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Fri, 06 Apr 2007

Chasing Yesterday / Cheri Magill
There's something nice and throwbacky about Cheri Magill's songs, a jazziness that brings to mind the Squirrel Nut Zippers. It isn't often I'm smitten midway through a thirty second sample. But Bulletproof Dress pulled it off. (In a nice way.) And her cover of Time After Time is the best I've heard since Eva Cassidy, still sadly underrepresented on iTunes. Definitely someone to watch. Or listen to. Or both. Chasing Yesterday
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 28 Mar 2007

Rollover / Manishevitz
"What's in a name?", Shakespeare asked rhetorically. And so do I, as I consider the resonance of the name Manishevitz. Not the musician, of course, whom I've only just encountered, but the products of my childhood, and, on rare occasion, my adulthood. First the wine, sweet enough to send you into sugar shock, but still capable of a good buzz if you're young, curious and determined. And then all the other kosher foods, which I buy now and then as comfort food or for their nostalgia value. (Betcha didn't know the winemaker and the food people are two different companies! No, I didn't either. It's a licensing thing.)

Anyway, this is yet another Manishevitz. With a V, which I didn't actually notice until this very moment. Which says something about how observant I am. And I don't mean as regards kashruth, although I'm not observant about that either.

Damn; there I go again. Focus, please! Right, the music. It's a sort of blend of R&B and folk, much in the style of Leonard Cohen. If you're familiar with Cohen's own performances, as opposed to other people's more demonstrative cover versions, you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Detached. Serious. Maybe a little bit haunting. And no danger of a sugar rush.

[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 16 Mar 2007

Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge / The Pierces
Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge One of their "tales" is entitled Boring. It isn't. Not even a little.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 07 Mar 2007

Brand New By Tomorrow / Money Mark
Brand New By Tomorrow If my last selection appeals to my happy, upbeat side, this one belongs to the mopey, melancholy aspects of my personality. But in a good way; I've long held that a good fresh melancholic can do far more for the world than any happy, well adjusted soul. Assuming you can find one, of course.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 05 Mar 2007

Twelve Stops and Home / The Feeling
The Feeling is a throwback to a musically simpler and more straightforward time. Being something of a throwback myself, I feel right at home with their oh so cheerful tone. You may feel the same way. And who knows? They may just give Soft Rock back its good name, assuming of course it ever had one. Twelve Stops and Home
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Fri, 02 Mar 2007

The Song He Was Listening To When He Died / Michael Hall
The Song He Was Listening To When He Died
    "This is a song about America.
     I draw a line in the sand.
     This is a song about America.
     Not the country, but the rock and roll band."
So begins Michael Hall's America, which is funny and savage and a well deserved attack on the pretentious and lame. Hall is a storyteller. Sometimes his stories are whimsical; sometimes they're heartfelt. But they're always worth listening to, as if the slice of life tales of Harry Chapin and the wit and wisdom of Jim Croce were reborn. And when have we needed snarky and witty and true (or at least truthy) storytelling more than now?
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 21 Feb 2007

Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love / Harry and the Potters
Harry and the Potters and the Power of Love Here's something good/bad. Or maybe that should be bad/good; I could argue either way. I mean, the performances aren't good, which in this case isn't bad. 'Cuz what would you expect of a bunch of amateurs (at least I hope they're amateurs) singing songs about Rowling's superstar wizard in training? This thing's practically review-proof, since if you like this sort of thing, this is exactly the sort of thing you're going to like. And if you don't, well, you surely won't. But I warn you: it's bad. Not as bad as those cringe-inducing Portsmouth Sinfonia albums I used to force on friends back in college. But not good. Not that that's bad. Necessarily.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 09 Feb 2007

If It Makes You Happy / Sheryl Crow featuring Jack Ingram
Good song for a good cause: the proceeds all go to breast cancer research. And as songs for charity go, this one's a major improvement over Live Aid. Which I guess would be a problem if you're one of those "give only if it hurts" kind of people. You're not, are you? If It Makes You Happy
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 02 Feb 2007

Songs from the Deep Sleep / Brandon Wilde
Songs from the Deep Sleep On rare occasion, I have a reminder of joy that was the early web. Remember? When every day was an adventure, a chance to be amused, or impressed, or horrified or, if you were really lucky, all three at once. Okay, this isn't nearly as good as that build up. But it's still kind of funny. Y'see, I found this album on the iTunes store by this guy named Brandon Wilde. And I wanted to learn something about him, so I could share with you and look all knowledgeable and stuff. Amazon was no help; I mean, I knew he wasn't Brandon De Wilde, an actor who died thirty odd years ago and, as far as I know, wasn't musical even before he became worm food. So I tried Google. And, well, the first link to Brandon Wilde was something else entirely.

The musical Brandon Wilde does have a website, called, appropriately enough, Brandon Wilde Music. Which doesn't have anything to say about his music. But why in the world did I expect it would?

[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 26 Jan 2007

How to Save a Life / The Fray
Way back in the mists of time, when I was first developing a lack of taste in music, there was a band called The Union Gap. This band had a string of Top 40 hits, until somebody (and then everybody) realized that every damn song sounded pretty much the same. At the time they defended this practice by pointing out that you don't want to mess with what works, although maybe you ought to reconsider before it stops working completely.

I mention this because The Fray have a distinctive sound, one which follows you (or at least it does me) from track to track. It isn't as blatant as Gary Puckett & co., thank the FSM. And they can come up with compelling variations on their signature style, as their cover of John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) demonstrates. I just hope they break out of their comfort zone more often. It keeps things interesting.

How to Save a Life
[ Category: Rock | 1 comment | Link ]

Wed, 24 Jan 2007

Meet The Smithereens / The Smithereens
Meet The Smithereens We're still waiting for the rumoured day when real Beatles tracks will finally make their way to the iTunes Store. (Unless of course that happens between my writing the previous sentence and the moment it gets posted, in which case, never mind.) While we're waiting, The Smithereens' tribute version of the first US Beatles release is both eminently listenable and a reminder of a moment when rock was about to change in a big way. I was too young to appreciate the shift at the time, or too clueless, or more likely both. But even I should have felt how big a change was coming. And The Smithereens have both recreated that breakthrough album and given it their own spin. Which makes me wonder: do younger audiences need to rediscover The Beatles, or did they never disappear from popular consciousness? I suspect I know the answer to that one.
[ Category: Rock | 3 comments | Link ]

Fri, 19 Jan 2007

Dying to Say This to You / The Sounds
Dying to Say This to You The clean version? Or the dirty version? And how do you know unless you listen to both?

Oh, who am I kidding? Gotta be door number two.

[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 12 Jan 2007

Light Green Leaves / Little Wings
Mark Twain once wrote, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." Listening to Light Green Leaves brought that quote to mind, and its implication that brevity, and, I would amend, clarity and simplicity, take a lot of time and effort to achieve. Because the music of Little Wings's Kyle Field (the rest of the band consists of hired hands) is so simple and pure that I can only imagine the work it took. Or at least that's what I prefer to believe; the idea that such simplicity was easy is just too depressing. Light Green Leaves
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 08 Jan 2007

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love / My Chemical Romance
Schizophrenic, that's what these guys are. Their songs are exciting and high energy, at least most of the time*. But the lyrics, well, they tell quite another story. And one that's unlikely to end well, if they're to be taken seriously. Me, I prefer to listen without listening, if you know what I mean.

* The langorous Demolition Lovers is a notable exception, and quite my favorite track.

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 25 Dec 2006

Careful What You Wish For / Jonatha Brooke
Speaking of Bond themes, as I was doing in Friday's post, wouldn't this make a kickass title song for a Bond flick? I'm just saying. Careful What You Wish For
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 18 Dec 2006

After the Affair / MoneyPenny
After the Affair A close friend who lives in Perth in Western Australia told me one day about a friend of hers who was all excited about a new neighbor. The neighbor was (and is, I assume, at least as of this writing) an elderly Scottish immigrant. Why the excitement? Well, if you're as old as I, the name Lois Maxwell might mean something. She was, and to my mind always will be, the original Moneypenny, personal secretary to M back when he was a cranky old man and not a cold eyed woman. All of which is irrelevant to this band. But their name caught my eye, which was enough to get me to listen for a bit and like what I heard enough to mention it. Besides, if we're ever to get the bastards at the record labels and their attack dogs at the RIAA, we might want to start with unsigned bands like MoneyPenny. There are worse places, I'm thinking.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 15 Dec 2006

Foiled Again / Blue October
Back in the mists of time around the beginning of my computing career, I was working in London for Data General, a minicomputer company that is no longer with us. And one day one of my even younger colleagues came over to ask how much Latin I knew. Not much, I admitted. A few useful phrases like Caveat emptor and illegitimi non corborundum, which I know isn't even real Latin. But why did he ask?

Turns out he'd been playing a ancient chess program on our office mini. And when he'd beaten it, it had terminated with the Latin-sounding message, OFLIDEA AGNI. Hence the question.

I remembered vaguely something about how early DG minis had been little endian (keeping the bits and bytes in right-to-left order in words in memory, rather than left-to-right as God intended). And I had the inspired thought that maybe something had been messed up during the program's translation to more modern (at the time) hardware. Sure enough, reverse every two characters in OFLIDEA AGNI and you get a more appropriate message for a program that had just been defeated.

Which is also the name of this album. And which is irrelevant to that album. But I like the story and just had to share.

Foiled Again
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 27 Nov 2006

Pain / Rose Tattoo
Been a while since I've listened to anything that could be called Hard Rock. Maybe it's my aging eardrums. Maybe it's that long, sad slide into becoming my parents - can Big Band collections from Reader's Digest be next? (Do they still make those things?) Dunno if I can fight my descent into Easy Listening hell with a little Rose Tattoo, but I'm gonna give it a try. At least I can enjoy some bits of music among the loud... Pain
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 24 Nov 2006

An Other Cup / Yusuf
An Other Cup After so many years when Yusuf Islam, who here calls himself just by his first name, seemed to embrace his Moslem faith at the expense of his earlier identity as Cat Stevens, it seems strange to have the two identities come together. Because it takes only a few seconds to discover that Yusuf is still Cat: the voice, the intonation, the style of his songs. Can the presence of a cover song on this album be anything but a plea for understanding that there is no dichotomy here? With the automatic association in too many people's minds of Islam and terrorism, with a CNN anchor daring to ask America's first Muslim Congressman to prove he isn't working with our enemies, it would be a miracle if he weren't misunderstood. If you're inclined to pray for miracles, add that one to the list.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 20 Nov 2006

Surfer's Choice / Dick Dale & the Del-Tones
Surfer's Choice I've already written about modern surf bands, not just once but twice! So what could be more natural than to go back to the beginning, to the guy who once defined surf music. And not just for the historical value, for the chance to hear Sloop John B before The Beach Boys got their hands on it. (A song which, by the way, is much, much older than that.) But also for the inventiveness of a surf version of the Middle Eastern-sounding Miserlou, which adds a South of the Border brass that may have inspired Herb Alpert and his bunch. Or maybe because it's music like this that once symbolized California, at least to those of us who grew up shivering on the other side of the country.
[ Category: Rock | Add a comment | Link ]

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