Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I realize there's no reason you should care about this...

but I've really been impressed with the playlist of Denver's Indie 101.5 FM. Sure they get bogged down in some music I'm not terribly enamored with, but just when you're about to get fed up, they'll play Band of Horses or DeVotchKa, and all is right with the world again.

The real problem I've found is that reception is horribly spotty, and are almost reminiscent of my youth in west Texas, where I affixed all sorts of wires and tinfoil to my radio antenna with the hopes of picking up a decent radio station, and only then if the weather conditions were just right.

I don't understand how a Denver radio station can go entirely to static in...Denver. Not Castle Rock, not Loveland, not Golden, but Denver. Reception in Boulder ranges from great to not worth waiting for the signal to come back.

But here's the kicker, for anyone still with me. Yesterday, I was driving up Boulder Canyon to Nederland, with probably 500 feet of rock on either side of me, absolutely no cell phone service, and as I turn on my car stereo planning to put in a CD, what do I hear? Well, Indie 101.5 of course. Not a faint signal or an intermittent snippet of music, but just solid, clear radio. I hope you weren't expecting me to give you explain this phenomenon, because I haven't the foggiest. If nothing else, I guess now the canyon has got that much more rock...just don't plan on calling in a request on your cell phone.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Weakly stuff

If you remember my Wovenhand acoustic show review:
You’ll recall the mention of Elin Palmer. Just ran across a live show recording from her Westword Music Showcase set here, so check it out.

Only in Boulder:
Newspaper headline – “Police return marijuana clinic's drugs

New Fleet Foxes song:

Remember when news (usually) involved verified sources?:
It seems now that news institutions are really taking a hit from celebrity blogs, who take the approach of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.” Or “throw every possible rumor at the wall and wait to see which ones are actually true.” Case in point has been TMZ being the first to break the MJ story. Quite an advantage they have to be able to print things before they know if they are true.

What does this mean?:
I don’t have a clue, but I'm pretty glad I'm not a journalist.

New Wilco tomorrow:
if you're into that kind of thing.

I'm sure this is old news to all the cool kids:
but I was just told about this amazing Tiny Desk Concert performance by the Avett Brothers. Now they are saying September for their new album release. Please don't push it back any further guys.

saw True Stories all the way through and am afraid I'm now on the search for the Talking Heads' album True Stories, and also the version of "People Like Us" sung by John Goodman, which apparently exists. I'm not sure if it's just a B-side on a record, or if it's more widely available than that, but I'll keep you posted on all the uninteresting details.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lubbock & West Texas & Stuff

Just to clarify:
West, TX is not in West Texas.

It had been too long:
since I had seen a One Wolf live show. DM is one of the best songwriters I know and he was nice enough to take requests during this show. Have you still not picked up the One Wolf/TSC 7" split?

I don't know how long the link will work:
but Spinner just posted a free download of one of the new Avett Brothers songs, which happens to be the title track from their upcoming album I and Love and You. I and Love and This and Band.

Got a chance to see Lubbock's own My Milliner. Definitely the type of band I love to see in Lubbock, although they might be over the heads of the above average Lubbock music fan. Best moment of the set was the announcement that "we may have just run out of songs."

I was doing some random junk on the internets:
and ran across this David Byrne blog about going to Marfa. Worth a read when you get a minute.

I know most people think its cool:
to hate living in Lubbock. However, if people would just think about its potential, it could really have some draw for the hipster crowd. Proposed city slogans: "Lubbock: You can still smoke in bars here" or "Lubbock: Drink at a bar all night for less than $20 (and maybe $10)" or "Lubbock: You can still pay $5 to see good music here." If someone makes a good poster with this or your own Lubbock slogan, I will post it here.

Seriously Lubbock:
How hard is it to support something other than a chain restaurant?

Denver traffic:
SUCKS. Ironically, we hit maybe the worst Denver traffic I've ever been in (like 2 hours for a few miles bad) on BIKE TO WORK DAY!!! No matter how hard you try Colorado, you're still not that green. The high numbers of people who do bike to work are the only thing that keeps this place from having Houston or Phoenix levels of horrible traffic.

Sign reading "Speed Monitered by Aircraft" and 10 or so miles later sign reading "Speed Monitored by Aircraft." I guess if you spell it wrong the first time, then you can always correct it the second time around.

Casino commercial that said "are you ready for the thrill of craps?"

Whether you'll admit it or not:
The Lonesome Dirge by Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward is just a great album for driving, or as frat boys say "road trips." It took me a few listens to get into this album, especially the tempo changes and guitar shredding, but now it provides quite the forum for my air drumming and air guitar (on an air flying V) on I-25.

Friday, June 12, 2009

3 reviews (sort of)

I’ve been meaning to get to some album reviews the past few months, but I always seem to put it off because album reviews aren’t really my strong point, as evidenced by my past generic attempts at describing musical styles. I once tried writing reviews for an online site that was fairly popular in Texas for a time, and even had a couple of things published by them (kind of embarrassing stuff, but what's done is done). However, when they sent me CD’s to review, it became quite clear to me that reviewing music that I wasn’t terribly interested in wasn’t my strong point. I think I waffled for a few weeks and made one attempt at writing a review, but nothing came out, so I wrote the editor back with my tail between my legs and said I couldn’t do it. Nonetheless, that whole experience gives me a certain skepticism that people who review CD’s after a listen or two are really getting at much of anything. Rather, I think one has to sit with an album for some time and let the feel of it seep in slowly, and until then, it’s really hard to say much about it. However, given that model, I guess there’s not much hope for bad music getting any review at all, so maybe they can keep their model and I’ll keep mine. But I digress…

Amanda Shires – West Cross Timbers

On Amanda Shires' follow up to her 2005 release Being Brave, one is most taken by the clear progression that she has made in terms of her songwriting and in her confidence to branch out in a number of musical directions. West Cross Timbers moves away from the traditional tint of Shires’ debut, and gravitates from intensely personal and soft ballads to uptempo songs that drive the album forward. The variety on the album is likely to lead listeners to pick almost any of the eleven tracks as a favorite, as each is strong in its own right. “Mariann Leola” and “Mineral Wells” are clear standouts, each with a somber tone, but they are nicely complimented by more upbeat tracks such as “Upon Hearing Violins” and “Angels and Acrobats,” the latter being a cover from the songbook of Shires’ collaborator Rod Picott. Timbers showcases the musical experience Shires has gained over the past few years in touring solo and in collaboration with Rod Picott and Thrift Store Cowboys, most notably in her willingness to take chances with a wider vocal range. Appropriately, the album closes with homage to Shires’ roots, with the Western swing number “Whispering” - a fitting coda to an album that showcases a broad spectrum of influences that range from traditional fiddle music of the 30s & 40s all the way up to music of today.

Justin Townes Earle – Midnight at the Movies

I honestly have to report that about 2 months ago, I had no more than a fleeting interest in Justin Earle. I had heard a few live performances, and thought the music was decent, but it really didn’t get me interested enough to buy his music. Fast forward to today and now I seem to have copies of all three of his albums, so a definite transition has happened for me as of late. Compared to his past recordings, Midnight sounds decidedly more “alt country” in the sense that many of the songs move away from the stripped down low-fi feel of his past LP, The Good Life, and are well produced without going too far overboard. “Mama’s Eyes” remains my favorite track on the album, and is largely responsible for my increase in interest in JTE. I almost never quote lyrics, but the line “Sure it hurts but it should hurt sometimes” basically sold me on Earle’s music and songwriting. Other standout tracks on the album include the title track and Earle’s cover of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait.” However, continued listens for me have brought out the strength of other tracks, most notably “Someday I’ll be Forgiven for This.” Overall this album is well done with some tracks that I think will have long term listening value, but more importantly, I think they are a indicator of great things to come from JTE.

Monahans – Dim the Aurora

Austin based Monahans truly provides a case in point when it comes to my philosophy of album reviews. I had to spend multiple listens with their debut release Low Pining before I really felt like I “got it” to any extent. Dim the Aurora follows suit by providing a complex soundscape that likely will not be instantly accessible to listeners given the intricacies woven into the musical framework. The first track, “It’s Enough to Leave You,” is among the most listener friendly songs on the album, and the songs that follow don’t necessarily branch out in any single direction, exhibiting the bands' diverse musical tastes. The instrumental tracks and the more traditionally structured songs (i.e. with verses and choruses and such) don’t exactly chart the same path. Songs such as the title track and “The Low Light” exhibit strong songwriting and will have an immediate appeal to most listeners. Alternatively, the instrumentals move in more adventurous directions at times, most notably with the sparse 21 minute "Terrene," seemingly Monahans' statement that this is most definitely not your father's rock and roll anymore. Overall, the album is cohesive and a great listen to those willing to take the time to listen to the entire project in its entirety.

Why I need a chaperone at Lucero shows

Alternate titles:

Why I got evicted after the Lucero show.

Who ordered all the whiskey?

Could I get a wholesale discount on some of this?

I'd like to return a few of these items.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Weekly stuff

More evidence that Zach Galifianakis is about to be a huge movie star whether we like it or not:
in this New York Times feature.

Awesome cover art by Julie Cope:
On the new Mt. Inadale Records split 7” featuring Lubbock’s own Thrift Store Cowboys & One Wolf. Click the artwork for more details.

If you liked the
Court & Spark:
you should check out their new project Hiss Golden Messenger. It's a good bit different than C&S, but the solid songwriting is still there. Kind of more…um…earthy? I would say if you listened to Hearts, this material sounds like a natural progression from that.

Monahans continues to get recognition from major media outlets:
this time in Texas Monthly.

If you didn’t know:
J.D. Salinger is still alive, but has refused to talk to the press for close to 50 years. He recently made headlines regarding the fact that he was filing suit against a publishing company who put out a book that is an unauthorized sequel to Catcher in the Rye. When the story broke, you could get this book internationally for $15 or so. Now it's up to $160 reserve price. I briefly considered buying it while it was so cheap, but then I remembered, "oh yeah, J.D. Salinger didn't actually write this book" FYI, even today, people who seek him out in the small town of Cornish, NH get turned away by a near-deaf Salinger or his wife. Road trip anyone?

If you’ve seen Weeds Season 4:
Then you probably heard “A New World” and “Head Honcho” by DeVotchKa playing along with one of the episodes.

When my friend told me she grew up in Hawai’i:
I said, “can you be more pacific?”

In case you missed it:
Vic Chesnutt stopped into Daytrotter for a session that was posted here not so long ago.  FYI, the scream he does in "Independence Day" is not for sale at Guitar Center.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Wooden Birds - Larimer Lounge (Denver, CO) - 06/06/09

Having missed the Wooden Birds at SXSW, I was pleased to find they were coming through Denver in support of their debut album Magnolia for a Larimer Lounge afternoon BBQ show. For those of you unaware of this band, lead singer/bassist Andrew Kenny is the frontman from indie rock band the American Analog Set, who are currently on an indefinite hiatus. I don't have time or space or the exact info to give you details on Amanset's current status, but they haven't really toured since 2005. They did play a set at SXSW 2009, which was packed to the brim, and before that I only saw the band maybe 4 years earlier at another packed show in Lubbock.

Thus, given the immense popularity that Amanset has had in the past decade, I went to the pains of buying advance tickets for the Wooden Birds show in Denver. To my surprise and disappointment (for the band's sake), the crowd was on the small side, probably due to a number of factors: 1) Sunday afternoon is probably not the ideal time to get people out, 2) at least a few online sites had advertised a later set time for the band, 3) hipsters hate sunlight, and 4) people are still finding out about this band. In fact, hipsters were oddly near non-existent at this show according to my official hipster assessment of counting silly hats. Officially, the silly hat count was 1, but even that hat more resembled a dad/former hipster hat, reducing the tally to 0, or 0.5, depending on your scoring method.

Crowd or not, the bands' performance was pure perfection...and almost felt like a private show for those of us in attendance. As the band noted, they have been on tour for close to 2 months, and this fact showed clearly through the fact that their sound was unbelievably tight. The spouse noted that Wooden Birds sounded a bit like the American Analog Set and Whiskeytown had a love child, which given the tight male/female harmonies and ear pleasing melodies, isn't that far off, and given her Stranger's Almanac obsession, it was meant as a sincere compliment. I really had no idea what to expect because the bands' myspace only has two songs, and unlike many bands these days, they have not released their music to stream the album anywhere. However, having gone into the show liking very much the two songs I had heard (which you can find on many sites & blogs such as this one), I was pleasantly impressed to find that I liked virtually everything they played for the set. Now I'm really anxious to go pick up my copy of Magnolia, especially after finding out it comes with downloads (unlike a certain tribute album I mentioned not so long ago).

Shows by of bands that include members of more popular bands are always an interesting experience, and one never really knows what to expect from said rock stars. I really appreciated that The Wooden Birds came in with no pretention, no attitude, and no chips on their shoulder about getting asked to play a song from Kenny's old band. Rather, they graciously played a couple of Amanset songs for the fans in attendance - yet again flawlessly.

I expect that small crowds are not something that Andrew Kenny has dealt with much in well over 10 years, but if it affected the bands' performance at all, the band didn't show it. In fact, they looked extremely happy to be onstage playing music, almost to the point that maybe the new project was a liberating experience from his former job of being the leader of all things indie in the American Analog Set. (Probably just as possible that this is me reading too much into things though.) I also expect that crowds such as last Sundays' are not going to be too common in the bands' future, assuming that they keep up performances like this one. I found a definite irony in the fact that, in less than a month, this band would go from a sparsely attended Sunday afternoon show to what will almost certainly be a sold out show at Stubbs on July 4th, opening up for Explosions in the Sky. And an even further irony given that, as legend tells it, Amanset were the ones responsible for getting EITS discovered in the first place.

Oh yeah, and the barbecue was pretty good too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stuff, part 12

I'm not sure that it merits an entire review:
but Lucero's show at the Fox Theatre on 5/30 was hands down the best I've ever heard the band sound. Ben and the guys drank in moderation, and it really showed as they played every song spot on. Sure it lacked the high elevation drunkenness that tends to ensue at their shows, but musically, I was more than exchange debauchery for the perfectly performed set.

What I should have titled my previous blog about The Hangover:
"The Hangover (the movie, not the one from the Lucero show)"

Have you noticed that strike anywhere matches:
don't really light on anything except the striking surface on the box?

I just can't pay for them:
but I'll have to admit I put in to win tickets to 3eb this Friday in Denver.

For those of you who have been chomping at the bit for any and all Avett material (even if it's not new songs):
fuel.tv just posted videos of recent performances of "Color Show" and "Salina."

Very soon:
I'll be posting info about the upcoming Thrift Store Cowboys/One Wolf 7" split vinyl.

Sorry if you hate sports and/or UT:

Am I the only one:
who feels a little sad for the Lemonheads for going from being a pretty big grunge band in the 90s who probably played to pretty large audiences to playing 200 person capacity clubs 15 years later? I guess everyone's got to pay the bills somehow.

Forgot to mention:
how cool it is that Bob Dylan mentions Billy Joe Shaver on his new album. Read Shaver's thoughts on the shout out here.

I've been trying to find more info:
but the last update I've heard on Shaver's shooting case was that he was indicted back in September of 2008. Otherwise, news on the subject has completely fallen off the radar. I guess this is probably a case of the wheels of the legal system turning very slowly. Hopefully it will get settled out of court and go away. Whatever actually happened, Shaver's an icon and Texas needs him.

Don't miss:
the Cory Branan/Jon Snodgrass split 12". It will probably sell out at some point in the not too distant future. And also, what's this about Cory's next record coming out on a "much bigger label?" That's fantastic news, but I'd heard nothing about it until the passing comment by VC.

Old Chicago restaurant neon sign where the "ago" was no longer lit. The joke possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Hangover (not mine...the movie)

I really hadn't planned on writing a full blog about going to see the Hangover, since of all the things I am, a movie reviewer is not one of them. Nonetheless, a week ago when Westword offered a chance to get free passes to an advance screening of the Hangover, I jumped at the chance. Normally I don't make a big effort to see new release movies, especially when they are mass marketed big studio type films. Nonetheless, Zach Galifianakis' scenes in the trailer were enough to catch my interest.

The general deal was that we weren't guaranteed seats, but if we got there early (they said 30-60 minutes), we should have a good chance of getting seats. Turns out that the prospect of getting something for free was more than people could stand, and they probably took the day off of work just to get in line. We actually heard that people began showing up at noon to line up for the 7 p.m. showing. As much as I wanted to see the movie, it wasn't bad enough to wait 7 hours in a 14 plex in Arvada, so I'm glad we made it to the theater at about 6:15. The line was already ridiculous by that point, and we were probably 250-300 people back in line. The good news we found out was that the theater held over 400, so we stuck it out and found seats that were up front, but not quite the front row.

The biggest surprise about the line was that we were really expecting a lot of hipsters, largely due to the Galifianakis cult following and because I was expecting not a lot of people go through the Westword movie section where the free showing was announced. Turns out a radio station had announced the show today though, because we soon found out that the line looked much more like the Flatirons mall crowd than the painfully hip Sputnik crowd. Further proof of the low hipster turnout was the lack of silly hats, which were almost non-existent. Rather, I think most were anxious to see "that guy from The Office" as much as anyone in the movie.

Oh yeah, I should mention that we saw the movie too. I was afraid the previews had given away all the funny parts, but by no means was that the case. I actually have a hangover from the movie because there were so many funny parts that I really can't remember any of them. Plus, you don't want me to spoil it anyway. Just to reassure you, there are plenty of scenes in the movie that aren't in the trailer, and while some of the humor is a bit crude, it avoids being completely low brow and stays true to Galifianakis' comedic style.

My favorite part of the night was as we were leaving hearing all of the mall crowd talking about all the ridiculous cliched things that people say about Vegas. Yes, a woman behind me even said "yeah, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Wow, I thought, this is not Zach's typical crowd. This is the guy who makes jokes about the most offensive subjects imaginable but somehow gets away with it because they are so intelligent.

Alas, I fear that the non-mainstream days of Zach G. have finally come to an end. If this movie is not his breakout, then I don't know what will be. Land of the Lost may dominate the top of the box office standings for the weekend, but I think The Hangover will sustain as well. I can't be more glad that I got to see his stand-up show at the Boulder Theater 18 months or so ago, because even those days may be numbered as well. The good news I think is that Visioneers should finally be released. It's apparently been picked up for distribution, but I'm sure they are waiting for The Hangover to make Zach a superstar first so they can maximize profits. Given the laugh-out-loud comedy of The Hangover, I'm wondering how the dark comedy of Visioneers is going to be received for Galifianakis by his new mainstream followers. Hmm, this situation sounds familiar...anyone remember The Cable Guy?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wovenhand acoustic show - Swallow Hill (5/29)

Last Friday, 5/29, finally brought with it the concert I had been (over?)hyping for the past month or so, if not on this blog, at least to the few people who would listen to me talk about it. The show featured an acoustic show by one of Denver's most respected groups, Wovenhand, at the Swallow Hill concert hall.

Similar to the fact that I had not been to Swallow Hill before, I think many of the Swallow Hill regulars had never heard Wovenhand before. The regulars at this concert hall, which doesn't serve alcohol (although it apparently may soon), were a bit older than the typical Wovenhand crowd, and thus, the audience had an interesting dynamic between these concertgoers and the hipster-ish crowd that filled in the rest.  

In one of his few discussions with the crowd, Edwards noted that (paraphrasing): "we usually play loud enough to bring the law." The Spiro's show at SXSW was case in point, although I think the law was there because they are at Spiro's every night, and not so much on account of the loudness that left my ears ringing for the next 24 hours.

You can find the Denver Post's review and photo gallery from the show here, and on that same note, I'll try not to repeat too much of what you already know from that review.  The openers Kal Cahoone and Elin Palmer did a nice job of opening the show and also of accompanying David Eugene Edwards and Ordy Garrison in the Wovenhand set.  Palmer I had seen perform as a backing musician for Munly and Tom Hagerman, although I had not heard her original music, which mixes Swedish traditional music with more contemporary indie pop sounds.  Pascal Humbert was noticeably absent from his normal duties on bass for Wovenhand, and while I'm sure he would have added a great element to the show, the performance was not lacking in any way.

(edit: And I've just been informed by the spouse that Kal Cahoone was/is half of Tarantella and also, it would appear, sister to Sera Cahoone, an artist on Subpop.  Missing information like this is the reason why I'm not a journalist.)

Overall, there were no major surprises (meaning he didn't play the hits from 16 HP), but as expected, it was a strong and well rehearsed Wovenhand show through and through.  Edwards did a good job to cover a broad spectrum of the Wovenhand catalog, and I was pleased to hear some of my own personal favorites - most notably "Pail Blue Fever" and "Dirty Blue."  

While the venue provided a more intimate setting (read: deadly quiet) for Edwards and his songs, the show provided little added insight into the thoughts of this very private artist, who spends little time making idle conversation with the audience and who typically gives no hints to audiences or interviewers in regard to specific song meanings.  A devout Christian, Edwards does not hide his beliefs, but he uses his art as his primary expression of them (as far as the public is concerned), and knowing the depth of his talents, it is clear that he is playing on his strengths by taking this route. Throughout the night, he remained stoic as ever, although he was very mindful of demonstrating his gratitude to the audience, no doubt acknowledging his appreciation to them of supporting him and allowing him to make a career out of his music.  I was a bit surprised that he came back for an encore, but once again, one could sense a mutual appreciation between artist and audience.

Since his 16 HP days, I've long heard that Edwards is far more popular in Europe than in his home base of Denver, although I have to imagine that is what has kept him here in Colorado and allowed him to make music out of the spotlight and on his own terms.  Though subtle, I found the best representation of Edwards and his musical legacy early on in the show.  When Palmer was having some problems tuning her nyckelharpa at the beginning of the set, Edwards could have been very impatient, knowing that the full house was waiting to hear him begin his set.  However, he reassured her to take her time and get it right, just the way he's done his entire career.