Monthly Archives: May 2010

Take Five

Live Music

  • This past weekend, I had the delightful occasion to go to central New York with some awesome people to celebrate a friend’s birthday and graduation. Among the hostess’ friends in attendance was one Benjamin Costello, an Ithaca-based singer/songwriter. I had seen his name linked and touted in various outlets, but hadn’t yet pursued his music. I now know that the ideal way to get exposed to a new artist is on a back deck with a good drink and an intimate audience not exceeding a dozen. He’s a soulful singer and a talented musician, and a fun guy to boot.

Here’s an original I had the good fortune to see him perform live, “The Little Left Behind”:

And here’s a cover of the Weepies’ “World Spins Madly On”:

He often does live streaming video concerts, which I think is a pretty great way to spread your fan base. I look forward to the next one. Follow him on Facebook to learn more.

  • I am going to see Stars at the Paradise this Tuesday, thanks to Jay Breitling at Clicky Clicky. I won one of his Twitter contests. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter for great content, and contests. Thanks again!

Second Thoughts

Last week, Jennifer blogged about memory and song, and she specifically referenced R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People.” When she described that “bright yellow tape,” I was immediately propelled back into 1992. I was in full-on angsty teen mode then, and I remember sitting in the green armchair in the corner of the living room, scowling and scrawling horrible poetry into a spiral-bound notebook, listening to that album practically nonstop, flipping the yellow cassette over and over as if the next time I did so, I would discover the answer to some burning adolescent query.

The other day, “Find the River” came on my iPod, and I was instantly transported back to that green armchair — but not in a bad way. Rather, I saw where I had been when that album meant the world to me, and I saw where I am now, where the album still means a whole lot but my life does not seem to hinge on the integrity of the plastic-encased tape reels. And I felt pretty good about who I am, even who I was, and how a song like “Find the River” really epitomizes the journey between there and here.

Hey now, little speedyhead,
The read on the speedmeter says
You have to go to task in the city
Where people drown and people serve.
Don’t be shy. Your just deserve
Is only just light years to go.

It was a nice moment.

New Releases

  • I was excited to learn via a free song offered by Amie Street that We Are Scientists are releasing a new album, “Barbara,” on June 15. I am a tremendous fan of their pop-perfect rock, and that free song in question, “Rules Don’t Stop,” is quite promising.
  • I’m not really jazzed about the movie “Get Him to the Greek,” but Mike Viola always excites me, and he wrote a bunch of songs for the soundtrack, which is available via Amazon MP3 on Tuesday. Also, Mike is doing some limited touring this summer, so check him out if you can.
  • I am really enjoying the new LCD Soundsystem. It’s a party in a box.

Finds of the Week

  • Via Andrew Careaga, Filter’s 8th Coachella sampler, featuring free downloads of new tracks by Broken Social Scene (who may finally be growing on me), Tokyo Police Club, Hot Hot Heat and more.
  • Speaking of summer festivals, SPIN compiled a mixtape for Bonnaroo, which you can download for free. Great songs by The National, Blitzen Trapper, Dawes, Mumford and Sons and more.

Around the Web

  • Normally, I wouldn’t hype a newborn blog. But I’d really like to see my friend Annie keep this one up, because I think she would have some fun observations about music. And I thought that maybe blogging about it would apply a little pressure. So, here’s my plug for Music Moves my Feet, which begins with Annie describing a contest win that feeds her love of New Zealand (Zealander?) music. The second post is about knitting, but what can you do? Go, Annie, go!
  • One year ago, Jay Bennett died. Soon, the Jay Bennett Foundation will launch in his memory, supporting music and education. On July 10, a posthumous album, “Kicking at the Perfumed Air,” will be released as a free download and a CD for purchase. In the meantime, Paste links to a free download from the Bennett Foundation’s compilation, “Twice a Year.

Take Five

Around the Web

  • Hate cancer? Me too. Love music? Me too! Here’s a great way to capitalize on both of these sentiments:

In February, TargetCancer introduced The Right Track: Tunes to TargetCancer, a music download series offering rare and unreleased songs donated by major artists. Since then, people from all over the world have downloaded these songs, raising thousands of dollars used directly for rare cancer research. Today we release the second installment of songs, which include the solo premiere of The Donnas’ Brett Anderson, Tracy Bonham, State Radio, Joe Pernice and more!

Get updates from Target Cancer on Facebook or Twitter, and keep track of Right Track Tunes on Twitter.

  • Ron over at MssngLnk (a fellow Higher Ed Music Criticwrote a great post about sharing and being influenced by the music around us.I grew up immersed in music, but much of it was through headphones, in cars and behind closed doors. I can’t wait until the day comes when music takes over my house, where my kids and our neighbors and our kids’ friends and the mailman won’t be able to help but drink in whatever is on the stereo, and they can take or leave whatever they wish. I think of all the albums and artists I’ve discovered by being in other people’s houses — Elbow and John Wesley Harding come immediately to mind — and I am just filled with gratitude.
  • It’s webcomic time. Check out these recent strips by Cat and Girl and xkcd.
  • I love Mint, and their blog is pretty cool, too. This week, they theme personal finance talk around music, so I couldn’t help but link to it.

Finds of the Week

  • My sister was in town this past weekend, and on Sunday we roadtripped to Gloucester and Rockport for the day. While in Gloucester, we stopped in the legendary Mystery Train records. I didn’t want to spend too much time immersed in the bins of CDs (though I easily could have), but I was lucky to stumble across a John Wesley Harding album I didn’t yet own, “The Confessions of St. Ace,” for just under $5.
  • Looking for a good summer mix? Music For Kids Who Can’t Read Good has done the heavy lifting for you by compiling this downloadable mix featuring the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Surfer Blood, the Black Keys, Yeasayer, Temper Trap, Phantogram and more.
  • Among this week’s new releases was a re-release of the rare Jayhawks debut album (dubbed the Bunkhouse album). I scored it for $6.99 at Newbury Comics, and Amazon MP3 had a good sale on it earlier in the week (and is selling it now for $7.99). I haven’t listened yet, but I am happy to add it to my Jayhawks collection.
  • If you’re already feeling behind on the music of 2010, check out these free, downloadable indie rock samplers on Amazon MP3 (right column). If you want more free music, you can download an EP by Junip (led by Jose Gonzalez), an EP by Grand Archives or a live EP by Coldplay.
  • New Menomena album “Mines” comes out July 27. Download a free track, “Five Little Rooms,” for the price of your e-mail address.

RIYL

Remember when my higher ed colleagues and I each completed our recaps of the past decade in music? Well, we’ve recruited one more blogger to the mix, Chris D’Orso, who chimes in with his list of 25 albums we overlooked. Please give it a read! Some great oversights (oops) in there.

Live Music

Boston Band Crush is organizing a new series called Mixtape, where they bring together local bands to pay tribute to the music of a specific year. First up? One of the best, 1993. June 12 at the Rosebud Bar in Somerville. I may already have plans for that evening, but I sure as hell hope I don’t.

In the News

Submissions are now being accepted for the Owsley Charity Tribute CD. Interested artists can contact owsleytribute@gmail.com for more information. The Owsley family is aware and supportive of this project and will be overseeing all financials and donations.

An Ode to Usenet

Another day, another historic Internet artifact laid to rest. This week, it’s the Usenet server at Duke, where Usenet was born. This is just the latest in a string of developments signaling the imminent demise of the now-outmoded channel.

As I’ve written about before, my Internet roots are decidedly old school. In college, I was introduced to Usenet because it was a requirement for my communications survey course (bu.com.co101.announce, represent!). Using the UNIX client tin as my newsreader, I soon branched out to the groups surrounding writing and music, my two main areas of interest, and found communities that were as formative to my college experience as the Dragon World BBS was to my high school experience. Yessirree, it was a golden era, back when I still put two spaces after a period and had a 10-line .sig file complete with an ICQ number.

I spent the most significant amounts of my time in alt.music.barenaked-ladies, alt.music.dave-matthewsalt.music.ben-folds-five and rec.music.rem. The first two were high-volume, uber-fandom discussion groups, where we had a lot of great conversations about the respective bands and their music. The latter two contained fans of those bands, sure, but it was more about hanging out with each other than geeking out over the fandom. It probably makes sense that it is from those two groups where I acquired the most friends, a great number of whom I am either still in contact with or even correspond with regularly today. It also bears mentioning that the friends I made via Usenet are some of the coolest, most interesting people I have ever met.

I credit my Usenet experience with so much — expanding my music tastes to bands I may never have discovered otherwise; extending my social network across the country (and sometimes around the world) and forging some lasting friendships; providing me with an opportunity to write and pontificate and debate about music, thereby learning a great deal about both writing and music in the process. It was definitely higher education of the geekiest form.

As the web continues to evolve and the next Wave/Twitter/Foursquare/whatever comes down the pike, it pains me to see the bedrock of all this innovation left in the dust and not given its due. Every time I see an article describing hashtags as originated by Twitter users, I cringe. Hashtags, as a means of threading conversations, come from IRC usage. (Related: It’s actually quite cool to go back and read the early blog posts, shortly after Twitter came on the scene, by people proposing the use of things like hashtags.)

In the case of Usenet, it is the first place on the fledgling Internet where group conversation flourished (for better or worse), bringing people from around the world together around areas of common interest.  We might take such capability for granted today, but it was groundbreaking back then.

The web has its seeds sown deep in these now-clunky interfaces, but I don’t think it does a great job of paying homage to its past. Innovation is great — the web would be nothing without it — but I find it regrettable that we barrel forward without preserving our forebears in the collective memory. Is the only legacy in uncredited functionality? Is a short memory the price of innovation? (Related: I wish I had gone to ROFLcon II earlier this month if only to have attended Jason Scott’s “Heroes of Usenet” panel.)

But as with BBSes, it wasn’t the technology that made Usenet great; it was the people brought together by the technology. Earlier this week, I dredged up an old topic from the alt.music.ben-folds-five newsgroup to reference in an e-mail to a friend. Reviewing all of those old posts made me nostalgic, and I recalled some of the members of the newsgroup who I found particularly intriguing but never connected with, perhaps owing to age difference or other factors.

Among all the names and faces caught in my net of memory, who I often wonder about and sometimes search for, there are several from my Usenet days. Most of these folks I never met in person, much less IMed, but they left an indelible impression. I can’t help but wonder if Usenet meant as much to them as it did to me. What people and interests did it bring into their lives and what of those still remain?

If there’s one thing to be said for today’s web innovations, it’s that they sure makes it easier to try to find these people. Connectivity is the great legacy of the proto-web, and it’s growing every day. Sure, one historic server is shutting down. But a billion more will take its place, bringing those faded names and faces into ever sharper focus.

Take Five

(Note: This is a very busy time in the life of Georgy, so while I vow to maintain my Friday schedule for Take Five, the post themselves may be a bit spartan, and I’m not sure if anything else will make it to Safe Digression until June. Thanks for understanding and reading!)

New Releases

I have acquired the new album by The National, “High Violet,” and it is very, very good. In lieu of a review, I offer you the awesome video for “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” which features Matt Berninger dancing:

Around the Web

Live Music

Not my experience, but Frank Yang’s. I’ve been reading Chromewaves for years — it’s one of the best music blogs around, and I always appreciate the north-of-the-border perspective. I was delighted to learn today that 1) Yang is an a-ha fan from way back and 2) that a-ha has continued to make music since the glory days of “Take on Me” and is currently on a global farewell tour.

Yang recapped the Toronto stop on the a-ha tour, and it’s a great read. He also links up a ton of video if you want to catch up on what a-ha has been doing for the past quarter-century.

“Take On Me” has always been one of my favorite songs and one of my favorite videos, and while I know that claim is far from unique, it’s still a special song to me. Yang is also offering a download of A.C. Newman’s cover of “Take On Me,” which I recommend you snag while you can. This video, however, is timeless:

Time to dig out my copy of “Hunting High and Low.”

Finds of the Week

On Wednesday, Amazon MP3 offered Florence and the Machine’s 2009 album “Lungs” for $3.99. You can also find the Merge and Sub-Pop digital samplers for free on Amazon MP3. I love Amazon MP3, have I mentioned that?

I also acquired the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros album, in its entirety, from a music blog that will remain unnamed, since the post linking to said download was eventually removed. Anyhoo, if you’re out there and you know who you are, thanks :-)

RIYL…

The ’90s were a treasure trove of amazing music that resonates and has stuck with me more than any other decade I’ve experienced or listened to. I recently made a mix CD for a friend featuring some ’90s gems that I feel sometimes get overlooked or underplayed. What am I missing?

Hey Sandy - Polaris
Torch Singer - Buffalo Tom
Wonderful - Adam Ant
Bad Reputation - Freedy Johnston
The Scarlet Thing in You - Peter Murphy
The Sweater – Meryn Cadell
Universal Heartbeat - Juliana Hatfield
Sick Of Goodbyes - Sparklehorse
Not Too Soon - Throwing Muses
Star Sign – Teenage Fanclub
Grey Cell Green - Neds Atomic Dustbin
Your Favorite Thing - Sugar
Iggy Pop – Candy
Better Than Nothing - Jennifer Trynin
Big Audio Dynamite – Rush
Movin’ On Up – Primal Scream
Dizz Knee Land - Dada
Groovy Train – The Farm
Divine Thing – Soup Dragons
Multi-Family Garage Sale (Bargain-Bin Mix) - Land Of The Loops

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.