Thursday, October 27, 2011

John Cale - Fear

Lately, we've been listening to a lot more John Cale. A LOT more. Maybe it's the recent announcement of his new EP Extra Playful, or maybe it's just the fact that obsessions happen when they do, and this one is happening now. Regardless: it's time to share.

Cale is best known as a multi-instrumentalist and co-writer for the original lineup of the Velvet Underground, and no doubt, that's an incredible body of work. But even more incredible, frankly, is his run as a solo artist.  During the past 40 years, Cale has released a treasure trove of records that are some of the most rewarding experimental pop around. Some of his best known works (Paris 1919, for one) are somewhat part of the mainstream, but many of his most fantastic records (for some unknown reason) remain relegated to the worlds of collectors and enthusiasts. Case in point: 1974's Fear.

In one sense, Fear is pure, classic John Cale:  dark melancholy, experimental riffs, pop sensibility, and thorough experimentation all rolled into one. But somehow, it's also something more. Compared to his other records, Fear has a rawness and originality that is less trite and produced, but at the same time offers up a melancholy that is touching without going over the edge into the darkness. In short, the record is an expert balancing act of Cale's many artistic qualities.

To further add to the awesomeness, Fear is backed by an all-star band culled from Cale's peers. In addition to Cale's own masterful instrumentation (which is far reaching and diverse), he is joined by Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Richard Thompson to name a few. The band serves to further flesh out Cale's arrangements, and offers up a rock and roll record that still manages to be full of relevance and emotional honesty, coupled with a full dose of sonic experimentation.

John Cale can undoubtedly be difficult at times, and a large degree of this has to do with the fact that he is a man who operates in extremes.  At times, he can't always manage to reign in his experiments and impulses enough to make them accessible, and at others he is so poppy it becomes saccharine.  Granted, once they are breached, these records are well worth while, but getting there can be a long journey. Fear, by contrast, gives a tangible example of what happens when Cale manages to keep everything under close watch:  all of his strengths merge together, and create a record of undeniable greatness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Horse Played Highline Ballroom - Pictures, Review

On Saturday we stopped into the Highline Ballroom for what would be our sole foray into the madness that is CMJ.  While there, we caught a stunning set from Australian duo An Horse.  The pair were on tour supporting their latest (fantastic) release Walls, and delivering a brand of rock and roll goodness that is truly unique.

It must be said from the start, that An Horse can make noise.  Just a drum kit, two vocalists, and a single guitar.  And yet, much like The White Stripes, they manage to flesh out the sound expertly and take on many roles at once.  Part of this is sourced in the intricate beats and meaty guitar hooks, but even more is sourced in the band's vocals.

While Kate Cooper takes on the lead vocals, it's difficult to necessarily call them "lead", as they are so often intersected with those of drummer Damon Cox.  The interplay, harmonies, and rhythm of their vocal delivery is fantastic, and serves to underpin their fantastic instrumentation and technical skills.  It also manages to illustrate just how close the two musicians have become.

If it's possible, An Horse made an even better impression this time around than they did on the tour for their first record Rearrange Beds.  On that tour, they delivered a unique and magical version of their own songs, fresh from the studio.  This time, things were just as fresh, but also instilled with a confidence and swagger that made the performance more gripping, and the music more vivid.  It was evidenced not only in our assessment, but also in the vested crowd who assembled, that An Horse are a band on the upswing.

More pictures at the HAD Archive

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ryan Adams - "Petal In A Rainstorm"

Last week Ryan Adams dropped his much-anticipated record Ashes And Fire, and like many, we were more than a little excited.  So excited, in fact, that we went all-in and bought the super-deluxe edition of the record.  Not only were we amped to support Adams in his latest venture with PaxAm records, but the record also came with a cool flexi-disc featuring "Petal In A Rainstorm".

The flexi-disc is a "technology" that was invented in the heyday of the vinyl era, intended to allow delivery of music, minus the heft of a giant vinyl disc.  Sound quality is certainly questionable, but the low-fi vibe and the history of the format as one typical to fan club "exclusives" made it all the more attractive to us.  Put differently: we can't ignore a good nostalgia trip.

But, to the point: the track is outstanding.  Amidst the gentle hum of the flexi-disc's static, the song is Adams at his very best: simple, yet perfectly melodic, and all over a gently loping beat.  The arrangement is slowly built up over a bass, drum kit, and organ, until it ends almost as quickly as it has begun.

The flexi-disc is a terribly fragile technology, which wears out after only a handful of playbacks.  Thankfully, there's digital recording to the rescue, and our copy can remain (relatively) unscathed, despite our love of the song. So have a listen, and don't be afraid to play it a second time, or a third.  For once, digital is your friend.

mp3: Ryan Adams - Petal In A Rainstorm

Friday, October 21, 2011

Jay-Z - "Reminder"

We know it's Friday, we know you need a good weekend jam, and we're here to help. Helping alongside is none other than your friend and ours, Jay-Z.  "The Reminder" is culled from 2009's The Blueprint 3, and starts out as what seems like a straight ego piece. Bragging and swagger, Jay seems to be wasting our time over a thin beat. But Jay hits his stride in the second verse, the beat starts to flesh itself out against his flow, and Shawn Carter fully delivers the goods.  Happy Weekend.

mp3: Jay-Z - Reminder

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Beach Boys - Surf's Up (Demo)

The upcoming release of The Beach Boys' SMiLE sessions has us digging through our archives like maniacs, catching up on all the material that we've collected over the years in regard to the notorious "lost" album.  Ranging from demos, to session tapes, to fan-compiled versions of the album, there's more than any rational human would like to dig through.  However, in that dreck there are also gems, and the demo for "Surf's Up" is among our very favorites.

The track itself is no stranger to Beach Boys fans:  it would surface later on an album of the same name.  However, that version was produced and manicured:  a bizarre combination of simplicity attempting to seem complex.  By comparison this demo, recorded by Brian Wilson solo at the piano, reveals the very fundamental reason the song is so amazing.  Rhythms, melodies, transitions: all of them combine to make this version the very best it can be.

The demo first surfaced on a 1960's TV show (click through for video - embedding was disabled) previewing the never-to-be album, and for a long time that unmastered outtake was all that fans would have.  However, with the release of the Good Vibrations box set, a full mastered version was released in all it's simplistic goodness.  And it is so, so, worth it.  So sit back, relax, and have a listen.  Surf's Up!

mp3: The Beach Boys - Surf's Up (Demo)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New John Cale On Tap For November, New Year - mp3, Video

John Cale is one of those slow-grow pleasures.  At first seemingly inaccessible, and at times overly droll, once you've gotten hooked, he is an undeniable addiction.  Cale has been steadily delivering albums for the past 40 years; There have been duds and there have been winners, but one thing is for sure: it's always interesting.

That interest is exactly the reason that we were so stoked to discover that Cale has a new EP on tap for the day after Thanksgiving, entitled Extra Playful (cover above).  What's more, details of a forthcoming full length album are apparently on their way, adding all the more excitement to the announcement!

While we have yet to hear the full EP, we can tell you from two tracks we've heard ("Catastrofuk" above, "Perfection" below) that Cale is in some seriously poppy form.  Oddly, for a man who has some real street cred as an experimental composer, Cale is one of the best writers of old fashioned rock and roll out there.

On these two tracks, granted, there are moments of Cale's expanded musical palette, but the overall vibe is one of dead-solid songwriting.  "Catastrofuk"offers up some crunchy guitars and an easy going chorus, while "perfection" offers something of a slow-groove lounge vibe.  Check them out for yourself, and we're pretty sure you'll be just as excited for this record as we are.

mp3: John Cale - Perfection

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Music - Motopony

With the breadth of folkie indie pop that's floating around out there, it's easy to dismiss any artist who falls into the genre as being not worth your time.  It's easy, and it's a mistake, a case which is easily proved by one listen to Motopony's self-titled full length debut.

At first listen the disc has the potential to fall into every pitfall of the recent indie-folk trend: too sweet melodies, gentle acoustic guitars, and delicate percussives.  However, the cliché quickly falls away as one is presented with arrangements of growing complexity, and progressively more ragged textures. As the record continues, the percussives take on an electronic feel despite their analog origins, and the fuzzed out bass adds grit to the record's sweetness.  

And yet, none of this robs the record of its folkie foundation.  In fact, it serves to strengthen it as being a record that has all the insights and possibilities of classic tradition, but encapsulates them in modernity.  Motopony have already had a fair bit of attention in their native Seattle, and we can understand why.  After one listen, we were ready to play again.

Motopony are at Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night, Wednesday October 19th.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stephen Malkmus Drops Video For "Senator"

Stephen Malkmus' Mirror Traffic has been available for almost two months, yet it's only today that its lead single, "Senator", has gotten a proper video.  And proper it is:  the vid is a hilarious send up on the song's title character, a corrupt politician played by none other than Jack Black.

The video, as might be expected, is pretty damned over the top.  It features such notable moments as Black doing lines of coke, shocking himself in the groin with a cattle prod, and humping the floor at a hipster party.  On top of that, the videos conclusion is...well...just watch it for yourself.  Happy Friday.

mp3: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - "Senator"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Brian Eno Live In 1974

Brian Eno's early 70's work after he departed Roxy Music is some of his most beloved.  During those years, he created a number of seminal records that served to inform glam, the avant garde, and the experimental for years to come.  Two of those records in particular, Here Come The Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy, yielded rock opuses the likes of which Eno has never achieved again.

Studio masterpieces of colliding textures and stylistic juxtapositions, the records offer not only some of the most creative rock music of all time, but also one of the masterful realizations of "studio as instrument".  With the help of overdubs, synthesizers, and other custom devices, Eno created records that are seemingly unachievable in a real world environ.

This made it all the more surprising, then, when we discovered that in 1974 Eno created a band called The Winkies, and took some of the tracks from Here Come The Warm Jets on to a live stage.  Interestingly, the live show works perfectly:  the carefully-crafted synth guitar interplay is replaced by a more crunchy blues guitar lead, odd solos are even odder in a live capacity, and Eno's vocals are dead-on at every turn.  In short, it's totally killer.

We managed to turn up a compilation of seven live tracks (one below) through various online sources, and we imagine you can do the same.  We guess that you'll come to the same conclusion we did.  Namely:  Why didn't Eno do this sort of thing more often?

mp3: Brian Eno - The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch (Live 1974)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Van Morrison - "The Street Only Knew Your Name"

To note Van Morrison's greatness is almost a thankless exercise at this point.  The man has inspired so many, created so much great music, and been around so long, that he has left an indelible imprint on popular music forever.  His hits are so recognizable that they are in danger of being written off as simply relics of college freshmen everywhere.  And yet, somehow Morrison manages to maintain his stature.  His greatest work is simply so great that it is impossible to defile it with any amount of over-playing.  All of this makes it that much more rewarding when one discovers a gem amongst the rough of Morrison's lesser-played material.

Case in point:  "The Street Only Knew Your Name".  Culled from the sessions recorded in 1975, this recording is the original version of a song that would be re-recorded (and largely bastardized) by Morrison in the early 80's.  None of that changes the fact that this alternate take (now available on The Philosopher's Stone b-sides collection) ranks among Morrison's very best work. Full of his signature attitude and dripping with the Irish soul that made him famous, the track almost seems as though it would be at home on his much-revered greatest hits record.  Little more needs to be said.  Just sit back and listen to Van the man do what he does best:  Deliver.

mp3: Van Morrison - The Street Only Knew Your Name

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Features - "Content"

The Features are one of those bands who keep delivering killer records, and somehow, have yet to break into the mainstream.  Their unique blend of sixties rock psychedelica with modern rock sensibility is completely unique and distinctive.  What's more, it's damned, damned, catchy.

In that perception, at least we know we're not alone:  the band was hand picked by Kings Of Leon for their label imprint, and since then has delivered two records.  The second, which dropped this year, is called Wilderness, and features the single "Content" (below).

Ever-so-slightly darker than the bands' earlier material, the track is a gradually building pop song exploring the ins and outs of modern day living.  The tune is the lead track on the album, and is a great intro to what is, frankly a great record. It continues to adopt what has been the band's modus operandi all along:  carefully produced, fuzzed out, psychedelic rock.  In other words, very worth a listen.

mp3: The Features - Content

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Horse Return With New Record and North American Tour

We've been huge fans of An Horse ever since we caught them on tour for their first record, Rearrange Beds.  The band is a two piece that manages to manifest a much fuller sound than just the drum/guitar/vocal combo would indicate.  Through a solid base of guitar/drum interplay, Kate Cooper's vocals are cutting and made up the soul of the band's delivery.  On their latest full length Walls, none of that's changed, and that's very, very, good news.

The band's first record has been one that we've come back to frequently, and as such, we weren't exactly hoping for a boatload of change on their next album.  on Walls, the bulletproof songwriting is still in tact, and wonderfully addictive melodies are ever-present.  The biggest change is a subtlety in production:  the percussion is less in your face, and the arrangements feel slightly more delicate and well considered.  Where Rearrange Beds was the sound of a live band banging out parts in the studio, Walls is a road-tested band making careful choices in the studio.

All of this has us very excited, of course, as the band is mounting a US tour this month, and we'll get a chance to hear how these new, more subtle, tracks work out in a live environment.  The band positively kills it live, and given the strength of the new record, we highly recommend you catch up with them when they're in town.  For us, that means the Highline Ballroom on the 22nd, which suits us just find.  See you there!

An Horse 2011 North American Dates
10/06/11 Los Angeles, CA The Troubadour
10/07/11 San Diego, CA House of Blues
10/08/11 Phoenix, AZ Hard Rock Cafe
10/10/11 Austin, TX Emo’s
10/11/11 Dallas, TX Club Dada
10/12/11 Houston, TX Fitzgerald’s
10/14/11 Atlanta, GA Vinyl
10/15/11 Jacksonville, FL Jack Rabbits
10/16/11 Orlando, FL Will’s Pub
10/17/11 Columbia, SC Manifest Records
10/18/11 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle
10/19/11 Washington, DC Red Palace
10/20/11 Boston, MA Royale
10/21/11 Philadelphia, PA North Star Bar
10/22/11 New York, NY Highline Ballroom
10/23/11 New Haven, CT Toad’s Place

Edit: Removed because it refused not to auto-play.

mp3: An Horse - Walls

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ryan Adams - Sad Dracula

Ryan Adams  at Oracle Arena, from the HAD Archive

The impending release of Ryan Adams' Ashes And Fire has had us champing at the bit for a while now, and  as a result we've been digging through the (extensive) archives of Ryan's prolific career to sate our needs until the album finally came around (which, if you're paying attention, it has).  As we dug through all the demos, unreleased studio sessions and live tracks, one in particular caught our ears this week: Sad Dracula.

Culled from the days when Adams was posting a new record (yes, you read that correctly) on his website almost weekly, Sad Dracula is one of Adams' many alternate egos adopted for these projects (others included such notables as Ghetto Birds, Warren Peace, and WereWolph).  In fact there are two albums under the Sad Dracula moniker Fasterpiece and Let It B-Minus.  Both are surprisingly finished as studio records, and offer an amazing double album from Adams' rock persona, at arguably its strongest in quite a while.

For us, the more rocking side of Ryan Adams has always been a compliment to his introspective acoustic jams.  The yin-yang of Rock N Roll and Love Is Hell served to cement in our minds the breadth of Adams' talent, and his ability to wear many hats.  As one might guess, this preference has left the last few years of official releases longing for some balance.  While the Cardinals can definitely rock out live, their records (with the exception of the recent III/IV) tend to be on the mellower side, while not getting all the way down to the introspection that is promised by Ashes And Fire.  As such, Sad Dracula has been our Ryan Adams rock and roll treat for the past week and a half.

In short, Sad Dracula is a set of straight-ahead demos for 23 songs.  All songs are performed by a 5 piece band (presumably the Cardinals), and all of them blaze with a rawness and honesty that simply hasn't been heard on any of Adams' rock records.  Part of the problem with Adams is that when he drifts into the rock and roll vibe in the studio, the results inevitably become so manicured that he gets written off as being a poppy sell out, or simply mocking the status quo.  By contrast, Adams' live show is populated with so much heart-on-sleeve soulful rock riffs, that he can sell out venues anywhere he goes.

Sad Dracula finally takes that live feel and brings it into the studio.  If you saw the Cardinals live over the past five years, then these are the records you always wanted to hear.  There are early versions of "Dear Candy" and "Natural Ghost", as well as "Lost & Found", which appeared on PaxAm's digital singles series.  Suffice it to say, those are just 3 of 23, and the rest are on par.  

Now, granted, Sad Dracula is not perfect.  Tracking in at two records and twenty three tracks, it probably could be trimmed to one and twelve.  However, that doesn't change the fact that the real gem here is not the songwriting (although much of it is very, very, good) - it is the essence of a fantastic live band, captured in the studio in a very real and visceral way that simply cannot be faked.  If you have any love for Ryan Adams or the Cardinals, then that reward is nothing short of magnificent.

While the Sad Dracula records did stream on the internet, they were never officially released, and have been gradually appearing track by track.  Out of respect for Adams' founding his own label and really investing in the record business, we're going to forgo posting a link.  Nonetheless, like most things on the internet, if you really want it you can probably find it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Elvis Costello Played United Palace Theater - Pictures, Review, Video, Setlist

On Saturday we stopped in at a packed United Palace Theater to catch a sold out show from Elvis Costello and the Imposters.  A continuation of the Revolver Tour (which we had seen at the same venue back in May April 2010), we had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the show.  Nonetheless, with a boatload of covers, a longer set, and a totally different setlist, there were still some surprises in store.

The evening's massive 30+ song setlist traversed Costello's career, but held a strong focus on his early and middle career, effectively something of a "classics" set.   However, those classics were not necessarily "hits" per se.  Many of the tracks delivered were non-singles, and the number of covers (7 at our count) further diversified the set.

In addition to an extremely solid night of music, the set was also characterized by Costello's decision to bring back the "Spinning Setlist".  Not only did this further increase the setlist diversity, but it also meant there were audience members on stage at (almost) all times.  This even included actress Mary Louise Parker, who spinned the wheel before "Monkey To Man", and then danced in the go-go booth for the remained of the song.

The highlight of the evening came when Costello invited the crowd to leave the venues seating chary behind and rush the stage.  Only at that point did it truly come together and feel like a rock show.  Surrounded by an adoring fanbase, the band delivered the last 30 minutes of the show in true style, with Costello prowling the perimeter of the stage, and delivering a "quiet" set with Steve Nieve before delving into the band's full encore, which seemed close to endless.  At the end of the night, we were damned tired, so it's hard to imagine how Costello was feeling.  Suffice it to say: the Imposters are on point to deliver a killer show, and they're doing it on a nightly basis.

Elvis Costello Setlist 10-1-2011
Alison -> Tracks Of My Tears
Lipstick Vogue
Watching The Detectives
The Judgement
Everyday I Write The Book
Cry Cry Cry (Johnny Cash Cover)
I Still Miss Someone (Willie Nelson Cover)
Stella Hurt
Monkey To Man
His Lady's Friend (Cover?, unknown)
Waiting For The End Of The World -> I Can Only Give You Everything
Little Fool
Town Cryer
New Lace Sleeves
Clowntime Is Over
Strict Time
Man Out Of Time
Out Of Time (Rolling Stones Cover)
I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea
Pump It Up
Heart Of The City (Nick Lowe Cover)
Radio, Radio
The Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes
Purple Rain (Prince Cover)
Rain (Beatles Cover)
In The Mood Again
I Still Have That Other Girl
Suit Of Lights
Stations Of The Cross
Watch Your Step
Secondary Modern
National Ranson
What's So Funny (About Peace, Love, and Understanding)
Wheels (Gram Parsons Cover)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Black Moth Super Rainbow Played Boston - Pictures, Review

Last weekend we stopped in at Brighton Music Hall to catch a sold out set from abstract rockers Black Moth Super Rainbow.  The band was scheduled to play a sold out show at Bright Music Hall, and when we got there, it was more than clear that the room of enthusiastic fans were ready to hear from a band that hadn't been out on the live trail in quite some time.  Luckily for all involved, the band more than delivered, with an enthusiastic and killer set.

The two openers, The Marshmallow Ghosts and Lichens, delivered wholly different sets.  The Marshmallow Ghosts, who share a member with BMSR, delivered a set that was very reminiscent of Fuck Buttons.  Despite having a darker vibe than the headliner, the band kept the crowds attention with their "celebrity" status as a BMSR offshoot band.  Lichens, by contrast, offered up a 20 minute study in analog synth explorations that the crowd never quite locked into.  We're guessing that if the anticipation for BMSR hadn't been so high, this band might have garnered more attention, as their set was actually quite strong.

As BMSR hit the stage, the crowd was clearly stoked.  However, the band kept it calm, with banter at a minimum, and a clear focus on delivering a killer set.  While band member Tobacco has, at times, been seen as the center of the band, there was a clear effort to dissuade this notion.  Not only was he positioned off stage left, but there was a clear feeling of balance and equity in the band's performance and delivery.

The band's set was hugely diverse, and found all the members swapping instruments on a song by song basis.  Some of the stronger numbers of the night included "Twin Of Myself", "Melt Me", "Rollerdisco", "When The Sun Grows On Your Tongue", "Lost Picking Flowers In The Woods", and "Born On A Day The Son Didn't Rise".  The crowd reaction was immense when the band returned for an encore, which opened with a solid delivery of "Sun Lips".

In addition to well known material, the set featured new songs as well, which varied in feel (as would be expected from the band) from folky material, to material reminiscent of Lightning Bolt.  Overall, the set left us (and judging by reaction, the rest of the crowd) very glad to have Black Moth Super Rainbow back on the scene.  From the sound of things, they're ready to deliver some of their best material yet.

Photos By Wyatt Burns, more at the HAD Archive.