Sunday, October 31, 2004

Friday, October 29, 2004

November releases

Like every year, the record companies are busy readying new stocking stuffers to hit the stores and build some hype just in time for the holidays. This coming month we'll see a wide range of releases from up and comers and old timers alike (many "best ofs" and "remasters"). We even get, not one, not two, but THREE John Lennon releases. Here's a sampling of what's coming:

November 2
Bessie Smith: Empress of the Blues: 1923-1933 (Jazz Legends)
The Rolling Stones: Live Licks (Virgin)
The Presidents of the United States of America: Freaked Out and Small (Pusa Inc)
Susan Tedeschi: Live From Austin TX (New West)
John Lennon: Acoustic (Capitol)
John Lennon: Rock 'n' Roll (Capitol)
King's X: Live All Over the Place (Metal Blade)
Medeski, Martin & Wood: Farmers Reserve (Amulet)
Medeski, Martin & Wood: Notes from the Underground (Amulet)

November 9
Aimee Mann & the Young Snakes: Aimee Mann and the Young Snakes (Lemon)
The Innocence Mission: Now the Day Is Over (Badman)
Kings of Leon Aha Shake Heartbreak (BMG)
Badly Drawn Boy: About a Boy (Beggars XL)
Badly Drawn Boy: Have You Fed the Fish? (Beggars XL)

November 16
Eminem: Encore (Aftermath)
Los Lonely Boys: Lonely Boys (Sony)
Willie Nelson: End of Understanding (Fruit Tree)
Willie Nelson: Face of a Fighter (Synergy)
The Libertines: Up the Bracket (Toshiba EMI)
Neil Young: Greatest Hits (Warner Brothers)
Muddy Waters: 1950-1952 (Classics R&B)

November 23
Alison Krauss & Union Station: Lonely Runs Both Ways (Rounder)
Gwen Stefani: Love, Angel, Music, Baby (Interscope)
John Lennon: Mind Games (Mobile Fidelity Koch)
U2: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (Interscope)

November 30
Dashboard Confessional: Vindicted (TVT)
Madness: Singles Box, Vol. 1 (EMI)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

BAND AID back with less Pop

BAND AID III will be recorded in the next two weeks to raise money for the world's poorest people. On the twentieth anniversary of the first BAND AID, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich will re-record "Do they know it's Christmas?," with an all-star cast of musicians. While there will be a couple of pop acts, Godrich aims to make this recording more cutting edge. Artists he's aiming for include: Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, The Streets, The Darkness, Keane, Chris Martin, Damon Albarn, Dido, Beverly Knight, Jamelia, Goldie Lookin Chain, and Bono to sing "Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you," like only he can. Noel Gallagher, who is in LA recording the new Oasis album, declined, ending rumors that he would be reunited with former foe Damon Albarn. It will be interesting to see how Goodrich will blend Chris Martin with The Darkness. The release, expected by mid-November, may be followed by LIVE AID II, a sequel to the largest concert in history.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Are you gonna go my way?

It seems like musicians are having a hard time controlling their movements lately...

The insurance company of Joel Disend, the owner of the condominium below Lenny Kravitz's $13 million Manhattan abode, filed suit against Kravitz last Wednesday for "sustained catastrophic water damage" in the amount of $333,849.77. The water damage was allegedly the result of Kravitz's "negligence and carelessness" in "allowing a commode to become blocked, clogged and congested with various materials." What exactly are you flushing Lenny? Read the complaint here.

In August, the Dave Matthews Band, known for preaching environmental activism, allegedly dumped 800 pounds of human waste from their tour bus into the Chicago River. Approximately 100 passengers of a tour boat passing by at the time were showered with the band's feces. The Illinois Attorney General is suing the DMB for the big dump. While the case is pending, DMB is busy trying to make nice by donating $50,000 each to the Friends of the Chicago River and the Chicago Park District. Interestingly, the DMB once said in an interview with Greenlight, "[e]verything we do to the environment we do to ourselves." Read more about the incident here. Read a recently released letter from DMB to their fans and the people of Chicago here.

Ozzy Osbourne isn't being sued, but Sharon leaked to Page Six that he has so much trouble controlling his aim, that she has had to outfit all of their bathrooms with urinals. By the way, the British have a peculiar pronunciation of urinal, spelled phonetically it's something like this -- your-eye-nul. Though he is a Brit, there's really no telling how Ozzy pronounces the name of these fixtures now adorning his bathrooms.

The Postal Service go vinyl

Subpop records announced they are re-releasing the wildly successful debut from the Postal Service on vinyl. The Postal Service, which features Death Cab for Cutie's Benjamin Gibbard, originally released "Give Up" in February of 2003. The cd gained critical acclaim as well as a legion of fans for the Service and has since gone on to become Sub Pop's 2nd best-selling release ever, behind Nirvana's Bleach.

Subpop is even throwing in a little extra bonus with the package. The vinyl version of Give Up will be packaged with a bonus six song 12" featuring rare b-side singles and remixes, including: The Shins covering "We Will Become Silhouettes," Iron & Wine covering "Such Great Height" and The Postal Service covering The Flaming Lips' "Suddenly Everything Has Changed." Sounds like a great addition to my collection!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Tired of repetitive radio?

By now you've noticed the radio stations playing the same songs several times a day. Even the "cool" stations that play great modern and alternative music don't stray too far from a select play list. One of the reasons is that a form of "payola" still exists.

Record companies hire "independent" promoters to go around and "influence" what the radio stations are playing. It costs tens of thousands of dollars to hire one of these promoters to push a single song. Its no secret that these promoters have influence and some make annual payments to certain radio stations and claim the payments don't influence play lists. If you believe that, I have a large bridge in New York I'd like to sell you.

Things may change if New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer has his way. Spitzer is investigating the practice of hiring middlemen to influence which songs are heard on the radio. Spitzer's office has sent subpoenas to the largest record companies who control some 90+ percent of what we hear on the radio. Consolidation of all the music industry power into a few companies has already limited what he hear on the radio and see on television. Hopefully, the playing field can be leveled a bit for deserving indie artists looking for some much needed radio play.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Elliott Smith's From a Basement on the Hill


by Heather Huff
Elliott Smith is often compared to the Beatles, as if he were another artist who'd managed to find success by recycling, quite competently, the music of a pioneer (see, e.g., Oasis). But if Smith's music is
derivative, it is only in the hardest way: he quietly restored a substance and musicianship to popular music rarely seen since the Beatles.

His arrangements and melodies remind us that popular music can be intelligent, multi-layered and full-bodied, or it can be stripped and simply beautiful, or it can be all of these at once. His command of words, word structure, and the kind of emotion it takes to make lyrics poetic was equally accomplished. His ethereal voice speaks directly to you, capturing moments of melancholy in a way that is at once detached yet full of emotion, human yet not of this world. His voice and music are beautiful and delicate, but they deliver dark, brittle stories which give us a glimpse of the demons that haunted him – child abuse, heroin addiction, unrequited love, depression, attempted suicide, and institutionalization.

Elliott’s posthumously released From a Basement on the Hill, was anticipated to be his White Album. Because of his tragic death, one year ago yesterday -- an apparent suicide believed by some to be a murder -- it may become a Pink Moon or In Utero. Most of the reviews of this album focus on the prescient nature of his lyrics and dissect them for clues to his state of mind or even to feed conspiracy theories. As with others before him, they sensationalize the circumstances of his death to craft the story of a tragic, unlikely hero. All of this clouds the reality that this the greatest album of the year. While it is impossible to listen to this album absent the context of his life and death, it should be recognized as more than a sad farewell from a troubled musician.

Elliott wrote most of the songs on From a Basement on the Hill two or three years before his death at a time when most of his friends said he was most at peace. He ambitiously forged a new path with this album and created a unique sound that was not resigned or sad, but raw and gritty. He once said that he was perplexed to find that people find his music sad because making it makes him so happy. Once you get past the eerie lyrics and the feeling that he’s talking to you from the grave, you realize that he must have had a lot of fun making this album.

Smith worked on this album for almost four years. Unfortunately, it was not entirely completed at his death. Final production touches and mastering were done by his former producer Rob Schnapf and ex-girlfriend Joanna Bolme, currently the bassist for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Both had an intimate knowledge of Elliott’s musicianship and completed the album the way they believed he would have wanted. Predictably, there is already controversy over whether they added or changed too much. It’s clear though that this work is essentially Elliott Smith.

From a Basement on the Hill is every bit as orchestrated and full as XO and Figure 8, but with an undercurrent of deliberate chaos. Guitars are bigger, sometimes untuned, sometimes competing with the melody. Pianos are less vaudevillian and more mysterious. Drums echo and pop in and out unexpectedly. There is so much going on that you could listen a hundred times and hear something new each time. It all fits together to encase Smith's vulnerable and pure vocals.

The album opens with "Coast to Coast," which rises and falls back down again with a distorted bass line and ends with two spoken word performances played simultaneously. "A Fond Farewell," is what many reviewers tell us is a self-written eulogy, and the lyrics admittedly support that idea, but it could just as easily be his goodbye to heroin: "veins full of disappearing ink/vomiting in the kitchen sink/disconnecting from the missing link/this is not my life/it's just a fond farewell to a friend/it's not what I'm like." "Memory Lane," stands out with it’s delicate, sprite-like finger-picking. Each song could be a favorite and none will give you the urge to fast forward.

From a Basement on the Hill, could arguably be Elliott’s finest work. While maybe not as accessible, it is probably the most innovative and complex. Regardless, it is the final chapter of one of the greatest song-writers of our time. Rest in peace Elliott, we will miss you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

New QOTSA cd in 2005

Queens of the Stone Age posted some info on their forthcoming cd on their website. The band has nearly twenty songs recorded and is set to release the new material in March 2005. One can only hope they'll tour in support of this one. I saw them last year with some friends and they were absolutely amazing. They blew away "Zwan" who was also on the bill with an earsplitting set that left my jaw on the floor. Indeed, we were so blown away for QOTSA that we could only take a few Zwan songs and headed out the door satisfied that at least we'd seen one terrific band.

Finger Eleven back on road

After winning "Best Video" honors for "One Thing" at the MuchMusic Awards, Finger Eleven is back out on the road for the fall. Upcoming dates include, 10/29/2004 Northern Lights, Clifton NY Skillet; 10/30/2004 Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia PA; 11/2/2004 Irving Plaza, New York NY. More dates at FingerEleven.com.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Morrissey Lights Up Washington

by Velouria

To paraphrase the man himself, it was wet, it was Wednesday, it was Washington. DAR Constitution Hall, one of Washington D.C.'s many stately, columned buildings, was scented with a bizarre mixture of body odor, mildew, and patchouli. In its glory days as the original home of the National Symphony Orchestra, the hall was crowned with a glass ceiling for stargazing. On this wet Wednesday, it was invaded by a hodgepodge of people all there to worship the one star who united them: Morrissey, former crooner for the legendary band The Smiths and accomplished solo-performer in his own right. They were emo-kids, punks, thirty-something politicos, hippies, yuppies, and shockingly pale curmudgeons wearing all black on the outside to express how they feel on the inside. In Morrissey each of them finds a kindred spirit, a melancholy but mischievous soul who sees more beauty in sorrow and destruction than he sees in himself. Morrissey is the voice of his constituency, the disaffected and angst-ridden of the X, Y, and now Z generations, all represented that night in the heart of the Nation's capitol.

The show began with about 10 minutes of recorded chanting in the dark. It sounded mysterious, though likely because it was unintelligible. Throughout the chanting you could sense the audience willing it to stop, their mounting hysteria, and the looming question of whether he would play any Smiths songs. The chanting stopped and the opening bars of How Soon is Now? were met with screams as everyone realized, yes! there would be Smiths songs. Not that Morrissey hasn't put out an impressive amount of high quality solo material since The Smiths, but to ignore The Smiths is to ignore the songs that helped many of his fans deal with adolescence, the songs they came to love him by.

Morrissey does nothing halfway, so the two-story tall letters spelling M-O-R-R-I-S-S-E-Y and flashing in bright red and white ala Elvis in his Vegas days, should have surprised no one. He strutted on stage impeccably dressed in a crimson velour smoking jacket and sporting his signature 50's gelled-back hairdo. His voice was booming (without shouting), yet sweet. It was remarkably unstrained even though he was apparently recovering from a cold. His band, all wearing black pants and black t-shirts with "Jobraith" in hot pink, were excellent. You have to love how Morrissey always dresses those poor guys a uniform, they become his own twisted satirical version of Robert Palmer's red lipstick girls.

Jobraith, for those who were wondering and didn't know, was a rocker from the 1970's who proudly proclaimed himself a "true fairy" and is believed to be the first openly gay rock musician. He was highly regarded by music industry insiders and critics and he was even touted to be the next David Bowie. In fact, in anticipation of breaking the next big thing, his label, Elektra, spent unprecedented wads of cash on a super-saturating promotional strategy and tour, but he never broke. His story is still cited by music industry execs as evidence of the perils of excess and over promotion. Jobraith lived out his career as a lounge singer and died in 1983 of AIDS in a pyramid on the top of New York's legendary Hotel Chelsea, where profound and struggling artists alike have gone to live and die for decades. Obviously Morrissey was making a statement by having his band wear this uniform. But was he celebrating Jobraith or comparing himself to the tragic figure? I would guess both.

Despite himself, Morrissey would go on that wet Wednesday to prove his worth as an icon. He walked around a lot scratching his head, waving at fans and shaking hands. He had a few campy poses, but was mostly relaxed and playing along with the crowd. After First of the Gang to Die, he took a bow and said to the crowd: "Thank you, thank you and cheers to you for thanking me for thanking you. Yes, I am afraid this is a Pop concert -- and you thought you were sophisticated." He and his band then lit into, November Spawned A Monster, in which the always hip and evolving Moz changed the word "walkman" to "ipod." Other highlights of the show included the crowd-pleasing Bigmouth Strikes Again; Irish Blood, English Heart, a new track which rocks a little more that you probably expected from the old man; Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, with a superb piano intro, but sadly no accompanying strings; Everyday is Like Sunday, incredible even though again, no strings; and the short but sweet encore.

You hear a lot about Morrissey being a bit of a prima donna and not pleasing the crowd, either by playing short sets, not playing Smiths songs, or otherwise being a bit of a brat, but at this show there was none of that. He fed off of the crowd's adulation and loved them right back, particularly with the encore. It was only one song, but it wasn't just any song, it was an amazing version of The Smith's There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. So amazing that it compelled several audience members to jump up on stage one by one. It wasn't really stage-diving, more like hopping up and waiting to be tackled by one of the bald 400 pound security guys flanking both sides of the stage. Morrissey seemed pleased to have visitors on stage and even made a point of shaking all of their hands. At one point while walking across the stage, he saw one guy behind him out of the corner of his eye about to be carried off by a 400 pounder. Morrissey thrilled the crowd by turning around and walking the length of the stage to stop the security guards and kiss the guy's hand. The climax, however, came as Morrissey ripped off his shirt at the very end. It wasn't the most attractive chest I've ever seen, but the crowd loved it. And with a voice like that, who cares?

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!