September 30, 2010

The Lemonheads//It's A Shame About Ray

So, funny story.

Last night dear friend Michael Beauchamp came to town to play a show with his new band, Red Tail Ring (more on that later). The show was fun. We hung out for a while and then went to fetch the band's van. Problem: they couldn't exactly remember where they'd parked.

We walked around Alphabet City for a solid 40 minutes with a shitton of equipment searching for it. No luck. Finally, I said that I would watch the pile of gear we had stacked on the corner of 4th and A while they searched for the vehicle unencumbered.

A few minutes passed before a dude and some ladies drunkenly stumbled by.

"HEY!" he exclaimed, "you're in a band! What do you have here? A banjo? A hammer dulcimer? COOL!"
He's checking out the gear.
"Yeah," I say, "I am in a band...but not this one--I'm just babysitting gear while the band finds the car."
"Oh, awesome," he says, "I'm in a band too. We just played Mercury Lounge...we're called The Lemonheads. Hi. My name's Evan."
He shakes my hand and jauntily skips away as I yell, "The LEMONHEADS!? Evan Dando!? I know your band!"

A few minutes, Michael and Laurel return.
"Hey," I say, "you just missed The Lemonheads. They like your gear."
"Like...Evan Dando!?" says Michael.
"Yeah, Evan Dando."

So, as I desperately try to find cool things to look forward to in LA, let's not discount the awesomeness that is the quintessential New York moment.

Also, you guys do realize what this means, right? Evan Dando just got a bit part in my life!

It's A Shame About Ray.mp3

I've never been too good with names,
But I remember faces.

September 28, 2010

Harry Nilsson, Ron Sexsmith//Good Old Desk

Today is my last day at the company I’ve been working for for almost four years. Crazy. I didn’t really expect it to feel traumatic, but it does a little. I suppose I’m terribly nostalgic under this thin veneer of snark when it comes down to it.

What ended up being the weirdest part was packing up my desk, so I thought I could discuss this song, a perfect ode to the virtues of the desk, and by extension, the dependable pleasure that can come with a job well done.

The original version of this song was written and recorded by Harry Nilsson (do you guys remember the unofficial Nilsson Week?) on his 1968 Aerial Ballet album. Speaking of work, the album was named after the highwire circus act of his grandparents. Speaking of the album, it features many Nilsson gems (and one tremendously popular cover—“Everybody’s Talking”), including the fantastic “One.”

An amusing tidbit from Wikipedia:
Guest-starring on Playboy After Dark, Nilsson told host Hugh Hefner the song was really about its initials... "G-O-D". Even though Nilsson later admitted that he was just joking around, it is still commonly believed that the song actually is about God.

It’s obviously not about God. It obviously is about a desk. The most wonderful desk, in its way.

I also came across this cover and very much enjoyed it, so thought I would post it here too. My stepbrother first turned me on to Canadian singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith when I was in high school. I accidently saw him play a solo show in a church in Montclair, NJ, which was very moving. I think he does a great job with this tune…both versions are really solid in different ways.

Good Old Desk.mp3 (Harry Nilsson Version)

Good Old Desk.mp3 (Ron Sexsmith Version)

Such a comfort to know
It’s got no place to go.
It’s always there.
It’s the one thing I’ve got.
A huge success,
My good old desk.

September 27, 2010

Redstone Hall//Get Back Jack

Another Reason to Love LA: Monday Mail
What is Monday Mail?

Hi guys. I don’t know if I’ve told you this yet, but this blog is soon to be a Southern California-based affair. Since I am an East Coaster/New Yorker through and through, I’ve been doing my best to think of reasons why living in Southern California might be cool. It hasn’t been easy by any means. Here’s what I got so far:

1. Be back with the girl I love
2. It’s warm everyday!
3. Uhm…ok…I know there’s more
4. Shows at Café Largo
5. My one awesome friend in LA
6. SF/Awesome friends a short plane ride/long car ride away
7. Which means Noise Pop Fest is also a short plane ride/long car ride away
8. Medical…uh…nothing
9. Swimming pools!
10. Fresh avocados!
11. Driving cars everywhere means listening to music in cars
12. Tech companies that need wordy nerds?

Now, I can also add this band, Redstone Hall (too bad about their name—“I know…let’s name our band after our dorm?”), to the roster. Something about the lead singer’s voice turns me off slightly (a little too earnest--I'm such a jerk, right?), which is why it’s a testament to how awesome this song is that I decided to post it anyway. Seriously, it’s super catchy solid pop. I love that lead guitar tone. I love those keys. I’m listening on repeat.

The band features Brian LeBarton aka Beck’s keyboardist, another good sign. I also hear a little inspiration from my favorite, and yours, another East Coaster turned LA’er, Jon Brion.

Naomi from Blink Interactive says:

Steven Rothstein and Zack Hall, the band’s principal songwriters, were both born and raised in LA. “I've been singing and performing as long as I can remember,” Rothstein says. “My parents were cool, so I started organizing jam sessions in my garage before I could even play guitar.”

Hall was raised in Beverly Hills. His mother introduced him to classic rock when he was a child. “She played albums by The Stones, Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and The Band. When I heard Phish, I started writing songs that broke out of traditional arrangements.”

The players were still in high school when Redstone Hall started. They evolved rapidly from a jam band to a more focused pop outfit, drawing on the sounds of the classic soul and rock of the 60s and 70s. They were soon getting noticed for the strength of their performances, with critics calling attention to Rothstein’s gritty vocals and Hall’s guitar prowess.

So while you’re driving around listening to this, could guys think of a few other cool things about LA. What are they? Any help much appreciated.

Get Back Jack.mp3

Been asleep at the wheel for so long,
Trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
Each day is another in a series of a soul crushing disease.
Gotta get back in stereo.

September 23, 2010

Was Not Was//Walk the Dinosaur

Thanks to me watching WAY WAY WAY too many episodes of Yacht Rock today, I am kind of in the mood for some cheesy 80s stuff. Thank god for Was Not Was.

Not Yacht Rock at all, Was Not Was is a super weird/very experimental band from suburban Detroit. In the 80s, they mashed together a lot of genres, including funk, jazz, disco and pop, with poetic and political lyrics. They got back together in the mid-00s for a reunion of sorts. This song, inexplicably about life in prehistoric times (where the dinosaur is obviously the family pet), is from their 1988 album What Up, Dog?.

I have a lot of good memories of dancing to this song as a very small child, usually with the other small children of friends of my dad. Actually, if you ever find yourself searching for the perfect song to dance to in the company of small children, this is definitely it. I'm into everything about this jam, except those cavemen dudes in the background. Even though I know I did love them as a child, I kinda don't love them now. Otherwise, timeless.

Walk the Dinosaur.mp3

It was a night like this, forty million years ago,
I lit a cigarette, picked up a monkey skull to go.

September 22, 2010

Gentleman Reg//How We Exit

I stumbled upon this band and track on an Arts and Crafts sampler. Like the label, the band is from Toronto. They're presumably named for frontman Reg Vermue.

I think the thing I love most about this song is all that sassyness, combined with sax for max effect of course. I feel like I'm getting told and it I want to be told. It's also pitch perfect in the way it elicits a late-night rowdy dramatics--not that they're ever mentioned by name...but it's certainly what comes to mind for me. I want to party to this song!

You can hear more Gentleman Reg, including a Stevie Nicks cover and a Psapp remix, here.

I highly suggest you watch this fantastic video:

How We Exit.mp3

Time to hit the trail.
Make or break,
That's how we exit.

September 21, 2010

The Smiths//There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Recently, I realized that I have never posted a Smiths song here. To me, that’s almost unfathomable as I believe them to be one of the Best. Bands. Ever.

My biggest problem: which song? With the RARE exception of a few duds (ahem, the overdramatic vegan anthem “Meat is a Murder”), pretty much every Smiths song is perfect, amazing and beautiful. In a rare move, I went with this on the shear basis of numbers. Even though “How Soon Is Now?” was the band’s biggest single, this is clearly everybody’s favorite…and there’s a reason.

The song is about being so in love with someone and just not knowing how to tell them. It’s also about feeling utterly isolated from your home, your family, society in general. It’s about trying to find bright spots in a world that suddenly looks awfully dark. What I’m trying to say is that this song is about being a teenager—and that’s something everyone can remember and identify with.

Actually, a number of critics speculate that the song might be based on James Dean’s character in Rebel Without a Cause. Morrissey was known to lift dialog and plot from his favorite films. Lines from Rebel are directly copied in “Stretch Out and Wait” and the plot of a 60s British play/movie called A Taste of Honey is almost certainly referenced in “This Night Has Opened My Eyes.” Of course, there's also an element of teen angst in that one. Are you sensing a theme?

Finally, I really think you should watch this.

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.mp3

To die by your side,
The pleasure, the privilege is mine.

September 20, 2010

Lou Barlow//Gravitate

Gone solo: Monday Mail
What is Monday Mail?

Lou Barlow is basically an all-star indie rock hero. He’s been a founding member in a number of amazing/high influential projects including Dinosaur Jr., Folk Implosion and Sebadoh. He’s also been putting out solo material more recently.

Jessi from Goldest Egg emailed a while back to let me know that Barlow was going to be on video series, Dirty Laundry. She said:

This week on Dirty Laundry host Malia James is joined by indie rock jack of all trades, Lou Barlow. Barlow, a member of Dinosaur Jr. and founding member of Sebadoh and Folk Implosion discusses scoring the soundtrack for Harmony Korine film Kids, his departure from Dinosaur Jr. in the late 80s and the godfather-esque J. Mascis.

You can watch it here.

Although I enjoyed his first solo release, Emoh, I really LOVE this track from his second release, Goodnight, Unknown, which features lots of guest appearances, including one by (COINCEDENCE!) Lisa Germano. Indie Folk, you’re a small, small world after all.

Barlow’s got this amazing knack for turning dark feelings into something you can actually hear, into something you actually want to hear. Soundscapes and song structure come together in “Gravitate,” to form a song that’s at once catchy and full of despair. Not an easy feat.


I’m way more trouble than I’m worth.

September 16, 2010

Michael Mcdonald//I Keep Forgettin', Warren G//Regulate

So, this story starts last weekend, when my parents had a little engagement party for A. and I. A lot of my friends happen to be musicians and so, parties often evolve into funny little jam sessions. Sean, a lifelong friends and Palmyra conspirator, sat down at the family piano and began playing some "beats." Another member of Palmyra, we'll call him Karl, jumped up and immediately started rapping along. The song was so familiar but I couldn't place it.

"REGULATE !!! by Nate Dogg and Warren G," Sean and Karl inform me.
"Yeah, I kind of remember."

I only kind of remember because the height of the song's popularity is 1994 aka the year I was 11 years old. I was highly impressed that Karl could remember so many of the words.

Fast forward to last night--I'm over at an honest-to-God pizza party at Sean's (another story for another post) and "I Keep Forgettin' by Michael Mcdonald (who unsurprisingly also had a stint with Steely Dan) ends up on the Youtube playlist. Again, I couldn't place it. Luckily, again, most of the people at this party were musicians. I was set straight and I want to set you guys straight too. As you will easily hear, "I Keep Forgettin'" is sampled heavily in "Regulate." These are two that I am really glad came out of my musical history blindspot.

Also, whoever wrote this seriously wins at life.

I Keep Forgettin'.mp3


I keep forgetting we're not in love anymore.
I keep forgetting things will never be the same again.
I keep forgetting how you made that so clear.

September 15, 2010

Splendora//You're Standing on My Neck

After a hectic day of U-haul pickup trucking around and one last minute wedding venue peek, A. left this morning. Yeah, I’m bummed. But trying to make the best of it. Stay distracted. Be productive. All that fun stuff.

Last night, we started watching some old episodes of Daria. This show was always a favorite of mine and A. had never seen it. We watched the first two episodes in the first season. Daria starts Lawndale High! Daria gets invited to a popular party! Oh, the 90s of it all.

So, I thought in honor of my love of Daria and the (FINALLY!) recent release of the DVD box set, I’d highlight the fantastic Splendora theme song for you today.

I remember looking up Splendora a few years ago during another Daria downloading craze. I didn’t love their other songs, but this one is a real gem. I don’t know much about the band, except that they’re from NYC and that one of their members was also in this band.

In closing, ha ha.

You’re Standing On My Neck.mp3

Excuse me, you’re standing on my neck.

PS: if anybody wants to buy this for me, I would definitely accept it.

September 13, 2010

Blue Sky Black Death//Carl Sagan

She blinded me with science: Monday Mail
What is Monday Mail?

This song is named from much beloved scientist and planetary documentarian Carl Sagan.

Elliot from Sneak Attack says:

Blue Sky Black Death is a production duo made up of Ian Taggart and Kingston Maguire. The two are best known for their brand of orchestral Hip-Hop instrumentals and shoegaze influenced production which has been the backdrop for many vocalists - including members of Wu Tang Clan, Hieroglyphics, Jedi Mind Tricks and Non Phixion, among others.

After a successful debut on Mush Records, BSBD produced collaborations with rappers Hell Razah and Holocaust and produced an entire album for underground female rapper Jean Grae.

Their new album, Third Party melds synth-pop, indie rock and BSBD's own take on shoegaze backed by the oddly moving vocals of indie-pop songwriter Alexander Chen (of Boy in Static).

In my book, a song that’s actually reminiscent of the personality for whom the song is named gets serious extra points.

Carl Sagan.mp3

I’m not in pictures that your parents took.

September 10, 2010

Lisa Germano//It's Party Time

Sometimes parties can be sad. This is the case with today's moody track by Lisa Germano. Germano softly croons, "it's party time," but you don't believe her. If this is a party, it's a heartbreak party where the guest of honor is, coincidentally, drunken melancholy. And yet, you may still want to attend, just to see how it all turns out.

Germano is a known session musician who has worked with the likes of David Bowie, Eels and Iggy Pop, among others. This solo album Lullaby for Liquid Pig, features cameos by Johnny Marr and Neil Finn. She's also released a wide array of solo records.

This album is beautiful and sad and quiet in it's entirety, which is accented well by Germano's complex, slightly gravelly voice as well as the choice of less-than-conventional instrumentation. The fluidity of the pedal steel stands in contrast to the precious percussive glockenspiel. It's good fall music and since the weather is cooperating, we might as well cooperate too.

It's Party Time.mp3

What I am
Is dreaming of dreams
Of what I was
Or could be.
My sweetheart,
You're sweeter than sweet.
You're meaner than mean.
I love you.
It's party time.
All of the good things in the middle,
I leave behind.
I'm so little.

September 9, 2010

The Excellents//Coney Island Baby

Today, A and I are going to get engagement pictures taken at Coney Island. Gay, right? But still, cute. You have to say, it's cute!

Coney Island is a magical place to me, filled with all my favorite things. Skee Ball. Soft Serve. Ocean Waves. Cotton Candy. Roller Coasters. Photo Booths. Freaks. Beer. And it's in New York City! And it's accessible by subway! Is it heaven? Yes! It is!

This song is about Coney Island and also about love, so basically it's exactly about my day today. And it's Doo Wop. Is it heaven? Yes! It is!

There's not much known about this group, but what there is to know can be found here.

Coney Island Baby.mp3

You're my Coney Island baby.
You're so precious and so sweet.
Since the day I met you,
My life has been complete.
You're my everything.
Soon, you'll wear my ring.
You're my girl.

September 8, 2010

Squeeze//Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)

Well, I guess we’re having a poppy week. I hope that’s cool with you.

I’m not sure why, but today’s song and yesterday’s song are kind of linked in my head. This song is obviously a lot cooler, but it shares some elements with Nick Lowe’s sort of cheesy masterpiece, ie, that hook, those harmonies, and the what-does-it-all-mean?! factor. Pulling mussels from the shell?

New wave/power pop legends Squeeze had an ever-rotating cast of members, but managed to retain their sound throughout. Thinking about the band reminds me to check out way more Squeeze albums and songs. It’s rather sacrilegious to be a power pop fan and not be very well-acquainted with the group’s work.

This song was released on their 1980 album, Argybargy. I probably first heard it on mainstream to 40 radio when I was a kid. It really stuck with me though, namely because it is so awesome.

Pulling Mussels (From the Shell).mp3

You wish you had a motor boat
To pose around the harbor bar.
And when the sun goes off to bed,
You hook it up behind the car.

September 7, 2010

Nick Lowe//Cruel to be Kind

Hope everyone had an awesome Labor Day Weekend!

I have absolutely no idea how this completely inane song got in my head, but at some point over my weekend, whether it was at the wedding I attended or the faux-swanky hotel I hung out at in DC with friends, it did.

I have absolutely never understood this song. If you’re being cruel, aren’t you just being…cruel? How is that kind? I also thought it was kind of cheesy, from the instrumentation choices to the tone of the lead singer’s voice…and yet, it’s completely stuck in my head and I can’t got it out. The hook is so infections. The harmonies are so RIGHT. The song is simultaneously annoying and great. And in that way, this song is kind of meta. It’s cruel. It’s kind. Omigod.

This song is written and performed by Nick Lowe, who also wrote, surprise!, “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding?,” another song that is both annoying and great at once. He also produced some of my favorite Elvis Costello albums, including the top-to-bottom stellar This Year’s Model.

When I actually read the lyrics all the way through, I realize that this song is about a relationship…and I totally get it. Being painfully honest is often better than being nice and not meaning it. Although, sometimes it’s hard to understand that.

Cruel to be Kind.mp3

Cruel to be kind, in the right measure,
Cruel to be kind, it's a very good sign.

September 3, 2010

Marvin Gaye//How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)

All you need is love Sweetness Week.

As everyone knows, there is nothing sweeter than love, except maybe Motown. That's why I decided to end the week with this jam by the legendary Marvin Gaye.

This song was a classic 60s Holland–Dozier–Holland composition. Marvin Gaye recorded this version in 1964 in Hitsville USA Studio A. with background vox by The Andantes and instrumentation by The Funk Brothers. James Taylor made a shitty easy listening version a decade later. Oh my god, it sucks.

I don't know if I told you, but my lady's going away to grad school in a few weeks and I'm feeling kinda bummed about it. I'd like to send this one out to her, because I want to stop and thank you, baby.

How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You).mp3

I needed the shelter of someone's arms,
And there you were.
I needed someone to understand my ups and downs,
And there you were.
With sweet love and devotion,
deeply touching my emotion.
I want to stop and thank you, baby.
I just want to stop and thank you, baby.

How sweet it is to be loved by you

I close my eyes at night,
Wondering where would I be without you in my life.
Everything I did was just a bore.
Everywhere I went it seems I'd been there before.
But you brightened up for me all of my days
With a love so sweet in so many ways.
I want to stop and thank you, baby.
I want to stop and thank you, baby.

How sweet it is to be loved by you

Love and Chocolate: Some researchers believe chocolate cravings have something to do with serotonin, a brain chemical that makes us feel happy and relaxed. Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including serotonin, which stimulates the brain's pleasure center. Coincidence? I don't think so.

September 2, 2010

Mike Doughty//Down On The River By The Sugar Plant

OSS: Where the Sweetness is Made.

A friend of mine put this song on a mix he sent me when I was living in London at a very sad and lonely time in my life. It really struck a chord then and when I hear it now in a bar or out somewhere, I still get a strong jolt of sense memory. It's about someone who feels disjointed and dejected, cut off from society and getting weirder by the second, which, coincidentally, was how I felt during most of my time in the UK.

You might remember Mike Doughty from the 90s band Soul Coughing, who had a few hits with a song about walking around in circles and something called "Super Bon Bon." Soul Coughing kind of ended in disaster, with Doughty addicted to heroin and the band dropped from their label. Thankfully for us, he was able to overcome his drug problems and have a successful solo career. I find that I enjoy some of his solo material more than his stuff with SC, which is a rare thing.

Judging by the references to "boatloads of bootleg Sean John" on Orchard St., my guess is that the "sugar plant" Doughty is referencing is the Domino on Kent St. in Williamsburg, BK. Want to see a picture?

Down On The River By The Sugar Plant.mp3

I pledge allegiance to my displacement.
My flag of doubt is unfurled.
And I’ll dream you up on a vast, dark coast,
Believe I see you walking toward me, arms outstretched like a Ghost
And I want to kiss you but I can’t,
Down on the river by the sugar plant.

The Sugar Plant: Domino Sugar was started in 1799 by William Frederick Havemeyer (the called Havemayer, Townsend & Co Refinery). By 1900, the Havemeyers had purchased five addition plants and renamed their East Coast sugar empire "Domino." William F. Havemeyer was also mayor of NYC through a lot of the 1800s, which is why there is a street named after him (right next to the street named after the guy responsible for the Brooklyn Bridge).

September 1, 2010

Starlight Mints//Sir Prize

Get that minty freshness with Sweets Week.

A quintessential sweet, Starlight Mints are those classic red and white peppermints that grandma always has in the candy dish. Don't worry, we avoid them too. Luckily, there are some other Starlight Mints we can all enjoy.

These Mints are a psych pop band from Norman, OK and they pen songs that have a knack for sticking in my head. This one's no exception.

I especially like how this jam incorporates strings and juxtaposes them with lyrics that make you feel like you're going through a bad drug trip. Somehow it all comes out charming? Surprise, sir prize.

Sir Prize.mp3

It's a masquerade,
The mouse-scapade,
And a ruby in your twist.

My array, shaking hands with a cat in a mirror.
My array, waking up with the blast of a cold.
My array, my array, l count your breath.

Mint Condition: Mint candy comes in a plethora of forms and flavors. In addition to the basics (Peppermint, Spearmint), there are hard mints (like Altoids and Tic Tacs), soft mints (like Andes and York Peppermint Patties) and scotch mints (like Mentos). Whoa.