Friday, January 31, 2014

Unearthed Gem of a Song: "Getting Away With It" By Electronic

Driving around town this week, a wonderfully familiar song came on WFUV radio.  It was "Getting Away With It" by Electronic, a collabo of 80s icons: Bernard Sumner of New Order, Johnny Marr, guitarist for The Smiths and vocals by Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys.  It was released in the US as the decade ended, with a formula that has only grown in popularity. The swirling synths over a chunky bass line create a foundation for floating vocals to make any dance floor spin.

It reminds me of the lyrics in "Lariat," a brand new song by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks (lyric video en français on YouTube here). Malkmus, indie darling of Pavement band fame, reminisces about how "we grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever -- talking about the 80s." I'll agree it certainly was a golden time, when all sorts of electronic instruments instantly became part of a band's set up and dance beats ruled.  As one who shies away from aggressive, angry music of any kind, it was a great time to be a new music fan, and of course, someone who loves to dance.

Check out the video for "Getting Away With It" on YouTube  or below.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Starbuck's Sweetheart Compilation for Valentine's Day -- Listen via KCRW's "Album Preview "

The new collection of curated songs from Starbuck's called "Sweetheart" is now available for a listen on KCRW's Album Preview, before the release date of February 4. Beck's haunting rendition of John Lennon's "Love" is here (as featured in an earlier post), along with twelve other tracks of romantically inspired covers.

Jim James starts things off with a soulful take on Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low" before Vampire Weekend enters in with a surprising choice of "Con Te Partiró" over a glitchy groove. Phosphorescent's familiar voice of heartbreak channel's Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" while The Head and the Heart delivers the plaintive message of Harry Nillson's song "Don't Forget Me." I'm not a fan of Valerie June's overly stylized vocals for "Happy or Lonesome," nor Fiona Apple's tortured soprano in "I'm in the Middle of a Riddle," but Brandi Carlile brings a refreshing country twang to Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," banjo and all. Bahamas, Ben Harper and Blake Mills bring a welcome stripped-down approach to their offerings, as Thao (of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down) provides a plucky female spin for Ray Charles' "If You Were Mine."  And without a doubt, Sharon Jones closes out the proceedings with a solid take on Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" -- respect!

Link to listen here.

1. "Turn Your Lights Down Low" by Jim James (Bob Marley cover)
2. "Time To Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiró)" by Vampire Weekend (inspired by the Andrea Bocelli recording)
3. "Love" by Beck (John Lennon cover)
4. "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" by Phosphorescent (Bob Dylan cover)
5. "Don't Forget Me" by The Head and the Heart (Harry Nilsson cover)
6. "Happy or Lonesome" by Valerie June (The Carter Family cover)
7. "Always on My Mind" by Bahamas (Willie Nelson cover)
8. "If You Were Mine" by Thao (Ray Charles cover)
9. "Fade Into You" by Ben Harper (Mazzy Star cover)
10. "I'm in the Middle of a Riddle" by Fiona Apple feat. Maude Maggart (Anton Karas cover)
11. "The Chain" by Brandi Carlile (Fleetwood Mac cover)
12. "I Hope" by Blake Mills (Bobby Charles cover)
13. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (Stevie Wonder cover)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reviewing 2013 Movie Soundtracks via WQXR's "Movies on the Radio" & Oscar Nominations

WQXR's series "Movies on the Radio" recently devoted two programs to 2013 movie soundtrack trends and styles. I always find it interesting to listen to the music on its own, without the visual counterpart to claim our attention.  Part One focuses on indie features and drama, beginning with Alex Ebert's All is Lost, (highlighted in the last post) and continues on from there. Host David Garland explains how while these soundtracks are musically simple, it is still quite beautiful.  The multi layered textures now serve a different function, as its part of an environment that's all about "giving us a feel" without "telling us what to feel."

1. Alex Ebert, All is Lost
2. Daniel Hart, Ain't Them Bodies Saints
3. David Wingo with Explosions In the Sky, Prince Avalance
4. David Wingo, Mud
5. Marcelo Zarvos, Enough Said
6. Max Richter, Wadjada
7. Thomas Newman, Side Effects
8. LorneBalfe, Salinger
9. Jon Hopkins, How I Live Now
10. Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave
11. Étienne CharryL'écume des jours (Mood Indigo)
12. Alexandre Desplates, Philomena
13. Alberto Iglesias, Los Amantes Pasajeros
14. Jóhann Jóhannsson, Prisoners 

Part Two shifts into action and science fiction mode, as Garland describes the sound as "interlocking gears of machinery." Since soundtracks are a recorded medium, there is no need to replicate them live on stage so they can be complicated pieces of music. The show makes a point of double dipping into blog favorite Jon Hopkins, with his "atmospheric" score for How I Live Now. Garland points out that it "blurs the line between sound design and scoring." Anthony Gonzalez of M83 (mispronounced as "M - Eight - Three") closes out the program with his first blockbuster project, Oblivion. Check out the Oscar nominated scores at the end of this post.

1. Steven Price, Gravity
2. Ryan Amon, Elysium
3. Bear McCreary, Europa Report
4. Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel
5. Sean Lenoon, Alter Egos
6. Jon Hopkins, How I Live Now
7. Michael Giacchino, Star Trek Into Darkness
8. Steve Jablonsky, Ender's Game
9. M83, Oblivion

2013 OSCAR NOMINATIONS, Best Original Score:
John Williams, The Book Thief
Steven Price, Gravity
William Butler & Owen Pallett, Her
Alexandre Desplat, Philomena
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks

Monday, January 20, 2014

Alex Ebert's New Song "Amen" (From Golden Globe Winning Score)

Alex Ebert interviewed by KCRW's Jason Bentley
Alex Ebert stopped by KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic" remote location at the Sundance Film Festival to talk about his recent win at the Golden Globes for scoring All Is Lost, the movie featuring iconic actor Robert Redford.  Ebert admitted that the win was a big surprise, but knew something had to be going on, since he got "exponentially nervous" as the award was being announced. There is no dialogue in the film, allowing the music to take center stage and Ebert credits his father for exposing him to classical music, so creating orchestral music was not such an unknown.  About the challenge Ebert added that as a boy he once exclaimed while going up a ski lift, "Boy do I love an adventure." Ebert actually grew up in the valley and went to school in Van Nuys just like Redford, so they had a nice chat about it on the set. Ebert said "He's just a really giving, awesome dude with an edgy mind," and noted how they were at the film festival that was "sort of his's just a cool thing."

Ebert has appeared in many of my playlist picks as the singer/songwriter for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros as well as Ima Robot, plus in solo work as Alexander. I just love the old soul warmth of his voice, more shaman than everyday storyteller.  It's disappointing to learn that the Oscars have decided to bypass this talented artist, but there's still reason to bask in the Golden Globes' decision.  Take a listen of the song "Amen" from the film here, with this official lyric video to be sure you don't miss a word.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Birthday Playlist of Random Songs Heard January 15, 2014

Birthdays bring all sorts of emotions and as always, music was there for a soundtrack as I marked another year on this planet.  I started writing down this list of songs that resonated with me, particular tracks that seemed picked for the occasion.  Thanks as always to KEXP, KCRW and WFUV's "The Alternate Side" for providing the awesome background music in the car, at my desk and even at the gym throughout the day.  The final song here is off a CD I purchased for myself, the Reverend Al Green's Everything's OK, after hearing the romantic tune "Perfect To Me" on NPR's World Cafe a while back.  The mighty soul master accompanied me in the car going out to dinner and this song made the perfect capper to any occasion -- a dance in the kitchen.

Link to listen here and remember you can always listen to past playlists here!

1. "Gymnopédies" – Erik Satie
2. "I Would For You" – Jane's Addiction
3. "Beetlebum" – Blur
4. "What would I want? Sky" – Animal Collective
5. "God Moving Over the Face of the Water – Moby
6. "Awake" – Tycho
7. "Give a Little Love" – Noah and the Whale
8. "How It Ends" – DeVotchka
9. "40 Mark Strasse" – The Shins
10. "Comfortably Numb" – Pink Floyd
11. "Louisa Louisa" – Mew
12. "Perfect to Me" – Al Green

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Picks For Older Bands To Round Out the Music Collection (80s, 90s, 2000s) & Bands I Wish Were Still Here From Each Decade

Our CD collection after recent purge
The list of bands in the last post may have been mostly made up of current faves, but I did pad it with some extras outside my personal playlist.  For those looking to dig into the past, I offer three decades of bands with full catalogues worth a listen below.  I actually created this list for a friend's son, who wasn't exactly exposed to any of this rich history in what was new music in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.  After mentioning The Beatles and David Bowie as a foundation, I offered the following bands to provide some basic knowledge of exalted  past bands (at least to my ears!) Hopefully, it provided some inspiration as well.

I've included some videos for the bands I'd most like to resurrect from each decade, thankful for the musicians still active on the scene.  It seems fitting to start with the iconic 80s band Talking Heads, probably my most beloved band ever. Their show in Forest Hills during the 1983 tour, captured so brilliantly by Jonathan Demme in Stop Making Sense, will most likely remain as my top concert experience for all time. I was also able to walk over to the Ritz (now Webster Hall) to see the band introduce the film at the premiere and dance along to the music for a second time. Through the years I've run into David Byrne and seen almost every solo tour, as he continued on a personal music journey after eight albums with the group. "Life During Wartime" perfectly captures the mood of the day with references to Mudd Club and CBGB, along with the layered dance rhythms and a frazzled state of emotional confusion as conveyed by Byrne's song-speak. As he asks at the end of the video, "Does anyone have any questions?" Yes lots -- and thanks for bringing them up.

Talking Heads
Roxy Music/Brian Ferry
The Clash
The Replacements
The Police
The Smiths
The Jam
Gang of Four
Psychedelic Furs
The Cure
New Order

If there was a band I could bring back from the 90s, it would be Phantom Planet.  The group are best known for the theme song for television's O.C., "California," but they have a four albums worth of solid pop rock anthems and cooing sing along tunes.  Indie movie regular Jason Schwartzman was a member for the first decade, with songwriting credits for this hit and a similarly memorable "Lonely Day" in the video here. Alex Greenwald's vocals effortlessly bridge that gap between loud and soft, pulling the listener along that mystical musical space between power chords and passionate percussion.

Phantom Planet
Smashing Pumpkins
Luscious Jackson
Soup Dragons
Stereo MCs
Jesus Jones

Since the sting of losing one of my all time faves LCD Soundsystem is still fresh in the early stages of grief, I'll dig a little deeper here. The Doves are officially "on hiatus" but I'd love to change that status.  This English indie rock band has that ever purposeful ingredient of brothers, Jez and Andy Williams, along with frontman Jimi Goodwin and a willingness to add lush string arrangements to make the heart soar.  I listened to all four albums countless times -- thankfully in a digital format that didn't wear out.  The promotional video here for 2010 best of compilation shows the band creating a fave song "Some Cities," that never ceases to send me into a visceral musical spiral.


The Doves
Modest Mouse
Franz Ferdinand
The Dandy Warhols
Vampire Weekend
Hot Chip
Art Brut
Arcade Fire
LCD Soundsystem
The Flaming Lips

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Bands to Update Any Musical Collection for 2014

Popmatters has posted "The Best Hopes to Break Out in 2014," including my write up for pick The Wild Feathers. I also wrote a bog post about this band after catching them in Austin at the ACL Music Festival, embracing a classic country rock that appeared on the 70s music scene. Since I suggested that the New Year is also a great time for people to update and organize their own music collection, I thought I'd offer suggestions some new bands to satisfy fans across the genres.  I may still favor the indie pop sound, but as my playlists will attest,  I also enjoy more mellow musical moments along with the kick-ass dance tunes.  

So check out the suggestions below and dig into some tunes, while supporting current bands that welcome new fans.  The groupings are for reference only -- not to make any kind of statement but more as a guide for those willing to experiment. Some bands here have been around awhile, but that doesn't mean their new music isn't fresh for a listen.

Country folk rock leanings: The Wild Feathers, Jamestown Revival, The Head & The Heart, White Denim, Okkervil River, Band of Horses

Solid rockers: Divine Fits, Dr. Dog, The Dandy Warhols, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys

Harder edged rockers: Augustines, Superhumanoids, Jack White, TV on the Radio

Contemplative indie rockers: The National, Junip, Yo La Tengo, Grizzly Bear, The Shins, Travis

Epic soulful rock: Portugal. The Man, Phosphorescent, Spiritualized, Frightened Rabbit

Electronic indie pop: Painted Palms, Ra Ra Riot, Phoenix, Jagwar Ma, Youth Lagoon, Washed Out, Broken Bells, The Go! Team

Mellow tunes: Low, Devendra Banhardt, Earlimart, Mazzy Star, Nada Surf, Jim James, The Olms

Psych rock leanings: MGMT, Tame Impala, The Flaming Lips, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Wampire, STRFKR

Punk rock leanings: Parquet Courts, Franz Ferdinand, Superchunk, Palma Violets, Matt and Kim

Motown sound leanings: Vintage Trouble, Mayor Hawthorne, Har Mar Superstar, Fitz & The Tantrums, Nick Waterhouse

Gal groups indie pop/rock: Haim, Lucius, Frankie Rose, Santigold, Dum Dum Girls, Warpaint

Guy groups indie pop/rock: Bombay Bicycle Club, Foals, Vampire Weekend, Django Django, Telekinesis, Cayucas, Generationals, Caveman, Dan Croll, Smith Westerns, Cage the Elephant

Gal/guy groups indie pop/rock: Tennis, Cults, Phantogram, MS MR, The Naked and Famous

Electronic zone out: Boards of Canada, Caspian, Hammock, Beach House, M83, Moderat, Moby (instrumentals)

Dance tunes galore: YACHT, Hot Chip, Passion Pit, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Cut Copy, Daft Punk, Empire of the Sun, Holy Ghost!, Arcade Fire (new)

Experimental Electronica: The Octopus Project, Jon Hopkins, Beck, Bibio, Toro Y Moi, Atoms for Peace, Panda Bear, Four Tet, Major Lazor, Pretty Lights, Trentemoller, Porcelain Raft, Black Moth Super Rainbow

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year, New Song A Day Habit -- KCRW & KEXP Podcasts

I happen to love January, with this fresh start to forgive the past and start anew. It's also my birthday month, so there's plenty of offers in the mail with coupons to celebrate the day.  Inspirational emails have been flooding my inbox with calls to "Start the Year on a Clean Slate" (Crate & Barrel), "Out with the Old, In with the New" (Bloomies), and even "New Year, New You" (Museum of Modern Art!)  Even magazines change over to streamlined graphics with tips for organizing or cleaning and purging the excesses of the holiday season.

It's not a bad idea to organize your music collection while you're at it, culling any duplicates and filling in any missing identifiers.  I must add that if you're in a relationship, be sure to have your own cache at all times (to quote my grandmother, you should also have your own stash of cash!) I'm always surprised to hear of those without their own music represented in a household, which unfortunately seems especially prevalent among women.  Just because the media system might be set up and plugged in by a guy, doesn't mean you can't claim any ownership to it. Beef things up with albums and songs that rock your world, and of course I'm happy to suggest anything new on the scene.

And why not resolve to hear at least one new song a day?  This is a simple task thanks to podcasts from two of my fave online radio stations. KCRW has a "Today's Top Tune" podcast and KEXP presents a "Song of the Day" podcast with free downloads daily.  Click on the icons below to sign up for the KCRW and KEXP podcasts through iTunes if that's your portal. Plus FYI iTunes has hidden their "Essentials" collection to a page found here, which I've always found handy when doing playlists or licensing research.  Beyond collections of individual bands, there are plenty of compilations with themes from Thanksgiving Dinner to Graduations Songs as well as various genres.  Now no more excuses, get to it!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Here's to 2014 -- New Releases & Starbucks Compilation (Beck Cover of "Love" by John Lennon)

Happy New Year to all that consider new music a must in their lives like I do! While basking in the clean slate that comes every January, there's a nice list of new releases to look forward to in the coming weeks, along with a new compilation from Starbucks in time for Valentine's Day.  Albums from blog faves Broken Bells, Painted Palms and Bibio drop in January, with Bombay Bicycle Club, Fanfarlo and Milagres following in February (see list with details at the end of this post).

Beck is also due with an album in February, Morning Phase, after signing with mega-label Capitol and releasing a series of singles: "Gimme," "Defriended," and "I Won't Be Long."  Plus he will be featured in a new compilation from Starbucks, Sweetheart 2014 (available February 4th).  Beck provides a lilting cover of "Love," John Lennon's plaintive poem about the subject. Other musicians I'm looking forward to hearing on the compilation include Phosphorescent, Vampire Weekend and Jim James.  And I've started my own yearly tribute to the holiday, after happily creating romantic song playlists in 2013 and 2012.

Check out the Beck song in a preview here:

January 14 - Painted Palms, Forever (Polyvinyl Records)
January 28 - Bibio, The Green E.P. (Warp Records)
February 4 - Broken Bells, After the Disco (Columbia)
February 4 - Bombay Bicycle Club, So Long, See You Tomorrow (Vagrant)
February 11 - Fanfarlo, Let's To Extinct (Blue Horizon)
February 25 - Milagres, Violent Light (Kill Rock Stars)