they only rarely performed new material together in my lifetime, I owe a profound musical debt to Mary Travers and her musical partners Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow. May she rest in peace.


Yo La Tengo's New Record is Good

Hello again!


Rainy Friday Music

Ladies and gentlemen, Maggot Brain:


A Place to Bury Strangers

I had the opportunity to check this band out a couple weekends back at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC. Excellent stuff. Noisy, heavy shoegaze. Sorry for the short post, but hopefully it's better than nothing.


A Quick Note

Please note that many files of a certain age have vanished. Unfortunately, they are gone. Nothing I can do about it. Sorry.



The great Jay Bennett died in his sleep last night. I don't have much to say about this, except that the man was only 45, and I hope this can serve as a reminder to everyone that life is short and that it's important to appreciate what you have. Chicagoist has some great Bennett video.


The Night Air is Cold, The Freeway is Clear

Here's a couple versions of an obscure relic. Former Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn released his last electric record in 1991. I'd only ever heard the single, "King of the Hill", up until a few weeks ago, when I found an incredibly cheap copy of the album at a used CD store. It's not half bad. It's basically like a lost Tom Petty record from that era. I say that primarily because in addition to the fact that Tom Petty's whole shtick has kind of always been rockified Byrds, this record's got very similar production to classic Petty records, and Mike Campbell and Tom Petty are all the place. Also, like a Tom Petty record, it's a few killer songs plus a lot of pleasant filler. Anyway... here's two versions of the aforementioned single "King of the Hill." The first is the official music video, the second is a Letterman performance. Note how McGuinn looks like Don Henley with a mullet in this period.


Archie Bronson Outfit

The Archie Bronson Outfit are a pretty cool English band. My favorite song of theirs is a jam called "On the Shore" from their debut, Fur, but that's not online, so here's a pretty good song from their second record, Derdang Derdang. Enjoy.


I've Been Trying to Forgive Billy Corgan for His Recent Actions, but...

stuff like this sure doesn't make it any easier.


Please Remember Me

In a random piece of news that made me happy, in the buildup to the release of the new Iron and Wine rarities comp Around the Well (preorder CD or vinyl), Sub Pop is giving away an mp3 of my favorite Iron and Wine song (from which the title of the comp is derived), "The Trapeze Swinger." I think the studio version is a little busy, but it's still an amazing song. If you want to hear a more stripped down version, somewhere way back in an old post (January 07 maybe?) there's a live version from a few years ago, but for the full version, click through below.

Iron and Wine - The Trapeze Swinger


Sometimes I forget how awesome QOTSA is...

...and then I see something like this and remember.


I Have Been Remiss.

So, I fail at posting for the last month. Sorry. Trying to get better again. Anyhoo, here is a band I got into a really long time ago: Murder by Death. How long ago, you ask? Well, they were still called Little Joe Gould at the time. I'm not sure Murder by Death is any better of a name, but I suppose that's neither here nor there. Anyway their slightly gothy, slightly country brand of indie rock is music to my ears. Here's a couple old jams:


New Sonic Youth Stream

Via Newsweek:


Film School

One of my favorite modern shoegaze bands is San Francisco's Film School. Formed at the turn of the decade, they've been quietly releasing some very good records, most recently 2007's Hideout. Their particular brand of shoegaze incorporates elements of post-rock, which results in a fairly unique turn on an old idea. They don't appear to have any shows planned at present. I'm hoping this means they are working on new material. Fingers crossed. Here's the promo for "Compare" from Hideout, which you should buy at the link above.


YouTube Roundup: Sonic Youth Edition

I was scoping out some Sonic Youth YouTube videos for my own nefarious purposes, and I thought "hey, why not share?" So, here you go.

"Bull in the Heather", live on Letterman:

Tremendously low video quality, but not awful audio quality of Sonic Youth c. 1983 performing "Early American":

Decent quality German TV version of "Teenage Riot" c. 1996:


Grammy Video

To follow up on my ramblings below, here are a few video highlights from last night's shindig:


Liveblogging the Grammys (Why not?)

Since I am stuck watching this crap anyway at my housemates' behest, I might as well step in with commentary. Starting a bit late.

(8:28) -- Carrie Underwood's guitarist is extremely foxy. Then again, most women with guitars are. Otherwise though, this song is boring the shit out of me.

(8:32) -- Sheryl Crow and Leanne Rimes? Really? I wasn't even aware Leanne Rimes was still making music. Not looking too good.

(8:33) -- I am pulling for the Steeldrivers. I don't really know any of these songs, but that one sounds the most like something I would listen to.

(8:34) -- Of course not. I am not familiar with this song, but what they are playing of it sure sounds schlocky.

(8:42) -- Song of the Year. God I hope it's not the Estelle song. I hate that song. --- Coldplay. Well I guess that's ok. I think they have gotten really full of themselves. But, not a terrible song.

(8:44) -- Kid Rock, what the fuck happened to you? While I never liked dude all that much, this pales in comparison to what he used to have going.

(8:46) -- Annnnnd this performance just took a turn from bad to worse. What the hell is this Sweet Home Alabama thing?

(8:55) -- This is bland but it could be worse. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus can at least sing, and she can play the guitar, and such. So that's good. Still, the song is kind of... inane.

(8:58) -- I'm okay with Plant and Krauss winning. Their record isn't all it's hyped up to be, but given the alternatives, not a bad choice.

(9:09) -- Cain and Abel reference? Really?

(9:11) -- Stevie Wonder, what the fuck are you doing involving yourself with this performance?

(9:12) -- Oh no, I do not need to see the Jonas Brothers sing "Superstition". And flub a lyric, no less (I think -- sure sounded that way to me).

(9:14) -- Ah, the Blink-182 reunion. With a still semi-damaged Travis Barker.

(9:16) -- This one Coldplay did not deserve. Sorry.

(9:22) -- What is Craig Ferguson doing here? Oh, awkwardly introducing Katy Perry, that almost makes sense.

(9:27) -- I hate this song. Hate it. Hate, hate, hate it. Also note her use of a backing track on the chorus. Shows a lot of faith in her abilities.

(9:30) -- My vote goes to Adele ---- wait for it, it will not be her.

... shit, I'm wrong. Sweet. Girlfriend can sing, at least.

(9:37) -- Morgan Freeman! Yes! Wait, you consider Kenny Chesney a friend? Really? And what is this shlock?

(9:40) -- What a weird combination of people presenting. Herbie is looking good eh? Allison Krauss and Plant win again for Record of the Year. I guess I'm ok with that.

(9:48) -- Queen Latifah presents lifetime achievement to Dean Martin? Weird. M.I.A. is SO PREGNANT. This cannot be healthy. And we have Kanye, Lil' Wayne, Jay-Z and T.I. Damn that was tight.

(9:54) -- Kate Beckinsale looks really, really good. Wow. And introducing Sir Paul. Bomb.

(9:56) -- ... and this is surprisingly not an awful performance of "I Saw Her Standing There". Dave Grohl is pounding the drums a bit too hard, but that's okay. It's what he does. Epic guitar solo.

(10:05) -- Jack Black. Yes. Please give this to James Taylor or Paul McCartney. Really? Fucking John Mayer? Fuck that guy.

(10:07) -- Jay Mohr even bombs at the Grammys. What the fuck.

(10:10) -- This song is a lot better the way it's being performed here than the studio version they played earlier.

(10:11) -- and Adele. Cool with that too.

(10:19) -- Gwyneth -- what are you thinking with that dress girl? I mean. Not to be fashion bitch here, but ... oh well, whatever, Radiohead with the USC marching band, so there's that.

(10:21) -- This is kind of awesome. I was skeptical, but. Kind of awesome.

(10:28) -- Samuel L. Jackson really is in everything, huh?

(10:31) -- This J.T./T.I. jam is pretty tight. No further comments, really, but I'm enjoying it.

(10:35) -- Most boring part of the night. Blah blah blah, pat selves on the back, Obama won Grammys, lets steal his "yes we can" line, etc etc, stop talking, I'm bored, so bored.

(10:37) -- "The whole world watched as change was ushered in"? Really?

(10:38) -- Is that Jamie Foxx? Weird. (Edit: No, apparently not. Whoops...)

(10:41) -- Motown always brightens my day.

(10:47) -- Shocked, simply shocked(!) that Josh Groban loves Neil Diamond. I never got Neil Diamond, even from the ironic viewpoint. Still don't. Was crap, is crap.

(10:51) -- Have to admit that I never was all that into these dead people montages either. Everyone appears on screen for like 3-5 seconds, what's even the point?

(10:54) -- BB, I love you. John Mayer, what are you doing here? I admit my ignorance, but who are the other two?

(11:02) -- Gary Sinise? Whaaaa? Allen Toussaint, Robin Thicke and Lil Wayne? That's insane. And awesome. Insanely awesome?

(11:06) -- And the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. And Terrence Blanchard. Wow. Awesome.

(11:09) -- Really scraping the bottom of the presenter barrel now. Will.i.am and T-Pain? Seriously. Lil Wayne better win Best Rap Album. For real.

(11:10) -- And Wayne wins. Awesome.

(11:18) -- Zooey Deschanel. Yes. OMG, I love her. Why you gotta marry Ben Gibbard? Whyyy?

(11:19) -- Plant and Krauss sound really good together here. T-Bone Burnett, your hair is terrible.

(11:20) -- Things just took a turn for the worse. This rock stuff is not really working for anyone. I know, I just said that about Robert fucking Plant, but it's unfortunately true.

(11:22) -- Green Day. Hah. If I were still in High School I'd be SO STOKED right now. How did they get to do Album of the Year, seriously? I am pulling for In Rainbows, definitely.

(11:24) -- And showing just how out of touch the Academy remains, it goes to Plant and Krauss. That record was not nearly as good as In Rainbows according to just about any measure I can think of.

Alright I need to go to bed. That was... an experience. I'll probably never do it again, but it was fun to do once.


Loving Takes This Course

Kath Bloom is a Connecticut-based underground folk/singer-songwriter. She recorded a bunch of music in the 1970s which went largely unnoticed until experiencing a renaissance in recent years. A new tribute record, Loving Takes this Course, will be released on the Aussie label Chapter Music in April. The record contains tracks by a number of indie-rock heavyweights, including Bill Callahan (smog), Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon), Devendra Banhart, Scout Niblett, and Meg Baird, among others. You can check out Devendra and Baird's tracks @ Naturalismo and Kozelek's track (also available on his recently-released Finally compilation) at his Myspace.

Here are a couple YouTube videos (neither official). Sadly, her voice has not aged all that well, as the second video shows:


Random Video

...because Lynyrd Skynard has spent entirely too much time at the top of the blog at this point.


In Memoriam

In honor of the recently-deceased Billy Powell, longtime keyboardist for southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd, I decided to put up a Skynyrd video. It's strange the extent to which Skynyrd are derided in hip circles, given the virtually undeniable appeal of their catalog. Much as I disagree with their "southern pride" pandering and posturing, their songs were just flat-out good. Period. Yes, even "Freebird".

Having said that, here is a lesser-known Skynyrd track taped off the band's 1975 Old Gray Whistle Test performance called "Every Mother's Son." It's a bit quiet, you may need to turn up your speakers to hear it properly, but it's an interesting clip of the band in its prime.

Rest in peace, Billy Powell.


The Upside of the Tanking Music Industry

...is that it's primarily the majors that are tanking, which is finally allowing the indie labels to get their stuff on the charts and to a more mainstream audience. This week we have Andrew Bird (Fat Possum), Animal Collective (Paw Tracks), and Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar) all in the Billboard Top 20. I wish I had bothered to write down my prediction that this was what the internet would eventually do to music five years ago when I made it, but oh well. At least we get to enjoy the music.

(via P-fork)


Animal Collective

Merriweather Post Pavilion is every bit as good as everyone is saying it is. I know, normally Pitchfork is wrong about everything, but even a broken clock full of monkeys writes Hamlet twice a day, right?


A Study in the Evolution of Jason Molina, Part I (1997-2002)

I've always wanted to do this post, but I could never get enough legal music to do it. Until iLike happened, that is. Jason Molina, aka Songs:Ohia, aka Magnolia Electric Co., has been putting out at least one release a year pretty much every year since 1997. In that relatively short time, his sound has evolved hugely. This post will attempt to outline that change, with a player at the bottom showcasing all of the songs discussed. I've been working on it all week, it's probably the most effort I've ever put into anything online, so I hope somebody appreciates it.

The first official full-length release of Molina's music was the self-titled Songs:Ohia, aka "The Black Album". This is an extremely spare record; all of Molina's releases under the Songs:Ohia moniker were somewhat spartan, but this one especially so. Most of the instrumentation is Molina's powerful tenor voice and tenor guitar, sometimes backed by bass and drums. The highlight here is definitely "Cabwaylingo", which survived in setlists up until at least 2001, when it would reappear on Mi Sei Apparso Come Una Fantasma (more on that later).

That release was closely followed by Hecla & Griper and Impala. While the former did not reflect much of a stylistic shift, only adding slightly more instrumentation and slightly higher recording fidelity, the latter did. It began to incorporate organ and keyboard-based elements, and also showcased a broader range of song styles. It's one of my favorite Molina releases, and my favorite song from it is the excellent opener, "An Ace Unable to Change".

1999 saw the release of two more records; the extremely limited and rare The Ghost, recorded direct to boombox in one day, and the traditional release Axxess and Ace. Of these two, the latter is probably the more interesting record. Stylistically, it represents something of a move away from the sound of Impala and back toward the style of Hecla and Griper. While I tend to find these arrangements a little blase in some ways, the record is brimming with great songs, to the point where I couldn't quite make myself narrow it down to one. Included below, you will find "How to Be Perfect Men" (one of the first Songs:Ohia songs I ever heard) and "Love Leaves Its Abusers".

And then, things got weird. 2000 was an insanely productive year for Jason Molina, encompassing the release of three Songs:Ohia full lengths: Protection Spells, The Lioness, and Ghost Tropic. Protection Spells signaled the shape of things to come, consisting of nine entirely improvised songs recorded during several Songs:Ohia tours. This was followed by The Lioness, which was the first Songs:Ohia release not to exclusively feature tenor guitar. It also marked a move back in the direction of Impala, containing substantial amounts of keyboard and a broader array of songs. But Ghost Tropic was the real shocker. This record moved in the direction of ambient electronics and cohesive albums. It's not one of my favorite Molina records, but it's certainly no slouch, either. From The Lioness, I've included "Back on Top", which may not be representative, but is a personal favorite. From Ghost Tropic, I've included "Body Burned Away".

2001, on the other hand, was not a particularly productive year. A 7", a Travels in Constants EP, but nothing too noteworthy. However, that pause in productivity was worth it, because 2002 saw the release of my absolute favorite Songs:Ohia record, Didn't It Rain. Originally intended to be recorded by Steve Albini, it ended up being recorded by Edan Cohen at Philadelphia's Soundgun Studios. I've included two tracks from this, "Ring the Bell" and "Blue Chicago Moon", but really every song on this record is amazing.

As this is the end of the Songs:Ohia era of Molina's career, I am gonna snip the post here and do the post-2002 output in a later post.


You Will Go to Mykonos

I did not watch this live, because who watches SNL anymore, but here's a great video of Fleet Foxes doing Mykonos:


The Believer

I've been a big fan of the alt-country genre for a long time, ever since I first heard Wilco many moons ago, and I've been on a kick again lately. One of my more recent "discoveries" (e.g. things everyone else knew about but I did not) has been Rhett Miller (mostly as a solo artist, though Old 97s are good too).

His record The Believer is really quite excellent. It's a bit like Ryan Adams, a bit like the Billy Bragg/Wilco Mermaid Avenue records, and a bit of its own thing altogether. Mr. Miller was on tour in December, so in this part of the country at least, it will probably be awhile until he's around again. Anyway, check out a couple sweet samples from The Believer in the player below.

Youtube Roundup IV (In Which Dolph Lundgren Kills Apollo Creed)

Here are some more videos for your enjoyment. I seem to be posting real regular-like right now. We'll see how long I can keep that up.

First up is something I found just this week, an actual live performance of my favorite My Bloody Valentine song, "Soft as Snow" from Isn't Anything, shot at the University of London in 1989. The audio is a little hard to make out due to the absurd volumes MBV play at, but it's still a pretty cool artifact:

Second is Sonic Youth performing in Spain c. 1995. The video is not split even though it contains two separate, non-consecutive songs. The second is one of my favorite SY songs, the opening track off EVOL, "Tom Violence." (The first is "Candle", off of Daydream Nation). View:

Finally, here's a track my friend Patrick sent me of Public Image Ltd. performing "Careering" on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1980. Really groundbreaking stuff:

Anyway, all for now.


The New Year

Apropos of the events of eight days ago, the excellent Touch & Go band The New Year, featuring former members of Bedhead and Codeine, have released a new music video. When I saw them on tour a couple months ago, I was thoroughly impressed. Weirdly enough, Will Johnson of Centro-matic was also involved in that lineup; I don't know if that's going to be an ongoing thing or not. As long as it doesn't distract from Centro-matic, it's a-OK with me. Without further ado, the video:

EDIT: Effing eff, Pitchfork's embedded media doesn't fit in my frames and I can't get it to resize. View it here.

Bonus content: Appropriately-sized live version on YouTube.


Johnny Marr on Musicianship

My friend Simon, (whom, I should note, writes one of the more unique music blogs I am aware of, the venerable Fretbored), recently pointed me to a really excellent commentary published in the British newspaper The Independent. The piece, culled from a Johnny Marr lecture at the University of Salford, discusses the role of outsiders in music culture, and how very little (if any) music of lasting value comes from within the "system" (as it were). As a musician myself, I think there's a lot of valuable insight in the piece, and I highly recommend it.


I LIKE TRAINS is Easily One of the Worst Band Names Ever, But...

...they are still a pretty great band. And it's much better than the former way of writing it (iLiKETRAiNS), which reminded me more than a little of something my mom's sixth grade students would do.

The Leeds-based quintet plays dark, slightly goth-y post-rock that sounds sort of like Nick Cave fronting a cross between Explosions in the Sky and El Cielo-era Dredg. Their lyrics follow a narrative structure, sometimes telling a historical story, as in first clip appended to this post, "Spencer Perceval", which tells the story of the only assasination in history of a British Prime Minister. This is a live in-studio version performed for British television.

Second up is a fan-shot live video, with much poorer-quality audio and video, but worth seeing nonetheless. The song is "A Rook House for Bobby" (the "Bobby" in question being the late mentally unstable chess champion Bobby Fischer). Another excellent song.

I LIKE TRAINS do not make any of their music available for mp3 download, and for that reason, you will not find any appended to this post. If you know of somewhere I can get a legal mp3 version of one of their songs, leave a comment and I will post it.


Obligatory Best of 2008 Post, Slightly Late

An OK year for music. Not spectacular, but not awful. Here are my picks, in no particular order (except where otherwise noted):

Sun Kil Moon - April
Hands down my favorite record of 2008. All Mark Kozelek fans had been waiting for this record for five years, and it did not disappoint. Perhaps not quite as consistent as Ghosts of the Great Highway, but still truly superlative. Deep, room-filling music to dream melancholy dreams to.

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
I was pleasantly surprised by this record. "Indie folk", if you'll forgive my use of the term, is a movement I would like to see remain prominent indefinitely.

Beach House - Devotion
An absolutely excellent record. Ethereal dream-pop/nu-gaze. Actually lived up to the hype behind it.

Portishead - Third
Who would have thought that 11 years on, we would get a new Portishead record? And that it wouldn't be a trip-hop record? And that it would still be great anyway?

Shearwater - Rook
I first heard Shearwater totally by accident when they opened up for Magnolia Electric Co. last year. I was incredibly impressed then, and still am now. It doesn't quite match Palo Santo, but it doesn't need to in order to be a really good record.

Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Given the volume of hype behind this record and the people who were hyping it, I actually avoided listening to it for awhile, assuming I would hate it. My mistake. I caught a track on WXPN a couple months ago and liked it, and subsequently found that the whole record is very much worth a listen.

Randy Newman - Harps and Angels
Randy Newman can do very little wrong in my book. I didn't much care for "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country", but the record is nonetheless great, and he comes out with new material so infrequently that it's hard not to love anything he does see fit to release.

Juana Molina - Un Dia
I saw Juana Molina open up for Jose Gonzalez at the World Cafe Live in Philly a couple years ago. I was impressed then, and I remain impressed now. Looped up, experimental world-folk with elements of electronica.

Byrne and Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Not the record anybody expected these two to make, but still excellent, especially considering it effectively came out of nowhere. Electro-gospel pop music. Joyous.

My Brightest Diamond - A Thousand Shark's Teeth
This one was a bit of a surprise as well. I knew absolutely nothing about this record, but earlier MBD showed up on one of my Pandora stations one day, and I was favorably impressed, so I checked out more music, and remained favorably impressed. Ethereal, occasionally chilling, and wholly original.


Fun Fact I Just Learned

I guess Blogger isn't the only who got a DMCA notice on the American Pie post, as my file hosting site has also mysteriously suspended my account. Pending resolution of that situation, none of the mp3s will work. Sorry.

UPDATE: Apparently the old mp3s do work (or at least, all the ones that worked before work), I just can't add any new ones at the moment.


YouTube, Vol. III

Another round of this nonsense. Computer is dead so I don't even have any of my mp3s to post if I wanted to.

First up is Bon Iver's "Flume", as performed live at a radio station called The Current, whose videos I have posted more than once.

Next up, a pretty good video of "God Bless Our Dead Marines" by A Silver Mt Zion.

Finally, a great version of "Stare at the Sky" by Idaho from the Knitting Factory in the mid 90s. Evidently taped by a gentleman who was filming for Low. Really excellent.