Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Here Lies Love: The Concert For the Phillipines, November 25 @ Terminal 5 NYC

David Byrne takes the stage @ Terminal 5
David Byrne's 2010 concept album written with Fat Boy Slim about the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, Here Lies Love, morphed into a theatrical production at NYC's Public Theatre last spring. After a successful run where it was extended four times, the award-winning musical  appeared for a one night only concert to raise funds for the Philippines.  The cast contacted Byrne about doing something to raise money for relief efforts after Super Typhoon Yolanda (as Typhoon Haiyan is known in the Philippines) hit with catastrophic results on November 7th. After The Bowery Presents donated the use of Terminal 5, the show quickly came together, showcasing the soundtrack with the original cast and costumes. 

Most of the cast is Filipino and as Byrne wrote in an email promoting the show, "The show is about the resiliency of the Philippine people -- that sentiment couldn't be more timely." He came out to welcome the crowd, introducing a representative of Doctors Without Borders and also suggested donations towards 350.org, a climate change organization. From there, it was non-stop singing by a talented group presenting memorable melodies that stick with you in that classic musical tradition with Byrne's danceable world view.  Ruthie Ann Miles not only gives Imelda Marcos a pulse from the beginning but more importantly a heart -- she carries the show with her star presence and solid voice. For more information about the relief organizations, see below.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works in nearly 70 countries providing medical aid to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation.

To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million ("ppm") to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it's a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.  At 350.org, we're building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis and push for policies that will put the world on track to get to 350 ppm.

Monday, November 25, 2013

YouTube Playlist of Late Fall New Music 2013 Songs

The latest compilation for Late Fall 2013 featured three songs that I wrote about individually so there's some repeats on this YouTube video playlist (Travis plus The Naked and The Famous) but I chose a live video from The Bing Lounge for The Wild Feathers, since they are just so fun to see in performance.  There's also a video from that venue for Okkervil River that I chose for their song, providing another glimpse at a band doing their thing.  The Midlake video shows them superimposed over colorful clouds during the song, yet it's still nice to see them in action. Same goes for the Phantogram video from The Current radio station in Minneapolis -- I welcome the opportunity to see these bands I haven't witnessed live in concert.

For those looking for some crafty film work, there's an arty black and white video for The Cults complete with floating vintage appliances and a sweet classic Beemer. Man Man's video is also harking to the past with old footage and script lettering for the lyrics. And Broken Bells released a "Pseudo Video" for their song "Holding on for Life" (just showing the album artwork with the audio), might as well call it what it is!  Enjoy the visuals at link here or below, although the first one makes me a bit squeamish...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Late Fall 2013 New Music Playlist

There’s plenty of new music around to create one more playlist for 2013. New bands such as The Wild Feathers and Love Inks make an appearance in this compilation while established groups such as Travis, Luscious Jackson and Mazzy Star return to the new music fold. Also back for another round are The Naked and Famous, Cults, Tennis, and Phantogram, while remixers RAC composed some songs of their own.  Artic Monkeys returns to its rock roots, Okkervil River finds a wider musical net with a nostalgic theme, and Broken Bells provide a glimpse of the next album.  Check out all this and more, plus a quiz about the longevity of some of the bands. Link to listen here.


1. "Let Go (featuring Kele & MDNR)" – RAC
RAC stands for Remix Artist Collective, a group of international musicians dedicated to the craft of melody-driven remixes.  After over 200 indie-focused tracks, founder André Allen Anjos, a native of Portugal living in Portland, has released an EP of original songs, Don’t Talk To, including this bouncy tune “Let Go.”

2. "Down Down the Deep River" – Okkervil River
This song is from The Silver Gymnasium, a concept album by Austin’s indie folk rock band Okkervil River (its seventh).  Lead singer Will Sheff mines his childhood in New Hampshire for an unflinching look back, which takes the six-piece into a new direction of tuneful melodies via captured images from the past.

3. "High Road" – Cults
New York based indie pop duo Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin weathered their split as a couple by writing songs for their second album, appropriately called Static. The song “High Road” finds the dreamy low-fi sound intact as the band continues on.

4. "Are You Ready?" – Luscious Jackson
Luscious Jackson is back in the swing of things with that signature NYC swagger after toying with a reunion for years. As if asking the fans, “Are You Ready?,” this revamped quartet clearly is -- rocking full throttle through a fourth album, Magic Hour.

5. "Antiphon" – Midlake
“Antiphon” is the title track of the fourth album by Texas folk rock band Midlake, the first with guitarist Eric Pulido taking over lead vocals.  Majestic harmonies carry this quintet through a trajectory of emotion alluding to the plight of man, all while referencing an overthrown orator in ancient Greece.

6. "Hearts Like Ours" – The Naked and Famous
This New Zealand band landed in L.A. after touring the world to create its sophomore album, In Rolling Waves.  The swirling heartfelt chorus of “Hearts Like Ours” conveys lead singer Alisa Xayalith’s personal pain about losing her mother to breast cancer as a girl.

7. "Holding On for Life" – Broken Bells
Indie rock duo James Mercer of The Shins and artist-producer Danger Mouse are getting ready to release another album as Broken Bells, After the Disco. This single, “Holding On for Life,” alludes to that past scene with an archetypal falsetto chorus.

8. "Moving" – Travis
Scottish alt quartet Travis emerges after a five-year absence with its seventh studio album, Where You Stand.  This song, “Moving,” is written by bassist Dougie Payne, stretching singer Fran Healy’s vocals to new heights, although still enabling that trademark emotive warmth.

9.  "Black Out Days" – Phantogram
Phantogram is an electronic duo founded by Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, friends since teenagers in upstate New York.  “Black Out Days” is an echoing tune off a self-titled EP with second full album, Voices, up next.

10. "Do I Wanna Know?" – Arctic Monkeys
English indie rock band Arctic Monkeys formed in 2002 and have explored different genres through their five albums. The latest is, AM, named for the group initials with a nod to The Velvet Underground’s VU. Classic hand claps and foot stomps make way for singer Alex Turner’s rapid-fire delivery in “Do I Wanna Know?”

11.  "Mean Streets" – Tennis
Husband and wife duo Tennis, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley of Denver, recently released a five-song EP called Small Sound.  “Mean Streets” establishes a breezy confidence for the couple, as a vintage-tinged ambiance permeates the song.

12. "Head On" – Man Man
“Head On” is a the melodic single from On Oni Pond, experimental Philly band Man Man’s fifth album since 2003.  The multi-instrumental jam plays off the laid back vibe of lead singer and lyricist Honus Honus.

13. "The Ceiling" – The Wild Feathers
This Nashville quintet has roots in Texas and Oklahoma, along a shared love of 70s country rock that saturates their self-titled debut. The full on vocals in “The Ceiling” convey an infectious chemistry between these former lead singers.

14.  "Outta Sight" – Love Inks
Love Inks is a trio that self-recorded a debut LP, Generation Club, on a half-inch tape machine in their hometown of Austin, Texas. Lead singer Sherry LeBlanc croons over synth beats and key strikes with a pining lustful urgency.

15. "Peace Sword (Open Your Heart) (featuring Tobacco)" – The Flaming Lips
In typical overboard fashion, The Flaming Lips’ one song project for the Ender’s Game movie soundtrack inspired a four-song EP called Sword.  This characteristically epic tune showcases the electronic wizardry of Tobacco from Black Moth Super Rainbow with cinematic flair.

16. "If We Were Banished" – Radar Brothers
Jim Putnam formed indie rock band The Radar Brothers in L.A. without brothers but with an intention to create songs expressing a universal musicality.  The meditative world of “If We Were Banished” is from the band’s eighth album, simply titled Eight.

17. "California" – Mazzy Star
Mazzy Star is back after fifteen years with its fourth studio album, Seasons of Your Day.  Hope Sandoval’s distinctive languid delivery owns the proceedings as vocalist and lyricist, while composer David Roback’s guitar humbly makes way.

6. THE FLAMING LIPS – Formed in 1983
8. MAZZY STAR – Formed in 1988

Monday, November 18, 2013

Painted Palms Release New Song "Forever" (Album Due January 14)

Painted Palms (Photo by Andy DeSantis)
The duo known as Painted Palms appeared on my new music radar back two years ago, when a tune from their debut EP, Canopy, "All of Us," claimed a spot on my Summer 2011 New Music Playlist. Cousins Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme grew up together in Lafayette, Lousiana and after years apart are together again in San Francisco.  They have always shared their music whether across town or miles apart --compositions with 60s psych pop leanings using modern electronic production.

Last spring the pair released Carousel, a 7" that yielded another pick for my Spring 2013 New Music Playlist, "Click."  Now, they're preparing to drop a full album in January via Polyvinyl Records, with the title track "Forever" ready to preview.  The song begins with action packed distortion worthy of a film score, before vocal and percussive layers make way for a melodic chorus through the creative clutter.  Thoughtful lyrics bring an introspective vibe that allows for a bit of ironic shoe gazing, as Prudhomme sings "Thinking about myself too much I can see that/I don't know what to be."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Unearthed Gem of a Song: "The Golden Path" by The Chemical Brothers & The Flaming Lips

I have extolled the virtue of radio -- online or otherwise -- as a source for new music but it can also bring a song into your day that you haven't heard in so long that it feels like new.  Such was the case when "The Golden Path" aired on KEXP last week.  I felt the thrill of discovery all over again, even as I remembered how I loved the song when it appeared as a single back in 2003.  It has an intricate, electronic chug provided by The Chemical Brothers underneath that wacky laid back yet timeless vibe, via vocals by The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. Stephen Drozd of the band chimes in with the transcendent harmonies during the chorus.

The first thing I did was buy a copy for my music stash, which immediately felt bereft without it. (Maybe I owned a CD of it at one point? The cover artwork here does look familiar.) Looking online for a video, I found this live version from the MTV 2003 European Music Awards at a huge outdoor venue. While I have issues with the constant swirling crowd shots and cropped close ups of the performers, Coyne's stage presence is always a joy to behold.  It's fun to see his shout outs translated, for example "Come on everybody!" becomes "Vamos todos!"  He even slips in how he's going to tell us a little story before starting the down the lyrical path, allowing more Oklahoman country twang than in the produced track.

Check out the video below and if this song isn't in your collection, it should be!  Plus, another required update is "Peace Sword," The Flaming Lips' epic new song from the movie The Ender's Game.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dan Wilson @ Joe's Pub NYC November 7 (New Single "Disappearing" Video)

Dan Wilson appeared for a sold out show at the intimate room that is now a redo of Joe's Pub. (There's a new entrance through the Public Theater and spiffed up interior, but thankfully you can still feel the soft rumble of the NYC subways under foot.) He unfolded his lanky frame through the tiny stage door with his beat up acoustic guitar, wearing jeans and a denim shirt. Brad Gordon was also there to provide accompaniment on piano or via a keyboard that rested on top. In his low key way, Wilson thanked everyone for coming and surveyed the set up, saying simply, "Alright, everything seems to be where it should." And it was throughout the night, as fans were captivated in their seats by this singer/songwriter's every utterance.

The evening was billed as "Words and Music with Dan Wilson" but it could have been "Words, Drawings and Music with Dan Wilson" as a charming illustrated set let was passed out afterwards (check out my autographed copy at the end of this post). This visual arts grad from Harvard actually pursued a career as a painter before learning bass to be in a band after years of piano lessons.  His connection to all the arts are still extremely strong, as life's experiences have only enhanced the poetry in the lyrics.

Wilson talked about being in a band and becoming a father (which led to the Semisonic hit "Closing Time," although he still can't believe no one got the double meaning. Check this YouTube video for the full story.)  He also shared the heartache of being caretaker for a disabled child (which inspired the song "Your Brighter Days").  He spoke about co-writing songs with "strong women" such as Carole King, The Dixie Chicks and of course, Adele, who he collaborated with for three songs on her 2012 Grammy winning album, 21. Some of these stories I had heard during an interview I wrote for PopMatters right after this Grammy moment, but it was still a thrill to hear them in person.
Meeting up after the show

The songs came alive as his familiar voice released into the room, with that clear Midwestern sincerity.  Wilson joked about how he liked working with women as men tend to write about the "furniture," which usually included cars or trucks.  He confided how he actually likes being a "wuss." Instead of Field & Stream or Guns & Ammo, Wilson would rather publish titles such as Poetry & Peacefulness or Expresso & Journaling.  Clearly, this is a guy who not only knows his limits but is able to see the humor in it all and the crowd enjoyed laughing along with him.

The highlight of the evening centered around the audience's encouragement for his new single, "Disappearing." (It is from an upcoming album due in 2014.) This song has a new lyric video with illustrations and lettering by Wilson, as directed by Noah Lamberth.  Like the music, his art has a timelessness that makes it readily accessible yet perfectly poignant.  While it came off as a lovely tune live, when I read the words with these enchanting visuals as the chorus repeats it pulled at the heartstrings even more. 

My signed "Illustrated Set List" :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween Brings Danny Elfman's "Nightmare Before Christmas" (Trailer Video & KCRW Interview Link)

1994 Calendar
Every year, I get out my beloved Nightmare Before Christmas collection around Halloween and listen to Danny Elfman's amazing soundtrack (if not revisit the 1992 movie as well). It's a universal tale of learning to love oneself and others plus the notion of "There's No Place Like Home," all painstakingly told in a unique world of stop motion animation.  Elfman voiced the singing voice of the protagonist Jack Skellington although he wasn't planning to -- the demos just stuck.  Jack's heartache and longing clearly comes through, but his voice also reminds me of my own coming of age in the 80s when Elfman was the singer of New Wave band Oingo Boingo.

Casette Postcard & Ad for Hawthorne Collection
I'm reminded of an illuminating interview with Elfman on KCRW a few years back (link here) as a fancy box set of all the Tim Burton soundtracks was coming out -- he has scored almost all of Burton's movies in a creative collaboration that began with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure back in 1985.  An L.A. native, Elfman presented three shows last week in the city (along with a earlier date at the Albert Hall in London and plans for more in Seattle and Vancouver) called "Danny Elfman's Music From the Films of Tim Burton."  It was his first concert appearance in eighteen years, as hearing loss is a cause of concern for this hard-working composer. How I wish I could have been there, maybe he'll make an appearance on the East Coast?

Here's the original trailer for The Nightmare Before Christmas, along with photos of my collection for anyone so interested.  This also includes books, shirts, a blanket, musical score and of course, the movie. It's always a treat for my ears every year.

Sally Puppet
Sally Coffee Cup & Figurines of Romantic Leads 
Frig Magnet 
Tote Bags w/Jack
3-D Version Announcements 
    Scotch Tape and Musical Box
Desk set pieces, snow globes and watch