Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Yearvolution: 2008 In Review

By: David Schultz

Mostly owing to December’s drastically reduced release schedule, most writers turn their creativity towards quantifying and evaluating the best and the brightest albums of the previous year. No matter how persuasively anyone tries to present their list as a scientific undertaking, it really is a purely subjective endeavor. Rather than add to the quagmire and confuse Donald Rumsfeld with Earvolution’s Albums of the Year, the following are the albums that will most likely be the ones we think of when we look back at 2008. Like them, love them or hate them, we’ll likely remember them.

Girl Talk: Feed The Animals
So good, it might possibly be illegal; DJ Greg Gillis’ mash-up galore of classic rock, eighties riffs, pop fluff, hip-hop and rap pushes the fair use doctrine to its limits. On each track, Gillis provides fodder for a fast paced game of name that tune by transforming anywhere from ten to twenty songs into one. Anyone who thinks DJs just spin records needs to listen to Gillis’ mix-and-match and take stock of their beliefs. It's tough to listen to Gillis' work without smiling in acknowledgement of his creativity and Feed The Animals is one of the most entertaining records of the year.

Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
Incorporating African rhythms into briskly paced indie-pop songs with an ease that unsettled many traditionalists, the Ivy league foursome scored a modest hit with the formal release of their self-titled album. Over bouncy ska-punk beats, Ezra Koenig and his Columbia University classmates wax rhapsodic over the thrills of fleeing Cape Cod and revel in their knowledge of obscure punctuation. In January, this was the album with the most buzz and at year end, Hot Chip revived interest by enlisting Peter Gabriel to namecheck himself on their cover of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa."

The Raconteurs: Consolers Of The Lonely
With Consolers Of The Lonely, Jack White helped turn his (don't call it a) side project into one of the best bands in America. The Racs are a group effort but the dirty keyboards of "You Don't Understand Me," the tongue-in-cheek misery of "Rich Kid Blues" and the Southern saga of "Carolina Drama" bear all the hallmarks of Jack White's love for revved-up blues and electrified Americana. Dropping this bombshell just three weeks after recording it, Brendan Benson and The Greenhornes' rhythm section show the glorious heights White can reach when he gets to work with a fine bunch of musicians.

Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago
Lo-fi atmosphere was all the rage this year with Department Of Eagles, Beach House, Deerhunter/Atlas Sound and Fleet Foxes (see below) recording powerful albums that evoke a cerebral and viscerally emotional response without pumping up the adrenalin. Infused with the aching vibe of the wintry Wisconsin solitude in which it was recorded, For Emma, Forever Ago gets it meditative and pensive vibe from Justin Vernon's haunting vocals. One of the more talked about indies of 2007, Jagjaguwar gave For Emma a proper release in 08 and it's appeared at or near the top of practically every major year end list.

The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
The impulsive, reckless characters that populate Craig Finn's fictional universe get a bit of a come-uppance on Stay Positive. While playfully mocking the hardcore ethos of unifying the scene, Finn sardonically catalogs the consequences of impetuously motivated bad decision making while Tad Kubler and the rest of The Hold Steady revel in arena-rock bombast. Longtime fans of will argue that Stay Positive isn't The Hold Steady's best; even so, it surpasses much of the rest of 2008.

Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy
After 13 years, Axl Rose's eagerly anticipated, long awaited and often ridiculed Chinese Democracy finally received an ignominious release at Best Buy stores nationwide. The overwhelming liner notes detail Rose’s meticulousness and while the scrupulous attention to detail didn’t detract from Chinese Democracy’s impact, it surely didn’t add anything either. The album has its moments - namely "I.R.S." and "There Was A Time" - but for the most part GnR fans waited more than a decade for a dud.

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III

And now we all know Auto-Tune.

(Someone wipe that schmutz off the kid's face)

TV On The Radio: Dear Science
When Prince dreamt about partying at the apocalypse, this was the house band he envisioned. With critical ears gravitating towards lo-fi fare, TV On The Radio put out the year's best that possesses a funky soul and a definitive pulse. One of the wildest rides of the year, Dear Science is also one of the hardest to describe. Creating populist art rock out of ambient synths, elaborate bass lines and Tunde Adebimpe's hipster-howl vocals, TVOTR's follow-up to Return To Cookie Mountain has them poised to reign as the band of 2009.

She & Him: Volume One
Scarlett Johannson’s box office appeal may dwarf Zooey Deschanel’s but in the world of indie-rock, the busty blonde’s album of Tom Waits covers wouldn’t even get her on the same sold-out stage as She & Him. While easy to damn the album with faint praise by pointing out how Deschanel doesn't suck, Volume One deserves much better. No vanity project, Deschanel (She) more than holds her own with M Ward (Him) on this compilation of the actress' wonderfully written folk songs. A throwback to an older era, Volume One is a quaint little pearl.

Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
Notwithstanding the plaudits received by Bon Iver and TV On The Radio, the Fleet Foxes debut album is pretty much the consensus “2008 Album of the Year.” The opening salvo to “White Winter Hymnal” may have reached the supersaturation point but the rest of the Foxes rustic, fireside harmonies are as timeless as those of the Beach Boys. Even more remarkable, the Seattle collective is barely out of their teens. Pastoral folky music hasn't sounded this good in years.

My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges
In a perfect world, My Morning Jacket's fifth studio album would be the runaway album of the year and the band would be continuously gracing the cover of Rolling Stone instead of Britney Spears. Alas, shaggy looking Kentuckians don't sell as many magazines as pseudo-psychotic starlets. Evil Urges briskly mixes together psychedelic Southern jams, Crazy Horse inspired rockers, a firm grasp of the absurd, a surprising aptitude for funk and a fine knack for light country fare but that no longer sets you at the head of the class.

Santogold: Santogold
If Pineapple Express hadn’t mainstreamed M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” Santogold would have been the M.I.A. of 2008. With the exception of the bizarre “I vomit gold dust” cover, Santi White, a former A&R rep puts her own advice to good use, creating an urban album without resorting to traditional hip-hop or R&B. Santogold is at its best on songs like "Creator" and "L.E.S. Artistes" where White lets her trenchant wit flow and discourses on poseurs and the creative act - observations that she may have been holding in check for quite some time.

Hercules & Love Affair: Hercules & Love Affair
If Santogold played the role of M.I.A., Hercules & Love Affair stepped into the shoes of LCD Soundsystem for 2008. Bolstered by the ethereal, haunting vocals of Antony Hegarty on “Time Will” and “Blind,” H&LA's suave dance beats would have sounded just fine blasting through the haze of Studio 54. Hercules & Love Affair is a cut above the disposable dance music that populates the clubs but that probably won't stop everyone from finding next year's model in 2009.

The Black Crowes: Warpaint
Returning to the studio after a seven year absence, The Black Crowes may not have recaptured the greasy majesty of Amorica or Southern Harmony and Musical Companion but they did resurrect the ghosts of their glorious past. By finding a spot in the nest for North Mississippi Allstar guitarist Luther Dickinson, the Crowes kick started their creative juices and seem rejuvenated and reinvigorated. Perhaps a little too excited over the Crowes' return, Maxim jumped the gun, seriously criticizing Warpaint before listening to it.

The Black Keys: Attack & Release
Long the XX chromosomed version of The White Stripes, the dastardly duo from Akron, Ohio broadened their sound beyond the drums and guitars to create a virtual swamp of Delta blues. With Danger Mouse behind the board, The Keys (Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney) kept the raw material earmarked for Ike Turner before his death and transformed it into their own viscous stew. Raw and gritty, Attack & Release does for Midwestern blues what No Age did for L.A. hardcore: remind everyone it still exists.

Nas: Untitled
Oh what a difference a name makes. Nas’ proposed title for his unnamed release prompted such a virulent response from Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other African-American leaders that Def Jam may have refused to release it under its original name. The resumption of the debate over a word, which received renewed vigor after Michael Richards' ill-advised rant, worked in Nas' favor as the mainstream media paid much more attention to Nas and his impracticably titled album than it normally would have.

The Felice Brothers: The Felice Brothers
The band of brothers from upstate New York offer raucously paced, Americana-style rock and roll much like Bob Dylan & The Band in their Basement Tapes days. Rollicking and gregarious storytellers, the Felice's first major league release is a freewheeling affair with songs like "Frankie's Gun" and "Love Me Tenderly" sounding not that far removed from the street corners and saloons that are their birthplace.

Dead Confederate: Wrecking Ball
Is it wrong to refer to an album as a grunge classic if it wasn't released in the early 90s? Hopefully not because Dead Confederate’s passionate debut album may be just that. Lead singer Hardy Morris’ tortured howl insinuates itself into the very fabric of each song and his passion equals that of Kurt Cobain. Guitarist Walker Howle gets "Shadow The Wall" working on the same wavelength as Pearl Jam's finest and "The Rat" and "Get Out" are cut from the same cloth as Neil Young's epic sagas of the Seventies.

Vivian Girls: Vivian Girls
Every year the blogosphere anoints at least one band as the saviours of rock and roll. Enough visions of the second coming have been declared that we're up to something like the thirty-ninth resurrection. This year's recipient of Internet love was the estrogen laden trio from Brooklyn known as the Vivian Girls. Their self-titled debut is full of quick punchy tunes that are long on girl group harmonies and reverb laden guitars but short on refined recording techniques. They definitely struck a chord as "Where Do You Run To" was the de rigueur mp3 for all the hip blogs.

IT SEEMS UNSATISFYING to do a year end wrap-up post without mentioning a bunch of my favorites from the last 12 months. I'm not one to indulge in self denial, so . . .

White Denim: Exposion
One of the freshest and best albums of 2008, White Denim takes everything that is great about the blues, garage psychedelia, art-school pretension, punk rock and hardcore, distills it down to its essence and lets it burst forth in concentrated three minute bursts. Exposion exposes the method to their madness by forgoing the careening free-for-all environment of their live performances and showing a dedication to songcraft. "Shake Shake Shake" is an earth shattering two and a half minutes and the epic "Sitting" that closes the album is as much Television as it is Beach Boys.

Blues & Lasers: Blues & Lasers
The most outstanding classic rock album of the year has its roots in the granola filled mountains of Vermont. In the five songs that stretch out over the album's forty-five minutes, Scott Tournet leads Blues & Lasers through a Delta blues odyssey ripped from the Seventies AOR era. Evolving out of the Scott Tournet Band, Blues & Lasers has Tournet and his fellow Nocturnals Bryan Dondero and Matt Burr teaming up with Vermont’s Benny Yurco and Steve Sharon to unleash a grandiose dose of juke joint heat and revive a genre that has long been MIA.

Tyler Ramsey: A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea
Released in mid January, Ramsey's debut album got lost in the shuffle of all the phenomenal lo-fi releases that followed. Exploring different ranges of quietude, Ramsey draws just as much power from the silence between notes as he does with his exquisite acoustic guitar. "A Long Dream" and "Ships" drift dreamily along and "Please Stop Time" seems like it could implode on its own gentle fragility but it's the multi-part "Once In Your Life" that concludes a Harvest inspired mid-section that turns A Long Dream from atmosphere to accomplishment.

A.A. Bondy: American Hearts
Bondy's wonderfully compelling debut revels in its contradictions. Religious imagery overshadows a great deal of American Hearts but the talented Alabama born guitarist doesn't seem interested in conversion or salvation. A warm and inviting album, Bondy's masterful skill at utilizing the vagueness of language works wonders on "American Hearts," taking American slogans of indomitability and turning them inward on their purveyors in a plea for compassion. NPR knew what they were doing when they slated Bondy for their SXSW showcase before the album's release.

Marco Benevento: Invisible Baby
On his completely instrumental album, Marco Benevento creates a collection of creative and challenging arrangements that borrow equally from classical orchestras, jazz and electronic music. In assembling Reed Mathis, Andrew Barr and Matt Chamberlain to complete his vision, the majestic keyboard maestro creates accessible Vince Guaraldi-like melodies with the same facility as he does the solitude of Tom Waits at his most whiskey-fueled.

Leroy Justice: Revolution's Son
A staightforward rock and roll album, Revolution's Son percolates with brawny barroom rockers played with 70s era Rolling Stones finesse. Oozing the same authoritative boozy charm as Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, Jason Gallagher barks out the title track like a grizzled Southern rock veteran and turns "Belt Buckle" into a lost Skynyrd classic. You may not have heard of much of Leroy Justice in 2008; I imagine that will change in 2009.

Backyard Tire Fire: The Places We Lived
Capable of rafter-shattering, bar band rock and roll, The Places We Lived catches Ed Anderson and the Tire Fire in a more reflective mood, taking stock of what's changed around the old home town. Getting a wonderfully acoustic sound without unplugging, BTF broadens their repetoire with a collection of heartfelt country-blues tunes. It's not all nostalgia: there being enough heavy riffage on "Welcome To The Factory" and "How In The Hell Did You Get Back Here" to carry you through.

The Whigs: Mission Control
Along with Dead Confederate, The Whigs helped make this a banner year for young bands from Athens, GA. On Mission Control, Julian Doro's drumming will get your blood pumping but it's Parker Gispert and his plethora of guitar hooks that make The Whigs better than your average bear. It's unfortunate that "Right Hand On My Heart" didn't come out in a different era. If it had, MTV would have turned it into a summer anthem and The Whigs into a true sensation.

Tea Leaf Green: Raise Up The Tent
Tea Leaf Green’s fourth studio effort is their most well-rounded album to date. Focusing primarily on Trevor Garrod's melodious keyboards, mellifluous voice and thoughtful lyrics, Raise Up The Tent bounces merrily along. Where their live shows emphasize their musicianship, the album stresses the song. "Let Us Go," "Don't Curse At The Night" and "Red Ribbons" make for a frisky opening trio but it's "Slept Through Sunday," "Keeping The Faith" and Josh Clark's "Stick To The Shallows" are the true treasures.

The Secret Machines: The Secret Machines
Emerging from a long hibernation in which they recovered from the departure of original guitarist Ben Curtis, The Secret Machines woke up from their dormancy and rebooted themselves as a heavier, more industrial outfit. Secret Machines 2.0 sounds more akin to industrialized Floyd and Peter Gabriel's mechanized prog-rock than they have at any other time with "The Walls Are Starting To Crack" and "Fire Is Waiting" carrying a ponderous heft. It's not a dramatic overhaul: "Atomic Heels" and "Last Believer, Drop Dead" still have a little rattle from the old days.

BuzzUniverse: LiveVibes From The Donegal Saloon
In the age of the LiveArchives, the era of the live album may be entering its sunset years. That doesn't mean it's dead. Recorded on the Jersey stage they consider their home, LiveVibes consists of choice covers, prog-rock inspired jams, funk and a little country hoedown. This is first true release of BuzzU since they gelled as a 6-piece and with excellent renditions of staples like "In The Sun" and newer material like "You And Me" it serves as a fine introduction to this ever-entertaining band.

Licorice: A Million Grains Of Sand
Recorded in Brooklyn, Licorice’s initial foray into the studio nicely showcases the fine musicianship that has become Licorice’s calling card. The eminently talented New York City foursome makes some subtle revisions to some live staples and give some Coldplay-derived keyboards a tryout. The only regret is that you have to see the band live to get the coda of the disc's title track en regalia.

THOSE OF YOU THAT HAVE ever read my ramblings on in The Week That Was are familiar with my not-so-profound theory that "people like lists." So as not to disappoint, here are some year-end lists for you to digest.

AARP List Of Those Getting Better With Age

Al Green: Lay It Down
Richie Havens: Nobody Left To Crown
Randy Newman: Harps & Angels
Steve Winwood: Nine Lives
B.B. King: One Fine Favor

The Chinese Democracy List Of Other Albums That Failed To Meet Expectations

Cold War Kids: Loyalty To Loyalty
The Killers: Day & Age
Lenny Kravitz: It Is Time For A Love Revolution
Ray Lamontagne: Gossip In The Grain
The Nightwatchman: The Fabled City
Oasis: Dig Out Your Soul
Tapes ‘n’ Tapes: Walk It Off

At this year’s SXSW Festival, duos, whether they be guitar and drums or more electronically based, were all the rage. They produced some fine albums this year too with the best being:

The Dodos: Visiter
Fuck Buttons: Street Horrrsing
The Helio Sequence: Keep Your Eyes Ahead
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
No Age: Nouns

Their Genius Escaped Me In 2008

Deerhoof: Offend Maggie
Elbow: The Seldom Seen Kid
Hot Chip: Made In The Dark
Lil Wayne: Tha Carter III
Mates Of State: Re-arrange Us
Conor Oberst: Conor Oberst
of Montreal: Skeletal Lamping
Sigur Ros: Med sud ieyrum vid spilum endalaust
Throw Me The Statue: Moonbeams
Tokyo Police Club: Elephant Shell

Encore: I guess this is the Honorable Mention list of albums that definitely deserve recognition but didn’t get mentioned above. If you missed any of these in 2008, resolve to remedy the situation in 2009.

Black Mountain: In The Future
Bodies Of Water: A Certain Feeling
Catfish Haven: Devastator
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Jason Collett: Here’s To Being Here
Deerhunter: Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (deserving of more than this)
Delta Spirit: Ode To Sunshine
Drive-By Truckers: Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
Jenny Lewis: Acid Tongue
The Magnetic Fields: Distortion
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: Real Emotional Trash
Mugison: Mugiboogie
Okkervil River: The Stand-Ins
Plants & Animals: Parc Avenue

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rock and Roll Christmas

Band Aid: Do They Know It's Christmas

Slade: Merry Christmas Everybody

U2: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

George Thorogood: Rock and Roll Christmas

Trans Siberian Orchestra: Christmas Cannon Rock

Bruce Springsteen: Merry Christmas Baby

Jon Bon Jovi - Please Come For Christmas (Eagles Cover)

Elvis Presley: Blue Christmas (w/Martina McBride digitally added)

Ozzy Osborne & Jessica Simpson: Winter Wonderland

David Bowie & Bing Crosby: Little Drummer Boy

Coldplay: Last Christmas

Billy Idol: Jingle Bell Rock

Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty: Silent Night

Ramones: Merry Christmas

Elizabeth and the Catapult: Christmas with the Jews

Christmas with the Jews from Elizabeth & the Catapult on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mp3s, News and Notes

State Radio, who put on a great show, announced a string of tour dates for 2009 as well as one more show this year on December 26th at DC's 9:30 Club. You can get all the tour dates on their MySpace page and you can also download "Right Me Up" here.

Lex Land, who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year when she toured with Intelligent Noise label mate Joshua James, is giving away a download of her cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" - you can get it here. You can also download "As Much as You Lead" from her well received release Orange Days on Lemon Street here.

Old Crow Medicine Show will perform on Conan O'Brien tonight. They'll likely do a song from their new release Tennessee Pusher. They also announced some springtime dates with the Dave Matthews Band on April 17 and 18 in Charlottesville, VA at the John Paul Jones Arena, and April 20, 2009 in Pelham, AL at the Verizon Wireless Music Center. They will also do some 2009 shows with The Felice Brothers, another band I look forward to seeing at some point.

Britney Spears Gives Dad a Raise

Britney Spears gave her babysitter a raise. No, not the one(s) for her kids - the one for HER! Britney's court appointed conservatorship employs her Dad to help run her affairs.

Britney's pop had been getting 10k a month, but a Judge granted an increase so to $16,125 a month. Not bad coin for doing something most Dads should be doing for free. Of course, most Dads don't have to deal with the Britney Spears circus so maybe we should cut him some slack.

In other "news", Britney's peeps also shot down rumors that she's dating Good Charlotte's (are they still a band?) Benji Madden. Good thing, because if true someone isn't earning their babysitting money!

New U2 Record Due in March with Five Versions

U2 announced that they will release No Line on the Horizon - the band's latest studio effort on March 3, 2009. It's hard to believe that it has now been over four years since How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb came out! That disc remains in my cd player rotation and like most U2 records has been a great friend to me. I look forward to making room for the new one in the mix. However, Billboard reports that I'll have to choose between five different versions, including one priced at $96. Yikes! And, there is a reported contribution on the record from the Black Eyed Peas' Potentially double yikes!

Beyond the multiple versions, another difference we may see for the new record is the lack of an iPod commercial like the one we seemingly endlessly saw featuring "Vertigo" from HTDAAB. That's because Bono may have picked a fight with Apple's Steve Jobs. Although Gawker via Valleywag is obviously trying to create a big fire from a little smoke, there may indeed be some discomfort at Apple over Bono's Elevation Partners firm sinking money into Palm, maker of a potential iPhone competitor. We'll just have to see how No Line on the Horizon does on the iTunes charts to see if U2 suffers any paybacks from Bono's financial dalliances.

Amy Winehouse Topless

Amy Winehouse never ceases to amuse - and often to scare. On a recent visit to the beach she manages to do a little of both by bearing her breasts in a topless romp (NSFW link) on the beach as well as dancing a topless jig on her hotel balcony.

Meanwhile, Mark Ronson who produced her smash Back to Black (yes, brother to Sam of Lindsay Lohan fame) reportedly says he'd be happy to work with Winehouse again when she's ready to put out her next record. No word on whether Amy has any plans to bring Mark back into the mix.

However, another "collaborator" certainly won't be "working" with her any time soon. The man who sold video footage of Winehouse doing crack was sentenced to two years in jail. Maybe the budding filmmaker will be cellmates with Amy's hubby?!?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Young At Heart: Neil Young At Madison Square Garden

By: David Schultz

Rock stars from the Sixties continue to provide a consistent fount of nostalgia and often are the source material for lucrative arena tours. Very few though retain their vitality and remain an important and influential presence. For all the reverence Bob Dylan and the Jagger/Richards combo have earned, it’s been years since they’ve been anything other than musicians. Despite the cycles that bests any artist’s career, Neil Young has always managed to remain an essential cog in the rock and roll machinery, a “Rockin’ In The Free World” or “Let’s Impeach The President” always simmering below the surface and ready to burst from his blue-collar soul. A true veteran, the venerable Young concluded his North American tour with a pair of shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Time has taken nothing from the feisty Canadian. Numerous times during Monday night's show, Young bounded away from the microphone and careened across the stage, his guitar going through wild tremors as if trying to escape his grasp. No one would ever mistake Young’s voice for another but his incisive and defiant guitar style can be heard constantly in the artists that followed him. On “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cortez The Killer” and “Powderfinger,” Young reestablished himself as the Godfather of Grunge and the ancestor that sits atop the family trees of bands like My Morning Jacket and Dead Confederate.

In many ways, Young has finally grown into the cranky old man that, in many ways he’s always been. By the shear task of remaining relevant, Young dodges any irony inherent in the chorus “Hey Hey My My” by proving that burning out or fading away aren’t the only choices. Some of his songs have evolved with him; “Old Man” could seem anachronistic coming out of the sextogenarian’s mouth but Young’s shifted roles, grudgingly becoming the old man from his Harvest era classic, living the song’s adage with his wife Pegi singing by his side. Others have come full circle; when Young wrote “Rockin’ In The Free World” in the early 90s, he was railing against the hypocrisy of the Bush Presidency. Years later, the song still resonates with meaning, only it’s about finding hopes in the aftermath of a different Bush’s legacy.

Young has kept his setlist relatively stable over the course of his tour and it’s expertly geared towards 70s style arena rock like “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and “Cowgirl In The Sand.” Over the course of the tour, Young has insinuated pre-recording workouts of newer material into the show and the middle and latter parts of the evening consisted of previews of the relatively unfamiliar fare. But for the singer, many of the new songs didn’t feel like they had earned the right to be played at Madison Square Garden. Perhaps the impending end of the Bush regime has left Young without a proper catalyst to inspire the proper amount of outrage. After all, once Batman vanquishes The Joker, he moves on to The Penguin, Riddler or Catwoman. Thematically tied to the environment, Young’s newer songs which lacked the texture and heart of his older material: “Cough Up The Bucks” had a harsh, choppy chorus creepily reminiscent of his Trans-era experimentations and “Fuel Line” ran on fumes.

During the barrage of the recently written, the nostalgia-inspired excitement expectedly waned. Young’s salvaged this part of his two and a half hour set with a primarily acoustic section centered on “The Needle And The Damage Done” “Heart Of Gold,” “Old Man” and a wonderful take on Harvest Moon’s “Unknown Legend.” Young can still muster the same indignant wails or mournful country purrs from his distinctive voice and it adds a weary dimension to his softer work. For someone that can generate an overpowering onslaught, it’s Young’s reflective heartfelt moments that resonate the deepest.

Young has always been find beauty in the noise and he’s never flinched at the prospect of commercial or critical failure. That reckless spirit still lives within Young. To close the night, Young and his band tackled The Beatles’ nearly uncoverable “A Day In The Life,” finishing the song with a wall of feedback that became a backdrop for a revival of the song’s dreamy harmonies as a psychedelic peyote chant. Even when venturing into sacred and familiar ground, Young continues to find a way to transform it into his own inimitable style.

Garce Potter & The Nocturnals' Live From Skowhegan To Go Live Tomorrow

The past year has been a busy one on the road for Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. In addition to headlining shows throughout the country, the lovable Vermont foursome shared stages with The Black Crowes and the Dave Matthews Band and closed out the Queen Of The Valley stage at this year's All Points West festival. All this touring hasn't left the band much time to get into the studio so they will be putting the fruits of their labor on display with their first live EP, Live From Skowhegan.

Culled from a June 27, 2008 concert at the Skowhegan Opera House in Skowhegan, Maine, the 6 song digital-only release will feature two previously unreleased songs "Can't See Through" and "Sugar." Those of you following the outstanding Sun Studio Sessions will already be familiar with "Sugar" as Grace & The Nocturnals laid down a blistering version of the track at the show's inaugural session.

Live From Skowhegan will be available for download on iTunes and other digital outlets this Tuesday, December 23.

Animal Collective Leak Drags Deerhunter To Their Defense

Already one of the more anticipated new releases for 2009, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion has become the focal point of a bizarre leaking controversy that has grown to include, somewhat voluntarily, Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound. Earlier last week, two tracks from the upcoming Animal Collective album were leaked and began showing up on various mp3 sites. Hardly an uncommon occurrence, the situation took a bizarre turn when a purported e-mail from Brian Weitz, also known as the miner's hat clad Geologist, surfaced encouraging people to leak the rest of the album ahead of the scheduled January 09 release date.

The e-mail to The Quietus, apparently from Weitz' account (which appears to be missing a shift key or the ability to use capital letters), says,"it has come to my attention that 2 full length tracks off of our upcoming album, merriweather post pavilion have surfaced online. david, noah, and I please ask that someone assist us and leak all of the remaining tracks on the album. the album is intended to be heard as a whole, and nothing bothers us more than individual tracks leaking and ruining the the overall album experience." As Animal Collective are no strangers to leaking issues - they were involved in bizarre misunderstanding with fellow hipsters Grizzly Bear over an inadvertent leak of "Brother Sport" - there was a slight possibility of the e-mail's legitimacy.

In the absence of any comment from Weitz himself, it apparently fell to Deerhunter's Bradford Cox to debunk all rumors. Earlier this year, Cox dealt with a similar situation when Microcastle, Deerhunter's critically beloved 2008 effort, leaked well before its time. On Deerhunter's blog, which has the ability to create capital letters, Cox writes, "Someone actually had the nerve to hack into their e-mail account and send this out. The truth is that AC do not want their album to leak and are trying very hard to avoid the drama around said album that has risen to a fever pitch." His inane suggestion to create your own songs in anticipation of MPP's release might make sense if you have his level of talent but his heart is in the right place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Phish To Play Bonnaroo?

Bonnaroo's rumor mill is working on all cylinders with the news that a reunited Phish will headline the 2009 edition of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Although Bonnaroo has evolved from hippie to hipster over the last few years, a Phish headlined festival will bring the show back to its roots, especially if the rumored appearance by The Dead also comes to fruition. Deadheads and Phish Phanatics in the same field will surely result in a Ghostbuster's style crossing of the streams (not to mention many Pig Pen dust cloud jokes - "I got a rock") but the excitement of this year's Bonnaroo will reach uncharted levels if the Springsteen at Bonnaroo story also proves true.

Before we get all excited and start having a big old Winston Wolf style celebration, let's remember that around this time last year, tongues were all awag over the rumors that Led Zeppelin and Metallica would headline the 2008 Festival with both bands offering strong denials. As we all know, Led Zeppelin kept their word and stayed home but those lying bastards Metallica didn't, showing up and making a high profile and well-received appearance in Manchester.

Blogger Say Guilty; Axl Says Much More

Kevin Cogill, the blogger who posted nine songs from Chinese Democracy on long before its November 23rd release, plead guilty to one charge of copyright violation in California Federal Court this past Monday. Cogill initially seemed primed for a public showdown, which seemed imminent after his highly publicized arrest. After the Court expressed its disapproval over prosecutorial overzealousness, a plea bargain was reached in which Cogill pleads guilty in exchange for a sentencing recommendation of probation. While the Court is free to ignore the U.S. Attorney's suggestion and impose a one year jail sentence and significant fines, it seemed reluctant to make as big a Federal case over the issue as the RIAA.

For a period of time, it seemed as if Cogill had more interest in promoting Chinese Democracy than Axl Rose. That changed recently as Axl Rose has taken to the Internet to chat with fans and leave long rambling missives on GnR message boards. Anyone thinking Rose has been playing coy or unresponsive to talking about Guns N' Roses will get their fix; Axl is quite open and glib and covers a great number of topics. It's a fine, lengthy read: he quashes the hopes of those expecting a true GnR reunion anytime soon and finally gives his side of some popular Slash stories.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rebecca Hart At The Knitting Factory

By: David Schultz

Anyone present at Earvolution’s first New York City singer-songwriter showcase at the Rockwood Music Hall a little over three years ago might remember Rebecca Hart as a guitar strumming singer songwriter. Still rocking the acoustic, Hart has loaded up her arsenal and broadened the horizons of her music with her latest band The Sexy Children, comprised of Licorice’s David Lott and Matt Epstein and drummer Dan Barman. Opening up for The Telephones, Hart and The Sexy Children made the most of their opportunity to play one of the final handful of shows at the Leonard Street locale of New York City’s The Knitting Factory, which will be moving to Brooklyn in 2009.

An accomplished stage actress, Hart comfortably and quite ably fills the role of rock and roll frontwoman. A charming and delightful singer, Hart has a Broadway voice and a rock star soul, able to deliver Gillian Welch’s “Miss Ohio” with the perfect amount of stoic frailty and turn around and belt out a staggering version of “Whipping Post.” During The Allman Brothers cover, Hart tossed her acoustic guitar behind her back and held nothing back, laying into the final stanza with a marvelously startling power. Her originals, a couple taken from her 2006 album Crash & Strum, were possessed of the same wit and passion. She also a thoughtful woman, she endearingly made sure to point out that a song she wrote for Britney Spears was just about her as a subject and not meant for the pop star to actually sing.

Hart gets an excellent boost from her Sexy Children, Barman and Epstein are a superb rhythm section and add wonderful texture to her finely crafted songs. Normally out front of Licorice, Lott flourishes in the role of sideman, accentuating Hart’s acoustic rhythms with blues and classic rock riffs and ample though non-intrusive wah-wah guitar effects. It’s a four piece that is developing into a wonderful band.

An alumni of the 2008 Public Theater Shakespeare Lab, Hart will spend the early part of 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky with “Rock & Roll: The Reunion Tour” before returning to New York City for a February 15 showcase at Joe’s Pub.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Still Burning: Tina Turner At Madison Square Garden

By: David Schultz

Every young female singer, from Britney to Beyonce, hits the point of their career where they feel they have to be emancipated from all of the weighty burdens that have held them down and kept them from expressing their true selves. The archetype of the liberated female singer, once strong enough to turn “I Am Woman” into a legitimate anthem and Helen Reddy into a pop star, has become watered down to the point where it’s nearly meaningless. Too many ladies proclaim their newfound “freedom” without ever experiencing a true struggle under the yoke of any real oppression. None of the so-called ordeals espoused by today’s liberated young ladies, which nowadays get played out in front of reality TV cameras, should be mentioned in the same breath, sentence or discussion as Tina Turner’s life and career; her story of enduring years of spousal abuse at the hands of Ike Turner, the man who turned Annie Mae Bullock from Nutbush, Tennessee into an R&B icon, more akin to the trial of a literary heroine than a brilliant soul singer. She told her inspiring story in I Tina, her best-selling autobiography, which became What’s Love Got To Do With It, an Oscar nominated movie starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett.

After leaving her husband with not much more than her name, Turner had every right to go into the studio and record an album dripping with a vengeance that would make Alanis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know” seem conciliatory. Befitting the classy singer, Turner took the moral high ground; her 1984 breakout solo album Private Dancer contained not one iota of self-congratulation or smug righteousness (though she did deliver “Better Be Good To Be” with a conviction that made the song as much of a declaration as it was a threat).

In August of 1985, Turner played to a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York City as part of her emotional comeback tour. It was Turner’s first tour as a solo performer as well as the first rock concert I ever attended, sitting in the fourth row not to far behind Ahmad and Phylicia Rashad (believe me, being on the vicinity of Ms. Huxtable was pretty damn exciting). With the price of tickets going up more than ten fold over the next couple decades, the R&B legend returned to the Garden as part of another poignant comeback, her first tour in eight years and quite possibly her last. I won’t discount the personal aspect of seeing Tina Turner at MSG one more time but the overall visceral impact of being in the room, regardless of size, while one of the true rock and roll greats proves that she still has it at age 68, caused me to get slightly verklempt on more than one occasion.

The curtain drew to find Turner standing atop a twenty foot high platform, suitably high enough for the reverence she’s earned and adulation she received from an adoring throng of people that included Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Throughout the night there were reminders of the Hall of Fame career that put her on that pedestal. During a medley of “Jumping Jack Flash” and “It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It),” a montage of photos from Turner’s early career appeared behind her, tracing her path from background singer to American Express spokeswoman. She’s proven to be the equal of Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, the latter memorably ripping off her skirt at Live Aid long before anyone paired the wardrobe with malfunction, became the Acid Queen for The Who’s Tommy and delivered the immortal proclamation, “Two Men Enter; One Man Leave.”

Once lowered to the stage, the excitement of Ms. Turner’s appearance dissipated into a fair rendition of “Steamy Windows” and a middling version of “Typical Male,” the delivery of both raising initial concerns over whether time had taken her toll on her voice. Any questions vanished once she hit the first chorus of “River Deep, Mountain High” and from that moment on, you could close your eyes and Turner’s voice sounded as strong, vibrant and soulful as ever. At 68, Turner still has fantastic legs but no longer possesses the same flexibility that she had forty years ago (who does) when she electrified crowds with her astounding-for-the-time dance moves. It hardly matters though. When she dropped back to the center of the four girl probably-shouldn’t-call-them-Ikettes dance troupe to shake her hips and go through some of the old dance steps, it was every bit as invigorating and timeless.

Any resemblance the rock and roll revues where Turner first strutted her stuff was part of the well-scripted show. In addition to the lavish sets, which included a case/jungle gym contraption for “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” there were in-set performance art breaks to allow Turner time for costume changes. Turner’s subtle jokes couldn’t rescue an awkward gender divisive singalong during “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and her rendition of “The Best” prompted the most uproarious reaction to a car commercial short of Zeppelin playing “Rock And Roll.”

Over the course of her career, Turner has been extremely adept at interpreting other artist’s materials, to the point where no matter how intrinsic a song may be with the original singer, she can make it her own. Opening the second set with “Help,” she turned the Beatles classic into a torch song before launching into a straight reading of her fantastic cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and soul classic “I Can’t Stand The Rain.” To close the final set, Turner strutted into “Proud Mary,” arguably the best cover songs ever recorded.

In reestablishing her virtual appropriation of the song from Creedence Clearwater Revival, much like Aretha Franklin co-opted “Respect” from Otis Redding, Turner simply beamed, especially during the intro about doing things nice and easy and nice and rough. It’s a dichotomy she’s lived her entire life. On her smoldering version of “Acid Queen,” she still sounds like she could live up to her threat to tear your world apart, but when she flashes that winning smile, she shows she’s ready to take it nice and easy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Bonnaroo Tickets Payment Plan

Bonnaroo promoters have taken note of the economic crisis and are offering fans who buy tickets during their December "pre-sale" an opportunity to take advantage of a payment plan. An old school layaway deal if you will. Instead of shelling out $250 right now, you can lock in that "low, low" price and make five $50 payments (plus "fees" of course!). The ticket deal starts tomorrow and lasts through the end of the year.

No acts have been confirmed for the 2009 festival, but of course giants like Radiohead and Pearl Jam have anchored the lineup in years past so it's fairly safe to expect someone on that scale again. But, please folks no more Kanye!

Speaking of high priced tickets, Britney Spears promoters may want to take note of Bonnaroo's economic stimulus attempt as I hear seats for her upcoming show in Long Island, New York are in the $150 to $350 range (plus fees). And, that is from the authorized ticket sellers, let alone what the scalpers will try to get. At this rate, music fans will need a bailout not the Big 3! Or, maybe this is one are where the market forces of supply and demand will actually have an impact on price?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

U2 Releases Christmas Video for Redwire

Bono continues to try to harness the wild horse of capitalism to raise money for the world's poor., a new online music magazine, is the latest aspect of the ongoing campaign. The site launched on World Aids Day with help from U2, Jay Z, Elvis Costello, Coldplay, John Legend and more, who all lend video content to the cause.

Death Cab for Cutie and Jenny Lewis (with a version of ("Acid Tounge") represent the music scene's new guard. The site's goal is to deliver music content via a subscription model to raise money with subscribers being offered updates on how their money is being spent in an effort to combat AIDS in Africa.

U2 offers up "I believe in Father Christmas" which can be seen here. The Edge stands out in the track with stellar guitar work that show's he's still on top of his game and continuing to innovate, which will prime U2 fans for their new album set for a 2009 release.

Britney Spears Still Draws a Crowd

Britney Spears is in the midst of another great American comeback story. It's essentially a cliche now that we love the underdog and the comeback kids, particularly when you can combine both factors. There was a point in time, namely around the shaved head incident, that Britney Spears would have easily been voted the least likely pop-wreck to make a comeback. Recent successes make those somewhat recent days seem long ago.

Following an appearance on UK television on the X-Factor, (where she also celebrated her birthday a few days early), Britney unveiled her documentary "For the Record" on MTV, which drew in chunks of viewers for the network. Reports say the Spears special, which first aired on Sunday night, tripled MTV's ratings for that time period.

The timing couldn't be better for Britney, as concert tickets for her upcoming tour go on sale this week. That tour (full dates here) will truly let us know if Ms. Spears is indeed the comeback kid of 2009. The Pussycat Dolls will support Britney on the tour, which kicks off March 3rd in New Orleans.

Monday, December 01, 2008

White Denim: Exposion

By: David Schultz

On Let’s Talk About It, White Denim distilled everything that makes rock and roll vital and exciting down to its essence, resulting in a brilliant thirteen and a half minute EP. For Exposion, their first true full length album, the Austin wonder trio of James Petralli, Steve Terebecki and Joshua Block keep the music concentrated but allow it to breathe. A vibrant album, Exposion bristles with the manic energy White Denim brings to their live shows while revealing a trio that understands and transcends the conception of what makes up a song. Not just one of the best albums of 2008, Exposion should be the first of a long line of resoundingly brilliant releases.

Flouting convention, White Denim aren’t releasing Exposion in the traditional hand held CD format, choosing instead to release it almost exclusively in digital form with very little tangible product being made available to stores or e-tailers. Not quite the warning shot across the bow that Radiohead fired with In Rainbows but a definite sign that bands may be reclaiming the tools of production for themselves. The free-thinking involved in Exposion’s marketing and distribution is but a symptom of the expansive vision of White Denim’s music.

With Terebecki counterpunching on bass, Petralli runs a gauntlet of simple distorted riffs and layered melodic guitar work that moves on just at the moment it gets comfortable, engaging in his most pleasant guitar work on “Migration Wind” and the intro to “Don’t Talk About It.” For all its finesse, Exposion never strays far from its garage rock roots. Terebecki and Block masterfully build the tension on “Heart From Us All” and “Shake Shake Shake” is an earth-shaking three minutes of everything rock and roll should be. “Sitting,” the album’s closer, stews in its psychedelic cum art rock juices like the best of Television and the Talking Heads filtered through a Pet Sounds haze.

At its best, music doesn’t need words. It can be the primal scream that needs nothing more than an outlet for expression. Direct in his songwriting, Petralli sometimes doesn’t need anything more than a stray vowel or two to get his point across, the chorus of “IEIEIEIE” being nothing more than that. Many bands attempt to mask their musical deficiencies in excessively loud rhythmic bursts, emotive howls or jacked up guitar riffs. White Denim does all of the above but with the precision of microsurgeons, in full control of the wild concoctions they create; everything is right there on the record and this band has nothing to hide.

Dr Pepper Botches The Giveaway: Guns N' Roses Get Righteously Snippy

It appears that Axl Rose didn't find the Dr Pepper giveaway as humorous as the rest of us. In a deft bit of one-upsmanship, Guns N' Roses are taking the soda pop company to task for bungling their offer to give everyone a free Dr Pepper if Chinese Democracy came out in 2008. With last week's release of the long-awaited GnR album putting Dr Pepper on the spot, the company offered a coupon for a free soda through their web site, which apparently couldn't handle the traffic.

Taking the offer as a cheap publicity stunt designed to piggyback on the hoopla surrounding Chinese Democracy's release, Guns N' Roses are hoisting Dr Pepper on its own sugary petard and threatening to get litigious. As Rolling Stone reports, the band is seeking a public apology and an extension of the free soda offer. In a public letter, the band, through its attorneys, states: "It turned out that Dr Pepper did not define ‘everyone in America’ the same way as ‘everyone in America’ defined ‘everyone in America.’” However, they get down to brass tacks by finally asserting, “Had you wished to engage in a commercial tie-in . . . you should have negotiated a legitimate arrangement instead of hijacking their rights without payment. Rest assured, this misappropriation will not be free.”

Coke or Pepsi wouldn't have screwed this up as badly as Dr Pepper. Hell, even RC Cola would have gotten this right.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!