Continuing Output

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Because of spambots and the non-checking of this site that I do, I have closed all comments. However, if you see a song you like and the link is dead, you can email me and I will send it to you. shutupmulder at yahoo dot com. I really will. Thanks for reading.

Ah, my favorite genre, the mishmash that is folk/alt-country/alt-folk/americana, whatever you want to call it. Whatever the moniker you choose, it’s the heartsbloody, dirty-handed songs of the people, and excluding blues & blues rock, there isn’t anything better to listen to. Lately there’s been a slew of good stuff coming down the pike like the train rolling past Folsom Prison. Let’s take a listen, shall we? *beep* [advance filmstrip]

01. The Felice Brothers — Yonder Is the Clock

Though the album is (on the whole) rather lugubrious, all the Felice Brothers elements are there — death, brawling, the mob, you know, stuff like that. I’m not a person that throws around the word “authentic,” thanks to a lot of theory training, but the Felice Brothers strike me as a deeply human band. Entry track is “Run Chicken Run,” a romping singalong about how chickens don’t get no life after death. (Unless you read that one Shalom Auslander story.)

The Felice Brothers — Site | Myspace | Label (Team Love)

The Felice Brothers — Run Chicken Run

The Felice Brothers — Boy From Lawrence County

02. Justin Townes Earle — Midnight At the Movies

I have not heard the entire JTE album yet, but I love the juxtaposition between the two songs I do have. “Midnight At the Movies” is kind of this micro-study of humanity, this guy who’s reaching out for anything but who mostly ends up with his flicks. And then “Mama’s Eyes” is this really warm, human introspection about parents and where a person gets his physical and mental traits. I love them both! And probably whatever else happens to be on an album between them.

Justin Townes Earle — Myspace | Label (Bloodshot)

JTE — Midnight At the Movies (sxsw showcase version)
JTE — Mama’s Eyes

03. Scott H Biram — Something’s Wrong / Lost Forever

This one I haven’t heard either, but I’m a Biram fan and from the two tracks that Bloodshot released, I’m thinking it is standard Biram fare, all hellfire and brimstone. Woot! Smells like sulfur up in here.

Scott H Biram — Site | Myspace | Label (Bloodshot)

Scott H Biram — Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue
Scott H Biram — Judgment Day

04. Roadside Graves — My Son’s Home

Straddling the pointy pointy fence between alt-country and folk, these guys come from New Jersey, of all places. But there is no Bon Jovi in these stark, deceptively simple songs. The harmony is a little shaky in “Far and Wide,” but that’s practically a bonus. The album is not out yet, but enjoy these previews.

Roadside Graves — Site | Myspace | Label (Autumn Tone)

Roadside Graves — Far and Wide
Roadside Graves — Ruby

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Well, I tried and tried, but me and the Hazards of Love just aren’t going to be BFFs. I had a previous commenter (thanks, Josh) who said that the title track was pretty good, and it came up randomly in my ipod, and I liked it pretty well, but like he said, the rest of it … eh. Not even the addition of Ms. Awesomesauce Worden can mitigate the ehness. Sorry, Colin and crew.

But something else came up randomly on my ipod — keeps coming up, actually, and I keep thinking, “this song is excellent! What is it?” — and it is pretty much always from the Harlem Shakes’ album Technicolor Health, which they kindly sent to me way back in January. This blog is very fond of “Burning Birthdays” and the full-out brashness it blessed my ears with, so I was glad to see the Shakes continuing the trend.

Technicolor Health is sometimes dissonant, sometimes chaotic, sometimes blippy and sometimes it goes bangety bang, but it’s all in the service of the sound. It’s a sound you have to work to get into, which is why I’m just writing about it now, I guess (yeah….). My favorite song is “Sunlight,” which combines a great beat with funny, ironic lyrics: I had a coat of many colors / sold it off online (PFork hates that line, which must be another reason to like it so much). And on the opposite end is the melancholic “Unhurried Hearts,” which (to me) laments the way life just rushes on like a freight train, and love sometimes misses us entirely.

Nice work, guys! Sorry it took so long for the writeup. I’ll be over here rockin’ out to my ipod.

The Harlem Shakes — Site | Myspace | Label (Gigantic)

The Harlem Shakes — Sunlight

The Harlem Shakes — Unhurried Hearts

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Off topic, does anyone have an “entry song” into “Hazards of Love”? You know, a song you can listen to and it gets you excited to hear the rest? Excluding the Rake’s Song, that is. I listened to the first three tracks and it was like, snoozeville, so either I am way off base or I just haven’t found the way into it. Any suggestions? (Confession: I kind of hate albums where the whole thing is one story. Excluding “The Wall.” But even that gets on my nerves sometimes.)

Aaaand, back to topic in five, four three ….

The ladies are rocking my socks off these last few months, with some really great stuff. It’s so much fun to look at my playlist and realize that it’s all women singing/writing/playing (yes, guys are great too, that’s not the point). Let’s recap, for those people who have been hiding under a rock for awhile.

01. Lisa Hannigan — Sea Sew. Have I said enough about this album? I THINK I HAVE.

Lisa Hannigan — Venn Diagram

02. Camera Obscura — My Maudlin Career. This one is classic C.O. and very fun to listen to. It starts off with such a great track, “French Navy,” where Traceyanne Campbell laments the fleeting nature of love and its unholdability.

Camera Obscura — French Navy

03. Vienna Teng — Inland Territory. Her voice is so beautiful that she sneaks all kinds of social issues into her songs and you don’t even notice until you’re singing along.

Vienna Teng — No Gringo

04. Bat For Lashes — Two Suns. Spacy, nutty, gorgeous: it’s all still there in the fabulous mix that is Natasha Khan.

Bat For Lashes — Travelling Woman

05. Neko Case — Middle Cyclone. The usual mix of the unusual: startling violent images, mysterious lyric play, being stalked by a cyclone. You know; same old same old.

Neko Case — Polar Nettles

06. Jenn Grant — Echoes. Understated and beautiful folk with jazzy undertones; the lyrics almost remind me of Bjork sometimes :D but the music does not sound anything like Her Icelandiness.

Go forth and listen!

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A beautiful new song by NY band Edison Woods has hit my inbox: well, sort of dropped into it with a teeny splash, but the ripples keep getting bigger and bigger. This is the Edison Woods of “Last Night I Dreamt I Would Last Forever,” a song so weirdly and slowly sublime that one forgets that it spans over seven minutes.

This new song, entitled “Wind Song,” reminds me of nothing so much as the Cinematic Orchestra — both bands employ that muted atmospheric piano and the sped-down pace. There’s just a bit of that European, San-Ilya-esque sensuality thrown in as well. The songs end up sounding almost otherworldly, but not in an alien way. More like they are the soundtrack following someone with a perfect life, someone who throws open French doors into a sunshiney morning.

I don’t have a song for you to sample, but you can listen to the Wind Song in its entirety at Edison Woods’s site.

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In anticipation of their album (called “Hazards Of Love,” it’s set to be released in March), the Decemberists have released a single called “The Rake’s Song.” I talked about this in August when YANP had it as a live track, but it’s worth revisiting. And now, so that I can justify the title of this blog, a short digression.

To be perfectly honest, the man in the song is more likely to be a cad than a rake. Rakes were feckless gamers and immoral seducers, but they had a glamour attached to them. They were the bad boys of the Restoration/Georgian periods and still could be received — that is, they were still accepted in polite society — even though the marriagable daughters were steered in the other direction as soon as the rake entered the room. Rakes were also usually gentlemen and unlikely to be as murderous as the fellow in this song (even though there is a class of rake called the “vicious rake” who might abuse his family). A cad, on the other hand … a cad is a cold-blooded devil. A cad might leave a poor widow in debt and run off to sea. He might take a second look at his wife and children and decide that they hamper his lifestyle.

… But “rake” does sound a lot better, no? Semantics, they matter! Wikipedia, ever helpful, informs me that “rake” comes from the word “rakehell,” which either came from Old Norse reikall, meaning vagabond, or Dutch rekel, meaning scoundrel. An old and proud tradition there. Cad, schmad.

It’s the percussion that once again makes such a great difference in this song (it did the same for “O Valencia,” which just doesn’t sound as good without the drum line). That, and the chilling sincerity in Meloy’s voice, and the backing singers chiming in like a chorus of wailing ghosts.

The Decemberists — Site | Myspace | Label (Capitol)

The Decemberists — The Rake’s Song

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Taj Mahal

This weekend Long Beach is hosting its annual Blues Festival. If you happen to be in the area, you can catch a Grammy-winning blues legend onstage in the flesh — Taj Mahal. It would be worth the crowds and the heat and all the sticky children screaming if you could take in a little of that action. (Unfortunately I will be dealing with my own sticky children at a family shindig. But what a chance for the rest of you!)

Mahal has been singing the blues for at least 50 years; his sound is a world-famous combo of American and West Indian jazz, r&b, straight-up blues, reggae, dixieland, gospel … ah heck, there’s too much in there to pick out the strings from the cloth. It’s establishment blues, and Mahal is actually putting out a new record this October (the first in five years) called “Maestro.” If anyone’s earned that title it’s him; he’s a living legend, and there aren’t that many of them left. You can preorder “Maestro” (digitally or physically) at his site and below I include one of my favorite Mahal songs.

Taj Mahal — Site | Myspace

Taj Mahal — Cakewalk Into Town

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This is all good news.

01. A new Cake On Cake album, due out Oct. 1st, with new songs to stream at her Myspace! I dance with Swedish glee!

Cake On Cake — Come On Rainbow

02. LAist has a nice new podcast called “Advanced Afrobeat For Beginners.”

03. I decided to suck it up and go see Flogging Molly at the House of Blues next month. Only Dave King & co. would get me out of the house in the face of Disneyland parking, traffic on the 5, and crazy kids wanting to mosh into me. I am waaaay too old to mosh. Get out of my personal space, you kids!

Flogging Molly — Black Friday Rule

04. More Decemberists! Now in handy pretentious three-volume set. Hey, I’ll take what I can get. Coincidentally (or not, maybe), YANP linked to some new live songs that Meloy has been playing lately. “Valery Plame” gets on my nerves, but maybe with some drums it will be better.

My favorite so far is definitely “Night/Rake.” No one gets the joke of this site’s title (Bon Ton is named after the Upper Ten Thousand of regency romance novels), but I love hearing songs about really nasty rakes, like the dubious character in the Mariner’s Revenge Song who leeches off the narrator’s mother and absconds, leaving all his debts for her to pay. This new guy sounds even worse, though. Whew.

05. My secret punk-rock boyfriend, Matt Pryor, has a new album out. I have a very soft spot for Mr. Pryor and his sweet, off-key singing, but it’s not everyone’s cuppa so I won’t go on for ages about it. It’s called “Confidence Man” and is put out by Vagrant records. I just missed Matt at the Troubadour too, sigh, so I will have to listen to the album in lieu of going down to WeHo to stare at his tattoos hear him sing.

The Get Up Kids — Mass Pike

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Yesterday saw the release of Robin McKelle’s second album, “Modern Antique.” As a great fan of her first album, I was happy to see that she is rocking some more of those jazz standards. Since Lavay Smith doesn’t put out albums anymore, I have to get my good standards where I can find ’em, and McKelle is worth every penny paid to iTunes — in my opinion, this album even tops her 2005 release. Her voice simply flies on wings of trumpeting eagles, people.

Comparatively, you can think of the standards album Queen Latifah released last year which was eh, lukewarm. I like Latifah but McKelle is a real jazz vocalist — maybe you’d call it torch singing, but there’s this emotion in the vocals that reflects the band’s bluesy brass. The music is crisp and distinct, nothing mushy or weak, and McKelle keeps up like a champ, easily dominating the entire orchestra behind her in songs like “Cheek To Cheek” and “Abracadabra,” but not overpowering a quiet piano in “Save Your Love For Me.” You can stream the entire album at the Cheap Lullaby site and see if I’m just talking out of my ear here.

Robin McKelle — Site | Myspace | Label (Cheap Lullaby)

Robin McKelle — Abracadabra

Robin McKelle — Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (from “Introducing Robin McKelle”)

Bonus:
Lavay Smith & Her Red-Hot Skillet Lickers — Walk Right In, Walk Right Out

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Hotel Lights put out my favorite summer song of 2006, “AM Golden Hit.” I’m not a synaesthete or anything but that song is lit up yellow: July sunlight dripping through a window. Now Darren Jessee and fellow band members are back with a new album (to be released August 19th).

“Firecracker People” is low key, heavy on the piano, heavy on the Sparklehorse influence. It’s unobtrusive but pervasive — the kind of music that gets under your skin without you realizing it. The subject matter is as ethereal as a dream you just woke up from: ghosts, flying, mysterious rain showers, running away in slow motion. My favorite song is the title track: We are firecracker people, sings Jessee, going off all the time.

Hotel Lights — Site | Myspace | Label (Bar/None)

[ed note — tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

Hotel Lights — Firecracker People

Hotel Lights — AM Slow Golden Hit

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Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar

Yesterday I was reading my husband’s copy of ESPN Magazine and I saw a word puzzle in there where you had to unscramble the names of NBA first-round draft picks whose fathers were also first-round draft picks. Of course not only am I terrible at word scrambles (curse you, random letter combinations!) but I don’t know the names of even one NBA draft pick in any round. I like ESPN Mag for its good writing (seriously) but my sports trivia is severely lacking.

But then I was reading this email from the promoter for the Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar, and it turns out that Boban Markovic is the leader of an award-winning brass Balkan band and since 2002, his son Marko Markovic has played full-time with the band. Now that’s trivia I can get behind. The Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar is not just father and son: it’s got ten other people, and it rocks in that special way only a Balkan brass band can rock. Probably it’s all the flugelhorns.

The most recent album is from last year, but you don’t have to pretend you heard about it, we’re all friends here. It’s called, “Go Marko Go! Brass Madness”: and yes, the album is chock-full of brassy craziness. Like all Balkan music it can get repetitive, but the Markovics round out the café sound with some vocals and even some swank latin beat in the song “Latino Cocek.” It’s got the groove, baby, it’s got the groove. Check it out.

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar — Myspace | Label (Piranha)

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar — Evo je Mlada

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar — Latino Cocek

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[Before I talk about a real singer, let me just link to a post that sums up everything I ever thought about Scarlett Johanssen singing. Bless you, GFY, you always know the right thing to say.]

And now to Ms. Bonar, who I have been a fan of for many years, since 2003’s “…the Size of Planets.” Her style is extremely understated and her songwriting is wry and spare and easy. If I were out, say, riding the Metro downtown (heaven forfend), I would want Haley on my ipod as I zoned out and watched the human race go by. It’s a hobby of mine to wonder where people are going when they travel, and Haley could be my commentary — people love, or they don’t; they are sad, they are happy, they move along, and they want; and they get or they don’t get what they ask for. I think the new record (entitled “Big Star” and coming out in June) will be most excellent (and, considering the subject matter of the song, apropos for a train ride through Hollywood).

Haley Bonar — Site | Myspace | Label (Afternoon)

[ed note–tracks removed. contact me for a copy.]

Haley Bonar — Big Star

Haley Bonar — Captain Captain [from “Lure the Fox”]

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Justin Rutledge

The upgrade to 2.5 was successful, and the new version is very smooth. The dang thing used to not let me make new categories, but finally they fixed that. Now if only I could preview before I posted, but you can’t have everything, right?

So, a new category in honor of artists like Justin Rutledge, who aren’t new (this is his third album with Sixshooter) but who certainly aren’t indie darlings because of the specificity of their sound. Though many will find Justin soft and overly country, he’s got a beautiful turn of phrase and a bit of a dark side (just enough). He’s Norte-Americana, mandolin and guitar and a man with a broken heart trying to find his way out of a dark room. Sometimes he makes it and sometimes he doesn’t, even in the same song: in “This Too Shall Pass,” he sings both when your eyes are sick with wonder and your heart is in a cast / this too shall pass, and, we figured out how to make a good thing last / but this too shall pass.

It’s that kind of wry ambiguity that really ratchets up the quality of Rutledge’s country sound, which is fairly standard. He never quite reaches the Votolatian heights of the tortured metaphor or tries to out-stamp the country stompers; he just speaks directly from himself to the listener, and therefore, we listen. “Man Descending” will be released on April 8th.

Justin Rutledge — Site | Myspace | Label (Six Shooter)

[ed note — tracks removed]

Justin Rutledge — This Too Shall Pass

Justin Rutledge — Greenwich Time

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Confession time? Perhaps. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve never heard a Joy Division song. I wouldn’t know “Love Will Tear Us Apart” if you blasted it at a thousand decibels (I was five when it was released). Therefore, I neither know nor care if Interpol is some kind of JD ripoff — I mean, call it a revival, don’t act like Joy Division didn’t flame out 27 years ago, do they have a hundred year monopoly on a certain set of guitar chords? Well anyway, enough said before I show too much ignorance.*

Interpol! I like you guys! I like that you wear suits in all your pictures. Honestly, I can’t believe you’re from the US; you seem too classy, too Euro. In fact, I can tell from browsing Wiki that you’re more popular in Britain than here — that is, more songs come up on the UK charts — but you don’t seem to be so well known in US or UK mainstream. Which is too bad because you’ve got a sound that is completely radio friendly. Maybe you’re just a casualty of the fact that no one listens to the radio anymore. And no one watches music videos. You guys look great in music videos (well, except for the unfortunate glasses in “C’mere.” Dunno what you were thinking there).

I like that driving bass that underlines most of the songs. You always sound like you’re singing through a tunnel, so I haven’t deciphered most of the lyrics, but I like what I think I’m hearing. I’ve got “Mammoth,” from your new album “Our Love To Admire,” on repeat. Please continue making your staccato punk and damn the torpedoes. It’s impressive stuff.

Interpol — Site | Myspace | Label (Capitol)

[tracks removed. Contact me for a copy.]

Interpol – Mammoth

Interpol – Rest My Chemistry

*Also, it is quite likely that everyone has heard about Interpol already and I’m beating a dead horse. The Hype Machine certainly seems to prove this theory. Oh well.

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If you follow the Afropop scene even nominally, you’ve probably heard of “Djin Djin,” Angelique Kidjo’s new release. Kidjo is African music’s it girl in the States — her new album is dripping with famous guest vocals — Peter Gabriel, Branford Marsalis, Ziggy Marley, Amadou et Mariam, and Senegalese artist Youssou N’Dour.

I can’t address the content of the vocals, because I don’t speak French or Yoruba, but Kidjo has a smooth, beautiful voice in any language, complementing any musical style and any language; she is talented enough, even at 46, to hold spellbound our youth-and-newness-obsessed country (if it stops to listen). The standout track for me is “Lonlon,” a vocal reinvention of Ravel’s “Bolero”; other songs are fun or danceable or introspective but always aesthetically pleasing. Djin Djin is worth every listening minute, so don’t let it sit in the World Music bin with all the other gems that get ignored in favor of most of the worthless crud that gets on the charts just because it’s from the US.

Her site is very flash-intensive and even my quick connection had trouble loading it, so stick with the Myspace if you’re low-bandwidth.

Angelique Kidjo – Site | Myspace | Label (Razor & Tie)

[ed. note — tracks removed. Contact me for a copy.]

Angelique Kidjo – Ae Ae

Angelique Kidjo – Sedjedo (ft. Ziggy Marley)

Download “Papa” from AOL Spinner

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(Tech note: uploading songs is very frustrating. I hesitate to use a “free service” like sendspace, and there’s just not much else for me. So I’m going to upload them to my own site and keep them up for a week or so and then take them down. If you guys blow out my bandwidth, then I guess you blow it out.)

I’ve been a fan of Tom McRae for three years, ever since “Just Like Blood” came out, and I was pleased as punch to hear of a new album coming out at the end of April. McRae has a signature voice and a real talent for putting phrases together — he can be melancholy by turns, but also has a pop sensibility. His music never sounds canned; it’s always sincere. Think of a pop, English, Rocky Votolato (though he doesn’t reach for those high-flying & often useless metaphors like Rocky).

On the whole, I don’t think “King of Cards” is as good as McRae’s third album, “All Maps Welcome,” but it’s quality fare. The subject matter ranges like it should, from “Houdini and the Girl” to “The Ballad of Amelia Earhart,” to “Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets.” McRae’s voice soars on “Bright Lights,” and the straight-up harmony on “Lord, How Long” is enough to make an American Idol contestant weep.

I recommend that you buy the album, and then that you rectify your ignorance, if you are ignorant, by purchasing “Maps,” and “Just Like Blood,” and “Karaoke Soul,” and if you’re hooked by then, and you will be, get his self-titled album. Do it! For your own good. I promise.

Tom McRae – Site | Myspace | Label (V2 UK)

[links removed. contact me for a copy.]:

Tom McRae – Lord, How Long
Tom McRae – The Ballad of Amelia Earhart

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06.
Camera Obscura
Let’s Get Out Of This Country
Merge
I Need All the Friends I Can Get (removed. contact me for a copy.)

This album came out of left field and smacked me in the face. I’d never listened to any Camera Obscura; never mind that they’ve been around ten years, I’d never even heard of them; and I don’t even listen to Scottish bands (unless you count that one song by Big Country), so “sounds like Belle & Sebastian” is a meaningless term. Sure, the blogs have been all over “Let’s Get Out” for months, but I’m slow on the uptake. But what makes this album so ultra-consumable? In spite of its uber-confessionalism, everyone’s put it on their year-end lists. And in a world where indie bloggers are male and early twenties, it surprises me. What does everyone like so much about this album?

Here’s my working theory. Number one, Tracyanne Campbell’s beautiful but accessible voice. You can imagine her coming into your place, plopping down on your couch, and telling you all about the rough night she just had. She’s your friend. She’s good-looking, but in an approachable way. Number two, the music is what it says it is. No having to dig through it trying to find out what it all meeeeans. This is music for anyone who wants to break up with a girl or boyfriend; with a job; with their parents; with their rent; with life. It’s a simple theme, but it resonates deeply with the listener, who is likely disaffected in some way (if you’re perfectly happy, feel free to put your head on your desk till I’m done talking).

Number three, every song on the album is a variation on the theme — you know the theme. It’s the title of the album. So I took one line from each song (10 total) and mixed them up and made my own Camera Obscura song. Now I just have to get Campbell to sing it for me:

Tell me where it all went wrong
Oh let’s not pretend I needed the lesson that you taught me well
I can tell you this for nothing / you won’t win
You can’t see that she’s just the same as all the stupid people you hate

I’ll admit I am bored with me
I like it my way with no limitation
I’ve got my life of complication here to sort out
Do you think it’s time I put it out of my mind
Expecting softness can lead to foolishness
Who’s being pessimistic now?

It’s deceptively easy music; you think to yourself, but why did she need to write ten songs about the same thing? Well, my answer would be that it’s in human nature to rehash your complaints. This album is the girl friend that calls you up every night to ask you why her man left her, what did she do wrong, next time she won’t make that mistake, he was a jerk anyway. Or the guy who comes in every day and says, “Today I’m definitely finding a new job. I can’t work with these people anymore.” We work through our problems that way, rethinking the problem in order to solve it.

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Karsh Kale

When you listen to Karsh Kale, I dare you not to dance. You can do a little wiggling around in your chair at work; you can nod your head slightly on the Metro; or you can full-out go crazy in your kitchen. But you won’t be able to sit still. The soul of Kale’s music is in the beat, and the body is the fusion of Indian, American, and English music into something truly accessible.

Songs on his new release “Broken English” range from the slow melancholy of “Beautiful” to the rocketing dance beat of “Hole In the Sky” or “Rise Up.” It’s not club music, as in you just want to hear it in the club because it’s boring elsewhere; and it’s not just Bollywood pop — it’s smart and tasty. The ability to fuse musical cultures isn’t just something you do by magic, and Kale’s artistry is apparent in every track. He even has a section on his site that explains how each song was written and what his motivations were (like nifty CD liner notes, only I didn’t have to pay $18.99 for them, which is excellent). And even cooler, on the site you can stream every single song from Broken English, as well as some remixes and b-sides. Go have a listen — and I dare you not to dance out and buy “Broken English.”

Karsh Kale – Site | Myspace | Label (Six Degrees)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Karsh Kale – Hole in the sky
Karsh Kale – New Born Star

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[Today’s guest blog is brought to you by Cap’n Ahab, lately of Stamant.org. Ahab has fine taste in music, and he can give you the correct, old-school answer to “What is your favorite REM album?” (answer: “One you’ve never listened to, loser”). I had to do a leetle comma editing, Ahab, but there you are, there’s no pleasing me.]

The demise of The Refreshments after two studio albums left songwriter Roger Clyne in the Arizona sands without a band or a record deal. Clyne quickly formed a new outfit with drummer P.H. Naffah (also ex-Refreshments), adding Steve Larson, and later Nick Scroops, to create Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers. While RCPM are an independent unit, they retain a strong following on the concert scene, mixing raw emotion with brilliant lyricism to create an unforgettable live experience.

Beautiful Disaster (from “Honky Tonk Union”) – A love song/road song that echoes Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run without being derivative. Beautiful Disaster is a thumping good-time rock song that highlights Clyne’s lyricism.

Sleep Like A Baby (from “Sonoran Hope and Madness”) – A beautiful country tune that mixes banjo and harmonica to create a soothing Southwestern lullaby.

Leaky Little Boat (from “¡Americano!”)- A song that is at once pure Arizona desert jangle and also a slightly quiet reggae influenced dancing beat. Once again Clyne’s wonderfully evocative storytelling highlights this track from the last and most successful studio album [self-released on the EmmaJava label].

Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers: Site | Myspace

[Sorry, these files aren’t available anymore!]

Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers – Sleep Like A Baby
Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers – Leaky Little Boat
Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers – Beautiful Disaster

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If I invented a time machine, would you run away with me, Colin Meloy? We could just be comrades, if you like; no hanky-panky. I’m okay with that, especially if we had to curl up in a trench together on a cold night. Might you be interested in the following scenarios?

1. Napoleonic era soldiers. I’ll cut my hair and we’ll take the King’s shilling (the Queen’s?). Then we’ll serve under Wellington for a ripping good time at Salamanca. Or I’d even do the naval version, though I’d spend most of my time puking over the side of the ship.

2. Itinerant 19th century troubadors. We’ll wander the country singing plaintive ballads about drinking and lost loves. I’ll sing crummy but sincere harmonies to the tune of “To Anacreon, In Heav’n.”

3. Antebellum riverboat gamblers. You can sharp rich folks and sleep with their wives while I deal the marked cards and curse the Yankees who stole my daddy’s plantation and freed all my slaves so that I have to lace my own corset.

4. Diseased whores. We can sell our bodies in some large city, trading witty repartee inbetween customers. Eventually we can die of consumption, coughing daintily into handkerchiefs and insisting that we’re fine, hoarding all our pennies for opium.

Or … perhaps we’re just better off where we are, living the armchair life. After all, the 19th century didn’t have very nice toilets, and ‘suffrage’ was still a bad word. Still, I’m going to go see you at the Wiltern on the 21st, so could you at least take your shirt off? Sincerely, z.h.

Oh yeah, and the new album was released today: “The Crane Wife.” W00t!

The Decemberists: Site | Myspace | Label (Capitol)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

The Decemberists – The Perfect Crime 2

The Decemberists – Sons and Daughters

The Decemberists – Human Behaviour (Bjork)

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Detroit Cobras

So, you all have taken my sage advice and downloaded the Black Keys songs, right? Cause if you didn’t, you’re missing out and I’m feeling kind of sorry for you right now…. But you can redeem yourself by trying out some Detroit Cobras. They remind me of the Black Keys stylistically, only instead of being retro-70s rock, they’re a bastard mix of stomp-rock and Motown. Seriously, and it’s awesome. The band is Rachel Nagy (vocals) and Mary Ramirez (guitar); so Nagy’s wailing like a torch singer while Ramirez punches you in the face with the guitar. It’s like listening to the Shirelles while being beaten up.

The lyrics are clever and hark back to their Motown roots but they also blend in well with the bluesy rock laid over them. “Weak Spot” and “It’s Raining” are great examples of it; you can almost see backup singers doing their Motown backup singer dance while dressed in faux-leopard vests and bottle-bleached hair (as in the video for “Cha Cha Twist,” viewed at Myspace’s video site).

It’s no surprise that the Detroit Cobras are on Bloodshot Records, which is a favorite label over here in Bon Ton land. Bloodshot has a knack for picking out really talented acts that aren’t one thing or the other — not country, not rock, not Motown, but some crazy mix of the three. The album that came out in 2005 is called “Baby,” as in, “Baby, buy this album and I’ll rock your socks off.” Hear, hear.

Detroit Cobras: Myspace | Label (Bloodshot)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Detroit Cobras – Shout Bama Lama
Detroit Cobras – Cha Cha Twist (Highly recommended!)
Detroit Cobras – It’s Raining

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Imagine that you’re driving across a back country road, flipping the channels on your radio. At first you can’t get anything, and then you start hearing the growly, staticky voice of a preacher, coming through some ghost receiever. But this isn’t any know it all, morality-talking, money-loving good old boy. This is a blues preacher, and his gospel is the foot-stomping, guitar banging, low-fi truth that burrows into your soul and pulls an amen out of you.

Scott Biram’s music is not what I thought it’d be, not at all. His bio reads like a redneck anthology, and his blurb at Bloodshot records is complimentary, but also kind of scary — they call his music “psychobilly gospel.” His 2005 record is called “Dirty Old One Man Band,” for crying out loud. And I’ll give him two out of three, but since I’m 30 and he’s 29 — at least he isn’t old.

He’s not the kind of guy you take home to Momma, but he knows his blues. He’s the kind of guy that you go to when you’ve got trouble, because he knows your trouble, and he can top your troubles with his own. He’s a bluesman, and if you can listen and not like his racketing, raging, rocking gospel, well, maybe you don’t have a soul to save.

Scott’s new album, “Graveyard Shift,” was released yesterday. It’s also available on iTunes (all the tracks are labeled “explicit,” but I didn’t find anything particularly explicit about the ones below).

Scott H. Biram: Site | Myspace | Label (Bloodshot)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]
Scott H. Biram – Been Down Too Long
Scott H. Biram – No Way
Scott H. Biram – Only Jesus

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Klee

I write this post for my sister, who sent me a mix of crazy German pop. I don’t want her to not have heard of Klee. It’s a public service post! I feel good for doing my civic duty.

I miss a lot of music because it’s sung in a different language. For instance, I don’t listen to japanese pop or Sigur Ros, because no matter how beautiful the music is, it just bugs me that I can’t understand what they’re saying. One of my goals in life was to learn every language on the globe, but I fell pretty short, and I definitely don’t speak Icelandic. But! I used to speak German pretty well, so I could definitely give German music a try.

Problem is, of course, that German pop is pretty sub-standard. Or at least, that’s what I’ve always thought … but Klee is not substandard, so I have to question my assumption. Klee is superstandard (isn’t that the opposite of substandard? Heh). Suzie Kerstgens, the lead, has a beautiful voice and the ability to sing in two languages; no small accomplishment. I spent a little time as a translator (admittedly, I wasn’t very good at it) and it’s difficult. But Kerstgens manages to make “wir werden wie Gold sein” to turn perfectly into “we would be so golden.”

Klee’s album “Jelängerjelieber” is being released in the US on Minty Fresh records as “Honeysuckle.” Three of the songs have been translated into English: “Für Alle, Die” as “This Is For Everyone”; “Gold” as … “Gold”; and “Tausendfach” as “A Thousand Ways.” The rest of it is in German, and I recommend it. I prefer “Für Alle, Die” in German (I can still understand a bit of it :D). Go forth and listen! And have some Mentos while you’re at it (that’s what “minty fresh” reminds me of — all the Mentos I used to have my friend Maria buy for me in sixth grade, back when Mentos weren’t available in every gas station on the planet.)

Klee: Myspace | Site | Label (Minty Fresh)

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]
Klee – Gold (English)
Klee – Für Alle, Die

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