Friday, May 30, 2008

Capsule Review - Stay Positive


The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

JTM Grade: 85%

Stay Positive, the fourth full-length from The Hold Steady, doesn't reinvent the wheel so much as showcase a band in its prime, hitting us in full stride with perfectly crafted rock 'n roll. The Hold Steady aren't a rock band, they are a "rock 'n roll" band and willfully embrace every connotation that suggests. They revel in their bar-band aesthetic and low-brow approach. Yet, who are we kidding? They're hipsters and their fans are, too. But I do believe that Craig Finn is sincerely interested in having fun, with a few ballads for good measure.

And there is much fun to be had on the new album. Hold Steady records have an irresitable charm and energy, despite subject matter that tends towards the drug-ridden and fatalistic. Stay Postive is no different, and even refinces Craig Finn's knack for blending irony with sincerity without batting an eye. This time out, some new instruments are added into the mix (e.g. harpsichord, mandolin, etc.) and I'm especially tickled to hear the unapologetic 80's guitar solos. Interestingly, there is a marked decline in Minnesota-centric references but Finn continues to drop mundane details by the dozen. In a search for criticism, I admit they're becoming a tad formulaic, crafting rock 'n roll songs like widgets. Even the song structures are molded perfectly, consistently featuring the best bridges of any rock songs in recent memory. It's hard to criticize them for being too deliberate about this. They do this better than just about anyone else, so why complain? It's working and for me, this is just the rock 'n roll my summer needed.
Favorite track so far: 'Joke About Jamaica.'

Stay Positive comes out on July 15th and you can catch 'em live at First Avenue a week later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sunset Rubdown's Black Cab Session

Can't get enough of Spencer Krug? Me neither. Check out Spencer and co. in Sunset Rubdown mode for the most recent Black Cab Session. And while you're at it, there's a helluva good catalogue of prior sessions to discover as well. Jovial participants include DCFC, Spoon, Okkervil River, The National, New Pornos and even Daniel Johnston!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

She & Him announce tour, including Minneapolis date

She's Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward is Him. Together as She & Him they'll be in Minneapolis on Aug. 7th at First Avenue. She & Him's debut album Volume One came out in March and is a great little piece of nostalgic pop, proving that Zooey has the goods, unlike Scarlett who tries oh so hard. 'Course anyone who saw Elf already knew Zooey had a purdy voice. The word at SXSW was that Zooey had a case of visible nerves when performing live but always in an endearing way, and never to the detriment of the songs. She must be getting over the stage freight.


She & Him tour dates:
July 23, Toronto, ONT (Opera House)
July 24, Northampton, MA (Academy of Music)
July 25, Philadelphia, PA (Trocadero)
July 26, New York, NY (Terminal 5)
July 28, Carrboro, NC (Cats Cradle)
July 29, Atlanta, GA (Varsity Playhouse)
July 30, Nashville, TN (Mercy Lounge)
July 31, Asheville, NC (Orange Peel)
Aug. 2, Newport, RI (Newport Folk Festival)
Aug. 5, Chicago, IL (Park West)
Aug. 7, Minneapolis, MN (First Avenue)
Aug. 8, Madison, WI (Barrymore)
Aug. 10, Washington, DC (Virgin Mobile Fest)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My favorite Dylan songs

In honor of Bob Dylan's 67th b-day, here are my Top 15 songs from his enormous catalogue. No big surprises I'm afraid...

15. I'm Not There (from I'm Not There OST)
14. Hurricane (from Desire)
13. All Along the Watchtower (from John Wesley Harding)
12. A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall (from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan)
11. Knockin' On Heaven's Door (from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid OST)
10. Mr. Tambourine Man (from Bringing It All Back Home)
9. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands (from Blonde on Blonde)
8. Desolation Row (from Highway 61 Revisited)
7. I Want You (from Blonde on Blonde)
6. Idiot Wind (from Blood on the Tracks)
5. Ballad of a Thin Man (from Highway 61 Revisited)
4. Subterranean Homesick Blues (from Bringing It All Back Home)
3. Tangled Up In Blue (from Blood on the Tracks)
2. Visions of Johanna (from Blonde on Blonde)
1. Like a Rolling Stone (from Highway 61 Revisited)

What's your favorite Dylan song?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Okkervil River announce new album

Surprising but welcome news from the Austin band Okkervil River. Pitchfork has reported that they're already set to release the follow-up to last year's awesome Stage Names album. Titled The Stand Ins, it's due on September 9th from Jagjaguwar. This is what I like to see from bands. An album a year. Okkervil is on tour but no Twin Cities date. However, I will be able to catch 'em for the first time at Lollapalooza and then later at ACL. Looking forward to it.

I should also mention that Shearwater, fronted by former Okkervil keyboardist Jonathan Meiburg, has their own highly anticipated album due out June 3rd, titled Rook. Not sure if I'll review it properly or not, but I've had it for a while and can tell you that it ranks up there in the Top 5 albums so far this year. Shearwater was recently in town on May 13 at the Entry, oddly paired with Clinic. Haven't seen the surgical-masked Clinic, but I did catch Shearwater at SXSW and they were a definite highlight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Champions League prediction - Man Utd wins!

Everyone's fav, Manchester United will defeat rival Chelsea 2-1 in today's UEFA Champions League final held in Moscow Watch. You'll see. I know what I'm talking about.

Tom Waits is The Devil.

Literally. Tom Waits has revealed that he's been cast to play the role of The Devil himself in the upcoming Terry Gilliam-directed The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The film currently still in production recently gained notoriety for featuring Heath Ledger's final role. News of Devil Tom was released in yet another meta-publicity announcement, this one in the form of an interview with himself posted on the Anti- Records website. He's a character, that Tom. If you've already forgotten or just never took the time, I urge you to go here to view his equally oddball press conference from earlier this month. He's sure mastered the publicity thing. Say it with me now: PPEHDTSCKJMBA.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Found this on Free Yr Radio site re: Mpls Yeasayer show

The Current to host Free Yr Radio concert w/ Yeasayer!!

A detail-oriented friend of mine happened across a random Minneapolis concert date posted on Yeasayer's MySpace page and after a bit more research, I discovered that indeed it is true. The Current and Free Yr Radio are co-sponsoring a Yeasayer gig on July 30 here in Minneapolis. No word on the venue yet or any other details. In fact, so far I haven't heard any news of this from The Current and they usually promote the hell out of these things. I'm sure a formal announcement will come soon, if it's already on the Yeasayer and Free Yr Radio calendars. I e-mailed an inquiry over to their blog, so hopefully they'll just come out with the info. sooner rather than later. As for Yeasayer, looks like those wacky dudes are stopping here for a one-off show right before heading on to Lollapalooza in Chi-town. Fantastic news!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Capsule Review - Arm's Way


Islands - Arm's Way

JTM Grade: 75%


Nick Thorburn and The Unicorns' Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? is a perfect album. Too perfect as it turns out. Those damn expectations will forever be looming in the background for me. I desperately want Nick's Islands to repeat that same magic, and I'm always let down. Not fair at all, I know. Islands is a natural extension of The Unicorns. Nick is progressing and definitely going somewhere...he has no reason to look back. Plus, Islands is a very good band, and their debut release, 2005's Return to the Sea, was also very good. But it ain't The Unicorns, and I guess I'll always hold that against them. Fair or not. Just like if Neutral Milk Hotel ever tried to top In The Aeroplane...they just couldn't. Unfortunately, Jeff Mangum knows this and won't even give it a shot. So at the very least, Nick is still working hard and doing it well.

Arm's Way is a testimony to that hard work and it is no small undertaking for the listener either. Eight tracks clock in at over 5 minutes, three of those are 7+. Within a single song, you'll find two or three songs mini-suites within, each with distinctive structures and melodies. More often than not, the compositions are packed full of wondrous pop nuggets, but the schizophrenia can also throw things off track and at times, induce a sort of numbing effect. Can you have too many hooks? For example, there's this wonderful segment from 'In The Rushes' and I keep wishing Nick would just stick with this one melody and chorus, but no, he just teases us with it for maybe a minute before moving on to another thought. You can't just pull out this amazing hook, and leave us hanging there, drooling for more! Well, he does and he can. He does it repeatedly, in fact. And so it's impressive, even if it isn't always satisfying. I'm one of those nostalgic guys, longing for the short, rusty pop songs of The Unicorns. A bit of that will always be there with Islands as Nick continues to play the same game of genre-bending, catchy pop. Only now he's amping up the orchestra, and aiming for something much more grand (and long). Good luck with that.
Good things, when short, are twice as good.
~Baltasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Here's a pic I took of Nick in full whiteface during a SXSW Islands performance earlier this year. They will be in town to play a show at First Avenue on June 3rd. And lastly, head over to Daytrotter for the Islands session let loose earlier today.

Online Music Pioneer, Peter Gabriel?

It was only a month or so ago that I mentioned Peter Gabriel's backing of new online media discovery service, The Filter. Now, the guy has gone and introduced a new and creative model of producing and distributing music online for unsigned, new musical talent. Dubbed 'Music Club,' Gabriel and co-sponsor, British speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins, will offer up free studio time for artists to record an album, in Peter's own space no less. Music Club will retain the exclusive distribution rights via a subscription MP3 service for a month or two, before returning full rights of the recordings back to the artists themselves. Not too shabby. Not sure if I'd want to pay for said subscription, but from an artist standpoint, this appears to be an unbelievable opportunity. Haven't read any fine print yet, but keep up the good work, Peter.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New musical set to Bowie hits has songwriter's approval


NME is reporting David Bowie's approval for the use of his songs in the musical production and remake of Bowie's own 1976 cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth (see creepy still from film above). Things are still in preliminary stages, but director Peter Schaufuss of Denmark plans to debut the musical this fall in his native country. I'll take it a step further and predict the sci-fi Bowie musical will be a sensation. It will then move up the ranks to London, and then Broadway by late 2009. It will be adapted into another feature film, this one starring Jude Law in the Bowie role, to be released in 2011. And at long last, The Man Who Fell to Earth will take home the Oscar! Abba can suck it!

Friday, May 16, 2008

File this news bit under WTF

This is my attempt at tabloid news. Britain's two favourite drug fiend rock stars, Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty, have posted a couple of YouTube videos of themselves playing with a litter of mice. Yes, you read that correctly. Winehouse, Doherty and rodents. It was just a matter of time before those three got together. The one brief video I watched was severely dull and I don't feel like posting it here. So if you really want to see it, you're on your own.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California affirms right to same-sex marriage

Not music related, but sorry folks, this is big news. Two states down (Massachusetts being the other), 48 to go. I can only hope that by the time my son is an adult that gay rights will be a complete non-issue, that he'll look back and wonder how this country could have ever been so backwards as to not allow for same-sex marriage. Similar to how our generation thinks about women not having the right to vote, or more recently, Jim Crow laws. Anyway, a step in the right direction.

Hold Steady announce tour, Stay Positive

As reported by CMJ, road warriors and Minneapolis-nostalgic rock band The Hold Steady have announced a 20+ date tour in support of July 15th's release Stay Positive. Mark down July 22nd for their show at First Avenue. Damn, that's a Tuesday!

Tour Dates For The Hold Steady:
06/08 - Chula Vista, CA - 94/9 Independence Jam
06/27 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head Live!
06/28 - Philadelphia, PA - Festival Pier (The Paul Green School Of Rock Festival)*
06/29 - Brooklyn, NY - McCarren Pool
07/17 - Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
07/18 - Pontiac, MI - Crofoot Ballroom
07/19 - Chicago, IL - Union Park (Pitchfork Festival)
07/21 - Madison, WI - Majestic Theatre
07/22 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
07/23 - Fargo, ND - Fargo Theatre
07/26 - Seattle, WA - Capitol Hill Block Party
07/27 - Portland, OR - Crystal Ballroom
07/29 - San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine
07/30 - Los Angeles, CA - Avalon
08/02 - Tucson, AZ - Rialto Theatre
08/03 - El Paso, TX - Club 101
08/05 - Dallas, TX - Palladium Ballroom
08/06 - Austin, TX - La Zona Rosa
08/08 - Oxford, MS - Proud Larry's
08/09 - Athens, GA - 40 Watt
08/10 - Charleston, SC - The Pourhouse
08/12 - Carrborro, NC - Cat's Cradle
08/13 - Norfolk, VA - The Norva
* with Devo

PTV broadcasts full version of Radiohead's 'Scotch Mist'

This is an impressive offering for the new Pitchfork.TV to present Radiohead's incredible New Year's Eve 'Scotch Mist' broadcast for our unlimited viewing pleasures. You can also get it for free from iTunes, and surely elsewhere, but now Radiohead-geeks like myself can embed and stream it in full from our very own geeky blogs, too! Thanks, PTV.

Here's my personal favorite, 'Videotape':

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Flight on the Conchords video - 'Ladies of the World'


Check out Jermaine's new hair and 'stache. Man, I miss this show, but their recent full-length album is a mighty fine substitute in the meantime.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Denton, TX officially on the map?

I've been to Denton and can't say the place has much of an appeal. Anything within spitting range of Dallas is not to my liking. After reading this New York Times feature piece, I'm not convinced it's the "new" Austin by any stretch, but you have to admit there's an oddly active music scene for such a small city/large suburb. This isn't news to any regular reader of music blogger and Denton-champion Gorilla vs. Bear, but now it's getting some national attention. With a pedigree including Roy Orbison, Don Henley, Sly Stone, Pat Boone and Norah Jones, there must be something in the water. Maybe the next time I drive through, I'll make a point of checking it out. Probably not.

Pitchfork Live - Bon Iver's 'The Wolves (Act I and II)'


As if The Current didn't remind us often enough, Bon Iver is playing the sold out Rock the Garden in Minneapolis on June 21st.

Uncut wants your vote - Best Bowie Song

My musical lord and savior David Bowie has too many good songs for this sort of thing. I couldn't even choose a favorite Bowie persona, much less a single song. It stresses me out even to narrow it down to a Top 20. But if you're a bit more decisive or just love 'Fame' like no other, go rock the vote at Uncut's request.

Monday, May 12, 2008

PopMatters posts feature on Neko Case

Go here for PopMatters' feature article titled "Animals in Time: Neko Case and the Contemporary Country." But be warned that this is not a typical blog or fluff piece; it's more of a long-form academic analysis into Neko and music. You don't run across articles like this too often. Anyway, I don't recommend it for the casual reader, but it's very interesting if you have the time or just LOVE everything that is Neko Case.

Robert Smith tours, preps for Dark Knight release


Sorry, I love the guy as much as anyone and the Cure rank up there as an all-time favorite from my youth, but Robert Smith is lookin' a bit old and ragged. Too old to be taken seriously in make-up. Is it just the green lighting or is he a dead ringer for Heath Ledger's Joker, only about 20 years his senior. All the same, I'm curious to hear the new Cure material leading up to the Sept 13 release of their new album. As for touring, The Cure haven't scheduled a date here in the Twin Cities.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Capsule Review - Evil Urges

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

JTM Grade: 60%


Jim James describes the new My Morning Jacket album to Mojo Magazine:
When a record's done, in my mind it looks like a picture. Until we added one final song, it was like looking at a painting that had a bunch of greens, purples and whites, and it just had to have a streak of red through it somewhere. Now I'm seeing the things I need to see.

He never clarifies what he means, but after the very first listen through Evil Urges, it all becomes clear. The dumbfounding third track 'Highly Suspicious' is Jim's streak of red and damn, if it ain't blinding. Imagine a black hole, its gravity destroying everything in its path with psuedo-Prince stylings and distorted, paranoid cartoon chants. Sounds scary, doesn't it? It is. If I heard the song in another context with wittier lyrics, who knows, it could have made a great addition to Flight of the Conchords' repertoire. But not here. It doesn't just not fit, it sticks out like a, well, like a streak of blood red in an otherwise perfectly gorgeous painting. Just like James describes. You gotta hand it to him. He is obviously well aware of the song's effect and it's what he intended. So way to go, man. It worked and it's a shame.

The rest of the album has some stellar songs, albeit with a slight trend towards '70s MOR stylings, almost Jackson Browne or Eagles-like. I hate the Eagles, so I guess it's not the best comparison, but trust me, the rest of the album is quite good. Stand out songs include the Prince-influenced, but in a good way, title track and the easy listening masterpiece 'Librarian.' Much like 2005's Z, Urges continues to show MMJ venturing away from their southern rock jam band tag. Tracks 1-2, and 4-13 are good to near great at times. But to hell with that stubborn red blot that is 'Highly Suspicious' for fuckin' it all up. Luckily for me, I can just go into iTunes, highlight track 3 of 14, hit delete, click "Yes, I'm sure I want to remove this song from my library" and hocus pocus, it's gone. Perfect.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Last.fm to release original video series

According to cnet, up and coming and musically-inclined social networking site Last.fm (owned by not so up and coming, huge conglomerate CBS) has announced an original video series titled "Last.fm Presents." The programming will initially feature interviews with musicians and concert footage. Moby and Spoon are two early participants.

I think it's safe (and obvious) to say that original web programming is a rising trend in the music industry. I'm talking about professional material, not of the user-uploaded variety. There has been an abundance of music video sites for quite some time, with companies like Viacom (MTV), News Corp. (MySpace), Google, AOL, Yahoo, etc. in the mix, but it's that original programming that interests me. There seems to be another announcement and debut every other week in 2008. Which one will take over and dominate the medium, a la MTV? MTV Networks themselves even? Or will the content remain too niche-oriented for some web-MTV to come along and destroy the competition? The internet in its nature is highly nichy, except for the Googles of the world, so my bet and hope is for the latter. I'm probably wrong. If anyone knows of any good music video sites with original, exclusive series, let me know. I'd love to check 'em out.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

'Age of the Understatement' video

An Evening with My Morning Jacket

I'll post my take on their interesting new album Evil Urges in the next few days, but in the meantime, My Morning Jacket have announced a substantial US tour. They come through Minneapolis on October 2nd for an "evening" at the Orpheum. I prefer MMJ in festival-mode myself, but unfortunately, they're not to be found at ACL or Lollapalooza. Regardless of the venue, they're one of those bands you never want to miss an opportunity to see live, so good news all around. I'll be there. But October?! My god, that seems like a long way out. Looking forward to the show means looking forward to winter's dreadful return. I think I'll keep it out of my mind for now.

Mark Kozelek

Mark Kozelek's Sun Kil Moon is my most recent and beloved musical discovery. Haven't even had the chance to dig into his more well known prior band Red House Painters, but they're high on my list. Definitely check him out. In the meantime, read the PopMatters interview with Mark in which he opens up about his new album, April. Also, mark down June 6th, when Kozelek joins Retribution Gospel Choir at the Varsity.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

JTM's Favorite Albums, Jan - Apr 2008

I wasn't blogging much for the first part of the year, so I thought I'd play catch-up and quickly reflect back on the first four months to carve out the cream of the crop. No particular order, no commentary (other than the category labels), just a list of hits and misses between January - April 2008. But wow, that's a surprisingly long list. How did I ever find time to listen to all of that? Anyway, like any good bell curve, the majority falls into the middle. At the least, go get those essential picks and avoid the bottom tier.
Happy listening...

Essential:
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Portishead - Third
Gutter Twins - Saturnalia
Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair
The Black Keys - Attack & Release
Nick Lowe - Jesus Of Cool (reissue)

Recommended:
Man Man - Rabbit Habits
DeVotchKa - A Mad and Faithful Telling
She & Him - Volume One
Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
Retribution Gospel Choir - Retribution Gospel Choir
Flight on the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant (EP)
The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust
Autechre - Quarstice
The Dodos - Visiter
Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing
Sun Kil Moon - April
The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
These New Puritans - Beat Pyramid
The Breeders - Mountain Battles
Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Shit Gold

Pleasant but ultimately forgettable:
Times New Viking - Rip It Off
Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
Beach House - Devotion
Guillemots - Red
Clinic - Do It!
R.E.M. - Accelerate
Tapes 'n Tapes - Walk It Off
Foals - Antidotes
Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Black Mountain - Into The Future
Sons and Daughters - This Gift
The Big Sleep - Sleep Forever
Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
Kid Dakota - A Winners Shadow
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts

Unpleasant:
Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead

Loathed but memorable:
Murder By Death - Red Of Tooth & Claw
Xiu Xiu - Women as Lovers
Peter Moren - The Last Tycoon

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

'My Body is a Cage,' Leone-style

I know, I know...this dates back to last year, prehistoric in blog terms, but I happened across it again today and I'm still amazed. A year later and these powerful images from Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West are still the only thing I can think of upon hearing the Arcade Fire song. I wasn't even keen on the track but this brilliant mashup changed its context entirely and now I consider it one of the better songs from Neon Bible. Well done, some guy with lots of time on his hands who posted this. Well done.

Recommended New Release - The Last Shadow Puppets


Not an official review per se but I wanted to give a quick word of recommendation for The Last Shadow Puppets - Age of the Understatement which was released today by Domino Records. This came out of nowhere for me. Honestly, who knew Alex Turner (of the Arctic Monkeys) was actually so damn talented? Well, who other than the British press that is? I didn't. Blissful, perfect symphonic pop.

Beck follows suit

As reported by Rolling Stone:
Is Beck on the verge of pulling a Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Raconteurs? According to MTV News, the singer is set to release his new, Danger Mouse-produced album in a matter of weeks. While his publicist and label would not confirm the report, sources close to the Beck camp insist that the album could be out as soon as four to six weeks.

Gotta admit, I like this growing trend of full-length album insta-releases without the typical 4-5 month hype and marketing build-up. There's something more pure and equalizing about everyone receiving and hearing a new album at the same time. No advance press to sway or adjust your expectations...just a clean slate for everyone. No outside interference or influence to alter your experience. Plus, I love the idea of a kid hearing a new album from their favorite band at the same time as a record executive or Pitchfork. The privilege of access evaporates if only for a moment. Can't imagine that record labels or the press appreciate it as much, so who knows how commonplace this will ever become. But try to at least appreciate the ideal.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Trent Reznor releases yet another album online

Two months after the release of the 36 song, entirely instrumental and downright boring Ghosts I-IV, Trent and NIN have announced the immediate digital release of a more conventional full-length album. Titled The Slip, it is available for download via theslip.nin.com, and sure enough, it's for free. Trent thanks us all for our continued support.

The only remaining question is whether Trent and Thom Yorke will pull out the fisticuffs at Lollapalooza to settle once and for all which one shall be named Musical Lord of the Internet. I love Thom but you gotta believe he'd lose in a fight...of any kind...with anyone.

Tom Waits' personally announces U.S. tour

After seeing Prince in concert last year, Tom Waits was officially bumped up into the Top 3 of living musicians I HAVE to see before I die, or more likely, before they die. With the recent news that Tom was setting up a summer tour, I was praying for a Twin Cities date, but it's not meant to be. Instead, he's chosen the armpit of Texas (i.e. El Paso) among other Southern locales for his self-proclaimed "Glitter and Doom Tour."

Bitterness aside, check out Tom's amusing YouTube press conference with the details and logic behind his tour schedule.

Friday, May 02, 2008

'Violet Hill'


It pains me to say it, but I like Coldplay's new song 'Violet Hill.' I had every intention of listening to it once, dismissing it as garbage before moving on to the next disposable mp3, but dammit, it ain't half bad. Admittedly, Coldplay's singles are occasionally good and almost always comfortable, even pleasant. That's the perfect word for Coldplay: Pleasant. They could never be offensive to the ears, but I think it's because they are so damn unoffensive...this is what gets under my skin. Then there's that painfully sincere, self-righteous thing goin' on, almost of the U2 variety. Ick. I don't know. It's easy to hate a band like Coldplay, even trendy. I like scores of bands who write "pretty" songs, so I don't know why these guys bug me so much. I'm sure a part of it is that natural inclination of mine to stubbornly resist what the masses embrace. It's an annoying trait of mine, just ask my wife. Anyway...for now I'll give Chris Martin and co. the benefit of the doubt based on this latest single and I'll even give the entire Eno-produced album, obnoxiously titled Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, a fleeting moment of attention.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bjork - 'Wanderlust'

Capsule Review - At Mount Zoomer


Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer


JTM Grade: 95%


At Mount Zoomer, awkward title aside, is officially a home run for Spencer, Dan and the gang. It may not pack the immediate punch to the gut as its predecessor, but the new material marks a substantial step forward in songwriting chops. I'm hard pressed to pick my favorite track so far. For now, I'll choose the hilariously titled "Fine Young Cannibals." In perfect symmetry, Dan takes the lead on four songs, Spencer has four and they both sing on the epic 10 minute+ finale, "Kissing the Beehive." All of the trademarks from their debut LP remain (i.e. Dan's swagger, Spencer's lyrical puzzles and snaky melodies), but they have slowed things down just a bit and given the production some breathing room. It's safe to say the whole thing is simply more grand in scope. Is it better than Queen Mary? I'm not willing to go that far quite yet, but maybe...

So I've been trying to figure out what distinguishes Wolf Parade from its members' various side projects, but primarily from Spencer Krug's Sunset Rubdown. You can't deny that Spencer's voice, songwriting and keyboards will always demand attention in any band he happens across. There's just no avoiding that influence. Even Apologies to the Queen Mary's best song 'I'll Believe In Anything' was itself a reworked version of a Sunset Rubdown track. So it should come as no surprise that most of Spencer's WP contributions on Mt. Zoomer are decidedly Rubdowny.

Then what is it that makes Wolf Parade so much damn better than the other projects? It isn't Dan Boeckner, and I don't intend that as a slight. The guy is fantastic on both albums and brings a punkish rock 'n roll presence to the fold. But that's not it. Nope, I think it's that 'gang' I mentioned earlier. Those other dudes behind Dan and Spencer on stage. The drum and bass. The rhythm. They're the actual parade. Their driving bass and propulsive, powerful drumming is what makes Wolf Parade a step above Sunset, Handsome Furs, Frog Eyes, Swan Lake, you name it. Compare the two versions of 'I'll Believe In Anything' and it'll be clear as day why Wolf Parade's is so much more affecting. I'd never even heard of their names before looking it up just now on Wikipedia. So I'm taking this occasion to recognize the two formerly anonymous members of Wolf Parade, Arlen Thompson and Dante DeCaro on drums and percussion. Hopefully, a forum with a tad more readership will give 'em some credit.

New Hold Steady album in July

After releasing one brilliant album per year from 2004-2006, The Hold Steady were disappointingly absent from the 2007 slate. But on July 14, 2008 the middle-aged but insanely energetic sextet will release their fourth album titled Stay Positive. No big tour announcements yet, only some sporadic festival appearances, but I'm sure they'll be hitting the road this fall. Hopefully it'll include a couple of massive nights scheduled here in Craig Finn's hometown. Fittingly, the last time I ended up truly intoxicated at a concert was at a Hold Steady gig. I'll have to take it easy next time.