All the music (502)
  Alternative (67)
   Audiobook (10)
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  R&B/Soul (4)
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     Soundtrack (32)
      Spoken Word (1)
       Vocal (15)
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Mon, 02 Jan 2006

My First Holly Golightly Album / Holly Golightly
My First Holly Golightly Album According to her website, Holly Golightly has been performing since 1991, switching from girl group to solo artist four years later. I'd describe her sound as 60s British Invasion throwback, with maybe some West Coast surfer thrown in. Or not; I've never been good at categorizing music. Suffice it to say that her style is electric but mostly unadorned, her vocals clear and crisp. Oh, and apparently that's her real name, rather than a tribute to Capote and/or Hepburn. Good to know.
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 12 Dec 2005

Wild Birds 1985-1995 / Peter Murphy
I wish I could remember who told me about this one. I'd never heard of Murphy, so I can only assume that some kind soul passed him along. Apparently he recorded five albums for Beggars Banquet, which I assumed was a band but turns out to be a record label. And not a grammatical one either; their name just cries out for an apostrophe. Maybe more than one. Which is irrelevant, I know, and hardly for the first time.

The review on the iTMS describes Wild Birds as being full of Mr. Murphy's hits. That makes me feel even more out of it than usual, since they are as new to me as Mr. Murphy. And that's a shame; I would have enjoyed them when they were hits. I certainly enjoy them now. But I have to ask: does anybody else hear a little bit of David Bowie in his vocals?

Wild Birds 1985-1995
[ Category: Alternative | 4 comments | Link ]

Mon, 21 Nov 2005

Where Have We Been All Your Lives? / CircusGirls
Where Have We Been All Your Lives? Where have they been all our lives? It's a good question. CircusGirls has a sound that's both familiar and novel. Actually, I lie; they don't have just one sound. Like many of my favorite bands, they take on different personas for each track, sounding like throwbacks to 60s Britpop (or maybe the American response) on one song and bluesy rock on the next. Not the usual thing, which is why these guys would never succeed in a world dominated by commercial radio. Good thing we don't live in a world like that, wouldn't you say?
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 04 Nov 2005

Let Go / Nada Surf
Someone commented recently on how crazy we get if we go out without our cell phones, the point being that not so long ago we lived without them and didn't know we were deprived. In a similar way, I try to remember what it was like before I had access to answers to all my questions thanks to sites like IMDB. Including questions I'd never have thought to ask. Like a recent episode of a new comedy called How I Met Your Mother, which used a sweet and melancholy song called Inside of Love to give the story a level of wistfulness and pathos the writers and the actors couldn't pull off. What's fortunate is that a poster to the Television Without Pity website identified the song and artist. Much as I hate to say it, maybe The WB has the right idea in the way they shill the music they use on their shows before the closing credits. At least if the show's no good we can enjoy the music again. Let Go
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 21 Oct 2005

King James Version / Harvey Danger
If you've been watching the war over online music, you've likely found yourself alternately amused and appalled by the industry's attempts to sue their own customers into submission and to keep us from buying just the music we want at a reasonable price. Single song downloads? They hate 'em. Consistent pricing? Hate. Taking the music you've paid for and using it on a different device? Hate, hate, hate.

The artists mostly seem to be on the other side, either because they'd rather people listen to their music and pay whatever seems fair, or because they're resigned to being screwed over and would rather it be the fans than industry execs who're doing the screwing. But a few are taking advantage of the opportunities the net offers. Like Harvey Danger, which offers a free download of its latest album on its website. What better way to introduce itself, and, if all goes well, to get new fans for its music?

So head on over to and grab a download of Little by Little. And if you like it, try King James Version. It's not free, but at least it's reasonable. At least until the record companies have their way with Uncle Steve.

King James Version
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 03 Oct 2005

Punch and Judy / Tiger Lillies
I was on a trip to London a couple of years ago when I discovered the wonder that is The Tiger Lillies. My manager suggested we go to see Shockheaded Peter, a musical based on a classic children's book. Well, they tell me it's a classic; I'd never heard of it. And once the play began I was grateful. This is truly strange stuff that would have given me nightmares for weeks! The Tiger Lillies provided the music, which was memorable for its irony, its humor, its macabre tone and a certain over-the-topness of its performance. Quite a wonderful evening, although not one I'd necessarily recommend for the impressionable child.

Sadly, Shockheaded Peter hasn't yet made an appearance on the iTMS. But there are plenty of other examples of the Lillies' unique style. Sick and twisted stuff, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Punch and Judy
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 28 Sep 2005

Early 21st Century Blues / Cowboy Junkies
When a well established, original music band puts out an album of covers, and a theme album at that, I'm sure a lot of their long term fans roll their eyes and mutter darkly about losing their edge and selling out and other apocalyptic fears. Me, I'd not heard of Cowboy Junkies before, so I had no preconceptions to lose. Besides, what better time for an antiwar-themed album?

(Am I the only one who yearns for the peace, not to mention the prosperity, of the Clinton years? No, don't answer that.)

Early 21st Century Blues
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 26 Sep 2005

Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 1 / Coheed and Cambria
Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 1 Wow. Just... wow.

It's a huge risk to decide anything about an album from its first track, but the lush violins on Keeping the Blade were enough to tell me I'd found something special. Still trying to make sense of the title: Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness. Confusing and yet pretentious. Still, what matters is the music. And that matters very much.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 12 Sep 2005

Plans / Death Cab For Cutie
Plans If you're the sort of person who can watch The O.C. without snickering, you probably already know about Death Cab For Cutie and have decided whether you like 'em or not. Then again, if you're that sort of person, what in the world are you doing reading music reviews by an old fart like me?

I'll admit to having seen some of The O.C., despite being nowhere near their target demographic. But I don't normally find the show's musical choices compelling, at least not the way I did Buffy or Angel. So I was surprised to discover that DCFC is my kind of band: restrained, melodic, smoothly performed. Probably the kiss of death for an audience that hasn't lost big chunks of its hearing or heapin' handfuls of brain cells.

Not yet, anyway.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 31 Aug 2005

Don't Tread On Me / 311
Reading some comments on Don't Tread On Me that were posted to Amazon, I discovered that it represents something of a departure for 311. And it clearly has a few fans upset with its combination of reggae influences and some more mellow tracks than they would wish. Me, I like both reggae and mellow; the bouncy title track and the more laid back Whiskey and Wine mix well with some of the more rocking selections. Makes me want to go back and sample some of their earlier work. Don't Tread On Me
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 22 Aug 2005

Mapping Your Dreams / Laura
Before you roll your eyes over my choosing yet another album full of female vocals, I think you should know that Laura is neither female nor vocal. Instead, what we have here is five (male) Aussies from Melbourne who produce instrumentals that are heavy on synthesizers and processed guitars. A note on their website mentions Pink Floyd as a progenitor and an Icelandic band called Sigur Ros as a contemporary. I don't really hear the former, and I know nothing about the latter. So I guess I'll just say that an album of instrumentals that sound neither New Agey nor Soundtrackish makes a nice change every now and then. Mapping Your Dreams
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 17 Aug 2005

Nouvelle Vague / Nouvelle Vague
What the heck was I doing in the 80s?

I have to ask the question after discovering that all the tracks on this album are covers of songs from the late 70s and early 80s. And I'll presume they were reasonably popular, even if I don't recall hearing them either at the time or since. Okay, I Melt With You showed up in one of VH1's "let's snark at pop music" shows, I think the one about one hit wonders. But the joke of taking all these songs from Depeche Mode and The Clash and Dead Kennedys and giving them the Sergio Mendes Fool on the Hill treatment is lost on me.

So what's left are sweet waifish vocals and a sometimes Bossa Nova beat to lyrics that don't always fit that gentle treatment. (Case in point: their surf guitar version of the Kennedys' Too Drunk To Fuck.) Proving yet again that if you don't get the joke, most likely you are the joke.

Nouvelle Vague
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 12 Aug 2005

Alive Again / Laurie Horn
I gather from her website that the title of this album refers to Laurie Horn's own story: a nascent career cut short by damage to her voice. So this album represents a second act of sorts. Which would tend to explain the maturity and delicacy with which Horn moves from one musical style to another. She's a mix of pop, jazz, maybe a soupçon of country. All in all, a pleasure to listen to. Although I wonder what I'd have thought of her music back in the 60s and 70s when she and I were both callow youth. Or was I the only one to whom that adjective applies? Alive Again
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 13 Jul 2005

The Dresden Dolls / The Dresden Dolls
The Dresden Dolls Credit my blogger friend Elke for this one. I'd never heard of The Dresden Dolls until she let me borrow a mix CD of some favorite artists. (Of course it was a loan; otherwise it'd be stealing!) Which I was enjoying a lot, in that driving-in-the-car-and-half-listening sort of way.

And then around the half way mark something called Coin-Operated Boy came on. This isn't a song you can give partial attention; at least I can't. It's upbeat and downbeat and cheerful and cynical and catchy in that annoying can't-get-it-out-of-your-head way. Yeah, like I needed to be introduced to another earworm.

[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Wed, 29 Jun 2005

Spiral In / Stephanie's Id
Spiral In I hate it when I miss the obvious, which is strange considering how often it happens. Listening to Stephanie's Id, I was having trouble categorizing them. The sensibility was more rock than jazz, although it didn't quite fit either one. There's a definite piano bar feel to some of the tracks, especially in Stephanie Morgan's vocals, but that wasn't it either. Although that should have been the clue to what was bothering me. No guitars! How do you have a rock band without guitars? And yet they do, and it works.
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Wed, 15 Jun 2005

Suspended Animation / Fantômas
Suspended Animation This is a strange one. Suspended Animation is, I assume, a sountrack to a set of cartoons that don't actually exist. There are thirty tracks, one for each day in April. (This past April, as the track names make clear.) There's an improv style to the album, with a mix of classic themes and more modern, raucous performances. My favorite tracks resemble the classic work of the great Carl Stalling. Then again, so do most of my favorite cartoons.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 10 Jun 2005

Total Eclipse of the Heart / The Love of Everything
Total Eclipse of the Heart Bobby Burg's vocals are not good. But not in the way that, say, William Hung's are. Hung is just pathetic; Burg is not good in a good way, as oxymoronic as that sounds.

I discovered The Love of Everything by accident. A blog posting mentioned something called The Dan Band, which did a cover of Total Eclipse of the Heart. That led me to a search of the iTMS for other covers of the Bonnie Tyler hit, which I liked enough to include on my very own iTunes iMix icon. And that search led me to this album, which does not actually include the song (or any song for that matter) called Total Eclipse of the Heart.

So what of Total Eclipse the album? There's something interestingly minimalist about it, as if Burg just can't stop himself from singing. And he sings like he believes in the words, that his message matters more than his ability to deliver it. In fact, the more I listen, the better he sounds. That's unlikely to be true of Mr. Hung.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 06 Apr 2005

Voodoo Chic / Helicopter Girl
Voodoo Chic We listen to music for all sorts of reasons. There's music that touches our hearts, music that makes us want to move, that lets us relax, that stirs us into action.

This isn't any of those kinds of music. I find Helicopter Girl (actually Scottish singer Jackie Joyce) unsettling; her voice is sensual but cold, her performance stylish but distancing. I admire and appreciate her music. But I'm not at all sure I enjoy it.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 04 Apr 2005

1 / Simple Kid
I don't think Simple Kid takes this whole pop star deal entirely seriously. For one thing, there's his website, which is a masterpiece of... of... well, it's a masterpiece of something; I'm just not quite sure what. And then there's the music; the catchy but weird Staring At the Sun (or should that be "catchy and weird"?), the electronic warble on Drugs that made me long for Advil, the anthem to slacker indifference in Kids Don't Care.

There's a lot of attitude on display here. Fortunately, he has the talent to back it up. It's just that simple.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 23 Feb 2005

Knuckle Down / Ani Difranco
Knuckle Down I saw a review that described Ani Difranco as like Alanis Morisette with better lyrics. To that I'll add that she's more accessible and shouts less. At least on this album; I'm ashamed to admit that although I knew of Ms. Difranco, I had no real impression of her work. Until now. And if she has more like Knuckle Down, I've really been missing something. Because I find her minimalist styling appealing. And I enjoy the folk stylings of some of her songs and an almost western sound to others. Western - that's it! Knuckle Down reminds me of nothing so much as Joss Whedon's much lamented Firefly series. Ani Difranco could have done the soundtrack for Joss's vision. And from me, that's high praise.
[ Category: Alternative | 2 comments | Link ]

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