John and Ben make a move.

1. John Mayer and I have been through some whirlwind romances and trial separations over the years. My dad (who is in radio) was like "hey, keep an eye out for this guy, he's got a lot of talent and something special." and I checked it out and I enjoyed it. I don't even think Room for Squares had even been released yet. Just his independent acoustic release and some live mp3s in random places. I always thought "3x5" should have been a single off Room. Then JM became the new DMB on campus, every numbnugget with a guitar was playing John Mayer on the steps, "Your Body is a Wonderland" blared out of dorm windows and doors, and his lyrics started dominating AIM away messages and profiles. I threw my hands up. He would be a guilty pleasure from that point until now. He's grown up quite a bit in the meantime. He's still got the college audience, but he scored some universal cred by drafting famous session musicians to fill out the John Mayer Trio. He's still breathy syrup-voiced, still has amazing chops on the axe, but the songwriting is refined, the tingling guitar solos more understated than over the top. It's tasteful. It transcends genre and time. That's why bloggers like me everywhere are jumping back on the JM bandwagon.

I Don't Trust Myself (with loving you)
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
[buy it!]

2. Ben Kweller and I have had a much more limited relationship. He's teased me with enjoyable singles and b-sides and bored me with other album filler. He's enticed me with clever songwriting and a his boyish voice, then lost me with songs that sound like they were written when he was 11. His new self-titled album seeks to buck those trends with me. It's really strong. It's all the good things I ever liked about Ben.

Nothing's Happening
[buy it!]


Rice and Scissors

hot hot

It's been a long time since O was released. In the between time, Damien Rice ended up everywhere, greatly due to soundtracks, TV appearances, and a cool sounding name. While all that was happening, he was writing the followup [9, out November 6th], which looks poised to match its predecessor's emotive folk-tinged balladry if not overtake it. The first single has started popping up around the net. It's a piano-driven balled featuring more of Lisa Hannigan, his co-conspirer from O.

9 Lives
The Blowers Daughter Pt 2 (live)

I maintain that Scissor Sisters are this generation's Village People. That notwithstanding, they also manage to blend rampant Prince, Elton John and Jamiroquai influences into an infectious blend of flambouyant pianosynthdancepop. The album Ta-Dah just dropped today. Of the 5 or 6 tracks I've heard, Paul McCartney is the standout and therefore, that's what you're getting as well as the single from the last album, which you should know already.

Paul McCartney
Take Your Mama


Fresh Cooked Assignments 9.25

I was torn this week between way too many good songs. Don't you hate it when that happens. Anyway, as a remedy, I'm essentially going to stick with the assignments being more obscure because the whole point is to possibly turn you on to something you wouldn't find on your own. In the next few days, I'll be posting some of the brand new stuff by Ben Kweller, John Mayer, Beck, Scissor Sisters, and Damien Rice so you'll get your fill of new popular music too. enfuego. On with the assignments...

1. Colour Revolt - Mattresses Underwater - The prospect of this band excites me. It's bright and uplifting, lazy and just weird enough to be really interesting. Their aesthetic falls somewhere between Copeland and The Secret Machines and if you're familiar with both, I'd wager you're more than a little excited. [buy]

2. The Kamikaze Hearts - Half of Me - this song wants to get next to you and hold your head against its collarbone while you sob yourself to sleep. When it gets to the chorus and rocks back and forth and builds up and up, my eyes get a little glassy every time. Small world alert: the bassist from the Orange (Ben Karis of Jupiter Sunrise's old band) is the bassist for this alt-country outfit. [buy]

3. Mason Proper - Chemical Dress Eliza - i'm afraid to throw out a word like "hip" without you conjuring up false images of interpol or the strokes. this song is just hip to me. if the French Kicks were more jangly, if Apollo Sunshine was less poppy, perhaps they'd be Mason Proper. [buy]

4. Madeleine Peyroux - Everbody's Talkin' - I'm going to go ahead and greenlight this one because it's helplessly lovable. I could listen to this on repeat and probably will. It's the perfect song for rain on a window, sunlight on a doorstep, daydreaming of new love, reminiscing of old love, making sweet love, folding fresh laundry, or watching a baby sleep. Trust me on this. [buy]


the perfect kiss

This will be short and sweet. I just had a talk with my brother in arms Reginald* for the greater part of two hours. I'm not even going to get into details because they don't really matter. The fact remains that relationships are an amazing tangle of chaos and serenity, of choices and implications, elation and sorrow. They have beginnings and endings and they touch all the bases between. How do you ever let go? How do you ever give in? When do you put up a wall? When do you tear it down? I just want the best for you. I want happiness for all of you. I want you to love and make it count. I want you to move on and find your heart again.

Bonnie Raitt - I Can't Make You Love Me

*name changed to protect the awesome.


Oh Pinback, you jest!

ahh Pinback, how you soothe me with notes of pluckiness and precision. I definitely count them in the frontrunners of influences in indie pop today. Infectious basslines, signature guitar tones, sparse and tight rythm section and dreamy layered vocals make this California band an awesome needle in the proverbial haystack of crap.

Avignon [from Nautical Antiques, 2006|buy]
This Red Book [from Summer in Abaddon, 2004|buy]
X.I.Y. [from Blue Screen Life, 2001|buy]


Iron Chef Marit Larsen

This is an entirely pleasant development. It's bright and shiny. Totally approachable, but still quite plucky and peculiar. Imagine a kitchen, like those on a cable TV cooking show. Only in this kitchen, there are a lot of cooks and they're making multiple dishes. The Dixie Chicks are making meatloaf shaped like a banjo. John Mayer's whipping up a cake. Luke Temple is whipping up a delicious mandarin chicken salad. Eisley is doing the dishes and singing "London Bridge is Falling Down" in a round and trying to get everyone else to join in. That's the scene I picture when I listen to Marit Larsen. I want to eat that banjomeatloaf!

The Sinking Game
Come Closer
To An End
all three from Under the Surface [buy]



these are the things making me happy at the moment.
(mp3blog later today)


The Assignments 9.18


1. Julie Doiron - Ce Charmant Coeur - this song owns. Is it the french? Am I a sucker for french? It's so pretty.


2. Via Audio - Developing Active People - I was turned onto this because Chris Walla was raving and I'd have to agree. This was the only song I could find that I could download, but rest assured I'm buying the full length as soon as it's out. This track from the EP is catchy and pretty and poppy. Surprise! It kind of sounds like Deathcab with more female vox.


3. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Let's Get Tired! - an older track from another one of my favorite bands of '06. Pleasant is consistently the word that comes to mind . A shorty, but a goody.


4. Midlake - Bandits - This record is easily cracking my top 5 at the end of the year. It's a serene blend of nostalgia and freshness. It sounds like brown and yellow leaves hitting the ground. It sounds like the soft whoosh of traffic as it passes you on a roadtrip through the mountains when your window is only open a crack.


Aloha means Hello in awesome.

"See me welling in your eyes, a field of fireflies"

The instant it entered my ears, the sound of Aloha changed the way I listened to music forever. Beautiful melodies, vivid lyrics, pop sensibility with a dash of avant-garde jazz. Slightly off-kilter yet focused. And freaking xylophone sealed the deal. Anyone who sees Aloha live will tell you it's one of the best shows they've ever seen. Listening to Aloha opened my eyes to Polyvinyl Records and countless other bands who have similarly impacted me since. It pushed the boundaries and for that, I'm grateful.

Let Your Head Hang Low [from Sugar|buy]
Brace Your Face and Ice Storming [from Some Echoes|buy]


the best thing for me to do is run

I'll start off by saying that this is the hottest picture of Julie Doiron I could find. Just be grateful I didn't go with this. or this. or this! The underlying point is that you don't have to be beautiful to make beautiful music, but having a beautiful voice certainly helps. Her voice is rich mahogany, purple velvet, warm vanilla sugar, rabbit-fur lined mittens. It's the perfect temperature in the bathtub. It's waking up on a blanket in the park with a squirrel whispering secrets in your ear. Did I mention that she speaks french? That do anything for you?

Me and My Friend [unreleased '06|buy]
Pour Toujours [from Desormais|buy]
The Last Time [from Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars|buy]


9.11. Listening Assignments

1. Christine Fellows - Souvenirs - this is a tale of the road, not from the perspective of passenger or driver, but of someone left behind. other tracks ooze Joanna Newsom or even the Mountain Goats. [buy]

2. What Made Milwaukee Famous - Curtains! - ahhh Barsuk, you insist on only signing amazing bands. I think I mentioned the similarities to labelmates the Long Winters a few weeks ago, now it's fitting that they're touring together. Upbeat, triumphant powerpop. [buy]

3. Kunek - Coma - if I were one to split hairs, I might say the reverb on the vox is too Coldplay. Throw in the piano and you're looking like a copycat. Still, this song moves on its own and has a great swelling bridge. [buy]

4. The Never - Cavity - Chapel Hill, NC seems to pop out a new great band every year and this one is no exception. The chorus is unbelievably catchy. This is what I wish Weezer sounded like. [buy]


Things that make you go mmmmmmm...

Margot and the Nuclear So and So's are like a mouthful of marigolds. Beauty and sadness; whimsy and solemnity. My musical brotherfromanothermother Jake recommended them to me last week and pretty much guaranteed that I'd like them. Little did I know that I've been listening to them for months without even realizing it. "Skeleton Key" has been in my iTunes rotation pretty regularly. Now, after spinning the record 4 or 5 times, I find that song's not even cracking the top half of the serene collection of tracks that make up The Dust of Retreat [buy]. There's definitely something for everyone. The soundtrack to a hurting or hopeful heart. Muted horns, polite piano, delicate male/female vox. Shades of Ben Gibbard/early Deathcab, Some By Sea, The Pushstars, and Bright Eyes. The hardest part was picking three to preview.

Dress Me Like a Clown
A Light on a Hill
Talking in Code
If you like these, go check out the demo for As Tall As Cliffs over at My Old Kentucky Blog


two vids to keep you busy

Final Fantasy doing an incredible cover of Joanna Newsom with just a violin and loop machine:

Thom Yorke playing "Cymbal Rush" from the Rollins show. holy yes.


A Bear, by any other name.

Let's not underestimate the importance of a name when it comes to a band. No, it's not more important than the musical output, but as far as first impressions go, many times it's all you get. I have more time than most, time enough to scour the interweb countless hours a week finding new exciting music to chomp into. With so many music outlets, I come across particular bands in multiple locations and eventually give in and listen if I haven't already. One of those bands is Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear. Their cocktail is 1 part dream 1 part heaven with a splash of avante garde. My loosely related point is this: there are too many band names that are animals. Recently, semi-violent predatory animals are popular, but not exclusive.

Wolfmother, Wolf Eyes, Peter and the Wolf, Wolf Parade, Guitar Wolf, Minus the Bear, Tiger Army, Le Tigre, The Mountain Goats, Frog Eyes, Department of Eagles, Teddybears, Horse Feathers, Band of Horses, Horse the Band, Red Sparowes, The Robins, The Wrens, Hot Snakes, These Arms are Snakes, The Snake The Cross The Crown, Deefhoof, Birdmonster, Animal Collective, Tortoise, Modest Mouse, Mouse on Mars..............

It's all just a blur now to me. How many wolf bands do we need, honestly? Anyway, I only bring all this up because this is the biggest reason I waited too long to listen to Grizzly Bear and I don't want you to make the same mistake.

Lullabye and On a Neck, On a Spit [from Yellow House, out 9/4][buy]
Don't Ask (final fantasy strings mix)[from Horn of Plenty, 2005][buy]


Assignments 9/4/06

1. Lakes - Indian Lover - the band formerly known as Watashi Wa and Eager Seas returns on The Militia Group and I'm happy about it. It sounds triumphant. [buy]

2. As Tall As Lions - Love Love Love (Love, Love) - redundant? perhaps. boring? definitely not. How tall are lions anyway? Chorus is really catchy. [buy]

3. The Dresden Dolls - Dirty Business - I'm going to admit, I didn't give this a chance for the longest time because I thought the name sounded like a crappy butt-rock band. Then I had all the pretentious indie-type telling me to listen and I rejected it for that reason. This was the first track I heard and I was sold. Tons of piano, theatrics, time blips, and pinache. If you don't like this, Ben Folds will come draw a dick on your bathroom wall. He said it, not me. [buy]

4. Wheat - And Someone With Strengths - these boys on Aware Records are at their best when weaving a simple beautiful cyclical pop song that makes you close your eyes and think of something you've gone through. this is it. [buy]


Playing with Pink Noise

Any guitarist worth their stones should know Kaki King. Aside from being rather cute (in the lip-pierced, musician kind of way), she taught herself how to play guitar in a totally unique style you'll notice immediately if you ever see her live or in a video. She was born to play guitar, essentially. Each CD is a tutorial in beautiful awesome. Ok? ok.

"Until We Felt Red" is a languishing sliding waltz. I close my eyes and I see a ballroom filled with water up to everyone's neck, but they're still dancing, gowns flowing beneath them lazily, not unlike the garments of a drowning victim from a movie like What Lies Beneath. "Goby" embraces the plucky jazz side of things, backed by the pleasant resonation of vibraphone and hi-hats. Both you can find on her newest album Until We Felt Red. "Lies" seduces like aromatherapy baby. But without...aroma? This is the soundtrack to a steamy bath scene with quick cuts to some tragic chariot racing and back. I have no idea why. (from Legs To Make Us Longer)

Until We Felt Red


To cover a metronome...

eric Metronome has original songs and he wants you to hear them. I know this because his site is one of the most user-share-friendly I've seen in awhile and there's a song from every album he's put out (there are many) there for free. He loves Elliott Smith. I know this because there's an entire section of the site dedicated to two tribute albums eric has done to honor his music (also downloadable). As with pretty much any artist as prolific as this one (11 solo records and the two Smith tributes), it's hit and miss, but the important thing I know is this: the guy loves music. He's got a project called "Cover of the Week" and proceeds to record, to the fullest, a complete cover of a band/artist he admires...every week. Obscure tracks by great singers, some by talented friends of his, some you might even know. He plays multiple instruments (I swore the Sufjan cover wasn't a cover until I heard the vocals), sings wonderful harmonies and truly treats these songs as his own. After one listen to "All in One Move", I immediately bought the Hayden full-length it was taken from. It arrives tomorrow and I'm super-stoked. If anything, I hope eric can turn you onto some new stuff like it did for me.

All in One Move (Hayden)
Pretty Mary K (Elliott Smith)
To Be Alone With You (Sufjan Stevens)