Tag Archives: john wesley harding

Take Five – The Birthday Edition

What’s my favorite song this week? If I was corny, I’d say “Happy Birthday,” because that’s what tomorrow is. But actually, my favorite song this week is Dizzee Rascal’s “Fix Up, Look Sharp.”

Without further ado…

RIYL…

Sunday nights are the big night for local music on the radio. WFNX’s former New England Product show has relaunched as Boston Accents, airing 8-10PM, and WZLX’s Boston Emissions is still going strong from 10PM-12AM (which sadly falls in the “Mad Men” time slot).

As a former college and community radio DJ, I love keeping tabs on this stuff. That’s why I’m jazzed about the next Rock Shop, which features Boston Accents’ Dave Duncan, Boston Emissions’ Anngelle Wood, WAAF’s Carmelita of Bay State Rock and WMBR’s Tim Kelly of The Hidden Capital. The event is at 7PM on Aug. 23 at the Middle East.

NEW RELEASES

  • I arrived back at the office after a four-day weekend and was greeted by Christmas in my mailbox: The new Mike Viola/Kelly Jones EP and the new Cloud Cult album, “Light Chasers,” had arrived! The Viola/Jones effort is sublime, as per usual, and I am beyond pleased to have a recording of their haunting duet of Viola’s classic “A Way to Say Goodbye” (now the third version of the song in my possession). “Light Chasers” is no “Feel Good Ghosts,” but what could be? It’s still a powerful, unabashedly honest rock record.
  • One of my favorite bands, Girlyman, has finally released an album consisting solely of tuning songs — the spontaneous nuggets of genius they always come up with during their live shows, usually while someone is tuning a guitar. The live compilation is $15, which may be a bit steep, but consider part of the payment as going toward this awesome promotional video:
  • Jens Lekman has a new song out, “The End of the World is Bigger than Love.” It’s typically epic, heartbroken and charming. Lekman also releases a mixtape, “A Summer in 3/4 Time” [.mp3]. Some more background on Chromewaves.
  • After much urging and promotion from the likes of Brad and The DP, I snagged the new Versus album. And it is as fun and awesome as those Merge fanboys say it is :-)
  • Speaking of Merge, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the new Arcade Fire album. I’m not an Arcade Fire fangirl (true confession: “Neon Bible” is still in the shrinkwrap, though I listen to “Intervention” on iTunes a lot), but I snagged it from Amazon MP3 for $3.99 and was pleasantly surprised. Probably their most accessible (is that a dirty word?) record yet, and very well crafted.
  • I finally acquired the best of The Alarm. I recommend you did the same. They are much more than “The Stand.”
  • Josh Rouse has releases a new live EP, “El Turista en la Radio,” for free download.

AROUND THE WEB

IN THE NEWS

  • An awesome Facebook post by Hallelujah the Hills the other day: “Dear bands & musicians, do you have recordings of songs without any vocals on them? I’ll make up melody, lyrics, and record vocals on them if you send them to me. If I get enough tracks we’ll put out an album for free online. Send to band AT hallelujahthehills dot com.”
  • Fast Company provides some interesting data on “The State of Internet Music on YouTube, Pandora and Facebook.” Thoughts: 1) Fans/followers/friends are important, sure, but what are theydoing for the musicians they are fanning/following/friending? 2) I totally buy YouTube > Apple when it comes to music, because iTunes isn’t a social or a learning platform; it’s purely a purchasing platform. 3) I’ve never gotten into Pandora — I have other recommendation engines that are more human that work for me. I’m sure it’s great for some, but just not me.
  • Cassettes are back! Obvs. So glad I still have my 5 disc CD changer with dual cassette deck that I bought in 1999 — the thing is practically a hipster recording studio, nowadays.
  • Hello Music is a service that connects musicians with “real industry opportunities.” Not sure how useful it is, since most of the entries read “[Song] by [band] is now in rotation on the Unsigned & DIY station on Yahoo! Radio,” but in this Bandcamp era, it’s nice to see one more option for artists trying to make it on their own steam.
  • Rdio, the music streaming service by the creators of Skype, is out of invite-only mode and live to the world. For just $5 a month on your computer ($10 on your smartphone), you can have access to a streaming equivalent of your music collection.  Seems like a good option if you want to listen to your own music at work or on the go. However, I own an iPod and listen to KEXP, so, I have no need for Rdio (yet).
  • It’s no replacement for the mix CD (and it’s more expensive), but file this under nice-to-know: you can purchase and send an iTunes playlist to a friend, so long as all of the songs are available in the iTunes store.

SECOND THOUGHTS

The Boston Phoenix’s On the Download blog linked to this video from Lollapalooza of Lady Gaga crowdsurfing during some crappy band’s side stage set.

The video itself is pretty uninteresting, as such things go, but one thing caught my attention. Of everyone in the crowd who had their arms outstretched, the majority of them were clutching cellphones and cameras. It depressed me.

Of the crowd shots I’ve seen from stadium and festival concerts over the years — Woodstock ’94 and ’99, other Lollapaloozas, Glastonbury, you name it — what has always impressed me is the sea of people, arms raised in exultation, reaching out to grab the moment. No matter how far they are from the stage, they are always reaching up, reaching out, trying to hold on to ecstasy one note longer.

But here, at Lollapalooza, with Lady Gaga’s barely attired flesh passing just above their heads, so many of those hands clenched devices to record the moment, and so many eyes were trained on the LCD screens of those devices, making sure the moment was in frame, clicking the shutter or hitting record.

But there she is! Lady Gaga! The experience is happening right next to you, right above you. Reach out and touch it — it’s right there.

But your hands and eyes are removed from the experience. You’ll have amazing media later, but is that a memory? Is that sweat on your palm, or a bruise to the temple you’ll be bragging about for days? What are you really holding on to?

Take Five: The Thriller Edition

1. A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with my friend Alison and she put on an album by a gentleman named John Wesley Harding. I knew of the Bob Dylan album, but not so much of this artist who takes his moniker from that release.

From pretty much the first song, I was hooked. I started throwing out comparisons to Nick Lowe, Squeeze and Elvis Costello. As soon as I got home, I ordered the album — “The Name Above the Title” — for myself. Just now, I discovered that he did a song from the “High Fidelity” soundtrack that I loved, “I’m Wrong About Everything.”

Obviously, a back catalog purchase is in order. Conveniently, he is playing at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts on July 8, and if I win free tickets via a drawing run by johnwesleyharding.com, I may just go. Or I may go either way.

I find that lately, I am pursuing a lot of artists I missed the first time around — like John Wesley Harding — as well as listening to a lot of classics I have not paid due attention to over the years. In the case of the former, I have a great way of catching up on their back catalogs. Yourmusic.com is essentially the 21st century residue of the Columbia Houses and BMGs of old (Remember the stickers you would tear off and paste onto the card? I would use those to decorate my notebooks.) While I may not be able to find the new Q Tip or White Rabbits album there, I can find a lot of older stuff. It works sort of like Netflix, where you set up a queue and each month, for $6.99, you get a new album. In the next couple of months, I should be receiving discs by Joe Jackson, the Jam, Squeeze and Split Enz (I love me some Crowded House and Neil Finn, so why not Split Enz?)

As for what I already own and am rediscovering, the other day I dug out Michael Penn’s “March” and my Roxy Music greatest hits disc. Also in the pile on top of my stereo are a greatest hits album by the Pretenders, Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” and Suzanne Vega’s “Solitude Standing.” I’ve been on a Fleetwood Mac kick for several months and have started picking up the back catalog. (The TWIT sale a while back helped me snag “Rumours” and “Tusk.”) And Paul Simon’s “The Rhythm of the Saints” has pretty much has lodged itself into my five-disc changer.

To tell you the truth, I am having a lot more fun rediscovering these older artists than I am with a lot of the new stuff I’m hearing nowadays. Not that the new stuff isn’t pretty great — but I’m just realizing I missed out on some awesome musicians, and the artists I liked alright but never dove deeper into until recently (like Michael Penn and Paul Simon) are proving to be really rewarding listens that have held up well over time. It’s like having a whole new music collection.

2. My friend Joey pointed me to this piece of excellent news: a bunch of rock luminaries are contributing to a tribute album to Mark Mulcahy, leader of the forgotten janglers Miracle Legion (a/k/a the “Adventures of Pete and Pete” house band Polaris), one of the best unknown bands of the 1980s/1990s. Mulcahy’s wife died last year, so proceeds from the album — featuring covers of Miracle Legion and solo Mulcahy tracks by no brighter stars than Michael Stipe, the National, Thom Yorke, Juliana Hatfield, Dinosaur Jr., Frank Black and more — will go to help him raise their three-year-old twin sons and continue making music.

I, like a lot of folks, discovered Miracle Legion as Polaris via “Pete and Pete,” and after I was fortunate enough to track down the Polaris “album,” I snatched up whatever I could find of the now out of print Miracle Legion catalog — “Portrait of a Damaged Family,” “Drenched” (which was a bargain bin mainstay for a while) and “Me and Mr. Ray” on cassette. I’ve also got one of Mulcahy’s solo albums, “Smilesunset.” He is an immensely talented songwriter with precise pop sensibility, and anything that enables him to keep making music, while drawing together an incredible assembly of talent to create an amazing tribute record, is A-OK in my book. The disc is due out Sept. 29, and hopefully it will expose a whole new crop of people to Mulcahy’s and Miracle Legion’s incredible work.

3. In all of my excitement about the Freedy Johnston show, I forgot about his opening act. Mike Fiore, the lead man of the local band Faces on Film, took to the tiny Armory stage with just a guitar for a delightful 45-minute set. He has one of the most amazing voices I’ve heard in a Boston-area venue, resonant, solid and sweet. His songs were great — tender and haunting and passionately performed — and he seemed unfazed by the size of the audience. And he gets points for politeness.

“Thanks for being attentive,” he said. “In all seriousness. I’m from around the corner, so it’s like being nice to someone from your own block.”

4. I’ve been eBaying a lot of stuff lately, trying to scrounge up some extra cash. Scanning my CD collection, I took note of my three Bright Eyes discs. I bought them in 2000, before Bright Eyes really became big and maybe when he was a bit more, let us say, unstable. A lot of the songs are raw, angsty, unabashed declarations of pain and loss. Perfect for the angsty 21-year-old I was back then! Surely, I thought, I can sell these now and cash in on his fame from people looking to snag his back catalog.

In the cases of “Letting Off the Happiness” and “A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997,” I feel content ripping a song or two then selling the disc. But as I listened to “Fevers and Mirrors,” which includes songs with gothy titles like “The Calendar Hung Itself” and “A Spindle, a Darkness, a Fever, a Necklace,” I realized… this is actually pretty good. The songs are top quality. I can see echoes of his current work in these nine-year old songs — the folkiness, the Americana tendencies — even though the subject matter is much darker and overwrought. Who’da thunk? I’m not about to rush out and buy Bright Eyes’ latest albums, because it doesn’t really grab me. But these older, more raw and intriguing seeds of his newer work — these I’m going to hold onto.

5. R.I.P. Michael Jackson. Here is a video of my husband and I dancing to “Smooth Criminal” at our wedding in 2004.