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.