Take Five

In the News

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the bargain bin. For a dollar or two — plus a good chunk of time spent digging around — you can find a CD that will change your life. The extra work and savings can make the discovery all the more exciting. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, right?

In recent years, I’ve stumbled across the self-titled album by Owsley in more than one bargain bin. I remember discovering Will Owsley’s debut nearly a decade ago and just rolling in it, listening to it over and over again. I was in a huge power pop phase back then, and Owsley hit just the right spot.

Last Friday, Will Owsley died. Yesterday, he was laid to rest. He was 44.

You may not think much about it, but that album you see for a buck — perhaps even dozens of copies of it for a buck apiece — is a precious thing. It’s someone’s ultimate creative expression, attempting to articulate a depth of feeling in one jewel-cased statement.

Owsley’s two albums, his self-titled debut and his follow-up “The Hard Way,” were his statements, his treasures, and they are made even more precious by his sudden death. It makes me think about those copies of his album, leaning against one another idly in the bargain bin. I hope someone finds them and buys one, listens to it and realizes that they have something really valuable on their hands. I hope it changes their life.

I encourage you to read the touching tributes to Will Owsley by Merlin Mann and John Darnielle and Addicted to Vinyl. But also read Elisabeth’s, because she makes a really important point: “Take the opportunity to tell the artists you appreciate how much and why you appreciate them. Let each other know why you matter.”

It has been a tough year in the music world already. We’ve lost Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous, Alex Chilton and now Will Owsley, three of them by their own hand. This makes the gift they gave us, their music, all the more fragile and valuable. I bet we all wish we had the chance to tell them, as Elisabeth did to Will, that their music mattered to us. Really mattered.

I want to end this commentary with the gift of music, because I think that’s only fitting. First, you can go download the Japan-only sole release by The Semantics, Owsley’s early power pop project with Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) and Millard Powers. Secondly, I’d like to offer up an Owsley cover that I must have scavenged from Napster back in the day, and I am really glad to still have in my possession.

Goodbye, Will Owsley. I hope you’ve found peace.

Owsley – Last Goodbye (Jeff Buckley cover)

New Releases

Yes, I got the New Pornographers and Hold Steady albums. And yes, they are great. I have no eloquence to shed on them just yet, as I am still drinking them in. But man, are they tasty.

Not exactly new releases, but new to me… the Marshall Crenshaw collection I ordered off of eBay arrived, and it is just as awesome as I’d hoped. I love Rhino collections for their great liner notes, where I learned a lot of Crenshaw’s life, career and evolution as a songwriter. I also got a Steve Earle collection from my YourMusic queue. I am infatuated with his contribution to David Byrne’s “Here Lies Love,” sure, but I long ago got hooked on “I Ain’t Never Satisfied” thanks, once again, to WERS. So I thought I’d dig deeper. I am very pleased with what I’ve heard to date.

Live Music

On Sunday, I decided to hit the Harvard Square Mayfair. I roamed around, catching snatches of the various musical performances and taking it the carnival-like atmosphere. When I came to the Church St. stage, though, I paused. The band playing sounded great, and while I didn’t recognize them, their song sounded familiar. Was it… yes, a cover of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” which my brain has somehow picked up from the Top 40 ether. The crowd was totally eating it up, dancing and waving their arms.

The band, Darlingside, continued the set with their own songs, and the crowd’s enthusiasm carried over. How could it not? These guys, who brand themselves as a “string rock quartet,” were charming, talented, brandishing mandolins and an electric cellos and playing some catchy, tight songs. Maybe “Tik Tok” whipped them up, but songs like “Surround” (see below) kept the crowd frothing.

Around the Web

As promised, here is my Higher Ed Music Critics blog post compiling my favorite songs of 2010 so far. I used Lala to embed the tracks while I still could, since Apple is closing up the Lala shop. What do you think of my picks? Anything I’m missing?

Also, via Higher Ed Music Critics maestro Andrew Careaga, check out the Brett Domino Trio‘s nerdy Justin Timberlake medley, complete with kazoo and recorder:

Finds of the Week

The Futureheads‘ new album, “The Chaos,” isn’t due out in the US until next month, but it’s available for download now via Amie Street for about $5. Go snag it!

Also, download this free Merge sampler from Amazon MP3 while you can. Magic awaits you therein.

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One response to “Take Five

  1. I’m listening to the New Pornographers on npr.org right now and really liking it. A fitting follow-up to Challengers, lots of meat along with the fizz.

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