31 May 2007

The answers to the mix madness post have been posted below the very awesome sufjan post. What a fun ride it was!

30 May 2007

Noo Soof (roof) toons!

I have been waiting to post these until after the Mix Madness results are up, but I'm terrifically impatient: You know you've reached eljay celeb-staus when you're featured in "OhNoTheyDidnt." TWICE IN ONE DAY. Apparently they LOVE him over there (and here, I'd given up hope with all their Paris/Britney/Lindsay posts).

First! There's a NEW SONG streaming on stereogum: In the Words of the Governor. It's VERY different that anything he's put out recently--sounds like it belongs on A Sun Came!, actually. Get ready for some face-melting screamo RAWK that sounds like an Icky Thump outtake!

EDIT: Here it is for download!

Sufjan "Buckey Beaver Billy Bird" Stevens - In the Words of the Governor.mp3



Secondly, our Portuguese correspondent in Lisbon sent us a link to the Seven Swans 7" A-Side:

Sufjan Stevens - I Went Dancing With My Sister.mp3

Thank you!!


Finally, this has been out for about 2 days but between holidays, graduations, deaths, interviews, heat waves, moving and wedding photos (a small sampling of the events in the everyday live of a Volume Knob blogger) we bring it to you now. That mini-movie of Sufjan performing "Lakes of Canada" is up! This is the one we previously saw just the trailer for in which Sufjan is freezing, haha.

It opens with the director telling Sufjan they can get up to the roof. Once up there he starts with a few chords of He Woke Me Up Again(.mp3) before freezing. (And giggling. OMG I thought I was gong to die from cuteness.)
After a cut for the title, We rejoin Sufjan, now with a jacket, performing his cover of the Innocence Mission song.
At the end you hear a few bars of Barn Owl, Night Killer(.mp3), the new piano song he debuted at the MusicNow Festival in Cincinnati.

IM ON UR R00F,PLAYIN MAH BANJO:


...and for your downloading pleasure:

Sufjan Stevens - Lakes of Canada (Innocence Mission Cover).mp3
Live at Judson College Nov. 19, 2003

The Madness Is Over! (For now...)

And we have a winner! The lovely Miss Allison guessed the most songs, and so to her will go the three super awesome and shiny mixes! It was very close though, with many people having guessed only one song less! So congratulations Allison, you'll be hearing from us here at Volume Knob soon!

And now, to the fun part! Below are all the answers with, by popular request, links to where you can download all of the songs featured.

And no, the fourth song was not Hallelujah.

  1. Walk of Life : Dire Straits
  2. The Cell: Part Seven : Jandek
  3. Life on Mars : David Bowie
  4. Don't Let Me Explode : The Hold Steady
  5. Little Green Bag : George Baker Selection
  6. Beauty Mark : Rufus Wainwright
  7. Wolf Like Me : TV on the Radio
  8. Take on Me : A-Ha
  9. Mr Tough : Yo La Tengo
  10. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) : Arcade Fire
  11. We Used to be Friends : The Dandy Warhols
  12. L.A. : Old Man River
  13. Ghost : Neutral Milk Hotel
  14. Born to be a Dancer : Kaiser Chiefs
  15. Yeah! Oh, Yeah! : The Magnetic Fields
  16. Hey Jude : The Beatles (guessed by only one person!)
  17. No Rain : Blind Melon
  18. Don't You (Forget About Me) : The Simple Minds
  19. All The Pretty Girls Go To The City : Spoon
  20. Seven Nation Army : The White Stripes
  21. Black : Okkervil River
  22. Sundress : Ben Kweller
  23. Parachutes (Funeral Song) : Mates of State
  24. Century of Elvis : Belle & Sebastian
  25. At The Bottom of Everything : Bright Eyes
  26. Sphagnum Esplanade : The Shins
  27. Odalisque : The Decemberists
  28. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh! : Sufjan Stevens
  29. Whiter Shade of Pale : Procol Harum
  30. Young Folks : Peter, Bjorn & John
  31. Dance Music : The Mountain Goats

Well done to everyone who entered! And keep watching Volume Knob for more Mix Madness competitions!


Party like it's 1994

All this Jeff Buckley nostalgia got me thinking about all the other killer albums released in 1994. In addition to being the year that spawned Grace, a couple of West Coast slackers known as Pavement released Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and the prolific lo-fi reign of Guided By Voices continued with the release of their masterpiece, Bee Thousand, just to name a few albums that quickly come to mind.

Here is the playlist I would have listened to had I been hippest nine year old ever, and um not exposed to Ace of Base instead. Not that there's anything wrong with The Sign.

Range Life - Pavement

I Am a Scientist - Guided By Voices

Geronimo - The Divine Comedy


The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get - Morrissey


The Sign (Ace of Base cover) - The Mountain Goats


Oh and one more thing: expect the results of the mix madness contest to be posted shortly, along with complete downloads of all 31 songs.

Eternal Life pt. 2


"Jeff Buckley, Gregorian Punk," Stephen Alcorn


...As promised, enough Jeff Buckley rarities, live cuts, covers, tributes and so on to last you until your tears finally run dry.

Re-Uploaded! Entire Arlene Grocery show From February 9, 1997 in NYC.
(Warning: 1:13:32 long, 67.4MB)
Here's the tracklist:
  1. Intro
  2. Nightmares by the Sea
  3. Witches' Rave
  4. So Real
  5. Haven't You Heard
  6. Lover, You Should Have Come Over
  7. Morning Theft
  8. Vancouver
  9. Snail
  10. The Sky Is a Landfill
  11. Chocolate/Mojo Pin
  12. Grace
  13. Last Goodbye
What's great in this complete show is the between-song commentary and banter with the audience. Jeff talk about quitting smoking with the patch (and it failing), he spoofs on Tom Waits in a very "Piano Has Been Drinking" sort of way, and has laughs at his own expense.
The above tracks are non-album bootlegs and thusly aren't available to buy anywhere. And as much as I'd like to stick it to Mary Guibert, I'm providing some purchase links. These are albums you need to have:
Grace
, the 1994 masterwork that put Jeff on the map. A "Top 10/desert island" album for just about everyone. SHAME ON YOU IF YOU DO NOT OWN THIS.
Mystery White Boy, the album collection of some of Jeff's greatest live performances from 1995-1996.
Live at Sin-é (Legacy Edition) Jeff at his best. Before Grace, his live solo acoustic performances from a tiny café in New York.

Various covers:
Rufus Wainwright did a heartbreaking tribute to Jeff on his Want Two album. All too appropriate for today:
Rufus Wainwright - Memphis Skyline

29 May 2007

Eternal Life


"Grace Going Down" by Ken Meyer Jr.


For those unaware, today marks the 10th anniversary of Jeff Buckley's drowning in the Wolf River in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 30 at the time.

Tonight there will be gatherings and celebrations worldwide for fans to remember his life and music.

There's been so much said and written about the our favorite male chanteuse who channelled Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Robert Plant with equal passion and fervor.

Anything I could say has already been said, so instead I'll let his music speak for itself. Here's a *small* batch of rarities I've collected over the years. Expect a much larger one later today.

Mama, You've Been On My Mind (Bob Dylan cover)
All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun (with Elizabeth Fraizer)
Jolly Street
Once I Was (Tim Buckley cover at St. Anne's cathedral)
You & I (guitar version)
We Could Be So Happy
Snail (live at Arlene Grocery)
The Boy With The Thorn in His Side (Smiths cover)

Also check out The J Files: Jeff Buckley, an Australian radio tribute.

Here's a *short* list of concerts and other events for remembering Jeff.

28 May 2007

I'm new here, and I bring you Sons of William.

Well, though my name has been listed over there on the right since this blog's inception, this is my very first post. So hello, it's nice to meet you. If the Volume Knob blog is a family, June, Jess, and Megan are siblings, and I'm that one cousin who lives far away and only turns up occasionally for holidays. Sad.

I do have a couple artists in mind for future posts, but this first one was inspired by a show I saw on Friday.



All I knew about Sons of William was that they were touring as the opening act with Griffin House this spring, and that he liked them well enough to have them play as his backing band as well. Griffin's endorsement made me eager to see them, but these guys and girl from Louisiana exceeded even those high expectations!

The "sounds like" on their Myspace page nails it: Sons of William's music is steeped in traditional rock and roll songwriting and simplicity. They write songs that already feel like classics, and play them with an incredibly tight rhythm section, beautiful male/female harmonies, and some honest-to-guitar-god solos. It's been a long time since I was blown away by a live set from a new (to me) band, but this band had me from their first song.

Unfortunately my favorite song from their set isn't on the EP I bought, so I can't offer a download. But you can stream it on Myspace. Check out "Savannah" for a chorus that reminds me of Fleetwood Mac*, keep an eye out for their upcoming album, and definitely check them out if one of those tour dates is near you.

[purchase Sons of Williams EPs and other merchandise]

And since it was Griffin House who introduced me to this band, I should give him a little plug, too. He is probably best known for "Waterfall," the song from that Rembrandt kissing commercial that always makes me both giddy to hear the song and a bit uncomfortable to watch those people kissing from an inch away. Can't they feel me invading their personal space?

If you ever saw that commercial and dug the song, download the whole thing! And then go buy some of Griffin's CDs! ("Waterfall" appears on Lost & Found.)

That's all for now, but I'm going to try to be back soon. Thanks for reading.

*Which makes sense, since they ended their set with a cover of "The Chain" that I must say I enjoyed even more than the original. Is that blasphemy? Sorry.

27 May 2007

The Gratuitous Graduation Post: Poughkeepsie's Always Proud



I'll try and make this brief. As of today I am a college graduate. I spent four pivotal years in Poughkeepsie, New York studying and procrastinating my life away at the lovely bastion of liberal academia that is Vassar College. Essentially there is absolutely nothing noteworthy about the city of Poughkeepsie. It's just a typical blue collar town, slightly economically depressed, yet still contains a surprising amount of decent sushi restaurants nonetheless.

However -and here's the why this post is relevant to all of you- not one, BUT two songs explicitly reference the city I no longer call home.

Poughkeepsie - Devendra Banhart

By the banks of ol' Poughkeepsie my love swam to me...

A word of note to listeners: I really wouldn't advise swimming in the Hudson River the way Devendra espouses.

Poughkeepsie's Always Proud - Soltero

You keep me like a cold, Poughkeepsie's getting old...


Tim Howard, aka Soltero is probably the best singer-songwriter you still haven't heard. Acerbic yet endearing, Howard does a remarkable job describing small town ennui buoyed by some damn jangly acoustic strumming. I can relate on a disturbingly literal level.

26 May 2007

Mix Madness Reminder!

Just a reminder that all entries for the mix madness contest are due May 29th. That's just 2 days away, so hurry up and enter now for your chance to win 3 fabulous mix CDs courtesy Megan, June and myself.

Bcuz VK luvs Teh Soof.

Gorilla vs. Bear somehow acquired an MP3 version of "Waste of What Your Kids Won't Have." The gorgeous, unaccompanied acoustic ballad in 5/8 time was recently released as Seven Swans B-side appearing on an accompanying 7" we posted about here. So we're passing it on:

Sufjan Stevens - Waste of What Your Kids Won't Have.mp3

We're still working on digging up "I Went Dancing With My Sister," the A-side, but keep in mind both sound pretty similar. In the meantime, you can still hear it (and many more Suf rarities) streaming here. Better yet, you can buy the Seven Swans LP re-release with the Bonus 7" for yourself!

24 May 2007

Where U At

O wonders of technology, Volume Knob has garnered a lot of attention recently. Here's a map of US states we've received hits from (red states are hits):


...and when I mean a lot of attention, I mean A LOT:


(Included but not shown: Netherlands Antilles, Hong Kong, Tuvalu, Trinidad & Tobago. Both maps updated Friday, July 13th)

I'm saddened by the fact that VK is so much more well-traveled than I am, yet I'm happy to live vicariously through it. I'm surprised to see people stopping by from all corners of the globe (What up Nepal, Iraq, Croatia??) and not-so surprised at the absence of others (helloooooo Greenland, Uzbekistan, Somalia, North Korea...).

Anyway, perhaps consider this our first "Thank You For Reading!" week, with the Mix Madness contest and all. Keep those submissions rolling in!

LOLSufjan

It had to happen eventually: Take one part Sufjan fanaticism and one part lolcats (with ROFLbot as a catalyst) and what do you get?

Sufjan Macros.

DONT B FOOLD BY TEH ROX HE GOT, HE STILL SUFFY FROM TEH BLOK

VISIBLE BICYCLE

I CAN HAS MOONPIE?

i arrrr a pirat

IM IN UR CHOIR, MAKIN U INDIE

INVISIBLE HAIRBRUSH

DO NOT WANT


I'll spare you the rest. Much funnier ones can be found here.

23 May 2007

It's just "down the road"

Songs: Ohia - Didn't It Rain


What's (almost) better than a new album discovery? An album Re-discovery! You know... you grab something off the shelf mindlessly that you loved 2, 5, 10 or 15 years ago, pop it in the CD player, and you're instantly whisked back to that all-too-familiar place of "I LOVE this album! Why did I ever stop listening to it?!"

OR You buy a critically acclaimed work, give a good listen or two, like it, but then shelve it for reasons unknown, to only "hear" it for the first time months or years later. Then you kick yourself for missing out on it all this time.

This happens to me all too often. It's almost embarrassing, like getting sucker punched. You just don't see it coming, but you totally should have.

My most recent assailant happens to be Songs: Ohia, Jason Molina's haunting 2002 release. A sonically vast departure from Ghost Tropic, Didn't It Rain has a sparse emptiness. Minimal instrumentation with female-backed vocals, this gospel-esque piece is slow, sleepy, melancholy. A collection of seven songs filling out a full-length album.

It's hard to describe accurately without making it sound bad, because many thoughts that come to mind have a negative connotation: hollow, empty, depressing. These things are all true, but the album itself is none of these things. Blue Factory Flame, an 8 1/2-minute track, gives the impression of rainy nights, trashy dwellings, hard times, fighting lovers, insomnia, cockroackes, broken TVs, broken hearts and cigarettes. But the exquisite sadness painted leaves the feeling of beauty rather than suffering.

This album, in the best way possible, completes my list of "Top 5 Albums to Commit Suicide To" (along with Sparklehorse's It's A Wonderful Life, Cat Power's Moon Pix, Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism, and Vic Chesnutt's Drunk.)

Songs: Ohia - Blue Factory Flame.mp3
Buy Didn't It Rain

22 May 2007

Unhappy Birthday!

It's hard to believe, but as of today Morrissey's perpetual misery, acerbic wit, to-die-for croon, and questionable fashion choices (think a crotch laden with gladiolas) have graced the planet for a whopping 48 years. It weirds me out that the man who "never had no one ever" is the same age as my mom, although I'm thankful age is the only thing they have in common. In honor of 17,532 days of moping, whining and wallowing up to his elbows in self-pity, I'm obliged to present a couple of classic and apt songs by the man himself.

Unhappy Birthday - The Smiths
Sing Your Life - Morrissey

I'm off to a champagne toast in honor of my impending college graduation, but as everyone else raises their glasses to the future, I think I'll drink to the man responsible for helping me make it through four very interesting years.

So drink, drink, drink and be ill tonight!

Indeed.

Mix Madness! (a competition for cool kids)

So what we have here is a two minute or so long clip containing 31 little song snippets. What possible reason could there be for this madness? It is simply a sign that Megan has just a little bit too much time on her hands? Well, yes. But, also, it's a competition!

Exciting, yes?

Simply download the clip, listen, and identify as many of the songs featured as you can, and then send an e-mail of these songs off to us here at Volume Knob, (volume.knob@hotmail.com). If it were any more simple, monkeys would be entering!

And what does the Volume Knob reader who guesses the most correct songs receive? They will get not one, not two, but three, yes, that's right, THREE mix CDs! Each one lovingly and thoughtfully complied by Jess, June, and myself.

Have you ever heard anything more awesome than that?

So quickly! Download! Identify! Enter!

Winners (and answers) will be announced one week from today, on Tuesday the 29th, so that gives you plenty of time to mull over it.

The 31 Song Mix Madness!

21 May 2007

Going Ga Ga



No, the title of Spoon's sixth full length album isn't a joke. Nor was the album named by a toddler. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is about as fun to listen to as it is to pronounce. Although, I'm a little baffled as to why "The Underdog" wasn't picked as the lead single instead of the plodding "The Ghost of You Still Lingers". "The Underdog" is probably the poppiest song they've ever recorded. Yes, poppier than "Monsieur Valentine". Yes, poppier than "The Way We Get By". And yes, Britt Daniels still sounds as sexy as ever. And get this, there are handclaps - lots and lots of handclaps. Ga!

The tracklisting is as follows:
1. Don't Make Me A Target
2. The Ghost of You Lingers
3. You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
4. Don't You Evah
5. Rhthm and Soul
6. Eddie's Ragga
7. The Underdog
8. My Little Japanese Cigarette Case
9. Finer Feelings
10. Black Like Me

The Underdog - Spoon


Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
is set for release July 10th

18 May 2007

I can love you in a wheelchair baby


Sometimes, as if out of nowhere, a song will randomly play and totally rupture your focus on whatever it is you happen to be doing, because clearly the task at hand is not nearly as important as the song. "I Can Love You in a Wheelchair Baby" is one of those songs. I don't know much about Benni Hemm Hemm other than the fact that he is Icelandic and is currently giving Jens Lekman and Stephin Merritt some stiff competition in the most romantic singer-songwriter ever division. Essentially the title sentiment says it all, as does the flourishing horn section and crooning vocals. They are all simply swoon-worthy. It's official, I'm in love.

I Can Love You in a Wheelchair Baby - Benni Hemm Hemm


Buy

Crash! Observe the front wheel spinning upside down


If you'll excuse my attempt at karmatically righting things in the world, to say nothing of trying to make myself feel better, here are some songs for the people who got stuck in traffic from the accident I got in yesterday (er, I was the one on the moped).

One of the Johns of They Might Be Giants fame describes his own bike accident. Mild injuries as never as bad as a blow to the ego.
John Linnell - South Carolina.mp3 (Buy State Songs)

Let's take advice from those who know. I'm sure you don't want your rates to rise any more than mine, so...
Crash Test Dummies - Keep a Lid on Things.mp3 (Buy Give Yourself A Hand)

Finally, I own up to my own neglected brake maintenance. These songs have less to do with car accidents than lost loves perhaps, but let's consider for a moment that I really, really love my bike. That counts for something, right?
Nirvana - All Apologies.mp3 ( Buy MTV Unplugged in NY)
Jude - I'm Sorry Now.mp3 (Buy No One's Really Beautiful)

17 May 2007

"People in love lie around and get fat, I didn't want us to end up like that"


So quips Eddie Argos on "People in Love," just one of several awesome new tracks leaked off their upcoming album, It's A Bit Complicated. The brilliant ode to break-ups and booze bodes well for the rest of the album, with it's jangly, yet angular (jangular?) riffs and clever lyrical musings. In typical Art Brut style, the song is simultaneously snarky and sincere. Never mind modern art, Art Brut still make me want to rock out. And unlike all of Eddie's tenuous relationships, there's nothing complicated about it.

People in Love -Art Brut

To every girl that's ever been with me, I've gotten over you...eventually.

Pre-order It's a Bit Complicated

16 May 2007

You can brave till dawn



For all you Puget Sound-area fans of groups like The Misfits and Rev. Horton Heat, there's a special group coming to Seattle this Saturday, May 19th. The Wastelanders, hailing from Bellingham, Wash., will be playing at the Sunset Tavern with IceAge Cobra, At the Spine, and The Whore Moans (hah, get it?). They're first up, at 9:00pm.

Copping to friend-rock disclaimers, the group's sound has a heavy, fast-paced take on southern garage rock. The bassist and lead singer, Ryan Roullard was my RA in college, and guitarist Loren Huggins, also of Chuckanut Drive, was a staple at the 3B Tavern for shows to be performed and enjoyed. It's great to see they're still making fab music.

Band sez: "We'll be there around sevenish, though, to hang out and say "hi." Come out and say "Hi," and get a copy of our new album while you're at it! Thanks!"

The Wastelanders - Better Men Than I.mp3
The Wastelanders - Left Hand Slap.mp3

You can buy their new album, Blackhearted American Water, at the shows or by dropping them an email.

You taste of potato chips in the morning

It took a good long while for my mind to get over the image of Rufus Wainwright in lederhosen (monogrammed lederhosen, no less), but eventually I was able to give my freshly bought copy of his latest album Release the Stars a listen.

The opening track, “Do I Disappoint You” is Rufus at his most operatic. The song builds, swells, and explodes in a dramatic frenzy of action, complete with a tormented chorus of women wailing in the background. After hearing this song, I assumed that the whole album was going to be more of the same, and I wasn’t thinking of that as a bad thing.

Which is why track two, the albums first single “Going to a Town” is such a shock. Where “Do I Disappoint You” screams, “Going to a Town” whispers softly. Where the former is clear, the latter is subtle, from a frenzy of instruments to a pared back arrangement. To be sure, there are still touches of opera lingering about “Going to a Town,” in the tortured cry of ‘tell me!’ that swells around his words, but on the whole it is a much more refrained piece.

From here the album moves onto two more softer tracks, “Tiergarten” and “Nobody’s of the Hook.” The latter has become one of my early favorites, with a beautiful string arrangement and lyrics that, in my opinion, are some of his best.

I was beginning to feel concern at this point. After the slightly hysterical action of the opening track, the album had so far been of the slow and dreamy variety. Which is all well and good, but I had maybe hoped for something more. And then…. As “Nobody’s Off The Hook” drifts to an end…

“Oh boy,” mutters Rufus. “Oh my god!” Cries a female voice. A familier tune begins to build and, heart in mouth, I realise that it’s….

“Between My Legs!” Live versions of this song have long been loved by fans, and here finally was the studio version of this rollicking, tongue in cheek number. (About, according to Rufus, his attempts to coax a man to his bed with the story that his house had a tunnel to the sea, which would come in handy if the world ever came to an end…) I know a lot of folks feel it doesn’t live up to the live versions, but I don’t agree. It may lack the raw power of the live takes, but this over the top, gloriously camp, imposable to not smile while listening to song has its charm. And lots of it. Indeed, if the personally of Mr. Wainwright was taken and turned into song, I imagine this is what it would sound like.

And from here we ease back into something a little more down key. “Rules and Regulations” is perhaps the most conventionally “poppy” song on the album, and in these early days of listening it is the only one that has failed to grab me in someway. Although I did smile to see the return of the wailing chorus. (“Not to mention the Gods!” They wail. Awesome stuff).

“Not Ready To Love,” the next track, is a lot like “Katonah,” the track Rufus contributed to the Plague Songs compilation a few months back. It has that slow, almost country twang to it. A very solid number, one that I am sure will grow on me over time.

Once again at this point I found my heart rate was settled and, while I was not growing bored, I was getting antsy once more for something a bit faster. “Slideshow,” at first, did not seem to be going to deliver that. A slow, almost acoustic beginning, it seemed like it was going to be a pretty standard balled. I should have known better than to thing I had Rufus all figured out. The chorus of this song is incredible. Incredible! It comes out of nowhere, rising from the acoustic beginning like a tidal wave in a perfectly calm ocean. It builds and crashes back down, only to build again almost instantly. Oh, it’s an amazing moment! And the lyrics! Ah, these lyrics are fantastic. Tongue in cheek, in that uniquely Rufus way. It is a song unlike any other song I have ever heard, and that is a marvelous thing. This is what Rufus himself has to say in regards to the song:

"That song is my most treasured caption right now," [Rufus] said. "I feel like it accomplishes what I set out to do a long time ago. There have been other songs, like 'Evil Angel', or 'Go or Go Ahead', similar works that were striving for what 'Slideshow' attained -- this rock 'n' roll explosion of thematic sensuality and sexual muscle. I finally accomplished it."

Nothing, I thought, could come close to the glory of “Slideshow.” Ha. You think I would have learned from the previous song not to doubt Rufus? I’ll learn one day. “Tulsa” was the next track to be warmly welcomed by my ears. A song which, if you believe the story, Rufus wrote about none other than The Killers’ Brandon Flowers. Well, I don’t know who it’s about, I just know that it’s awesome. The opera in Rufus’ soul returns here at full force. Crazy operatic strings that dance and spin, and Rufus’ voice rising and falling with perfect grace. This song sounds like it belongs in some high class opera house somewhere. Until, that is, you listen to the lyrics. Sexy, cynical, acidicly funny, and so very, very, Rufus. (“She waited for hours in the rain to meet me,” he sings. And then adds in a cheeky little voice, “not you baby!”) This song is everything I love about Rufus, from the music to the lyrics to the vocals. Oh, and I just love the reference to that other song we all know and love, "Gay Messiah."

What struck me most about the next song, “Leaving for Paris No. 2,” was not the lyrics or Rufus’ voice. It was the music. Spare at first, with these little complex touches that really grabbed me. This is a song that you think is going to build up to something, but never does. Which is not a bad thing, the pent up tension is delicious and creates an amazingly tense atmosphere. In a lot of ways the song reminded me of another well known number 2 song, “Chelsea Hotel #2,” although I can’t quite place why. This track leads nicely, very nicely, into the next song, “Sanssouci.” Another more conventional, poppy, track. Well, conventional for Rufus anyway.

And then, all too soon, it was time for the album to end, with the albums title track. “Release the Stars” starts out like some long lost Want One outtake. A pleasantly familiar, classic Rufus, kind of sound that I didn’t even realised I was missing until I heard it here. But it isn’t long before the track descends into the operatic glory that categorises most of this album, and while I was sad to see the Want One sound go, I was eager to hear what new things Rufus would show me with the song.

Which, I guess you could say, pretty much sums up this album right there.

Nobody's Off The Hook
(haven't fallen down in a while)

Slideshow
(and usually I am such a happy prince)

buy.

15 May 2007

A vox, a vox on you!

In between long bouts of thrashing to Gwar and Bad Brains, one needs a cleansing sorbet between courses of heavier fare. There's something to be said about making beautiful music with naught but one's voice. A capella can be a genre in and of itself or just a style embraced to achieve a particular effect in songwriting. Here's some favorite a capella tunes.

I should note "favorite" is a relative term, seeing as my fellow blogger here Jess hates--hates!--a capella, save for my first pick here. Smith's voice was never his greatest musical asset, if for no other reason than it existed in the long shadow created by his masterful songwriting. But stripped down to it's elements, this shockingly personal-sounding effect gives credit where it's due.
Elliott Smith - I Didn't Understand (Buy XO)

What better tribute can you imagine than amazingly polished a capella versions of some 90's "adult contemporary" tunes?
Tufts Beelzebubs - Semi-Charmed Life (Third Eye Blind cover) (Buy Pandæmonium)
The Buffoons - Wicked Game (Chris Isaac cover) (Buy Singles)

Is it considered a cover if you wrote the song?
Ben Folds - Brick (Buy Whatever and Ever Amen)

This ethereal soundscape relies on breathy whispers to carry the ambiance of floating. Soft, smoky, dark and inescapable, this is the soundtrack to a dream.
Tori Amos - The Pool (Buy Winter #1 EP)

Admit it, you LOVED "Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego?" The group that brought us the theme song also brings us a slightly more unnerving but no less amusing tune about the other thing everyone loves, zombies.
Rockapella - Zombie Jamboree (Buy Rockapella Vol. 2: From N.Y.)

If you only nab one song here today, this should be it. This group has been performing together since the 1960's and are known for their unbelievable renditions of classical pieces, jazz and movie soundtracks. With different members emulating different instruments of the orchestra, this impeccably staccato performance will blow your mind.
The Swingle Singers - Flight of the Bumblebee (Buy Live in Japan)

Finally, here's a video of the Carleton Singing Knights doing Sufjan Stevens' "Chicago".

14 May 2007

Yankee Hotel Fox-NOT


Wilco's latest album is finally out today. Sky Blue Sky has been receiving tepid reviews on the alleged basis of its lack of "experimentation." While the album is devoid of hissing electronic tape loops or ten minute songs about spiders filling out tax returns, Sky is every bit as emotional as Wilco's previous records. And ultimately that's what counts. Yes, it's smooth and straightforward and does little to rid the band of the "dad rock" stereotype, but Jeff Tweedy's vulnerability is just so damn endearing that the lack of sonic variation barely matters. Mortality obsessive lyrics like Please Don't Cry, We're designed to die and, Oh I didn’t die, I should be satisfied are poignant and plentiful. Don't let the disaffected hipster critics deter you from listening.

Stream the album in its entirety on the band's website

And you should probably buy it too.

11 May 2007

You won't see me floating



I got turned onto Portland, Oregon-based band The Dimes during my recent trip to the Rose City. A friend of mine (who shall remain anonymous, but inexplicably remains in the band's Myspace top friends) waxed poetic about the group hailing from the Mississippi district ("NoPo" for you PoMos) and their shiny, poppy indie tunes. I listened once and now I'm hooked!

These adorable young men just finished a tour (which sucks for those of us discovering them after the fact). But seeing as their sunny, Decemberists-like riffs will be stuck in your head once you hear them, and the fact that if you run into them on the street they'll likely have a beer with you, well, seeing them on tour seems redundant!

Given the band's four members seem to have an affinity for latching onto favorite fans and thusly are seldom seen separately, we've decided it's entirely appropriate to try out her new brand of cheesy, band-specific pickup lines: "Where's the other 30 cents?" "Brother, can you spare a... well, you know!"

Forgive us. Once you hit the cheery "Whoa-ohhhs" and bell-like strummed guitars, you'll be singing along after the first listen. Seriously, keep an eye out for these guys! I think we can expect great things from them.

Stream!
The Dimes - Catch Me Jumping.mp3
The Dimes - Forget Me.mp3

Buy The Long Arm Came Down

A long time ago in the kingdom of candy

Gruff Rhys: Candylion

What does Candylion sound like you ask? Candylion sounds like everything you'd expect a song called Candylion to sound like. There are tinkling splashes of xylophone and breezy fiddle flourishes, Gruff Rhys soothing vocals and whimsical lyrics about life in "the kingdom of candy." But then just as everything is merrily going along, this ominous line comes in:

Dreams can come true. Nightmares can also.

Maybe not all is well in the world of our sugary feline protagonist. I wonder if Candylion lives anywhere near Candy Mountain. That might explain it.

Gruff Rhys - Candylion

Buy

10 May 2007

Every couple minutes someone says he can't stand it any more

Here's Death Cab front man Ben Gibbard's cover of The Mountain Goat's "Palmcorder Yajna", which he performed yesterday at his Philadelphia show. It's virtually impossible to improve on the original, still Gibbard gives it his best shot. This was actually the song which introduced me to the Mountain Goats three years ago and still remains one of my top 5 personal tMG favorites. "Palmcorder Yajna" feaures John Darnielle's twisted and introspective lyricism at its best.


Download the Original:
The Mountain Goats - Palmcorder Yajna

Buy We Shall All Be Healed

Videos of The Decemberists @ WWU, Bellingham, WA, 05/05/07

This was the Cinco De Mayo show held in Western Washington University's red square (no, not like the one in Moscow). Fortunately these folks had decent weather. My Brightest Diamond opened (I'm still trying to dig something up of them). Here's some videos passed on by fellow alumni* who were fortunate enough to be in attendance (I tell ya, tickets were impossible to get).

Classic Rock Soundcheck! About two minutes in they play "Sweet Home Alabama." I always thought that song was lacking in accordion. Good thing Meloy and company rectify that:


Sixteen Military Wives:


Sons and Daughters:


The Crane Wife 2:


*Special thanks to Lisa for her videos!

Kid You Fell In The Milk


The estimable June is not the only one of us here at Volume Knob to have been receiving vinyl shaped parcels in the mail. The very awesome Jon Nall (if you see him in the street, give the guy a hug, 'cause he's just that awesome) sent across the seas a copy of one of The Mountain Goats' earliest albums, "Zopilote Machine" for me to call my very own.

I once presented myself with the challenge of describing this masterpiece in 100 words, and that is all I shall offer you now, because I still believe that this album can not be described, it can only be listened to, and any attempts to convey it's glory in words is nothing more than folly.

The year is 1994, and armed with naught but his guitar John Darnielle, with a little help of the Bright Mountain Choir, will record an album. His guitar playing will not be perfect, neither will his voice, and static will cling to the notes like a lover. But his songs of love turned sour, of paranoid teenage Caesars, of going to Bristol (and Lebanon, and Georgia), of mourning mothers, of bad priestesses, of Mesoamerican gods eating plums, of criminals falling for snitches, of messages, of vodka, of buzzards and hellhounds, these songs they will be alive, they will be passionate, and. They. Will. Last. Forever.

And now I leave you two songs recorded directly from the vinyl, because if ever an album was made to be in vinyl form, it's this one.


Quetzelcoatl is Born
(into the fire you go)


Going to Georgia
(the world throws its light underneath your hair)

buy (seriously).


09 May 2007

Two previously unreleased Sufjan Stevens songs


I just got The Seven Swans LP re-issue (Sounds Familyre) in the mail yesterday! Don't worry, I won't inundate with "OMG vinyl is superior to CD" because that's elitist BS BUT I did enjoy the two new/previously unreleased songs that come on a bonus 7": "I Went Dancing With My Sister" and "What A Waste of What Your Kids Won't Have."

Unfortunately, since they're on vinyl and I lack the capability to convert them into a more share-able format, I can only offer descriptions of what they sound like:

"Dancing," the A-side, is in fact a song you just might want to dance to. Upbeat and almost slightly snarky with fond remembrance. It's quite a bit lighter than most of the fare found on Seven Swans.

"Waste," the B-side, is a more somber toned piece, gorgeously set in 5/8 time, featuring double-tracked vocals of Suf and Megan Smith with simple banjo backing. It's quite reminiscent of Michigan's "For the Widows in Paradise, for The Fatherless in Ypsilanti" and Illinois' "Casimir Pulaski Day."

Maybe these'll surface in digital format soon! If I find them I'll post them. I'm also working on getting the lyrics down to share.

In the meantime, the LP is a solidly constructed piece of quality vinyl; each disc is hand-numbered. If you have a player and are at all curious I'd recommend it (and, I don't think it's redundant to have the album in two formats).

PS, Today's posts dedicated to those working on finals/papers and needing procrastination material. ;)

EDIT: An anonymous philanthropist says you can hear those two songs (and a slew of other golden B-sides/rarities) streaming here over at allgoodnaysayers.net!!

News from KRS, AK, and the guiltiest of pleasures

Just the highlights. From Kill Rock Stars:
+ The Gossip’s Beth Ditto has an advice column in The Guardian?!
+ Elliott Smith's album New Moon is now streaming at MySpace until tomorrow. After that, you can hear it at virb.com.
+ The Mary Timothy Band's debut album, The Shapes We Make, has a song available for download. Check out Sharpshooter.mp3.
+ Xiu Xiu has a video podcast (live at Neumos in Seattle, WA) available here.

From Asthmatic Kitty:
+ Shapes and Sizes' new album Split Lips, Winning Hips, A Shiner comes out May 22. You can hear it streaming on AK's site now. Download Alone/Alive.mp3 and Head Movin'.mp3.
+ The first 150 people who order it will receive the band's limited release tour EP.
+ S&S tours with The National this spring and summer throughout the Midwest and central Canada (I think I speak for all on the west coast and beyond when I say Wah!)
+ Unusual Animals has a show on May 13 at Union Hall in Brooklyn.Get tickets and go see them with Flying, Stars Like Fleas, and Osso (It's also the release party for the aforementioned new S&S album).

Finally, our buddy Wes debates the tongue-in-cheek term "guilty pleasure" with us as we announce the Guilt By Association compilation, released August 28th.

Dubbed as "Bridging the gap between TRL and Pitchfork, bringing together the indie with the irreverent," I'll let the track list speak for itself:
1. Petra Haden: ”Don't Stop Believin’” (Journey)
2. Devendra Banhart: “Don't Look Back In Anger” (Oasis)
3. Mark Mulcahy: “From This Moment On” (Shania Twain)
4. Luna: “Straight Up” (Paula Abdul)
5. The Concretes: “Back For Good” (Take That)
6. Jim O'Rourke: “Viva Forever” (Spice Girls)
7. Goat: “Sugar We're Going Down” (Fall Out Boy)
8. Will Oldham/Bonnie 'Prince' Billy” “Can't Take That Away” (Mariah Carey)
9. Woody Jackson Orchestra featuring Money Mark: Love's Theme (Love Unlimited Orchestra)
10. Porter Block: ”Breaking Free” (High School Musical)
11. Mooney Suzuki: ”Just Like Jesse James” (Cher)
12. Geoff Farina: “Two Tickets To Paradise” (Eddie Money)
13. Casey Shea: “Chop Suey” (System of a Down)
14. Superchunk: “Say My Name” (Destiny's Child)
15. Mike Watt: “Burning For You” (Blue Oyster Cult)

Will Oldham covers Mariah Carey? Devendra Banhart covers Oasis? ANYbody is covering Paula Abdul, Eddie Money and Take That?? This is either the GREATEST or WORST thing to ever happen to music. It's certainly the guiltiest.

07 May 2007

The Felice Brothers


It's one thing to say a song's lyrics contain novelistic detail, but it's quite another to say a song's been penned by a novelist. Such a distinction belongs to The Felice Brothers' drummer Simone Felice. Like his gorgeous, stream-of-consciousness novels, the band's songs are equally pensive, filled with the destitute, downtrodden folks of a dusty, disillusioned American landscape. But don't let their Brooklyn address fool you, this is rustic Americana at its most pure and heartfelt. In regards to Simone's novel "Goodbye, Amelia", the esteemed BBC has said "no one is doing what Felice is doing" and that lyrical uniqueness of his prose most certainly carries through to the music. Also, they tour in 1987 special education school bus. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

Also full disclosure: The Felice Brothers are sort of the house band for the literary magazine I help edit. On more than one occasion they've read poetry and excerpts from novels, and of course performed on campus for various events the magazine sponsors. And they are the nicest guys -the kind of people you can just sit around barefoot on the carpet and eat falafel with and confide your life story with. And they are genuinely talented. That's part of the reason I got so excited upon hearing about their recent signing to Loose Records. There Loose debut, "Tonight at the Arizona" will be released May 14th. Preview these two tracks:


Your Belly in My Arms
- The Felice Brothers
Mercy - The Felice Brother
when devils fall in love...
Buy

Leaked! "So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley"

So Real: Songs From Jeff Buckley


This is basically a "Best Of" compilation album. What's amazing is--and this is assuming that the artistic purpose of releasing this is to showcase Jeff's songwriting skills-- is that it features three covers. That's either poor planning, or it demonstrates how amazing Jeff was at his craft: that he could take another's song and so completely, so convincingly make it his own.

Other than that, while a nice selection, what is the purpose of this album? Many Buckley fans tend to be completionists, and even those that aren't are bound to have all this material. At best it's redundant; at worst it's another stab at milking out the estate for all it's worth (Mary Guibert, I'm looking in your direction!)

Track listing (and the album where it originally appears):
01. Last Goodbye (Grace)
02. Lover You Should Have Come Over (Grace)
03. Forget Her (Grace Legacy Edition)
04. Eternal Life (Road Version) (Grace Legacy Edition)
05. Dream Brother (Alternate Take) (Grace Legacy Edition)
06. The Sky Is A Landfill (Sketches)
07. Everybody Here Wants You (Sketches)
08. So Real (Grace)
09. Mojo Pin (Live at Sin-é)
10. Vancouver (Sketches)
11. Je N'en Connais Pas La Fin* (Live At Sin-é)
12. Grace (Grace)
13. Hallelujah** (Grace)
14. I Know It's Over*** (WFMU's The Music Faucet, 1992)
* Edith Piaf song
** Leonard Cohen song
***The Smiths song


Get it HERE! (the password is BUTTERFLY)
Stereogum.com is also streaming the 14th track here.

For those even faintly interested in investing in some Buckley would be wise to skip So Real and go for Grace or Mystery White Boy instead. Umpteen posthumous releases aren't flattering on ANYone (coughcoughTUPACcough).

06 May 2007

Andrew Bird @ Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Ore., 05/04/07

Volume Knob: showing our affection one sock at a time


Volume Knob prides itself as a serious music blog for serious music fans. What better way to demonstrate this than writing our URL and miscellaneous notes of affection on a pair of striped socks, stuffing them into my bra, then pulling them out and tossing them onstage at opportune moments, while yelling things like "Take off your SHOOOOEESSSS!"? Yet this is precisely what I did last Friday night after a two-hour drive to the City of Roses.

Andrew Bird at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, Friday, May 4, 2007


Let's back up:
The opening act, Apostle of Hustle from Toronto, started about 15 minutes late, but put on a great show, despite breaking some key rules: "If you're a drummer and join a band that already has a drummer, then you're an asshole," says comedian Todd Barry. These Canucks would be well to take note, but it's an irrelevant point during long but inspired instrumental stretches with driving beats and more than a hint of Spanish flair. The gratuitous Powell's Bookstore name-dropping and mentions of drug use and death to current political leaders of the US and Canada opened up the crowd a bit. These guys were gooooood.

Andrew Bird playing glockenspiel and whistling


Yet there still seemed to be a rift between musician and audience by the time Andrew Bird was well into his set. Much of this is derived primarily from audial experience, seeing that, as one of the shortest people in the audience, I was naturally stuck standing behind a fellow more than a foot taller than me. Thusly by the time I pleaded for Bird to remove his shoes (about three songs in) I was met with a matter-of-factly "Already did!" as Bird lifted up his right leg, almost ballet-style, so we could see his black sock-clad foot.

Andrew Bird investigating the source of his newly besocked amp


Despite a tough crowd in an uncomfortably hot room and a handful of technical snafus throughout the set, Bird did his charmingly best to rouse the audience to deafening cheers by the end of the long set.

In the midst of the head-bangingly powerful rock-driven performance, Bird indulged my request for "Dr. Stringz" with note of a few other instruments he fixes ("zither...harpsichord...lute?") before transitioning directly into an extended rock-out version of "Fake Palindromes."

Andrew Bird as Dr. Stringz


Much of the material highlighted the best of Armchair Apocrypha, with a few other favorites from Mysterious Production of Eggs: "Fiery Crash," "Plasticities" and "Simple X" blended seamlessly After the raucous opener "Imitosis." The slowly roused crowd finally came it its feet after the Yes, yes, this rocks!/No, no, don't stop a-rockin'! favorite "Skin Is, My."

Andrew Bird whistling into some cone shaped instrument


In short, it was an impeccably performed set by a an impressively technical and creative musician. Using all musical resources available including whistles, hand claps, and an occasionally malfunctioning looping machine, he created a powerful soundscape of strings strummed, plucked and hammered. With a sensual, conversational quality to spoken word moments, the powerful sounds of an entire strings section (created by layering his violin) contrasted gorgeously.

For those of you lucky enough to attend Western Washington University, Bird will be playing there tonight at the Viking Union lounge!

Got To Be Good Looking, Cause He's So Hard To See.



Rich seems like an odd choice of adjective to describe an album that is pretty much just one issue laden young man and his acoustic guitar. And yet, whenever I think of Loudon Wainwright's (father of those other two Wainwrights) sophomore album, Album II, rich is the first word that comes to mind.

I suspect this richness is a result of his voice. There is something so incredibly earthy, so passionate, so god damned sexy about his voice, it adds a certain kind of texture to the songs here that other bands bend over backwards trying to achieve with multiple instruments, but never really come close to it.

This album is like a hot, gravy smothered roast on the coldest day of winter. And just as a sunday roast brings with it images of home and family, so too do the songs of Album II. Loudon sings of his new wife, of his new son (what's his name? Rufus or something, I think...), of growing older, and of old friends.

Which, maybe, sounds a little boring? Loudon's voice and distinctly different melodies should be enough to ensure that this album is anything but. But just in case, he also sings of cheating on his wife with pretty young things whilst on tour, of all the different ways in which he could kill himself, and of how, if he's being really honest, he's not sure he really loves his kid just yet.

Some may say that Loudon's later work is superior to his first albums. But for me, nothing comes even close to Album II.

Motel Blues
(chronologically I know you're young
but when you kissed me in the club you bit my tongue
I'll write a song for you, I'll put it on my next L.P
Come up to my motelroom, sleep with me)


Be Careful There's A Baby In The House
(and a baby will not be fooled
it's a thing brand new
does what it wants to)

Buy


04 May 2007

Don't Give Up on Your Dreams, Nobody!

I'm From Barcelona

Finally, finally, finally, after nearly a year of filling your earbuds with delectably Swedish, twee-pop goodness, I'm From Barcelona are finally touring the states. Well, maybe touring is an overstatement -but the band has scheduled two US summer appearances -one at Lollapolooza and another at Brooklyn's McCarren Park Pool slated for August 5th. Wow, I guess it takes an abandoned, Great Depression era, Olympic-sized swimming pool to contain the 29 member collective.

For those of you unfamiliar with the band's debut album "Let Me Introduce My Friends", you've been missing out on pure candy-coated sonic sunshine. Think an emasculated Stuart Murdoch (if that's even possible) multiplied by 29. Sure the lyrics don't stray very far from kindergarten territory (treehouses, stamp collections and chicken pox are the album's prime subject matter), however, like all good twee-pop, there is a melancholic naivete that belies the music's surface. Handclaps and teardrops abound.

I'm From Barcelona - We're From Barcelona
I'm From Barcelona - The Painter

Buy Let Me Introduce My Friends

03 May 2007

New Moon



In a little less than a week, Elliott Smith fans can finally legally obtain, New Moon, a two disc collection of rarities and previously unreleased material recorded between 1995 and 1997. After giving it a few cursory listens, I can tell you this: posthumous collections rarely sound this consistent and cohesive. Mainly acoustic and sparsely produced, these songs are among some of the finest of the Kill Rocks Stars era, and some would say golden era, of his career. But beyond exemplifying his trademark melancholy and simultaneously angelic, yet caustic voice reminiscent of choirboy kicked out of church, New Moon serves as a bittersweet reminder of how much we have truly lost.

Going Nowhere - Elliott Smith
High Times - Elliott Smith

Pre-order New Moon

02 May 2007

"Does Trent really have a nine-inch nail, Tori?"

Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero Tori Amos: American Doll Posse

Depending on how you look at it, Year Zero is either a great beginning or a great end for Nine Inch Nails. Since Trent Reznor's first album Pretty Hate Machine debuted in 1989, his forerunning sound of progressive industrial rock (d)evolved into a story playing out like man vs. machine. The NIN wiki already has a detailed list and storyline of this.

His friendships and personal history are almost as well-documented as the progression of his music itself. He single-handedly launched a huge movement in popularizing industrial and bringing it out of the shadows, giving rise to artists like Ministry and KMFDM. A one-time friendship with Marilyn Manson that ended badly after Manson became popular had Reznor talking openly about his battle with both depression and anti-depressants.

His friendship with Tori Amos has had a lasting impact on both musicians. While she's name dropped him in her lyrics ("With your Nine Inch Nails and little fascist panties", "Made my own Pretty Hate Machine") and collaborated with him on "Past The Mission," he's borrowed her lyrics ("Starfuckers, Inc.,") and now again their albums seem to be reaching toward a parallel.

Tori Amos' ninth studio album, American Doll Posse, released yesterday, shares many sentiments, at least musically. Both albums have a heavy focus on the intersection of Christianity, the current state of the US, the ubiquity of suburbia, the angst of suffering through a political administration gone awry. Even the album art is a mirror between the two albums: grim, dark photography of subjects with a Bible in their right hand and bloodshed on the left.

But the similarities continue sonically and thematically. The first track, "Yo George" is a veiled metaphor of President Bush as "mad" King George. "Code Red," with its heavy, pulsing minor chords, wailing electric guitar and plodding beat sounds like they could have been mastered by Reznor.

Even the publicity surrounding both albums' releases echoes a sort of disaffected schitzophrenia. While Reznor fans put together vague clues from T-shirts, cell phones, USB drives and Web sites, Tori's five "girls" took on individual personalities and spread themselves across the web, taking up cryptic blogs on Myspace, Livejournal and other networking sites. The reception we're getting is that there's very little to smile about.

So, what's the point? Is this just a gloomy doomsday message told from a male and female point of view? Hardly. Despite their similarities, there were no overt collaborations between the two artists for these albums. While Reznor seems pleased with relishing the, ahem, Downward Spiral of our state of affairs, Tori's album shows hope and light.

With renewed focus on her craft after 2005's awful release The Beekeeper, ADP in comparison take a strong affinity to Southern Rock with guitar-backed dittys and somewhat challenging lyrics ("M-I-L-F Don't you forget!"). ADP borrows much more heavily from 2002's gorgeous Scarlet's Walk and even has tracks reminiscent of 1996's Boys for Pele.

Nine Inch Nails - The Good Soldier.mp3
Nine Inch Nails - The Greater Good.mp3
Tori Amos - Code Red.mp3
Tori Amos - Yo George.mp3
Tori Amos - Big Wheel.mp3

Buy Year Zero and American Doll Posse

01 May 2007

Sincerely, L. Cohen

Audiofile is running a contest for Leonard Cohen devotees. Email them and explain in 60 words or fewer what your favorite Cohen song is and why.
The winner will receive an autographed copy of Cohen's 2006 poetry collection, Book of Longing. One runner-up will win new remastered editions of Cohen's classic first three albums and another by Anjani (is it me, or is the runner-up prize better?).
Deadline is Tuesday, May 8.

See, I want to do this but it seems my two favorites, "Hallelujah" and "Famous Blue Raincoat" are both quote-unquote obvious choices. To relish my love upon them seems not only trite, but also potentially swimming in ample competition with those who can describe the gripping visuals and lamentful emotions expressed better than myself. But there's no harm in trying. After all, it's only 60 words, right? (This paragraph alone, save this addendum, clocks in at 78 words.)

Details here!

You're nasty, please leave me alone...

Lily Allen: Alright, Still...

Lily Allen's been rocking 'tween "reggrime" in the UK since last summer but we Yanks had to wait until January to get our grubby paws on her. Her debut album, Alright, Still... has been hailed as a relief from the hyper-saccharine girl pop drowning any sensibility out of the top 40 on either side of the pond. It's not unfair to make a comparison to the snarky sensibilities of Nellie McKay, down to the in-your-face insistence to Get Away From Me.

A light, summery album boasting fresh, reggae-infused dancey hits is prime for club remixing or just singing aloud to in the car, windows rolled down. The potty-mouth lyrics and comic-book-esque album art remind you not to take this BS too hard: it's just music after all. With deeper fare than pop princess produce but not as inaccessible as Lady Sovereign, this comedian's daughter pokes light at lame pick-up attempts, getting revenge at lame boyfriends and the facade people put on.

This track showcases Allen's satiny voice both singing and matter-of-factly stating (in thick Cockney! iieee!) a litany of excuses to escape unwanted attention. With sprinkly piano and an almost ska beat, by the end you'll be laughing along with her about the ridiculousness of the situation on both ends.

Lily Allen - Knock 'Em Out.mp3
Buy Alright, Still...
Also, check out her Myspace.

...In a boat on a river, with tangerine trees...

What is it like listening to Dolorean's latest album, You Can't Win?

Picture yourself walking down a busy city street. The dreary noise of the city surrounds you. Traffic and people and a deluge of other things. And then a faint strain of music reaches your ears. You follow it to a tall fence, which is too high to climb over. You press your ear against the wood, and you can hear songs. Songs that sound slightly destorted, as though they are reaching you from a great distance. The songs are personal, and you feel as though maybe you shouldn't listen. Maybe this slow, sad, otherworldly music was not meant for the ears of people on this side of the fence.
The right thing to do would be to keep walking. And you will. Right after this song.

download: Just Don't Leave Town

Buy.