Take What You Need And Leave The Rest

Posted by: on Apr 29, 2011 | One Comment

But they should neveeeeer, have taken the very best…” Pretty much the best song by the Band.

Midweek Playlist: 4/27/11

Posted by: on Apr 28, 2011 | One Comment

If you’re not into country then you may need to brace yourself, as this has not one but TWO country ditties (though “Ohoopee River Bottomland” is technically “country soul”). Other standouts for me include “My Lonesome”, “Call Me A Dog When I’m Gone” and “Dolphins” (not simply because I love dolphins… it’s a good song).

    1. Two Wounded Birds – “My Lonesome”
    2. Galaxy Train – “Dolphins”
    3. My Pet Saddle – “Alaskan Sun”
    4. Frank Fairfield – “Call Me A Dog When I’m Gone” (Live on KEXP)
    5. Here We Go Magic – “Hands In The Sky”
    6. Jessica Lea Mayfield – “Is This Love?”
    7. Tulsa – “Shaker”
    8. Youth Lagoon – “Cannons”
    9. Larry Jon Wilson – “Ohoopee River Bottomland”
    10. Seapony – “With You”
    11. Merle Haggard – “Workin’ Man Blues”
    12. Feist – “My Moon, My Man”

Écoutez et répétez:

Show Review: tUnE-yArDs at The Great American Music Hall, 4/26/11

Posted by: on Apr 27, 2011 | One Comment

The central thesis to live reviews always invariably boils down to the question “is what I heard on the album going to translate live?” Since the answer in this case is a resounding YES, I thought I’d get that part out of the way immediately. I’d even go so far as to say that if you weren’t that into Bird-Brains or W H O K I L L, seeing tUnE-yArDs live might turn you around.

Merrill Garbus is a genius on stage. There – I said it! If it sounds hyperbolic then you’ve obviously not seen her live. It’s so refreshing to witness a musician who understands that a Performance is more than wandering on stage to play a handful of hits and make a lazy reference or two to whatever city you’re in. Ideally, the audience should be able to feel your enthusiasm and not wonder whether you’d rather be somewhere else. Before starting “Fiya”, Garbus stated “This is pure joy, by the way, in case you were worried I wasn’t having a good time.” I don’t think anyone was worried.

Live looping is always more impressive to me than the slickest guitar riff or drum solo (as someone who doesn’t play an instrument, this sense of awe might be ill-founded). Though she was joined by three others on stage (Nate Brenner on bass, Matt Nelson on tenor sax and Kasy Knudsen on alto sax) Garbus herself produced the majority of what the audience was hearing, layering her own voice over itself again and again, in expressions ranging from tight harmonies to low, primal growls.

The high-notes:

      1. A good stage outfit has the power to transform what is just an ordinary concert into a PARTY. Garbus’s costume looked like something Carmen Miranda would have worn to Carnival or maybe a tea party attended by muppets. Awesome.

 

      2. At the end of “Powa”, Garbus hit a high note that caused this involuntary eruption of glee from the audience. I can only compare it to the reaction sports fans have to the word “free” at the end of the national anthem.

 

      3. Throughout “Bizness”, a chick did a pretty sweet interpretive dance on stage and then crowd surfed to the back of the GAMH during the song’s climax.

 

      4. Towards the end of the show

KM

    and I moved up to the balcony to get a better view, and witnessed the stagefloor turn into a feverish, tribal dance-off at end of “Hatari”.

Thanks again to the amazing Pam Torno for providing some truly great pics from the show! Be sure to check out the whole set over on her flickr page.

tUnE-yArDs setlist (Updated – thanks Zoë!):
1. Do You Want To Live?
2. You Yes You
3. Gangsta
4. Es-So
5. Powa
6. Fiya
7. Bizness
8. Doorstep
9. Hatari
10. Killa
Encore 1:
Real Live Flesh
My Country
Encore 2:
Wolly Wolly Gong

tUnE-yArDs: Website :: Myspace :: Twitter :: Facebook

As a Very Cool Aside: One of KM’s Artlarking colleagues, Alison, was involved in the production of the “Bizness” music video and wrote a really great blog post about the process (includes a ton of beautiful pics). She writes:

What struck me about being a small part of the process of the video was the respect each person involved had for each others art form and how everyone stepped up to create a finished product that is much bigger than the sum of its parts.

You can read the entire post over at Artlarking.

Spotlighting: Blisses B

Posted by: on Apr 25, 2011 | No Comments

Albums that are difficult to categorize or place in any preexisting genre are usually the most fun to listen to and the most challenging to write about. How do you define something that includes multiple styles without resorting to a laundry list of artists it “kind of” sounds like? You do it very carefully.

Thirty Days, Sixty Years is the sophomore LP from the San Francisco-based quartet Blisses B. Listening to the opening track, “Regal Goodbyes”, you’d probably peg them for another indie pop outfit in the Arcade Fire school of rock. Then the mandolin and banjo in “Valley Low” arrive, and you’re in the middle of some kind of nouveau bluegrass venture. Not content to simply switch styles from song to song, however, Blisses B takes its genre bending within individual tracks: the soft, stripped-down opening half of “I Was Around” is swiftly propelled into a high-energy, folk-rock climax.

Combining so many styles within one album or even one song could easily result in a sound that is convoluted or even contrived, but Blisses B manages to take these very different textures and construct something entirely their own. Singer Noah Libby’s incredible vocals are just rough enough around the edges to effortlessly weave these sounds together, creating an album that takes a unique, heartfelt look at the periods of time that come to define us. In their own words:

Thirty Days, Sixty Years explores the mathematical parameters that define our lives — weekends, vacations, adolescence, adulthood, the reality of how much time we have left on this earth — and the personal equations that result from the many caveats that can extend and shorten most of these time frames. Are we spending our time wisely, with the right people, and in the right place? What are we giving back?

If you’re in the bay area you can catch them in San Francisco on Friday, May 20th at Amnesia, or in Santa Cruz on Thursday, June 9th at the Crepe Place. You can listen to Thirty Days, Sixty Years in full over at their SoundCloud page, and purchase the album for only $5 on their Bandcamp page.

Blisses B: Website :: Facebook :: Bandcamp :: Twitter :: SoundCloud

Midweek Playlist: 4/20/11

Posted by: on Apr 20, 2011 | 2 Comments

I CANNOT stop listening to Twin Sister. If Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, New Buffalo, and Echo and the Bunnymen had a musical lovechild, I think it would sound a lot like “Meet the Frownies”. Also how did Margo Guryan only recently creep into my itunes, my life? “Sunday Morning” sounds like French 60s pop but I swear it was Made in America.

    1. Margo Guryan – “Sunday Morning”
    2. Man Man – “Life Fantastic”
    3. The Main Ingredient – “Magic Shoes”
    4. Twin Sister – “Meet the Frownies”
    5. DM Stith – “Pity Dance”
    6. Purity Ring – “Lofticries”
    7. Gardens and Villa – “Black Hills”
    8. The Middle East – “Hunger Song”
    9. Vacationer – “Trip”
    10. Canadian Winter – “City Lights”
    11. Deer Tick – “Friday XIII”
    12. The Beach Boys – “The Warmth of the Sun”

Écoutez et répétez:

A Battle of Grit: Dolly Parton vs Loretta Lynn

Posted by: on Apr 16, 2011 | 2 Comments

Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn are cut from the same cloth. One thing that unites them more than anything else, however, is grit. Whether it’s overcoming an impoverished childhood, sexism in the music industry, hell, sexism in LIFE, an abusive husband or the man-snatching claws of other women, these ladies have triumphed over it all and have brought the whole “not taking shit” thing to a whole new level. I respect that. Is it fair to compare their gumption, their grittiness, when I unconditionally adore them both? No. Is it fun? Yes.

YOUTH

Dolly Parton: Parton’s youth is now the stuff of legend. Raised in a one-room cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains with her 11 siblings, Dolly describes her childhood as “dirt poor”. Her introduction to music came through the church, and she began singing on local radio at nine years old.

Loretta Lynn: Raised “in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler” with her seven brothers and sisters, Lynn was no stranger to poverty either. After she married at 13, she stopped singing publicly to focus on starting a family, picking it up again at 24 when her husband bought her a guitar for their anniversary.

CONTROVERSY

Dolly Parton: Although some of Dolly’s recordings have been ill-received (“Down from Dover” about a pregnant, unwed teen, was banned from some radio stations) her anthology is largely inoffensive. It’s hard to be offended by “Coat of Many Colors”… unless you hate integrated clothing or poor kids being warm in winter.

Loretta Lynn: Much of Lynn’s catalog has raised eyebrows, with some claiming she’s had more banned songs than any artist in country music history. Her most controversial tracks include “The Pill”, about female liberation via birth control and “Rated X”, about the unfair treatment of divorced women.

HOME LIFE

Dolly Parton: Dolly’s personal life is pretty boring. She married her current husband Carl Dean at the age of 20, after meeting him outside a Wishy Washy Laundromat in Nashville. Though they have no children of their own, the couple has raised some of Dolly’s younger siblings. Much is made about Dean’s complete absence from the public eye, but Parton insists her husband is simply very private.

Loretta Lynn: Considering how young she wed, it’s pretty astounding that Loretta’s marriage lasted until her husband’s death in 1996. The relationship was unstable, however, with Lynn’s husband cheating on her regularly and at one point walking out while she was giving birth. Sounds rocky, but Loretta insists “he never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice.” At least the abuse was dished out equally.

GRITTIEST LINES

Dolly Parton: “So with patches on my breaches and holes in both my shoes / In my coat of many colours, I hurried off to school / Just to find the others laughing and makin’ fun of me / In my coat of many colours, my mamma made for me / Oh, I couldn’t understand it, for I felt I was rich / And I told them of the love my mamma sewed in ever stitch / And I told them all the story, mamma told me while she sewed / And how my coat of many colours is worth more than all their clothes.”

Loretta Lynn: “Come on and tell me what you told my friends if you think you’re brave enough / And I’ll show you what a real woman is since you think you’re hot stuff / You’ll bite off more than you can chew if you get too cute or witty / You better move your feet if you don’t wanna eat a meal that’s called Fist City/ If you don’t wanna go to Fist City / You better detour around my town / Cause I’ll grab you by the hair of the head / And I’ll lift you off the ground.”

COLLABORATIONS

Dolly Parton: Dolly’s collaborations reach far and wide, including country music royalty such as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers and, of course, Honky Tonk Angels with Loretta Lynn. She’s also worked with contemporary artists like Brad Paisley and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Loretta Lynn: Loretta’s most recent work with Jack White on Van Lear Rose has certainly garnered the most press, but she’s also collaborated with with some of country’s biggest acts, such as Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty and Tammy Wynette.

AND THE GRITTIEST IS: Loretta Lynn. It would be a vast understatement to say this is a tough call. On the one hand you have Dolly, who was brought up in a one-room shack with her parents and 11 siblings (the Paskowitz family may be the only recent brood coming remotely close to this), navigated the music and film industries, creating a media empire around her image, and gave millions back to the impoverished community she came from. On the other, you have Loretta, who married at 13, had six kids, lost her best friend (Patsy Cline), lost her son, and, though she claimed to be suspicious of the women’s lib movement, chose to write songs that advocated for women’s rights while she was at the height of her fame. Both women have demonstrated True Grit (don’t sue me), but Loretta’s life and music are truly the grittiest of all.

Dolly Parton – “Just Because I’m a Woman”

Loretta Lynn – “The Pill”

Spotlighting: Summertime Kids

Posted by: on Apr 14, 2011 | No Comments


Already featured in the 2011 Summer Music Run-down, Summertime Kids, the project of Gainesville, Florida-based Nick Roberts, deserves further investigation.

Taking in Table Manners, Summertime Kids’ six song EP, I couldn’t help but hear a soundtrack to some of life’s more poignant, bittersweet moments. And Table Manners does feel incredibly like a soundtrack. The songs are mostly instrumental, with vocals on “Know” and “Rain on My Parade”. The tracks “JV” and “Storm the Station” feel like the part in the movie where the lost, empty protagonist has just figured out things aren’t so bad after all. It’s Zach Braff in Garden State, or Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.

Though quiet and minimalist, Table Manners is explicit in the imagery it evokes. Of course that imagery will be different for everyone (listening to “Bed Time”, I can, for some reason, see a hungover Hunter S. Thompson waking up in the desert for a little hair of the dog and target practice… what?) but you’d be hard-pressed not to see anything. The melodies are delicate and reflective, perfect for a long drive or a quiet night in.

Check out Table Manners in full over at the Summertime Kids Bandcamp page. You can also follow Nick Robert’s other band, And the Giraffe, which will have two singles available this weekend as well as an album out in August.

Show Review: Vandella and Lord Huron at Bottom of the Hill, 4/12/11

Posted by: on Apr 13, 2011 | 3 Comments

So I should just cut to the chase. YES, the Rural Alberta Advantage was also a part of this show, and YES I did leave before they played. But KM and I came to see LH, and we both have early morning adult jobs. And it’s nice not to feel completely destroyed the day after from standing until past midnight. And I’m not even that into RAA so I don’t feel like it was really a loss. Whatever – get off my back, mom!

Despite missing RAA, this may have been my favorite concert so far for 2011. The opening act, San Francisco’s own Vandella, was a huge surprise (no one ever expects the opener to be good, right?), setting the bar quite high for the rest of the night. After they began, KM and I gave each other an OMG are you hearing this too? expression and settled in for a beautiful, foot-thumping set. Singer Tracey Holland’s vocals were a-ma-zing live (big kudos to the sound guy that night), and the cover of James Brown’s “Try Me” was a fresh take on a soul classic. If you’re into Neko Case/Jenny Lewis/insert-female-indie-darling-here, you’ll love Vandella (here’s a great interview). I only wish I’d known the rest of the songs so I could sing along.

As for Lord Huron, I will preface it with a story: My brother once said, whilst listening to my iPod in the car, that all I had was a lot of reverb-laden “hipster” music. That may or may not be true, but I know what he meant, and I guess Lord Huron falls into this category as well. Reverb can really amplify and expand good vocals, but it can also be used to disguise mediocre ones, so I was pretty curious (and somewhat hesitant) to hear what LH would sound like live.

What I got exceeded my expectations. Without any fuss or introductions, they launched energetically into “Mighty”, and it became immediately clear that we’d be getting a performance equal to or better than the sound of the EPs. I feel like I’m hearing a LOT of Caribbean-esque percussion these days (not complaining!), but LH really makes the tropical, lush texture their own. KM said the harmonies and jangly guitar reminded her of Graceland, and I would have to agree. Also, in Random Instruments news: at one point the bass player may or may not have been playing the theremin (what was that thing?) and later took a turn on the melodica. Let’s hear it for wacky instruments! LH played their entire seven-song catalogue, with “We Went Wild” as a climactic finish.

Lord Huron setlist:
1. Mighty
2. Into The Sun
3. The Problem With Your Daughter
4. Son of a Gun
5. The Stranger
6. When Will I See You Again
7. We Went Wild

Lord Huron: Bandcamp :: Myspace :: Website :: Facebook

Vandella setlist (incomplete) Complete – thanks Chris!:
1. Some Say…
2. Dig
3. Only One and Only (Gillian Welch)
4. Shine
5. Mother Mississippi
6. Try Me (James Brown)
7. Red & Gold
8. Laying Down To Die

Vandella: Myspace :: Website :: Facebook :: Twitter

Midweek Playlist: 4/13/11

Posted by: on Apr 13, 2011 | One Comment

Woah, more Oregon Bike Trails! Yeah, between OBT, Lord Huron and Monster Rally, I’m really feeling like a trip to Hawaii is in order. This week has been (and will continue to be) very music heavy IRL, with one killer show down and one to go (reviews are coming..). Besides the aforementioned beachy tunes, I’m getting really into My Friend Wallis. Very fun kitchen dancing music.

    1. King Khan and The Shrines – “Que Lindo Sueño”
    2. Memory Tapes – “Today Is Our Life”
    3. Those Darlins – “Screws Get Loose”
    4. Waylon Jennings – “Big Mammou”
    5. My Friend Wallis – “Be Free”
    6. Monster Rally – “Maori Mai”
    7. Ezra Koenig – “Papa Hobo”
    8. Timber Timbre – “Black Water”
    9. Dirty Gold – “California Sunrise”
    10. Grant Green – “Ease Back”
    11. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Thought Ballune”
    12. Oregon Bike Trails – “High School Lover”

Écoutez et répétez:

Happiest is He Who Has Peace in His Home

Posted by: on Apr 11, 2011 | No Comments


It’s so true. Watercolor illustration may soon be up in the Able+Baker shop…