Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Live Aid 2 in '05?

On the heels of the re-recording of "Do they know its Christmas..." - reports have Brian May of Queen talking to Bob Geldolf about celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Live Aid with another concert.

For those of you too young to have seen the original in 1985 it was quite cool. It'd be great if they could pull one off that good again.

Artists to Watch

This weekly Earvolution feature highlights up and coming artists we think you should get to know. We are always on the lookout for emerging talent, so if you have any recommendations, or if you would like to submit your own music for review, contact us at hilltownmedia@gmail.com.

The Ashtray Hearts

The Ashtray Hearts of Free Election Records (their own self-started label) are another incredibly talented band from the diverse Minneapolis music scene. They will probably be labeled alt-country, but they are more than just another reiteration of twang accompanied by slide guitar and my-dog-just-died lyrics. Ok, so the lyrics are morose, but they are partnered with music better characterized as roots rock or folk and infinitely more substantial than most of what falls under the "alt-country" umbrella these days. They throw a bit of everything into the pot -- accordian, trumpet, banjo, piano, guitars, drums -- and are masterful enough to pull it all off. Check out mp3's of their singles "Still Shaking" and "Necessary Planes" here.

Calla

Calla of Young God Records is probably the most established band we have featured in Artists to Watch, as they have been around since 1998 and toured with the likes of Interpol, Sigur Ros, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. We have nonetheless included the band in this week's edition because if they've managed to elude your radar, you really must remedy that situation pronto. Calla, formerly of Texas and now firmly planted in New York, is a three piece ensemble whose sound is reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain, but with an edgier, darker, and perhaps more timely approach. Check out a mp3 from their new release Televise and a live performance and interview from KEXP here. The live KEXP sessions are acoustic and very, very good.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Chocolate-covered Thom Yorke

A new Oxfam campaign "Ever felt dumped on?" brings awareness to their demand that large companies "make trade fair" by dumping farm products on celebrities and capturing the fun in a series of photographs. The campaign features Thom Yorke covered in chocolate, Chris Martin buried in rice, Michael Stipe drenched in milk and Colin Firth soaked in coffee.













Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Jonny Greenwood and Jarvis Cocker to Cameo in Harry Potter

Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp will appear in Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire. The duo will appear in the film as members of the band "Wyrd Sisters," who play at the Hogwarts winter dance. The parts were originally slated for Nick McCarthy and Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, but they pulled out after their backstage fistfight in France.

Director Alfonso Cuaron brought in Ian Brown of the Stone Roses to cameo in the last Harry Potter film Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban. Nice music taste Alfonso!

U2: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb


by Heather Huff
U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is the guitar album the band has promised for years. The Edge takes control of nearly every song and refuses to relinquish his dominance. That's not to say that HTDAAB is a loud riff-heavy album, but the guitars do set the tempo. With the Edge in the driver's seat, U2 delivers an album that is raw, bluesy, beautifully chaotic and less pop than the bulk of their previous work.

It may take a while for many of the U2 faithful to embrace the concept of HTDAAB, if they do at all. This is not an album saturated with the great, driving U2 melodies and choruses, which dig deep into your brain and refuse to come out. In fact, the song structure occasionally falls apart and the vocals sometimes fight with the instrumentation. Some will even find Bono's vocals on this album flawed, as his voice is hoarse and raspy at times. But don't miss the point, these imperfections allow the incredible emotional force of this album to shine through. You would lose that with over-production. This album's craftsmanship is increasingly apparent with each listen. If you can refrain from focusing on the tiny flaws here and there, you'll be able to see the brilliance.

The album opens with the danceable, almost punk-rock "Vertigo," kicked off by Bono with a defiant "uno, dos, tres, catorce." One, two, three, fourteen? What? Did he have a few too many pints? Could there be some greater meaning? Speculation on the internet is all over the place, but the theory holding the most water is that the 14 represents HTDAAB, as it is the band's fourteenth release. Regardless, it works. The foundation is simple, the guitar riffs are heavy and the song is fun. Just don't expect the rest of the album to sound like this.

The classic U2 ballad on the album is "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own," written by Bono for his father who died in 2001. The song starts at a slow tempo driven by acoustic guitar, then steadily builds and climaxes towards the end as the sound thickens and Bono starts belting it out. While Bono's vocals aren't perfect on this one, it's a good thing that the producers fought any urges to enhance them or ask for additional takes. His raw emotion comes bleeding through in a way it probably wouldn't in a perfect studio version.

The anti-war anthem, "Love and Peace or Else" begins with a bass/synthesizer distortion which may cause some to reach for the skip button. You really shouldn't, as you'd miss the albums most innovative track. Five different producers touched this song, including Brian Eno, who also pulled synthesizer duty. (See the liner notes here). The distorted intro eventually gives way to a heavy rhythm, which morphs into gritty blues and then evolves into something increasingly lighter as the guitars rise. You'll need to listen to this one often and at full volume.

"Original of the Species" is the outlier on this guitar-based album. Those who don't care for the album as a whole will likely favor this song. It is driven by vocals and piano and, unlike most of the other songs, has a true chorus. Ringing guitars chime in midway to complement one of Bono's most powerful vocal efforts on HTDAAB.

You'll hear a lot of people say that HTDAAB sounds like early U2. While it does have the raw emotion and loose production which defined their early work, the sound is new and fresh. No, this is not U2's greatest album, but it is nonetheless important. It is testament to the fact that U2 still has the heart and drive of a newly formed, struggling band. Unlike many other bands that crank out sloppy, uninspired albums late in their career, 26-year old U2 fights as hard on their latest album as they did with their first.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Sir Paul McCartney to perform at the Superbowl

Fearing another fiasco ala Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake, the NFL has opted to go with a more G-rated halftime show featuring Paul McCartney for Superbowl XXXIX. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said about the performance planning, "[w]e’ve looked at all facets of the show including talent selection, song selection and costume selection, to ensure we wouldn’t have a repeat of what happened last year." It's good to know that the NFL is working hard to save us all from a McCartney "wardrobe malfunction." McCartney said about the appearance, "[t]here’s nothing bigger than being asked to perform at the Super Bowl. We’re looking forward to rocking the millions at home and in the stadium." Read more about the performance here and here.

McCartney just finished collaborating on Band Aid's remake of "Do they know it's Christmas?," which features the knightly one on bass instead of vocals. He is also recording a new solo album with Band Aid 2004 and long-time Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich.

Related Stories: Band Aid back with less Pop; Bono tells Robbie Williams and Justin Hawkins to Walk On

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time

I gave up on Rolling Stone's "Greatest" lists last year when I saw their Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. They appropriately put Hendrix in the top spot, but quickly sunk their credibility by placing Kurt Cobain at Number 12 and Jonny Greenwood all the way down at 59. If you disagree with my reasoning, just look at the list yourself, I guarantee you'll find something you disagree with.

So, I approached the recently released 500 Greatest Songs of all time list with a good measure of skepticism. The voters included 172 singers, songwriters, musicians, producers, music critics and industry executives who were asked to focus on the music of the 60's and 70's. That focus is apparent. The breakdown of songs per decade looks like this: 40's = 2; 50's = 71; 60's = 204; 70's = 142; 80's = 57; 90's = 21; 00's = 3. The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones account for more than 1/5 of the entire list with 117 songs. Dylan snagged the top spot with "Like A Rollin' Stone."

While the list appropriately awards the Beatles, Dylan and the Stones for revolutionizing songwriting, it undervalues or outright ignores many subsequent groundbreakers. According to the group assembled by Rolling Stone, the past 14 years brought us only 24 songs worthy of the top 500 list. The only songs up to snuff from this decade belong to Eminem and Outkast. With the exception of an over-hyped "Smells Like Teen Spirit" weighing in at Number 9, grunge was largely overlooked. None of the other bands responsible for breaking the infamous Seattle movement, such as Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden, made the list. The few recognized pioneers who came after the Beatles/Stones/Dylan triumvirate, such the Pixies, the Smiths, R.E.M. and Pavement only had one or two songs on the list.

Even the Pop music Generation X grew up with didn't fare well, as Michael Jackson only has two songs on the list, Madonna one and Whitney Houston zero. I'm not arguing that songs such as Jackson's "Thriller" and Houston's "I Will Always Love You" should be included, but their absence is notable considering songs of Dionne Warwick, Sonny and Cher, and R. Kelly made the list.

So read the list with a grain of salt Gen-X, Y and Z, this is your parents' list compiled by your parents' magazine. They do throw you a huge Nirvana bone, but don't expect them to recognize much of music that shaped your life. But those under 40 shouldn't be discouraged, the list has enormous value as a reference to songs from an era which shaped our musical landscape, songs everyone should know. If bringing awareness to songs in danger of being forgotten in this short attention span, MTV-world is the purpose of this list, Rolling Stone succeeded.

Other Artists notably absent: Talking Heads, the Supremes (though Diana Ross has 3 songs on the list), Nick Drake, Gram Parsons, Don McLean, Sting, Elliott Smith, the Pretenders, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Ella Fitzgerald, Carly Simon, Van Halen, Morrissey, Duran Duran, 10,000 Maniacs, Bon Jovi and the Dead Kennedys.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Artists to Watch

This weekly Earvolution feature highlights up and coming artists we think you should get to know. We are always on the lookout for emerging talent, so if you have any recommendations, or if you would like to submit your own music for review, contact us at hilltownmedia@gmail.com.

Goner

A while back, Caitlin Cary told us in an interview to go out of our way to discover an up and coming band from Raleigh, N.C. named Goner. Wow, I can't believe it took me so long to heed her genius; I may never stop kicking myself. Their sophomore release from Bifocal Media, How good we had it, is Pop college style. I am hesitant to tell you that they have no guitar player, because it might take you a while to figure that out otherwise. Their sound is nonetheless full and key-board driven with strong bass, solid drums and Michael Stipe-like vocals. Check them out here.

Girlyman

Uh huh, that's right, Girlyman. Stop laughing because this trio of two women and one girlyman from Brooklyn is no joke. Their gorgeous harmonies blend male and female voices in a way that is reminiscent of Peter, Paul & Mary, but much more modern. Their arrangements are multi-layered, weaving in slide-guitars and mandolins. Lyrically they are as quirky as their name suggests, but their hooks do not disappoint. Their debut, Remember who I am, was self-released on Clever Shark Records. Check it out here.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Rusted Root releases new cd

Rusted Root is one of the most celebrated live acts and has just released its first live album, a two-disc set featuring new songs "Jack Kerouac," "Ecstatic Drums," and a cover of Neil Young’s "Powderfinger." All totaled, the 2-cd set features 22 songs that span the group's more than 12-year career, ranging from such early faves-turned live staples as "Cruel Sun," "Ecstasy," "Martyr," "Cat Turned Blue," and the hit single "Send Me On My Way" to "Blue Diamonds" and the title track from the band's last studio effort, 2002's "Welcome To My Party."

The cd stays true to Rusted Roots' Eastern and African influences, and features the
Pittsburgh-born band's original line-up: Michael Glabicki (lead vocals, guitar), Jenn Wertz (vocals, guitars, percussion), Liz Berlin (vocals, guitars, percussion), Jim Donovan (drums, percussion, vocals), Patrick Norman (bass,
guitar, baritone vocals, percussion) and John Buynak (electric guitar, percussion, flute).

Weird Al Talks With George and Paul

George Harrison



Paul McCartney

Weird Al Interviews Mick and Keith

Mick Jagger



Keith Richards

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

U2 Day Reminder

In anticipation of next week's release of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, MTV, VH1, the BBC, and the NME are offering webcasts of the new album today. The NME is currently streaming the album here. MTV.com and VH1.com will do so this afternoon.

U2 will also dominate the air waves of BBC1 radio today, with a two-hour live performance from Dublin on Zane Lowe's show, guest appearance on Jo Whiley's show, and a heavy presence on the station's play list. BBC1 radio is broadcast live here. If you miss it, BBC1 usually posts recordings of their live shows, so you'll probably be able to listen in after today as well.

Monday, November 15, 2004

White and Nerdy: Weird Al

Weird Al Interviews Snoop Dogg

Snoop

Death Cab for Cutie called up to the Majors

Seattle-based Death Cab for Cutie has left Barsuk Records for a long-term, worldwide contract with Atlantic Records. A move particularly surprising for the seven-year old band with a cult-like, indie following. According to DCFC guitarist/producer Chris Walla, Atlantic offered up a contract which maintains their creative freedom, but places more resources at their disposal. Uh-huh, no kidding -- the deal by all accounts is huge, but some unnamed sources claim DCFC pulled in 1.2 million. Don't feel too bad for Barsuk, as the label retains the rights to DCFC's existing catalog as well as an upcoming live album and will release any future albums on vinyl. DCFC's most recent album Transatlanticism, which has sold 225,000 units to date, is an indie label cash-cow which will likely grow much fatter when the Atlantic marketing machine takes hold of the band.

Perhaps fearing a fan revolt, singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard posted an explanation on the DCFC website. He thanks Barsuk profusely and downplays the move's potential impact on their musical integrity with the following:

Here is a detailed list of the changes that will occur now that we are on Atlantic Records:1) Next to the picture of Barsuk holding a 7", there will be the letter "A" on both the spine and back of our upcoming albums. I hope all of you can deal with this list.

Postal Service fans may still have something to worry about as DCFC's move to a major label may distract Gibbard from his critically acclaimed side project on Sub Pop Records.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Saturday Night Live and Redemption

Modest Mouse will appear on Saturday Night Live tonight, performing "Ocean Breathes Salty" and "Float On." Liam Neeson will guest host.

Speaking of SNL, those of you silly enough to buy an Ashlee Simpson CD when her daddy and MTV told you she had indie cred can now exchange the lip-synching hoedown queen's CD for something better. The Horrified Observers of Pedestrian Entertainment (H.O.P.E.), Rhino Records and the Knitting Factory will trade you for another artist, such as Elvis Costello, the Ramones, Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin or the Grateful Dead. Bring your CD to the Knitting Factory in NYC or visit www.hopeinamerica.com for more information on making the exchange.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Artists to Watch

This weekly Earvolution feature highlights up and coming artists we think you should get to know. We are always on the lookout for emerging talent, so if you have any recommendations, or if you would like to submit your own music for review, contact us at hilltownmedia@gmail.com.

This week's batch of "Artists to watch" has a little something for everyone. Enjoy.


Justin Jones

Justin Jones is a brilliant new singer song-writer from southern Virginia. He has an easy-like-Sunday-morning sound reminiscent of Gram Parsons and early Tom Waits. Whether you call it alt-country or hillbilly soul, his debut Blue Dreams is a heartfelt collection of story-telling songs delivered with a stunning authenticity. What distinguishes Jones from the bevy of singer song-writers of today is his ability to tune out the world, to lose himself in his craft. While others are busy proving themselves radio-worthy and struggling with the weight of their own self-consciousness, Jones delivers his haunting stories with the poise of someone who will be content with his music whether he becomes a star or not. Because of this, he is much more poignant and heartbreaking than those other guys who are trying too hard to capture something that comes to Jones naturally. Check him out here and get on the bandwagon before he explodes.

The Joggers

These days you don't get more hipster indie-rock than Portland, Oregon and Star Time International Records. The Joggers hail from both. The band is art-rock more in the style of 80's college rock than the other indie-darling bands on their label, such as the French Kicks and The Futureheads. What sets these guys apart and makes you say "whoa," is their four-part harmonies. Who does that? Well no one, not since the 1800's anyway. Check them out here. These guys are smart, but they are also fun.

The Teeth

Appropriately, The Teeth, complete with a pair of twins sharing lead vocal duties, come to us from the City of Brotherly Love. Their sound is experimental and quirky, earning references to Pavement and the Talking Heads. At times they are piano-driven and airy, but they can also be guitar-based and frantic. Either way, they are refreshingly interesting and worth checking out. Discover them here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Bono tells Robbie Williams and Justin Hawkins to Walk On

When we last reported about the re-recording of Band Aid's "Do they know it's Christmas?" on the twentieth anniversary of the original, we believed it to be understood that Bono would again sing the song's most memorable line "tonight thank God it's them instead of you." After all, who among the second round cast could possibly do it better? Apparently Robbie Williams and Justin Hawkins of the Darkness presumed they could. Yikes! Well don't fret, Bono quickly put them both in their place. Williams told The Sun, "Everyone wanted it. But before anyone could start getting an ego about it, Bono just said, 'That's my line and I'm doing it - so the rest of you can f*** off.' That settled it!" Yes it did. Read more about the incident and the upcoming recording here.

Related Earvolution Story: Band Aid back with less Pop

Update: Be sure to mark your calendars for next week's U2 Super Tuesday. MTV.com and VH1.com will premier U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb one week prior to it's release. Check out their artist page on VH1.com here and MTV.com here for more information. U2 will also dominate the air waves of BBC1 radio on Tuesday, with a two-hour live performance from Dublin on Zane Lowe's show, guest appearance on Jo Whiley's show, and a heavy presence on the station's play list. BBC1 radio is broadcast live here, so listen can to it live even if you are not in the UK. If you miss it, BBC1 usually posts recordings of their live shows, so you'll probably be able to listen to it after Tuesday as well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Bright Eyes Scores Two Big Ones for Indie Labels

Bright Eyes of Omaha's Saddle Creek made music history last week as the singles "Lua" and "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," held the number one and two spots respectively on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart. The "band," with a perpetually fluid line-up of musicians too good to be so disturbingly anonymous, has only one constant -- singer/songwriter/ mastermind Conor Oberst. At the ripe young age of 24, Oberst became the first artist since Puff Daddy to have a hand in the top two singles. Puffy's moment at the top occurred in 1997 with Faith Evans at number one with "I'll Be Missing You" and his collaboration with Mase "Mo Money Mo Problems" at number two. The feat is especially incredible for an indie label artist and bodes well for indies as they face an uncertain landscape of major label consolidation. Only time will tell, but it seems to give credence to the argument that a music industry with fewer, leaner major labels makes room for stronger and more competitive indies.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Cream to Rise Again for 2005 Reunion


The reunions just keep on coming. The latest to follow the comeback trend is 1960s supergroup Cream. The group, comprised of Eric Clapton (guitars, vocals), Ginger Baker (drums), and Jack Bruce (bass), will reportedly reunite for multiple shows at London's Royal Albert Hall, the site of their pre-breakup swan song in 1968. In their two short years Cream had enough of an impact to warrant induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. They are after all responsible for one of the most memorable guitar riffs in history found in their megahit "Sunshine of your Love."

Weird Al Interviews Billy Joel

Billy Joel

Monday, November 08, 2004

Rock against Landmines

If you're in the Baltimore and DC areas and want to help a good cause and see some solid indie bands at the same time check out the Rock Against Landmines Benefit shows at either the Royal in Baltimore this Thursday, November 11th or the Velvet Lounge on the 18th.

Both shows feature Baltimore's Elise Major (click to listen) and The Streamers from New York City. Come check it out, I'll be at one or both!

John Lennon Acoustic: An Opportunity to Play Along with a Legend

by Heather Huff



Many will probably dismiss the latest John Lennon release, Acoustic, as another batch of songs yanked out of the vault and thrown together by Yoko to ad to her billions. Half of the songs on this release are clearly demos and half of those are poor quality, so unfortunately that belief may resonate. I don't know the woman, so although I find her vilification unwarranted; I'm not going to pretend to know her motivations. But that's all irrelevant. This album should be recognized for its enormous value. It is a gift to John Lennon diehards, singer-song writers, and fledgling guitarists.

As the title suggests, all of the songs are performed by Lennon alone with his acoustic guitar. "Watching the Wheels" is the clear standout and reason enough to give this album 4 stars. It is simply song writing at its best and should be studied by every aspiring song writer. This stripped down acoustic version also seems like a more appropriate canvas for his feelings of leaving his Beatles super-stardom and the machine of the music industry for a life of domesticity with his family. There was definitely something lost between the recording of this version and the version on Double Fantasy.

Rough around the edges demos, such as "God," give us invaluable insight into his song writing process. There are a few live songs on this release as well, including a beautiful version of "Imagine," thrown in to hook those casual listeners who know little of his post-Beatles work. Hopefully along the way they will discover other greats such as a soulful, stirring version of the proletariat anthem, "Working Class Hero."

No, Acoustic is not perfect, but to listen to this album is to eavesdrop on a studio session with one of the greatest song writers of the century. This is what his Unplugged might sound like; or, rather, this is what his rehearsal for Unplugged might sound like. Despite it's rough edges, or maybe because of them, Acoustic is still greater than 95 percent of what MTV tries to package as brilliant song writing.

Now, I have saved the really incredible thing about Acoustic for last: Yoko dedicates it to "the future guitarists," saying, "John always played from his heart. I hope you will learn to do the same." Then she does something amazing and, as far as I know, unprecedented: she included the chords along with the lyrics for all of the songs, with chord diagrams in the back! What a beautiful, generous woman. We can only hope she starts a trend.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Artists to Watch

This new Earvolution feature will highlight up and coming artists we think you should get to know. We are always on the lookout for emerging talent, so if you have any recommendations, or if you would like to submit your own music for review, contact us at hilltownmedia@gmail.com

This week's batch of "Artists to watch" is on the mellow side in the hopes that we can all start to heal post-election. Crank up these three hot new releases and escape.


West Indian Girl

For a band named after a strain of LSD purported to induce tribal hallucinations, they are every bit as trippy as you would expect them to be. But don't think jam band, think experimental Brit-pop southern California style. West Indian Girl artfully blends acoustic guitars, pianos, and straightforward melodies with experimental sound effects and samples. If that scares you, don't fear, their dip into electronica is not so overdone that it muddies the solid foundation of their accomplished musicianship. Check out their new self-titled release on Astralwerks Records.

Monopoli

As of right now this Washington, DC based band is unsigned ... but you can count on that changing soon. Their tremendous following and the deafening buzz surrounding their recent debut has caught the eye of several music industry insiders. These guys are clearly professionals and they have come out swinging with a solid, well-produced first effort. Monopoli's self-titled EP is indie-pop at its best -- instantly addictive with catchy hooks, but original and substantive enough to satisfy your inner music-snob. Their sound is stripped-down and pure and incredibly captivating. They will grab you with heart-breaking vocals and a Coldplay-like ability to emote, but in their own new refreshing way. Catch them now before they make their big break.

Steven Kattenbraker

Steven Kattenbraker is an emerging singer-songwriter compared to such greats as Elliott Smith and Leonard Cohen. Those comparisons should tell you that this is a songwriter to take seriously. His self-titled release delivers poetic lyrics with a soothing baritone voice, accompanied by an expertly played acoustic guitar. Check him out now; he'll restore your faith in the singer-songwriter genre.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Sleater Kinney signs with Subpop

Perrenial indie rock favorites Sleater Kinney signed a new deal with Subpop last week. The Sleater girls will head to the studio this month to begin recording new tunes with producer Dave Fridmann (former bassist for Mercury Rev and producer/co-producer/engineer for The Flaming Lips, Low, Weezer, Mogwai and The Delgados).

Look for the new cd in late spring/early summer 2005. These ladies have ground it out for a decade and hopefully they'll get a boost out of this change of scenery.


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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!