Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Late Fall 2011 New Music Playlist

Here’s a new music playlist to indulge in before the onslaught of holiday music starts dancing in our heads.  Strong releases by Atlas Sound and The War on Drugs provide the backbone while newcomers Future Islands and The Drums serve as bookends.  See notes below -- listen at link here, enjoy!

1. “Stay Gold” – The Big Pink
English electro-pop duo The Big Pink has just released this single from their second album due in January, Future This.  The synth-heavy sound lends itself to the dance floor, while the straightforward lyrics create an instant sing along.

2. “Money” – The Drums
3. “Days” – The Drums
The Drums are an indie band from Brooklyn.  Singer Jonathon Pierce explained recently in a KCRW interview how they like to write short, sweet, simple pop songs and certainly shows in these two tunes off their second album, Portamento. Their somewhat derivative compositions are still hard to ignore, especially with such earnest intentions.

4. “Speaking in Tongues” (featuring David Byrne) – Arcade Fire
This is a bonus cut off the deluxe version of alt band Arcade Fire’s recent release, The Suburbs. It includes vocals by David Byrne, a natural nod to the Talking Heads who created an entire album with the same title.

5. “Come to the City” – The War On Drugs
6. “Come for It” – The War On Drugs
7. “City Reprise” – The War On Drugs
These three tracks are off the second full-length album, Slave Ambient, by this indie rock band from Philly.  Adam Granduciel’s vocals call out over a traditional rock structure with synths to bolster the texture of songs that quickly become anthems.

8. “Tell Me What You Want” – Pajama Club
This band was formed by empty nesters Sharon and Neil Finn (of Spit Enz and Crowded House fame) after their kids left home in New Zealand to pursue their own musical passions.  With fun, funky undertones, the song off their first self-titled release is a sexy tribute to life after child rearing.

9. “Your Eyes” – Bombay Bicycle Club
This song is from the third release by the U.K. indie rock band, titled A Different Kind of Fix.  As the group continues to polish and expand its sound, singer Jack Steadman’s earnest vocals keep things grounded.

10. “Te Amo” – Atlas Sound
11. “Mona Lisa” – Atlas Sound
Atlas Sound is the solo project of Deerhunter’s prolific musician Bradford Cox. These two songs are off the third release, Parallax, but Cox recently explained to SPIN that he writes every day to fill a avoid, referring it to thumb-sucking.  “Mona Lisa” features the vocals and piano playing of Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT.

12. “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything”– MGMT
This Bauhaus cover was included in a mix album, Late Night Tales: MGMT, recently released by the alt band.  It is a loving tribute in a compilation of “post-punk, cult indie and counter-culture figureheads” as hand picked by the group.

13. “Somebody That I Used to Know”  (featuring Kimbra) – Gotye
This newcomer to the U.S. scene is the stage name of Belgian-Australian Wouter “Wally” De Backer, a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter.   His international flair is making waves for this folksy tune with New Zealand singer Kimbra, a stinging musical attack on an ex-lover. The song is off Gotye’s latest release, Making Mirrors.

14. “Balance” – Future Islands
15. “Where I Found You” – Future Islands
This band from Baltimore took inspiration from the Outer Banks of North Carolina for their third full-length release, On the Water. From the sounds of waves to rolling melodies, these two songs tug at the heartstrings with singer Samuel T. Herring’s emotive vocals.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Elbow Song Is Musical Theme for London 2012 Olympics

A special piece of music created by British alt rock band elbow for the 2012 Olympics in London is now in the final stages of production.  The theme will be used in promotional coverage before the games next summer as well as during the event.  

“We are knocked out to be involved and it’s been quite a challenge,” says lead singer Guy Garvey.  His warm, distinctive baritone has been the signature of this band since it formed twenty years ago.  Their fifth album released last spring, Build a Rocket Boys!, is landing on many top ten lists for the year (for example, KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” Jason Bentley).   I heard about the band just a few years ago as a devoted listener to KCRW, loving the song "One Day Like This" from their last album The Seldom Seen Kid.  Here's a video of Elbow performing the song when they stopped by the station last spring.  The full live session can be viewed/listened to here.

                                Elbow performing "One Day Like This" on KCRW April 15, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Talking Heads Chronology DVD Screening & Release Party, November 21

The Fairfield Theatre Company’s Stage One was sold out last night for the new DVD Chronology to benefit local npr station WPKN.  The documentary simply splices together footage from the band’s early days to 1983 and then jumps to their performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2002, which drummer Chris Frantz said at the time gave them “a happy ending.”  (So a nice way to fade out the DVD as well.)  It opens with a microphone test in a New York City kitchen just after Frantz had moved there in the mid 70s with fellow RISD classmates singer/songwriter David Byrne and bassist Tina Weymouth, who was also his girlfriend at the time.  This tightly knit group lived together at 195 Chrystie Street, a tough neighborhood in the Lower East Side but right around the corner from the iconic club CBGBs.  They rehearsed nights after working day jobs; creating songs together that they would take soon take to the stage.  In early gigs, they huddle together on stage and in interviews they are fiercely protective of each other’s quirks, as Weymouth once described Byrne’s behavior as “organically shy.” 

In 1978 the band opened for the Ramones and the rest is rock history.  At the Q&A afterwards with Weymouth and Frantz, Weymouth thanked everyone for “patiently sitting through [their] home movies but these moments in time belonged to most of the audience as well.  Beyond the spirit of reminiscence, there was a real sense at that time that this artsy pop music was something that had never been tried before.  In the early scenes, people looked somewhat perplexed by the sound – not sure how to even move to it yet soon new wave became the most danceable genre ever. Frantz explained that since they were art students, there was always an “artistic target” with their music.  They loved pop music but also art so the thought was maybe “pop music can be the best art ever.”  His idea to cover Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” became the first hit for the Talking Heads.  Frantz said he knew they had made it big when Dick Clark told them on his show, “I like you guys!”

Weymouth found being in the band “very daunting” but “really loved these boys” so kept at it.  (The original plan was for her to step aside but even Lou Reed commented how it was a “good gimmick” to have a chick in the band.)  It was her mother that essentially told her “you can do this.”  The couple also revisited their side project, the Tom Tom Club, and how that band kept the Talking Heads going since their songs were better received internationally.  Plus their influx of world music opened up American fans to receive global influences.  With its digitalized fim and remastered soundtrack, Chronology provides a rewarding trip down memory lane or a musical adventure for anyone.

My interview with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth before a Tom Tom Club show last January here

Bruce of WPKN working the merch table for the event

Friday, November 18, 2011

Atlas Sound plays The Ace Hotel NYC, Video for "Te Amo"

KEXP has posted “Te Amo” from an Atlas Sound set at the Ace Hotel, during the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City last month.  It was the final performance sponsored by the Seattle radio station, and I luckily snagged a place on the tile floor as the crowd gathered around the musical equipment before the show. Bradford Cox was been creating music under the name Atlas Sound since he was ten when not busy with his band mates in Deerhunter.  (Living with the genetic disorder Marfan syndrome manifested a solitary existence growing up so music was a refuge, supposedly there are boxes of cassettes to support this.) He was there overseeing the set up, concerned about the levels and the subdued nature of the setting.  Cox likened it to playing at the New York University library with all the people busy on laptops. 

“Is there anybody listening to me talk right now?” He asked in a southern drawl referencing his hometown of Atlanta adding,  “It’s so quiet!” This comment elicited some cheers and clapping, to which he scolded the audience, saying how he hadn’t done anything but perhaps everyone just liked his outfit?  Cox stood ready to play in windowpane fabric pajamas festooned with geese and Topsiders with no socks.  His wispy honey colored hair framed an angular face and on top a very slight build. Yet he implored those in control until there was a distinctly louder feedback, explaining how “it’s not a folk project. “ There was also a nice shout out to the staff at the Ace Hotel, since he considers it a home away from home filled with friends – happy to be there since it was such an easy gig to get right downstairs to the lobby.  Cox has a favorite room to stay in and has even recorded two songs there recently, when booked time at the studio had run out.

The new lush, stream of consciousness release, Parallax, provided most of the set list.  He joked between songs and was clearly at ease in his surroundings. It was captivating to watch Cox command the foot pedals to create layers of sound from his Gibson acoustic guitar and prerecorded loops.  Cascading synth sounds build the introduction for “Te Amo” before Cox offered warm vocals to float above them.  After he ended with the dulcet tones of “Flagstaff,” Cox donned a light brown corduroy jacket to chat with the many friends and fans that waited in line patiently for their turn with the lone musician.  Always warm and engaging, he allowed photos and even a few girls to sit on his lap like a skinny Santa Claus.  As I left the building hours later, I spied Cox still getting his picture taken by official photographers outside. I told him he was quite a trooper to still be at it, especially as the temperatures were dropping with the sun. 

“Well, I sleep all day,” he told me.  “My life is not that hard.”


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Release Night Screening of Talking Heads Documentary Chronology November 21 in Fairfield, CT

Next Monday there will be a screening of a new Talking Heads DVD, Chronology, at the Fairfield Theatre Company (70 Sandford Street, Fairfield right by the train station).  Doors open at 7 pm with a cash bar, with the movie beginning at 8 pm.  At $20 a ticket, it’s a worthy fundraiser for WPKN, the Fairfield County npr station.
Chronology follows the band from it’s beginning days at CBGB to their final tour in 1983 supporting their Speaking in Tongues album (back in the days of vinyl!)  Their stop in Forest Hills is definitely on my top ten list for all time greatest live concerts.  The tour was also documented in Jonathan Demme’s feature film, Stop Making Sense.

A brief Q&A with band members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth will follow the event.  The couple live in Fairfield and are active in both the Fairfield Theatre Company and WPKN, where Frantz has a radio show on the last Friday of the month from 1 – 4 pm. For more information, visit

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

M83 Press Conference During Moogfest 2011

Photo by Paul Seymour
There were very few opportunities for interviews during Moogfest -- it was a busy time for all. However, on Sunday afternoon the Moog Factory stayed open for a few back-to-back press conferences.  Anthony Gonzalez, the mastermind behind M83, started them off with "Hi" to the press and public gathered.  When no one spoke up right away with the first question, he sheepishly said "Bye" and pretended to leave.  With smiles and some laughter, Gonzalez sat down again and gamely answered a very nonlinear group of questions.  It was clear that this musician truly "leeves" for music, as he said in his charming French accent. My write up on PopMatters here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Moogfest 2011 Overview on PopMatters

My write up of the entire Moogfest 2011 festival is up on PopMatters today! Reading it over had me glowing with memories, three days of non-stop music in such a uniquely American, art loving mountain town. Link below...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Brian Eno on "The Colbert Report" November 10th

Brian Eno in performance
Brian Eno was on "The Colbert Report" to talk about his "77 Million Paintings" exhibit down in Asheville, North Carolina which was a part of the whole Moogfest weekend October 28 - 30 (see earlier blog posts about our run ins with this rock legend!)  The best part is at the end of the show when he sings "Lean on Me" a cappella with Stephen Colbert and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. Charming as always during the interview, Eno talks about a casual singing group he hosts weekly back at home just because singing is "so good for you" and "makes you sexy" in his own words.  But he's the one selling the song and conducting the group with gestures, ever the producer!  Watch the clip here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Panda Bear Releases Tomboy on Vinyl, Proceeds Benefit American Cancer Society

Noah Lennox of Panda Bear has recently released a 4 LP version of Tomboy in a limited edition box set through Paw Tracks for $35. The expanded collection includes single mixes plus unreleased instrumentals, a cappella arrangements and a new song, “The Preakness.”  There is also a 16-page art booklet with lyrics, a welcome addition anytime. All profits from the sale of this set will go to the American Cancer Society and is limited to 5000 copies worldwide.  Listen to the enchanting a cappella treatment of “You Can Count on Me” at the link here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Portugal. The Man. Releases New Animated Video

For their new video, “All Your Light (Times Like These),” Portland’s Portugal. The Man. passed the reigns over to filmmakers Justin Kramer and Lee Hardcastle.  The pair created a clever Claymation treatment which depicts an epic struggle for survival in a dangerous world of colorful caves and plastic cups.  When singer/songwriter John Gourley begins the song with the lyrics, “I’m just a shadow of a bigger man,” the sculpted creatures represent far more than what is really just molded clay.   The song is off of this year’s release, In the Mountain. In the Cloud.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Moogfest 2011 -- Flaming Lips Cover EL&P's "Lucky Man"

In the middle of the euphoric madness that I now know first hand goes on at a Flaming Lips show, the band chose to cover the Emerson, Lake & Palmer song "Lucky Man" at Moogfest 2011 last Saturday night.  Wayne Coyne spoke of playing this song back in the day and smoking way too much pot at the time but it was offered in honor of Bob Moog and "all those that keep his spirit alive for us."  Coyne strummed his road-weary acoustic guitar with a dome over the front and back cut out while swaying to the undulating melody.  In another nod to the convergence of science and technology with music, Keith Emerson's iconic solo on an early Moog synthesizer was played on stage by Steven Drozd using an Animoog ipad app.  

This song has a deeply personal place in my life -- Brain Salad Surgery was a favorite album belonging to my oldest brother Ed.  I never needed to own many records in the 70s as I could hear them through the walls from his bedroom:  The Who, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  Ed was definitely a man of his times, a friendly free spirit that died of an accidental drug overdose by the end of the decade.  While I certainly miss having him in my life as the years continue, it is the music that he shared that pulls at my heartstrings the most.  This song played live so lovingly brought tears streaming down my face, a wonderful tribute to both Bob Moog and my brother.

For my full Moogfest 2011 coverage, visit Popmatters here