Monday, October 20, 2014

Theme Song for HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - "Go" By Valley Lodge

John Oliver (Photo via HBO)
That catchy tune picked as the theme song for HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver got me wondering who was behind this simple blast of guitars acting as an energizing boost to the show ahead.  I've been a fan of John Oliver since his early days on The Daily Show, so I'm rooting for him as he establishes himself as a comedy curator with a more in depth analysis of the world's craziness. (Although I still can't get used to the uncensored copy, wincing at so many words that would have been bleeped out on other channels -- as my English teacher mother would remind us, there are plenty of other colorful words to choose from!) 

The theme song turns out to be "Go" by Valley Lodge, a power pop quintet based in New York.  It is off their third self-released album, Use Your Weapons (2013).  I can't say I'm a fan of the stylized vocals, but the straight-forward, basic band approach is refreshing in this day of too much overproduced mayhem.  Take a listen to the full song and check out the band in the video below.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New Video for TV on the Radio's Single "Happy Idiot" (Plus live concert videos from the NMM archives)

TV on the Radio (Photo via Harvest Records)
TV on the Radio (TOTR) has released a video for the teaser single "Happy Idiot" starring none other than Paul Reubens, a.k.a. that iconic pop culture character Peewee Herman.  Reubens stars as a race care driver cruising past the band in white suits and Karen Gillen (most recently in Gaurdians of the Galaxy) in various female stereotypes offering come hither looks. It's a kicker of a tune, with the usual TOTR charged energy throughout. The group's fifth studio album, Seeds, is due November 18 from Harvest Records.

I have experienced this Brooklyn-based group as headliners at two festivals -- Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 2013 and Moogfest 2011.  Singer Tunde Adebimpe's smooth tenor floats above the sonic urgency provided by these over-qualified musicians, for an indie rock band at least.  Check out our live concert videos and listen up to the "Happy Idiot" below.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Funeral Songs Playlist of My Own As We Honor My Mother

I'm busy planning a memorial service this week for my mother. There's relief along with the sadness after watching her slow decline from ALS these past two years, but it's amazing how the details swirl amid the heartache. This is my favorite photo of the two of us from a vacation in Florida long ago. My Mom taught me that culture makes everything worth living and maybe it's genetics, but I have the same love of music. Her favorite genres were Broadway shows, movie scores and all things classical which was known as "Nana music" to my kids. Yet music also moves me deeply, cutting straight to the core with a vibrancy that fills my being. And as my brother says she liked her music "the louder, the better." Ditto.

On the way to see her last week, the day before she left us/her passing (insert one of the countless terms I've heard recently here), I listened to my own Funeral Songs playlist. I usually punch the lower radio dial for a college radio or NPR station along the way, but I needed a something I count on to last me for hours. It's a fluid list like the recent post listing my Top 25 Concerts, certainly not set in stone until the time comes. Like that or a desert island list (songs you'd take along if marooned), it makes for a lively conversation -- even if just in your own head. Of course, mine is in playlist form and I was even critiquing my order as tears streamed down my face, having to face mortality head on. 

Eddie Argus of Art Brut told me in a PopMatters interview that he named a song "Ice Hockey" instead of "Funeral Song," even though that was the intended purpose. Thought that was a cheeky way to approach things, to use his English term.  So if you'd like to listen to my current collection of blog faves and other tunes that have inspired me along life's path, check it out below. As I load my laptop with my mother's CD collection to get ready for the event this weekend, I am thankful for this continuing outlet for rejuvenation, however it came my way.

JJS Funeral Songs (link to listen)
1. "All Things Must Pass"  George Harrison
2. "Life On Mars"  David Bowie
3. "Comforting Sounds"  Mew
4. "Across the Universe" Rufus Wainwright
5. "One Day Like This" – Elbow
6. "Signs of Love" – Moby
7. "Do You Realize?" The Flaming Lips
8. "Ode to LRC" Band of Horses
9. "NYC"  Interpol
10. "Afterlife" Arcade Fire
11. "Us vs Them" LCD Soundsystem
12. "Road to Nowhere"  Talking Heads
13. "Heaven"Psychedelic Furs
14. "Inside Out" Spoon (radio edit)
15. "Perfect Day" – Lou Reed

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Song by Ariel Pink "Put Your Number In My Phone" (Album Due November 18)

Ariel Pink
Once again, I am smitten by a song from L.A. based artist Ariel Pink (born Ariel Marcus Rosenberg). He is musically talented to be sure, with just enough tongue in his cheek to keep things interesting. His song as Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, "Only in My Dreams," earned a spot on my Fall 2012 New Music Playlist with its swirl of hazy synths and a skeptic's view of modern romance.

I've already heard the lead single and title track for Ariel Pink's upcoming album via 4AD out November 18, "pom pom," plenty on KCRW. This pure pop confection has that same recognizable vibe. Listen closely and what you think you've all heard before is instantly rejuvenated, by this lyrical update referencing the simple act of putting one's number into another's phone. The song is part of a double album of seventeen tracks and as Ariel Pink explains, "Although this is the first 'solo' record credited to my name, it is by far the least 'solo' record I have ever recorded." Take a listen to the new song below.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Our His & Hers 25 Top Concert Lists Comparison With Video Highlights

Celebrating the anniversary in Montreal
On the way home from seeing Arcade Fire in Montreal (write up, photos and vids in the previous post) Paul and I took the long road trip to transcribe our top 25 concert moments of all time, plus some Honorable Mentions with the overflow of awesome live music.  It has been an ongoing conversation for years and yes, most of the bands we have experienced together. So on the occasion of our anniversary today, I thought I'd list them here as a his and hers compilation.  As a testament to our longevity, The Ritz is now known as Webster Hall and a big thank you to the Bowery Presents for sprucing up venues around New York City, especially the Music Hall of Williamsburg, The Capitol Theater and Bowery Ballroom -- all excellent spots to see a show. And of course we are fuzzy on some of the dates.

As far as compiling the lists, it was hard to put things in any particular order or consider many festival slots since it usually means not seeing an entire set. Both of us did list Franz Ferdinand at Austin City Limits Music Festival (2013) and Flaming Lips at Moogfest (2012), as we got to the stages early to secure a good view for the complete set. I've added videos from those shows here along with one from LCD Soundsystem's first night of the final week of shows for the band, truly epic.  Other matches are the Talking Heads in 1983, which I wrote about recently with the 30th anniversary of the concert doc from the tour, Stop Making Sense, and David Bowie's 1983 "Serious Moonlight" tour which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube here. But can you guess which list is Paul's and which is mine?

1. Talking Heads 1983 (Forest Hills, NYC)
2. David Bowie 1983 (Madison Square Garden, NYC)
3. Flaming Lips 2011 (Moogfest Asheville, NC)
4. Arcade Fire 2014 (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal)
5. LCD Soundsystem 2011 (Terminal 5 NYC)
6. Franz Ferdinand 2013 (Austin City Limits Music Festival, TX)
7. Moby 2009 (Irving Plaza, NYC)
8. Beck 2014 (Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC)
9. Elbow 2014 (Webster Hall, NYC)
10. Art Brut 2012 (Music Hill of Williamsburg, NYC)
11. Weezer 2006 (Roseland, NYC)
12. Spoon 2009 (Roseland, NYC)
13. Hot Chip 2010 (Moogfest Asheville, NC)
14. Phantom Planet 2004? (Irving Plaza, NYC)
15. Paul Westerberg 2005? (The Globe Norwalk, CT)
16. David Byrne 2009 (Oxford, UK)
17. David Byrne 2001 (Apollo Theater, NYC)
18. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. 2011 (Bowery Ballroom, NYC)
19. Peter Bjorn & John 2011 (Bowery Ballroom, NYC)
20. The National 2010 (Brooklyn Academy of Music, NYC)
21. CAKE 2010 (Irving Plaza, NYC)
22. Gang of Four 1984 (The Ritz, NYC)
23. Octopus Project & Devo 2010 (Moogfest Asheville, NC)
24. Sufjan Stevens 2010 (Beacon Theater, NYC)
25. Iggy Pop 1986 (The Ritz, NYC)

Honorable Mention:
Dandy Warhols 2011 (Webster Hall, NYC)
The Walkmen 2012 (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Brooklyn Academy of Music, NYC)
Band of Horses 2014 (The Capitol Theatre Port Chester, NY)
Portugal The Man 2012 (Terminal 5, NYC)
Fitz And The Tantrums 2010 (Mercury Lounge, NYC)

1. Talking Heads 1983 (Forest Hills, NYC)
2. David Bowie 1983 (Madison Square Garden, NYC)
3. Flaming Lips 2011 (Moogfest Asheville, NC)
4. Arcade Fire 2014 (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal)
5. LCD Soundsystem 2011 (Terminal 5, NYC)
6. Franz Ferdinand 2013 (Austin City Limits Music Festival, TX)
7. Frank Zappa 1978 (Felt Forum, NYC)
8. Police 1982 (Syracuse University, NY)
9. Gang of Four 1984 (The Ritz, NYC)
10. The Clash 1981 (The Bond, NYC)
11. Beck 2014 (Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC)
12. Phantom Planet 2004? (Irving Plaza, NYC)
13. Orbital 2012 (Moogfest Asheville, NC)
14. Allman Brothers & Eric Clapton 2011 (Beacon Theater, NYC)
15. Yes 1978 (Madison Square Garden, NYC)
16. Paul Westerberg 2005? (The Globe Norwalk, CT)
17. Band of Horses 2014 (The Capitol Theatre Port Chester, NY)
18. Peter Bjorn & John 2011 (Bowery Ballroom, NYC)
19. Spoon 2009 (Roseland, NYC)
20. Weezer 2006 (Roseland, NYC)
21. Atoms for Peace 2013 (Austin City Limits Music Festival, TX)
22. Hot Chip 2010 (Moogfest Asheville, NC)
23. Grateful Dead 1987 (Providence, RI)
24. Fitz and The Tantrums 2010 (Mercury Lounge, NYC)
25. Iggy Pop 1993 (The Ritz, NYC)

Honorable Mention:
The Walkmen 2012 (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Brooklyn Academy of Music NYC)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. 2011 (Bowery Ballroom, NYC)
Jeff Beck 2009 (B.B. King Blues Club, NYC)
CAKE 2010 (Irving Plaza, NYC)
Sufjan Stevens 2010 (Beacon Theater, NYC)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Arcade Fire @ the Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal 8/30/14

Arcade Fire's world tour in support of the new album Reflektor came to a close before an adoring hometown crowd in Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau August 30 -- the carnival-like atmosphere permeated the balmy breezy summer night with most of the fans in some sort of fancy dress or costume.  The local C-Pop band Franka opened the concert connecting Arcade Fire's latest Haitian influences as one dollar of every ticket sold (estimated at 30,000) going towards the KANPE Foundation providing assistance in the country (set up by band member Régine Chassagne who is of Haitian descent). After being pranked at the very first warehouse show in Brooklyn last October, I was more than willing to give this beloved band a second chance.

Veteran indie band Spoon hit the stage to bring the music back into the alt-rock realm, rolling out hits such as "Got Nuffin'," "I Turn My Camera On," and "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb." These sturdy rock tunes were interspersed with songs from the latest album, They Want My Soul, such as the instant classic “Rent I Pay,” the soulful “Inside Out” and an extra spacey “Knock, Knock, Knock.”  It was great to see singer Britt Daniel’s swagger back as frontman after his side project as Divine Fits that required him to share the stage. He thanked Arcade Fire for inviting them along on the tour and cheekily remarked that this was “quite a crowd” in attendance. The band definitely acquired some additional followers that night with this solid set of old and new.

Dance party man Dan Deacon kept things going while the road crew readied the stage for the main act. He even had to ask for a sand bag or something to keep his D.J. gear from bouncing mightily while grooving to his own music. As he likes to do, Deacon created a dance off between sides of the audience mimicking appointed leaders, a Simon Says game that had the throngs connecting in movement.

A giant mirrored robot announced Arcade Fire in a booming voice across the venue, and with the title track from the new album, “Reflektor,” everything was kicked into high gear.  Songwriter Win Butler finally spoke a few songs in using a Franglais sprinkled with expletives, saying how happy they were to be back home after traveling the world.  So many favorite Arcade Fire songs were on the set list (see below), all even more fabled and anthemic in the live setting.  The new songs were also given an extra dimension, for example Win Butler asked everyone to pretend they were in a crowded club and dance to “We Exist.”

While the current touring band includes over a dozen musicians, so much of the coverage has focused on husband and wife Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. (For example, the print edition of The New York Times had photos only of them with a recent review.) Will Butler arrived center stage to sing in older songs and jam on guitar with brother Win, and even the horn section had choreographed moves. But during the song, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” the couple really did steal the show by recreating the longing of mythological separated lovers, with expressive singing in a dramatic duet as Chassagne was off on a platform off stage surrounded by dancers in skeleton costumes.

As the band has done throughout the tour, a cover tune was selected for the location. In Montreal, Wolf Parade’s “I’ll Believe in Anything” was offered, cranking up the guitar crunch in respect.  The group then returned to their own party music for “Here Comes the Nighttime,” with the extra costumed dancers joining in. Always anticipated but never out of place, Arcade Fire’s epic “Wake Up” closed the night, a sing along complete with confetti and fireworks. All is forgiven now, see set list curtesy of @ArcadeFireTube and videos below plus more videos on our YouTube page.

Waiting for Spoon
Camera guy Paul in the crowd

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

YouTube Playlist of Late Summer 2014 New Music Playlist Songs

The videos found on YouTube for my Late Summer 2014 New Music Playlist are a mix of the straight forward audio, filmed footage and showing the band playing the song, which is my favorite type. I plugged in live performances from my favorite online music stations and new tunes sources, KCRW (Vacationer's "Paradise") and KEXP (Eels' "Where I'm From"), as it's always a treat to experience live sessions.  The Orwells and Interpol videos present the groups in action, while Strand of Oaks is stripped down to just Timothy Showalter and his acoustic guitar. Britt Daniel of Spoon is seen driving along in an eery, apocalyptic world with a twist, Avigdor Zahner-Isenber of Avi Buffalo washes up on a beach only to be forced into office drudgery and Ex Hex chooses to rock along to some wacky food obsessions (deviled eggs!)

I did have to insert another song by Christopher Owens, "Nothing More Than Everything To Me." It's a more upbeat tune than "It Comes Back To You," but I do love the video. Owens revisits his youth and the sweet discovery of love. Enjoy it all here or on YouTube.