Monday, February 27, 2012

Girls Release New Video for "My Ma"

Chet "JR" White with Christopher Owen of Girls
The third video off the San Francisco band Girls' release Father, Son, Holy Ghost debuted today via the Team Coco website.  I picked this melancholy track for my Fall 2011 playlist, struck by its plaintive lyrics as sweetly sung by Christopher Owen.  Owen's background includes an upbringing in the Children of God cult (which he escaped by following an older sister from Slovenia to Texas at age sixteen) and recent heavy drug addiction, so his rich delivery has a harried history behind it.  

The video does not show any band members, but depicts an elderly couple out living out in the wilderness.  It was directed and edited by Aaron Brown (Focus Creeps).  At least the group can be seen soon on Conan March 22 and along a West Coast tour which includes Coachella.  The band also announced the release of a 7" single of "My Ma b/w Love Life" on May 22, a one-time pressing of 1000.  Per usual, Owen has designed the artwork for this special edition (see below).  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Free Download -- Track by Damon Albarn, Andre 3000 & James Murphy, "DoYaThing"

Hot on the heels of the Blur reunion, where Adele channeled M.I.A. by flipping the bird after being cut off to allow the band to play at the Brit Awards... Today brings the newest entry in Converse's "3 Artists, 1 Song" promotional program -- a fun, quirky dance track by Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Andre 3000 (Outkast) and James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem).  According to Pitchfork, "DoYaThing" was recorded live in Albarn's London studio after three days together, and this four and a half minute version will be followed by a full length, twelve minute version.  There will also be a video debut on February 29 to keep the traffic flowing to the Converse website.  The marketing tie-in involves three Limited Edition Chuck Taylor designs by Gorillaz Co-Creator Jamie Hewitt, featuring the colorful camo print associated with the band.

With the opening keyboard chord, "DoYaThing" folds into electronic blips and a one-take opening by Albarn, typically smooth and sultry.  Andre 3000 hits the ground running in his one-take rap, taking us back to the happy zone with a bloop de bloop.  All that's missing is some nice crooning by Murphy, although the uplifting choral harmonies towards the end create a classic LCD Soundsystem moment anyway.  Download the song here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Blur In the News: Band Reunion Performance Tonight, New Song & Upcoming Olympic Performance

British band Blur is all over the news today.  Tonight the foursome will reunite for a performance at the 2012 Brit Awards, this after singer/songwriter Damon Albarn appeared over the weekend with guitarist Graham Coxon at the War Child charity concert.  There they debuted a new song, "Under the Westway," a solid, if stripped down, composition.  (See fan footage below.) 

There was also an announcement that Blur will play the Closing Ceremony Celebration Concert for the London Olympics this summer.   They will appear August 12 in Hyde Park with two other U.K. acts, ska band The Specials and some semblance of the iconic post-punk group New Order.  My daughter was there the last time Blur played together at Hyde Park during her junior year in London in 2009.  While I could not be more jealous of this highlight in her life, I'm also filled with motherly concern over how she had to be led to safety by security when things got too tight near the front of the crowd.

Blur was just not on my radar during their dominance in the British pop scene in the 90s -- Oasis had won the popularity contest on this side of the pond.  I came late to the party when Paul brought home the Best of Blur, a two disc compilation of recorded tracks on one plus emotional and energy-filled live performances on the other.  I played those CDs so much I broke the case, but still have it around as a testament to my fandom.  When a disjointed Blur line up spliced together Think Tank in 2003, I went to a now-deceased record store on the day it came out, eager to have anything remotely similar to the band I loved so much.  I did try to embrace Albarn's side project a few years later, The Good, The Bad, The Queen and went to their show at Webster Hall where he hid under a hat.  The 2007 single, "Herculean," is the only song I can even vaguely remember.

Finding my top five Blur songs was easy as they exist in various permanent playlists I've amassed over the years.  For a quick perusal, here they are below along with where they are found in my collection.  I'm already beginning to wonder how #1 or #2 did not make it on my Valentine's Playlist here -- next year!?!?!  And yes, I have a Tearjerkers playlist... 

NMMATTERS TOP FIVE BLUR SONGS (in no particular order):
1. "No Distance Left to Run," Romantic Songs
2. "To the End," Romantic Songs
3. "Girls & Boys," Singalongs
4. "Song 2," Rock Stew
5. "The Universal," Tearjerkers

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Grimes Release Picked for NPR's "First Listen"

NPR's "First Listen" program is offering a preview of Visions by Grimes before it is released February 21 via 4AD.  Canadian dj and producer Claire Boucher has already recorded two full-length albums and one EP under the name Grimes.  The dream pop electronica songs are full of dance beats and layered loops, with her piercing soprano vocals floating above it all. When she played a supporting slot for Washed Out in New York City last summer, it was hard to get excited about a elf-like young gal all alone with only her keyboard up on stage.  The music seems more fully realized in the studio setting, making a richer experience for the listener.  A stand out second track, "Genesis," pulses along with a vibrant underpinning of contrapuntal keyboard lines.  The rest of the tunes meander a bit beyond these parameters, unfortunately limiting the musical range.

Listen to the session at the link here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Romantic Songs Playlist for Valentine's Day 2012

I decided to make good on my promise to create a Romantic Tunes Playlist in honor of Valentine’s Day this year.  Since I began an iTunes account, I’ve had a playlist called “Romantic Songssss,” which has grown to over sixty songs and four plus hours.  Reviewing the lengthy list, the following tunes were chosen without digging too deep into the archives, for example to include George Harrison's "I'd Have You Anytime," John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” or David Bowie’s “Heroes.”  There’s a certain element in the music – a soaring melody, heartfelt lyrics or even an instrumental break that makes me daydream.  Of course, some picks take me back to a certain time and place with a particular person, but others just bring the warm glow of a sunny day or pull at the heartstrings. Music has taught me about many things, but perhaps the most important lesson is how heartache remains a universal experience, along with that emotional overhaul of love which implies anything is possible.  Link to listen here, enjoy!

1. Sterophonics, "Have a Nice Day"
2. AM, "Playing the Game"
3. The Dears, "Lost In the Plot"
4. LCD Soundsystem, "All I Want"
5. Iggy Pop, "Shades"
6. The B-52's, "Follow Your Bliss"
7. Art Brut, "Emily Kane"
8. Phantom Planet, "Anthem"
9. The Magic Numbers, "Love's a Game"
10. Guillemots, "Made-Up Lovesong #43"
11. Paul Westerberg, "First Glimmer"
12. Portugal. The Man., "Sleep Forever"
13. Weezer, "Hold Me"
14. Roxy Music, "More Than This"
15. Moby, "Slipping Away"
16. Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
17. Am Radio, "I Just Wanna Be Loved"
18. Bright Eyes, "One for You, One for Me"
19. Manic Street Preachers, "You Stole the Sun From My Heart"
20. The Flaming Lips, Do You Realize??
21. Mew, "Comforting Sounds"

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Fave Song From Porcelain Raft, "Unless You Speak From Your Heart"

For me, one of life's greatest thrills is the simple discovery a new favorite song. Like a child with a beloved toy, it stays with me throughout the day and I delight in showing it off to others.  New music comes my way in many sources now... I still listen to my favorite radio shows online as often as I can (John in the Morning on KEXP Seattle from 9 am to noon EST and "Morning Becomes Eclectic" on KCRW in Los Angeles from noon to 3 pm EST) and if I hear something of note, I'll jot down info to revisit later. I'm also now on contact lists from my writing/reviews to receive music via emails and occasionally an actual CD in the mail.  Keeping up with the influx of new bands on the scene is sometimes daunting, but at the same time it continually feeds my soul.

A song by Porcelain Raft, "Unless You Speak From Your Heart," was featured on the KCRW music blog the other day and I was instantly captivated.  Its wavering synth intro led into the fuzzed out musical landscape of dream pop,  until female vocals entered with symphonic percussion similar to Beach House.  This tune is the selected single off is the new release, Strange Weekend, and rightly so.  The catchy melody drifts over the tightly-wound song structure, creating a worthy listen.  Behind the scenes is composer Mauro Remiddi, an Italian ex-pat who is now based in New York City.  He's on tour with Youth Lagoon, M83 and the Smith Westerns -- certainly good company to be around (and unfortunately, I just missed the NYC date).  The video for the song is an arty black and white shoot of the band gamely trading places in front of a stark white background. They're not exactly playing any instruments, but it's nice to at least get a visual sense of the group.  Many bands are opting out of this vehicle of communication with their fans and I was eager to catch a glimpse of the musicians behind my new fave song, so it did not disappoint.  Plus the very next day KEXP picked another track from the album, the lead off track "Drifting In and Out,"  for their "Song of the Day." I had also picked this one for my next New Music Playlist, but I'm always happy to play fair and share.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Talk Continues re: Madonna's Super Bowl Halftime Show

The conversation continues after Madonna's Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday, watched by over 100 million people. It's one thing to give a performance review, but it's totally different asking if she should still be doing her thing considering her age. Twitter comments on World News with Diane Sawyer ran the gamut of hoping to look so good at that age to equating the show to watching Grandma kissing the pool boy.  I was hoping to hear Sawyer weigh in, a woman still at the top of her game a decade older, but that did not happen. In case you missed it or would like another look, see below.

Since Madonna is only a bit older than I am, I find this particularly offensive especially since two years ago aging rockers The Who appeared. (Plus before that it was Bruce Springsteen and before that Tom Petty, case closed! Wikipedia even has its own page listing the history, go figure.)  I emulated her style when she appeared on the scene, with my hair poorly permed and held back with bowed head bands to complement my vintage duds.  Her oh-so danceable music and the no-excuses persona has held our attention for decades. In honor of her longevity -- or at least I like to think so -- my blog brand PopMatters has published an article chronicling the Top 15 Madonna Singles of All Time

While I would be able to pull off those dance moves, not in sky high stilettos as expected of female pop stars these days.  Not that I agree with that notion, gasping as I saw her loose her balance during a near wipe out.  And while actual singing would be nice in any live performance, all that movement doesn't leave room for that plus arena acoustics are known to be nasty. Her costumes were over the top but certainly not capable of any wardrobe malfunction. Performing with younger artists like Nicki Minaij and M.I.A. is another  trick up Madge's sleeve, as we've seen before.  Those censors clearly did not do there homework, a quick review of the song "Give me All Your Lovin'" and knowledge of M.I.A.'s past would have thwarted anything offensive in NBC or NFL's eyes.  The only thing I found cringe worthy was when Madonna got on the shoulders of one of those LMFAO guys.  The rest was pure show biz, even bringing gay culture into a very hetero event with her hit, "Vogue."  Instead of pushing the issue of marriage equality, Madonna went with a message of WORLD PEACE spelled out at the end.  Never mind, Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional days later.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Song/Video from Pretty Lights "We Must Go On"

I’ve known about the electronic music of Pretty Lights, but nothing has really caught my ear the way a new song “We Must Go On” has (recently released with a self-produced video, see below).   It presents the hip hop vibe with an uplifting yet reflective vocal hook, saying “times will get better.”  The mastermind behind Pretty Lights, Colorado-based artist Derek Vincent Smith, created the video with his girlfriend, visual artist Krystle Blackburn.  Together with two Canon 7Ds and about six lenses, they collected footage during their travels in 2011, which included London, Paris, Warsaw, Oslo, Vancouver, Prague, Auckland, Sydney, and across the United States (NYC, New Orleans, Detroit, Denver) plus many more.  The video is a collage showing a collective human experience, snippets of lives around the globe.  Smith relates this to the name of his musical project, Pretty Lights, as “it embodies the essence of the artistic eye and the idea that almost any moment, anywhere, can be a moment of inspiration and beauty.”  Both the song and the video are available for download at the band’s website,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dr. Dog Party Stream for Super Bowl Weekend

When I'm doing a review or interview, I'm sent new music via drop box or other links of varying secure measures.  Some have strict instructions with log ins and passwords, while others implore me to share liberally on the web or otherwise.  Recently I was assigned two reviews for BUST Magazine for Gotye's Making Mirrors (posted last Tuesday, link here) and Dr. Dog's Be the Void (due out February 7th).  Gotye's PR people sent a quick link in an email to click and download the songs, easily throwing them into my iTunes for future listening. (Sometimes I need to type in the official track names but this time everything was listed in full!)  Dr. Dog's people sent me a complicated link for a program that required downloading before even accessing the tunes on a years-old looking player.  I gave a quick listen, but then I needed to really pay attention to the music and take notes as I've needed to do since my school days in order to learn anything new.  It was so complicated I decided to search online to see if anyone was streaming it -- thank you Conan O'Brien and his Team Coco.  

Dr. Dog's music is perfect for a Friday, especially Super Bowl weekend, so I decided to share it here as well as the video for a fave song off the last album. GO GIANTS!!! 

Link to Team Coco --

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Roxy Music's "Avalon" Anniversary Remix

In honor of Roxy Music's 40th Anniversary, The Vinyl Factory has just released two remixes of the band's most iconic tracks. This new vinyl 12" features a dub-inspired remix of "Love Is The Drug" by Todd Terje and "Avalon," remixed into chillwave by Lindstrom and Prins Thomas.  

I remember listening to "Avalon" on my walkman back in the 80s, wandering around New York City on long walks.  It was a new thing to plug into personal music, an intensely solo experience compounded by the fact I was missing my boyfriend away at college.  Indeed it was my now husband Paul Seymour who even suggested I listen to Roxy Music, being such a huge Brian Eno fan.  We even met Bryan Ferry at a record release party for his solo album Boys and Girls, with Paul always the cool guy thanking him for his music and me babbling on making no sense at all. Funny story, when they called to check on the guest list wondering if "Jane Seymour" was coming Paul said "the one and only." They of course the actress Jane Seymour was coming not me, even though it's only a stage name for her.

Because of these memories and the pure emotional weight of the song, it has to be one of the most romantic songs ever if I had to make a list.  n.b. Perhaps I will for Valentine's Day?

The "Avalon" remix begins with the sax solo, extending the intro to a killer slow build of synths (thanks again to Mr. Eno, listed on Wikipedia as playing synthesizer and "treatments" for the group).  It continues as an instrumental until the classic warbling guitar solo comes in, and Bryan Ferry's vocals are deconstructed as if in a preview -- definitely could have used more as this only made me want to hear the original again soon afterwards.

Look for a deluxe box set to come out April 2nd, the exact anniversary of the band's self-titled debut album. Roxy Music: The Complete Studio Recordings 1972 - 1982 will be available through Virgin Records.

Me & P on the roof of our first home in Greenwich Village with the view of the World Trade Center.
(Yes, I'm rocking those ankle boots!)