Archive for December, 2008

Best of 2008 Repost Series – Embarassing Fruits “First Time”

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

This will be me for the next week or so. Even if they have wifi in Key West I’m not going to be on it. Maerry Christmas and have a great New Year. See you in 2009.

P.S. I love this EP. If I had a category for “EP Of The Year” this would win it.

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The other night I was wondering to myself how all those indie rock music blogs do it. How do they manage to write about what could be the most boring, lyrically dull, and musically naive rock music day in and day out. I rarely side with uber intellectual rock critics like Sasha Freer Jones, but when he came out with his anti-indie rock polemic a year ago (responses here) I nodded in knowing approval.

With that said it may come as a surprise that I’m linking to a song from the Greensboro based indie rock group Embarassing Fruits. “First Time” is taken from their upcoming 5 song EP that will be out August 5 on Trekky Records. It’s hard to put a finger on why this is different from mp3 blog darlings like The Ting Tings, Fleet Foxes or Wolf Parade. But for me it harkens back to an earlier sound that I’ve yet been able to get over. It’s the sound of early Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Big Dipper, Galaxie 500, Superchunk, Meat Puppets and on and on. Man I love that sound…what ever happened to it?

First Time

Bonus track from the band’s split debut album Sumr Stupid Drunk Fun

Wizbomb

Best Of 2008 Repost Series – Pokey Lafarge “Beat, Move, and Shake”

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I like the idea of a Pokey Lafarge almost as much as I do the music. The hobo as folk singer as political crusader is a meme that we are lacking in these days. Pokey is one of a handful of young artists continuing that fine tradition.

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Pokey Lafarge is the real deal. How do I know this, you ask? Well just look at his MySpace touring schedule. For the last few years he’s been on the go playing every fish fry, coffeehouse, and viaduct from here to California and back again. Anybody that plays that many dates at such out of the way and unique venues has got to be serious about his music.

Pokey’s new record comes out July 21 and is called Beat, Move, and Shake (if you wonder why, just check out the video for the first single “Mr Nobody” and try to restrain that knee from knocking).

Beat, Move, and Shake is on a small label from St. Louis called Big Muddy Records. The song the label sent me is the most “country” sounding one on the disc, it’s also about Illinois so it was a bit of a no brainer. Expect the rest of the songs to be some sort of odd mix of folk, old timey, jugband, ragtime, showtunes and blues. Sounds perfect, don’t it!

Cairo, Illinois

“Mr Nobody”

Best of 2008 Repost Series – Last Of The Blacksmiths’ “Young Family Song”

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

At the time of this post in May/June I called this a perfect summer record, I now amend that and just say it’s perfect.

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It’s been nearly three years since The Last Of The Blacksmith’s unleashed their self-titled debut on the world. I loved that first record. And now as I work my way through several of the new songs on Young Family Song, I’m beginning to realize that the new record is a late night slow jam soul record with languid beats, otherworldly organ fills, bluesy guitar solos and sleepy vocals. In other words it’s a perfect late night summer record.

The new record is called Young Family Song and is available here.

What You Been Saying
Giving Up

Best of 2008 Repost Series – Murry Hammond (of Old 97′s fame) – “Blame It On The Gravity”

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

These are beautiful, understated songs off of a record that is much of the same. Of course something this subtle will be lost in the shuffle at the end of the year. This post originally went up in May of 2008.

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The Old 97′s long awaited record Blame It On The Gravity will suck the oxygen from every other Americana release over the next month or so. Which is a shame because from the songs I’ve heard from Old 97′s bassist Murry Hammond’s new record I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way deserve to be heard. Murry Hammond is the bassist in Old 97′s but he’s also connected to the new southern gothic folk movement though his marriage to Grey Delisle.

The track “Lost At Sea” has a Paul Simon circa The Graduate feel. While “I Believe, I Believe” is more of an old country gospel song along the lines of something you might hear on Johnny Cash’s Hymns record. The new disc was recorded in analog which makes the slight reverb and uncompressed layering of instruments a wonderful byproduct of this technique. These songs were written during a period of time when Murry lost his parents, got married, had a child and was a leader at the Burbank Christian Church. So thematically the songs are a bit heavy, but musically they’re rather refined and quietly somber.

Rhett Miller will surely have that last laugh with the new Old 97′s record, but Murry may have made the better record. Ain’t that always the way of things.

You can buy it now here through Amazon.

Lost At Sea
I Believe, I Believe

Best of 2008 Repost Series (Honky-Tonk Friday Version) – Twofer with Eleven Hundred Springs and Rancho Deluxe

Friday, December 19th, 2008

I wrote about both of these groups in April/May and couldn’t help but to put them together for this honky-tonk Friday twofer.

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Eleven hundred Springs are a Texas based country band. They’ve been around in one form or another for a decade or so. The songs I’ve heard don’t stray too far what the band knows best and that’s Texas, trucks, Hank Williams, drinkin’ and broken hearts. The song “Texas Afternoon” has most of those bases covered and is the first song off their upcoming Lloyd Maines produced record Country Jam.

Pre-order the new record here (ships 05/06)

Texas Afternoon

This new record from Rancho Deluxe should go a long way in separating the band from their Californian alt-country brethren. True Freedom is the band’s second album and features a sterling cast of supporting characters including Don Heffington on drums and Skip Edwards on piano.

“Maintenance Man” may be the first time in song that the lonely janitor get his due. It’s an odd little ode to the working man but it works due in part to the layers of guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, bass and drums.

You can order this July release a little early here now.

Maintenance Man

Best of 2008 Repost Series – Joe Pug “Nation of Heat” EP

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

No 2008 “best of” wrap-up would be complete without mention of Joe Pug. His debut EP from out of nowhere impressed this writer and many more influential blogs. But its best selling point are the rave reviews from ordinary folks up at the Cd Baby page for the EP. Read them here and buy the disc as well while you’re there.

Here’s my favorite rave review from Cd Baby courtesy of Stuart McClure:

Dylan comparisons aside, Joe Pug is Malcolm Holcombe’s son, Danny Schmidt’s half brother.

Here’s my original post from April:
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It would almost be impossible for me not to post the music of Joe Pug. He fits the Songs:Illinois demographic so well it’s like some computer program spat him out. He’s young, he’s just releasing his debut, he writes poetic songs, he lives in Chicago (for goodness sake), is clearly influenced by Dylan/
Young/Springsteen and has a record release show coming up at Schubas.

His debut EP is called Nation Of Heat and is being released on May 13. I’m sure you can pick one up at the Schubas show on the 3rd however.

On both the songs below Joe eschews verse/chorus/verse and instead lets loose a barrage of stream of consciousness that somehow is devoid of pretension and cliche.

Hymn 101

Bonus

First Time I saw You (recorded live for Hear Ya’s blog)
Bury Me Far From My Uniform (via MOKB’s Laundro Matinee)

An instant Christmas classic from Hayes Carll (live on Imus!) and a Christmas-y Joni Mitchell cover of “River” from Lex Land

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

I’m convinced that at this point in his career the only benefit Imus provides society is his surprisingly good taste in music. Recently he had Hayes Carll in the studio and Hayes performed this original Texas Christmas classic in the vein of John Prine, Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen.

I’m Grateful For Christmas This Year

Bonus

Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long

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Also today Lex Land released her take on the Joni Mitchell song “River”. It’s a quiet lament of a song with references to lost love and the harried Christmas season. This is an impressive cover from one of the surprise success stories of 2008.

River

Bonus

As Much As You Lead

P.S. I’ll add both of these to my now mammoth Christmas post.

Best of 2008 Repost Series – Matt Keating “Quixotic”

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Matt Keating’s 2 disc set Quixotic has been praised for its timeless mix of folk rock songs. I haven’t heard the whole thing but I’ll go out on a limb and call it one of the best records of the year. Here’s my original post about it from March:

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Hey all,

How’s your week going? Mine’s OK. Thanks for asking.

I just heard about a new record from Matt Keating. It’s a double cd called Quixotic. Matt made a name for himself in the early 90′s with albums that resembled the crunchy power pop of Mathew Sweet. He’s mellowed over the years (haven’t we all?).

I can’t claim to give you a full assessment of the new record, but if you were a fan of power pop back then but now like your music at a slightly less frenetic pace than you should look into Quixotic from Matt Keating.

St Cloud

Bonus track:

Who Knew

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On a completely unrelated note, there’s a new record by The Waybacks out now on Compass Records. The song “Good Enough” is a good example of their easy rockin’ acoustic country sound. You can buy the new record, Loaded, here.

Good Enough

That’s it for today.

Cheers,
Craig

Swedish indie pop from The Bridal Shop (Plastilina Records, Feb. 2009)

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

When you write 600 or so music blog posts a year it’s sometimes hard to find a way to single one out as something special. Luckily I have another platform or two when I think something is truly deserving. So today’s band/song will both appear on Swedesplease and be part of this month’s upcoming M.A.P. post. I can’t say enough good things about the Swedish pop band The Bridal Shop. I think they perfectly meld the sounds of electronic pop of the 80′s with shoegaze of the 90′s and indie from the 00′s. In other words they’re the complete package.

Their Peruvian label (I know that’s kind of a weird locale for a Swedish group) deserves kudos as well for releasing some of the best indie pop this side of Cloudberry. This song is from the band’s Plastilina Records mini album called In Fragments coming out in February of 2009.

The Ideal State (originally released on a Happy Robots’ compilation)

Bonus

Violation
Marine Thing

Best of 2008 Repost Series – The Brendan Hines “Good For You Know Who”

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Here’s a record that I’m astounded didn’t do better with the NPR set. The songs are clever and the musical arrangements a step above your ordinary singer songwriter fare.

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I was so enamored by the first song I heard off of The Brendan Hines new record that it’s no surprise that the whole thing is right up my alley. “Miss New York” was the clever song that stuck out at first (here). As an avowed East Coaster stuck in the Midwest I can relate to the nostalgia that one feels for a hometown.

The new record from The Brendan Hines is called Good For You Know Who. The songs on the record deal with subjects as diverse as drinking yourself to death, suicide, more death and drinking, and selfish behavior of all sorts. Sounds a bit dreary, I know, but musically the songs are fairly jaunty filled with horns, toy instruments, piano and guitar and they mostly come with a pretty big slab of sarcasm on the side. You can order this now via Cd Baby here.

Miss New York
Hard To Kill

Older songs:

Sh Boop
RE: Loving You

Best of 2008 Repost Series – Danny Schmidt – “Grey Sheep” (Waterbug Records, Feb. 17) (plus a cover of John Prine’s “All The Best”)

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Alright moving along then. Here’s something from February of this year that even at the time I knew would end up on my year end roundup.

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For me, and with my particular tastes, I’m comfortable saying that the new record by Austin-based singer-songwriter Danny Schmidt is the best of the new year. By now Danny’s got a recognizable and distinctive vocal delivery and I love it. His songs are as literate, and can be as funny and clever, as anyone else in the songwriting racket today.

I’ve written about his upcoming record, Grey Sheep, here, but frankly I did so too early. His record has a Feb. 19 release date and at the time of my initial mention there was nowhere to pick up this great CD. But now there is. Buy it here via his label, Waterbug, now.

“Company of Friends” with it’s simple message of friendship being the most important force in life has quickly become one of my favorite Danny Schmidt songs. If there was any justice in this world (and if the song could be encapsulated in a 30 second clip) “Company of Friends” would be all over Grey’s Anatomy or playing during the end credits of the next big romantic comedy out of Hollywood.

Company of Friends

Bonus

Drawing Board

Joia Wood is the featured female vocal on this song. Paul Curreri (aka Mr. Devon Sproule) did wonders with a production job that at times is simple and lets the playing come through, and at other times is a little bit more atmospheric, which is well suited to the lyrics.

Bonus “cover” song from Paul Curreri and Devon Sproule from the free online ep – Valentine Duets

All The Best (John Prine “cover”)

Miss Lana Rebel – “All I Need” (Self-released, 2008)

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I’m so excited about the new record from Lana Rebel of Juanita Family (here) and Last Of The Juanitas fame that I couldn’t wait `til honky-tonk Friday to post “Loneliest Love Song” from her 2008 release All I Need.

The new record is a combination of various dustbowl styles from folk to pure country, above it all hovers Ms. Lana’s wonderful rich voice. The songs I’ve heard from this record don’t have that hard edged honky tonk sound. Which is fine by me. Instead they all sound a little resigned, reserved and refined. This record certainly deserves to be in the most overlooked and deserving records of the year category. Pick it up now through CD Baby here.

Loneliest Love Song

Bonus

Road Song

Double special bonus from Juanita Family & Friends featuring Lana Rebel

Son of Mehitabel

Best of 2008 Repost Series – Antietam – “Opus Mixtum” (Carrot Top Records, Feb. 12)

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Every year instead of a one off “best of” post I look back on the year that was with a series of reposts. These may not be on anyone elses best records of the year list, but to me they are some of the most important, most overlooked, or just plain “most” records of the year. Expect 10-15 of these type of posts over the next three weeks. This post on the band Antietam was originally published in early January of 2008.

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Antietam is one of these strange lost bands from the 80′s that deserve a reunion, but really, whoever thought they’d get one. Others in this category include Big Dipper, The Embarrassment, Fetchin’ Bones, Buffalo Tom and Swimming Pool Q’s. The band that released it’s early work on Cosloy’s Homestead Records, now sees it’s long awaited double disc of new material put out on the iconoclastic Chicago label Carrot Top. (Read more about it’s early releases here at Vinyl Mine).

At the time that Antietam was kicking around the Atlantic coast they were one of the noisiest “art-rock” bands on the scene. Like many of the individuals from that era the band has mellowed with age. On the new record, Opus Mixtum, Tara and company get the sound of the swirling, lightly psychadelic guitars just right and the vocals, a la Mo Tucker and Joan Jett, are equally adept. Tara Key had been called one of the best guitarists of her generation and you can hear why on the distorted intro to “Time Creeps” and the lead guitar lines on “Shipshape”. Perhaps this is the record the band should have made twenty years ago?

Preorder the new record here.

Time Creeps
Shipshape

Funky Soul from T Bird And the Breaks (plus a big update to the Songs:Illinois X-Mas mix with songs by The Parson Red heads, The Felice Brothers, Gentleman Auction House, The Krayolas w/Augie Myers, Detroit Junior, Harley Poe, Michael Bishop, and The Handsome Family)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Coming Jan 27, 2009. T Birds And The Breaks. Mix Blues Brothers with Liquid Soul and add a dollup of Sharon Jones and you approximate the funky soul of T Bird And The Breaks. Expect lots of up tempo jams (like “Take Time”) on this one but it may be the slo jams like “Sunday On My Own” that take the cake.

Sunday On My Own

Bonus:

Take Time

The big update to the Songs:Illinois Christmas mix is down at the bottom of this link.

The Balky Mules – “The Length Of The Rail” (Fat Cat, Dec. 4)

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Fat Cat Records in the UK reminds me a lot of present day Sub Pop here in the states. They release whatever the hell they want regardless of genre and regardless of commercial success. The new record out on Fat Cat by The Balky Mules (Sam Jones from Movietone) is an example of a record that will surely fail by all of the normal measurable stats. But artistically it’s a completely different story.

“Range” from The Length Of The Rail has a little bit of that Jonathan Richman sweetness and naivety mixed with a slightly twee assortment of lyrics about CSNY, “99 Red Balloons, and “beans and egg and hash”. Musically it’s got just enough oddball percussion and catchy folk guitar riffs to be perfect for repeat listens. Although this is out now it’s very hard to find on the Fat Cat Records site. Good luck tracking this one down!

Range

Auld Lang Syne

Friday, December 5th, 2008

It feels great to utter this next sentence. Auld Lang Syne may very well be the next Felice Brothers. Who would have thought that the Felice Brothers would get to the level where we are describing other bands as up and coming rivals? Part of the reason it feels so great to say is that bands like the Felice Brothers are the true blog bands. These are bands that the blogs discovered and promoted and built up to the point that they can be signed by major indie labels and have successful careers on the road. These bands are more blog bands than Tapes N Tapes or Santagold or even Vampire Weekend. Those bands may have started out with the blogs but quickly moved onto/into the mass culture through song placements on TV shows, Zune commericials and big recording budgets.

Like The Felice Brothers, Auld Lang Syne are from upstate New York. They have an organic sound that at least according according to band leader Jimmy Miller is a conscious choice:

Music to me is something more akin to farming, labor, woodcutting, well digging, carpentry, and the rest of life’s toils. Singing is like pruning my apple trees, like planting garlic, sowing a cover crop for the winter. It is life; it is joy. It offers a connectedness to life for me.

There is a 2 song limited edition 7″ on Viper Bite Records that is now for sale here. “50 Years” is the b-side.

50 Years

Eleni Mandell – “Artificial Fire” (Feb. 17, Zedtone)

Thursday, December 4th, 2008


(This isn’t the photo that goes along with Eleni’s new sound but it’s the one I like the best)

If there weren’t already several competent women centered music blogs I might just be tempted to start one. While some of the guys I post about sometimes fade into the woodwork I rarely forget about the women artists I feature here. Eleni Mandell is one such woman who I’ve covered in the past and occasionally check in on to keep up to date with what she is doing.

In the past I’ve liked her smokey, loungy chanteuse kinda thang (think Suzanne Vega, Aimee Mann). Her new record is called Artificial Fire and on it she has changed gears somewhat and beefed up her sound. Artificial Fire is out in February on Zedtone and very clearly ups the ante by adding more electric guitars and a rocking sound.

Bigger Burn

“Girls” video from her last record

Doug Keith – “Here’s To Outliving Me” (Cougar Label, Jan. 13)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

All I had to go on about Doug Keith was the generic genre tag “alt-country”. And that’s not too much so I wasn’t too confident that I’d like him. But from the first notes of “The Companion of an Angel” from his upcoming release Here’s To Outliving Me I was hooked. As a nice bonus Jennifer O’Connor is featured on a number of tracks including “Companion…”.

Its theme of an undying love for an angel-like woman is one I can relate to.

The Companion of an Angel

Bonus:

Salty Woman
Bird

Andrew Vladek – “Hold Me Back”

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

I’m mostly taking the day off today after the arduous task of getting my annual Songs:Illinois Christmas mix online. But I do want to share with you a song from the new ep by Andrew Vladeck. Andrew’s a Brooklyn based singer-songwriter who I wrote about first here. His new EP is called The Magnet and is out now on End Up Records.

“Hold Me Back” is a song about the anger and powerlessness a lot of us feel over the war and the way our country has been run the past 8 years.

Hold Me Back

Christmas Mix – Songs:Illinois Style

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Well I did it. I waited `til after Thanksgiving to post my Christmas mix. So far a lot of these songs are from last year (or years past), hell I even recycled the photo from last year’s post. I’ll do my best to update this mix as new songs appear. I love these songs. They are some of the best Christmas songs you’re likely to hear and for a large part they are ones I’ve dug up first. So Enjoy and Merry Christmas (three weeks early).

P.S. I’m so low tech it’s not even funny so if someone wants to create a .zip and host it somewhere be my guest and leave it in the comments.

P.P.S. If I had to recommend just three songs that represent the best of the new Christmas standards I’d say to take a close listen to Dan Byrk’s “Cosy Evenings”, “Here Comes Christmas” By Bill Kelly, and “Christmas At The Trailer Park” by Antsy McClain.

P.P.S.S. If you’re still Hard up for Christmas music you can check out my Swedish Christmas music mix over at Swedesplease here.

She’s Underneath the Mistletoe – Antsy McClain

Here comes Christmas – Bill Kelly

Christmas Or Columbus (Andy Hong’s Kitchen) – Drew O’Doherty

Christmas Is For Losers – Mike Nicolai

I’m All Alone For Christmas (live) – Danny Barnes

Cosy Evenings – Dan Byrk

All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue – Over The Rhine

O Holy Night – Benji Cossa

Blue Christmas (live) – Martin Sexton

Darling Christmas Is Coming – Over The Rhine

The Christmas Song – Nourallah Brothers

You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch – Asylum Street Spankers

Christmas At The Trailer Park – Antsy McClain

I Hate Fucking Christmas (live) – Steve Poltz

The Little Baby – Hefner

So this Is Christmas – ? (lost in the shuffle – extra points if you leave the answer in the comments)

Christmas In Vermont – Ed’s Redeeming Qualities

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen – Hoax Funeral

Be My Valentine On Christmas – Glenna Bell

The Christmas Song – Mark Jungers

Red Eyed Santa – Dick Smith

Gold Front Tooth – Dick Smith

That Was The Worst Christmas Ever – Sufjan Stevens

Christmas Past – Mike Ireland and Holler

Christmas In London – Krista Detour

Christmas In Prison – Emmy the Great and Lightspeed Champion

Christmas In Prison Live – Will Kimbrough

Christmas Eve – Salim Nourallah

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear – Laura Gibson

It’s Almost Christmas – Chris Garneau

Just Like Christmas – Low

Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis – Neko Case

Christmas Island – Leon Redbone

X-Mas Song – Fireflies

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Rose Polenzani

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Hem

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause – John Prine

Merry Christmas From The Family – Robert Earl Keen

Merry Christmas From The Family – Jill Sobule

**First Update**

Christmas On Ward #7Chris Flew

**Second Update**

Driving Home, Christmas Eve – Frontier Ruckus

**Third Update**

Jewish For Christmas – Coconut and The Duke (from former blogger Duke Of Straw)

What Do You Give A Wookie For Christmas? -Savanteous Q Malmsteen

**Fourth Update**

Christmas Vision – Beau Jennings

**Fifth Update**

Murder By Mistletoe – The Felice Brothers

It Never Snows – The Parson Red Heads

Don’t Want Another Christmas Like Last Christmas – Gentleman Auction House

Christmas Time – The Krayolas With Augie Meyers

Christmas Song – Detroit Junior

It’s Christmas Time Again – Harley Poe

RockABilly Christmas – Michael Bishop

So Much Wine – The Handsome Family

**Sixth Update**

I’m Grateful for Christmas This Year – Hayes Carll

River – Lex Land