Winter Break

I’m out of rhythm due to the holidays.  My intention is to post on Sunday evenings, with sporadic miscellaneous, posts in between.  I suppose it doesn’t matter.

For the past several years, for Winter Break, I’ve been traveling somewhere looking for sunshine and warmth.  San Diego, Palm Springs, and Tucson, Arizona have all been recent winter destinations, and Palm Springs has been the repeat choice.  That’s what I did this year.

Generally, for my sunshine-hunting vacation, I’ll rent a convertible.  Cars make me a little claustrophobic and I like to be outside, so when I drive to a hike or to the beach or to lunch in the next town over, I can put the top down and woohoo!  This year, I was anticipating it being colder than usual, and I made a reservation for a less glamorous hard-top car.  I got to the rental counter at the airport, and was hit with the manager’s special.  Thus, I spent 4 days driving around in a brand new, bright yellow, convertible, The Dead Milkmen – Bitchin’ Camaro.

The car had (free) satellite radio, which really isn’t very good.  Most of the stations are bad: poorly curated, redundant, and an absence of soul.  You can’t have algorithms and accountants programming your music.  You need a real person, passionate about their music and wanting to share, to curate playlists for you. I ended up listening to a lot of opera on the trip, which is beyond unusual for me.  But flipping through the satellite channels, #74, Metropolitan Opera Radio was the clear winner, and surely the Metropolitan knows more about opera than I.  Here’s a taste:  Verdi: Aida — “Gloria all’ Egitto” …and here’s a full bite:  Verdi – Aida

Finally, for several weeks, and all during my sunshine-hunting trip, I couldn’t get this song out of my head: Jesca Hoop – Pegasi  .  I love the textures of the two guitar parts and the cohesion of the guitars with voice as instrument.  I believe this song will be on a new record set for a February 2017 release with Sub Pop Records.

I hope your winter break brought the gift of music.

 


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Reach Outside of Yourself

I really enjoy the times that musicians collaborate into areas outside of their norm, outside of their comfort zone.  My favorite recent example is Yo-Yo Ma and his foray into bluegrass:  Yo-Yo Ma and bluegrass

Here, he shows another side of himself.  He’s still the cello virtuoso – you can still hear that – but listen, there’s other stuff going on.  He’s smiling and laughing with his colleagues.  He’s not in the front of the orchestra, he’s just a bloke on stage with some other players.  The sounds are incredible, congruent, and unexpected.

As long as we’re on the Bluegrass theme, I love love love the collaboration of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, and the best of those efforts is “Black Dog”: Robert and Alison

Which one has the googly eyes for the other?  I’ve debated this with people.  I guess it goes both ways.  These songs, this collaboration, and this concert in particular, is one of the greatest things I’ve discovered in the past several years.

(If you need a reminder for the original sound:  Led Zep and ‘Black Dog’

Hey, hey mama said the way you move
Gon’ make you sweat, gon’ make you groove
Ah ah child way ya shake that thing
Gon’ make you burn, gon’ make you sting
Hey, hey baby when you walk that way
Watch your honey drip, I can’t keep away

Another favorite in this realm is the work that Mudhoney did with Jimmie Dale Gilmore.  On a 5-song EP, each played one Mudhoney song and each played one JDG song, and then they played together on a cover of the Townes Van Zandt composition, “Buckskin Stallion Blues”: Mudhoney / Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Steve Turner’s kickass guitar work really seems to propel Jimmie’s voice into a new area for him to explore.  That’s what reaching out does, and it’s exciting.  (You might guess that I picked this up as a fan of Mudhoney, and not so much of JDC.  You’d be correct.)

About a year ago I was at the Sky Cries Mary show in Seattle with a friend of mine and I was telling her about the Mudhoney/JDG thing, and a hipster leaned into us and asked, “Did you say Mudhoney did an album with Jimmie Dale Gilmore?”  I said “yes”.  He said, “I’ll have to check it out.”  Nothing here is “new new”, but I hope that the reader will find something s/he had not previously been listening to, something personally new.  Tell me about something on your list where a musician is reaching outside of their norm!

 


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Operators

I have seven nephews, all adults now, and I have very different relationships with each of them.  A few years ago, my brother’s boy, Tr, asked me if I listened to The Pixies.  ?  Of course I do.

I advised him that a first take might suggest that The Pixies are about one fat man screaming and singing, and another man attacking his guitar like he’s trying to strangle it.  Only good can come of such things.  Continue on down the road and The Pixies are about so much more.  I recommended some Pixies’ songs for him to try out, like this one:

“Is She Weird”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z-Orh7dpKU

We shared a few other things, and, apparently, his son learned to dance when listening to Beat Happening:

“Other Side”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpymHxlmfUM

He’s really into Wolf Parade.

“Fine Young Cannibals”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyfTlvizc1M

 

Since then, we seem to have developed a really good relationship around and about music that we’re listening to.  It’s been awhile now.  He hasn’t been on FB much recently.  I guess having two little boys is blowing his free time. We were able to chat a little bit at Thanksgiving this year.

 

He had to say “whah whah, wha, whah whah whah” to me over and over and over.  Sometimes I really struggle with the spoken language.  I finally heard him right, the band is Car Seat Headrests.  I guess the bloke used the back of his car as his recording studio, so named himself after what was in front of him.

“Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccztRby3FAk

 

It’s good sing-along music.  I’d heard this song before on the radio.  It didn’t knock me over.  The problem with the radio is that I’ll have it on when I’m doing stuff, so it really takes something to knock me over.  (Jack White’s “I’m Shakin’” is an example of something on the radio that knocked me over good.)  So that’s another good reason to read/write a blog – you have to designate time to pay attention and listen to what you’re listening to.  I’m starting to like this stuff.  Here’s another sampling, this one more noisy.  I like noise.

“Vincent”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEsItsZphwQ

 

That same weekend, Tr sent me an e-mail with another recommendation.  Next up, we have Operators playing a couple of songs for us.

“Cold Light”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7I97s00II0

“Blue Wave”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u9GLyaWgXg

 

Operators are good.  There’s a nice feel to these songs, lots of good sounds and instrumentations.  It’s a full sound.  Are they a little too poppy?  Dunno.  I’m still trying to figure this out.  For some songs, here and there, I think they’re really pretty enjoyable to have on the stereo.

 


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Rough Trade

September 2004 I was on vacation in London.  I went to the enormous flea market on Portobello Road. I was looking for Roman coins and pocket-sized trinkets to take home.  Quickly growing weary of the crowds, I walked a block over to try to find lunch. Bang! There was the Rough Trade Record Shop.  Food waited for me.  It was the 25th Anniversary of The Clash’s London Calling, and they played it over and over.  Great ambiance, any decade!  Now a pilgrimage for me when I’m in town, Rough Trade is a really cool place.

I noted recently, for me, a spree of new music.  Actually new, not just new-to-me.  Some of this spree is the result of Rough Trade Records’ 40th anniversary this past October, in which, I trolled their website and YouTube pages to see what they’ve been up to.  More specifically, I wanted to buy some stuff to thank them for their great contributions to the cause.

Great stuff I find!

Let’s start with Goat Girl.  I haven’t been this excited for new music in a decade.  So far they’ve only released 2 songs, which I have on a beautiful 7” vinyl record.  There are a few videos on-line of them playing live shows, unlistenable recordings with dark, problematic camera angles.  Their music is a little dark, but properly recorded, they are sharp and completely listenable.  Here’s “Country Sleaze”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD2k-z-uaBI

Song is sultry, dirty, sexy, but more important, it has an aura.  There’s style and grace and mood.  Lyrics are lurid and kinda icky.   I fucking love this song.  With great anticipation, show us what’s next – please!!

Next Up, let’s see what The Prettiots has made available for us.  One lovely 7” vinyl record and one full-length, which I haven’t listened to yet.  They have several videos on-line, including a nifty set from the NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts.  Here’s “Boys (I Dated In Highschool)”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jfol9YlSvPc

I have a personal ukulele story, as everyone must have, and mine goes like this.  Several years ago, I was in Seattle’s Belltown having a cocktail with a woman; we each were trying to figure out the other.  There was this hipster bloke, knit cap, beard, and thrift store-tidy, looked probably like he chopped his own wood for heat.  If you live in Seattle or Portland, you’ve seen the guy a thousand times.  Dude is rambling on and on about ukulele teaching and how there must be a huge shortage of ukulele instructors.  This was somehow going to be his ticket, man.  Meltem and I laughed.  Later on, I had this dream, where I walked into a huge ballroom at a downtown hotel and it was full of ukulele instructors, and this was a professional conference for them to co-mingle, workshop, and discuss the art of ukulele instructing.  It wasn’t clear how I got there.  I awoke with genuine snickering, though knowing my own sanity could be questioned.

Despite my personal ukulele story, it’s easy to take Kay Kasparhauser seriously.  With Lulu Prat, they write excellent songs with lyrics smart and cutting.  Cute, but firm.  Strong.  I like.  Generally listening to music, I am drawn into the instrumentation – the sounds, the playing, the structure, and the noises – but The Prettiots make us listen to what they have to say.  Still, with just a ukulele, bass, and drums, they’re interesting to listen to.

We’ll end today’s lesson with a shout out to Parquet Courts.  I have their 13-song CD, Human Performance.  This is much more traditional, and although that in itself is not complementary, I like this album.  I’ve listened to it now a few times through.  A few parts remind me of old Devo songs, like in “I Was Just Here”.  There’s a section in “One Man No City” that reminds of Velvet Underground drone.  (That was completely unexpected – nobody, nobody, reminds me of VU.)  That said, I wouldn’t say these guys are copy cats.  There is a lot going on.  It feels vibrant and loud and good.

Here’s “One Man, No City”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UYm61bsM14

Check ‘em out.

 


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Why?

I’ve been interested in listening to, grooving to, and sharing new music with people for over 30 years.  I’ve lost some abilities in this – both loosing people to share with and loosing avenues to discover new stuff.  I’m starting to find new avenues.  Now I’m trying to find more community to share with and to give me insight to what they are listening to.  This blog is my first attempt, in what I hope to be a series of attempts.  We’ll see what happens.

Honestly I think, over the past 20 years, there’s been less new stuff worthy of loving than is acceptable.  I know there’s stuff I’ve missed.  And right now, right or wrong, I’m sensing a spree of new bands, a new generation, and that excites me. Optimism!

Almost as important as “new music” is “new-to-me music”.  I’ve picked up on things 20-, 30-, 40-years old that I’d never heard before, and I’d like to be sharing some of that.  .I’ll try to understand how some new stuff relates to some old stuff.

 

Here’s your chance to join a new community, listen to stuff in your living room.  Send in comments on what you see and send in ideas for the rest of us.  It’ll be our little community for noise.