Julian Steals the Show

photo by Eric Townsend
I went to see the Damnwells and Ari Hest last night, but their opening act stole the show. Julian Velard is a Brooklyn native, goofier than a waterproof wallet, with more talent in his right pinky finger than my entire right arm. No one knew this guy from Adam, but he stepped up on stage and completely killed for his entire seven song set. Destroyed. Slayed. Any ridiculous adjective for sucking the air out of the room and demanding absolute attention. Just a piano and his amazing voice, full of smoke and soul. Julian is everything I always wanted to love about Jamie Cullum but just couldn't because the songwriting was lacking. His songs are poignant and human, delivered with confident assurance, his voice doing something unexpected and smile-inducing at every turn. If you're somewhere in the path of this tour (dates/locations), you deserve this.

Hilarious review in LA Weekly:
"...megatalent...guaranteed to generate feminine moisture...not so much concocting life dramas as revealing them. Undislikable. "
- LA Weekly

Behind the scenes of making the EP:

Little Demons
A Dream
[from The Movies Without You|buy]


A Rant and a Song

1. My new phone is the hottness. I got a Sprint Upstage, a new mp3/multimedia phone with two sides and a touch screen-ish thing. I think I'm in love.

2. I'm sorry if this bursts your bubble, but I thought Pirates of the Caribbean 3 sucked. Suckage is all relative, it was of course better than something like Music & Lyrics, but I guess I'm just never going to stop getting disappointed when something has potential and ridiculous hype and instead of sticking to the things that made the first movie good and interesting, they go the route of every other sequel ever made by spending way too much money on FX instead of, I don't know, writing a good script with, I don't know, some originality, instead of 2.65 hours of predictable har-har jokes and a bunch of plotlines that amount to nothing when it comes down to it. And that was a really long sentence.

3. I didn't mention it, but I followed American Idol all season, the first time I've ever done such a thing. I'm not even going to lie, I was totally into it but some of the decisions that were consistently made baffled me. 61-year old Bette Midler singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" at the 1:40 mark of the Finale? Seriously? Why do they insist on throwing up old stars (a la Barry Gibb) who can't sing anymore to waste 5 minutes of my life? Thank God for Tivo. Thank you lords of DVR technology.

4. I'm seeing the Damnwells tonight and you (most likely) are not. This is unfortunate, but I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

5. And before that, I'll be at Busch Gardens all day riding the Griffon. And unable to post music. So instead (for the very first time ever), I'll just throw up this live demo of my newest song. I aim to record it with a full piano arrangement instead of guitar, but this'll do in the interim.

Drew Worden - I'll Fly Solo


Listening Assignments 5.28.07

1. The Cinematics - Rise & Fall - I love the melodic energetic nature of this one. Should have been a radio hit. [from A Strange Education|buy]

2. Willy Mason - Save Myself - Easy, breezy, fo sheezy. [from If the Ocean Gets Rough|buy]

3. Dappled Cities Fly - Holy Chord - Totally strange, totally catchy, totally sweet build. [from Granddance|buy]

4. Bishop Allen - Click Click Click Click - A happy ode to photography. [from July|buy]

*sorry for the brevity of the blurbs today, I got thrown in a pool fully clothed yesterday, thus destroying my phone. I'm out getting a new one and helping my dad deconstruct his home studio. Hope you enjoy the tunes.



That'sright,it's65daysofstaticanddon'tyoudareputspacesintheirname. Anddon'tyoudarewritethemoffasanotherinstrumentalbanddropinthe
bucketofinstrumentalbandseither. This four-piece from Sheffield, England sounds like a bizarre and somehow highly cohesive combination of Aphex Twin, Hella, and The Cinematic Orchestra, blending complex rhythms with glitchy programming and some very melodic elements. The heavier parts of this record are dramatically industrial while the lighter tracks sound straight off of a film score. It's an emotional sonic canvas worthy of an afternoon of daydreams.

Music is Music as Devices are Kisses is Everything
Don't Go Down to Sorrow
[from The Destruction of Small Ideas|buy]


Bridging the Distance

Portland, OR is a beautiful city of bridges (10 to be exact), all spanning the Willamette River and connecting East and West Portland. It's also one of the best cultural hotspots in America and a breeding ground for amazing musical talent. Therefore, it makes sense to bring the two themes together with a compilation to benefit p:ear, a Portland charity aimed at helping the city's youth "bridge" obstacles in their lives through education, arts and recreation. 19 Portland musicians (including the Decemberists, Chris Walla of Deathcab For Cutie, Britt Daniel of Spoon, The Thermals, Viva Voce, Talkdemonic, and Blitzen Trapper) contributed tracks to the cause, each covering artists like Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, Zeppelin, Skynyrd, and Sam Cooke. The result is a choppy but always interesting collection of songs for a good cause. There's even a rendition of the Doobie Brothers' "What A Fool Believes" sung entirely in faux Michael McDonald falsetto.

The Whip - White Wedding (Billy Idol)
Point Juncture, WA - Pearl of the Quarter (Steely Dan)
The Joggers - Long Distance Runaround (Yes)
[from Bridging the Distance: a Portland, OR covers compilation|buy]


Cold War Kids and the Anti-Buzz Boomerang

Occasionally, a band will get entirely too much press, both physical and web-based, and they will actually turn out to be good. This is an unfortunately rare occurrence. For every Cold War Kids, there are five Clap Your Hands Say Yeahs and Hot Chips out there that burn me. These bands surely aren't terrible, but some of it I listen to and I'm like "this is what all this fuss is about?" Cold War Kids have been literally everywhere in the last year, from Rolling Stone (4 of 5), to Conan O'Brian, to Spin Magazine, to just about every blog on the web. Usually when this happens to an actually decent band that means I won't get into them until the fervor dies down due to my skepticism and general distrust of reviews in Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Spin (to name a few).

That all being said, this is a sharp band. Aside from the single everyone has heard ("Hang Me Up to Dry"), Robbers & Cowards is a surprisingly well balanced album awash in dancy emotion, soaked in signature guitar tones, and sabotaged in parts by random piano fumblings or open-guitar-strums. It's definitely so fresh and so clean, despite being 8 months old and being whored up and down Main St in the interim. I like to believe there's still good taste in the big new band buzz. This tastes like love.

We Used to Vacation
Hospital Beds
[from Robbers & Cowards|buy]


The Rocket Summer: Certified Guilty Pleasure

My bud Alex hates this band and he's probably not alone. The Rocket Summer's Bryce Avary is a blonde-headed prodigy with an incredibly hot wife. He's probably 5'7'' in heels and it's possible that he's one of the last surviving castrati. Honestly, it took some time to get over the emotive, high-pitched voice, but now I don't even notice it. His melody choices are fantastic, his range is huge and fluid. On his critically acclaimed debut full-length Calendar Days (5 of 5 in Alternative Press) as well as the forthcoming album, he played every instrument. He wrote every note.

The deal-maker for me, though, is just the general mood of this stuff. Realistic or not, The Rocket Summer is the most positively uplifting power pop I can think of. The glass is not just half-full, it's overflowing. It's self-depricating and honest, filled with hooks and brown sugar. I met Bryce at the show I booked with him and Cartel a little over two years ago. In person, he is the same humble guy filled with joy and enthusiasm that comes out of my speakers. This optimism is believable and when I press play, I get caught up in it too. Sue me.

So Much Love - The saxophone around the 2 minute mark was an effing unbelievably good production choice. This is the first single to his major label debut.
[from Do You Feel? (out 7.17)|info]
Around the Clock
[from Hello, Good Friend|buy]
Cross My Heart
[from Calendar Days|buy]


Let's Go to Tahiti

The question is: "What would it sound like if a sweet French band signed with an American indie-pop-punk label and had their record mixed by the sound engineers behind Outkast and NERD?" Tahiti 80 is the answer to the question. Their album Fosbury was released last year on The Militia Group (Lovedrug, Cartel, The Rocket Summer, Copeland), further expanding the label's already impressive diversity. This is nothing if not hip, the musical lovechild of Kings of Convenience and Phoenix, if only Pharrell was hired to be the nanny. Shake it like a salt shaker.

Fallen Down
[from Fosbury|buy]


Listening Assignments 5.21.07

1. Travis - Selfish Jean - Travis is back! Travis is back! What that means to me is that I'll get relatively excited, then slightly disappointed when the record has one or two standouts and a bunch of average songs to fill it out. This album is no different for me, the shiners shine and the rest get skipped. Despite the obvious talent and sound, something about Travis never puts all the pieces together. This upbeat little ditty is great summer fun, however. [from The Boy with No Name|buy]

2. People in Planes - If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode) - I know, I know, this track is sooooo 2006 already. It's just a great power pop gem that never got coverage here. It has always reminded me of a more polished Pablo Honey-era Radiohead sound. [from As Far as the Eye Can See|buy]

3. Guillemots - Never Went to Church (The Streets Cover) - One of the best things about this cover is the almost complete removal of Mike Skinner, the talented author of the song. The total restructuring has transformed it into a broken underdog of a ballad that echoes with its refrain: "Leave nothing behind to remind me of you." [from Never Went To Church|buy]

4. Camille - Quand Je Marche - I'm a sucker for ladies singing in French, but who isn't really? I have no idea what this is about, but I like to think it's a representation of the thoughts of a beautiful French lady who is madly in love with me. She's walking alongside a lake, thinking long and hard about flying back to America to be my wife. She's torn, but I think we both know what she's going to decide. This was voted National Album of the Year in France in 2006. [from Le Fil|buy]


A Loving Spoonful

As you probably are aware, Spoon has it. The It Factor. The aura that comes with being from Portland (by way of the near-equally cool Austin) is strong with these gentlemen. After 2005's stellar Gimme Fiction, they are poised to release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga on Merge Records July 10th. These two songs bookend this potent album, the first and final chapters of a guaranteed bestseller. Britt Daniels' voice is in top form, the hooks are especially sharp, and there is a good measure of refreshing experimentation. Buy the heck out of this record when you get the chance.

Don't Make Me a Target
Black Like Me
[from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (out 7.07)|site]


The Whitest Boy Alive

When it comes to chill, provocative tunes, Kings of Convenience have few peers. The duo simply have a knack for writing infectiously hip and flowing songs. Erlend Oye (1/2 of the Kings) is the Whitest Boy Alive, a delightful little side project that takes a few more risks (occasionally bordering on Minus the Bear-esque rhythms) and has a different sonic approach to songwriting. Gone are the dueling acoustics, the continuous double harmonies, the violins. Remaining are the toe-tapping hi-hats and the smooth voice of Oye, both enough to carry this album to a special place.

Don't Give Up
[from Dreams|buy]


The Snake The Cross The Crown

The Snake The Cross The Crown was one of my favorite bands I got to work with back in my serious show booking days. They came to town with Gatsby's American Dream (supporting Acceptance on the tour, who took the Blacksburg night off) and upstaged them in every sense of the word. They were riding on the coattails of Mander Salis at the time, a tremendously cohesive and inventive record that was to be criminally underappreciated over time. The two years since that record, SCC lost their bassist and co-singer but gained an even more focused voice, embracing an emotive and unique folk twist that was the uncontested highlight of their previous work. This is an album of skittering drum brushes, foot stomping crescendos, group sing-a-longs, and triumphant tumbleweeds. "The Great American Smokeout" has been destined for my 2007 top 20 since it dropped as a demo in January of last year.

The Great American Smokeout
[from Cotton Teeth|buy]


Page France and the Family Telephone

There's something adorable to me in the voice of Page France's Michael Nau. It's something that lifts me along with the corners of my mouth past all the fire-escapes to the rooftop. Up there, I can see the secrets people hide, their ugly rooftops you can't see from the ground, but none of that matters. "Chariot" is playing in my head, altering my outlook on everything below me. The people are smiling, my legs won't stop moving, my heart might be pushing at its seams.

Me, Violin, and Dancing Bear - "i was high in all my big thoughts: what if the sun drops, what if my heart stops..."
[from ...and the Family Telephone|buy]
Junkyard - "i'm the truest song that was never true"
Chariot - "we will become a happy ending"
[from Hello, Dear Wind|buy]



Yo yo yo x 100. I'm out and about today with my boy Alex Tschan of Philip Uster and the House Floor, then I work tonight. Therefore, no soup for you! But this week I'll have some from The Whitest Boy Alive, and new Page France and Jason Falkner


Listening Assignments 5.14.07

1. Madeleine Peyroux - Don't Wait Too Long - The ultimate sippin'-on-iced-tea-in-the-shade-and-watchin'-butterflies-frolic song. [from Careless Love|buy]

2. The Mountain Goats - Love Love Love - Something about this song always sticks with me and I can never put my finger on it. Maybe I just love love love the way John Darnielle delivers this vocal with subtle reverence, the historical references, the depth despite the simplicity. [from The Sunset Tree|buy]

3. Dear and the Headlights - Happy In Love - I like songs that go somewhere, like a dynamic character in a novel. In the last 5 seconds, I like smiling to myself, happy I listened. [from Small Steps, Heavy Hooves|buy]

4. The Little Ones - Oh MJ! - Slightly atmospheric (thank you, delay pedal!) happy indie-rock on Astralwerks. It'll make you feel good. It just might move that booty. [from Sing Song|buy] [thanks for the reminder skye]


Mom the Hero

Moms rule. Seriously. Think about the pain she went through in order to give life to your tiny little self. Imagine the sacrifices she's made your entire life on your behalf. Maybe she makes you feel small sometimes. Perhaps she raps your knuckles. It's possible that she'll call you out when you are making bad decisions. She probably calls at inconvenient times to hear your voice. That's love right there. Give her a call.

Stevie Wonder - You are the Sunshine of my Life
[from the Definitive Collection|buy]


Scott Fisher & 1am Approach

The sticker on the front of his CD says "sounds like Jack Johnson fronting the Ben Folds Five," a term that at first prompted a skeptical frown, but Scott Fisher & 1am Approach eventually made good. I'd definitely say Jack is a much bigger influence than Ben, though Scott plays the piano quite well, and while I have my own set of issues with Mr. Johnson, Mr. Fisher blends his influences carefully, paying homage with taste and tact.

This man sees the future and wants to change it. He longs for progress, hopes for the best. His voice is strong and confident, floating into smooth falsetto with buttery precision. Tastefully-toned guitar licks (courtesy of Bob Dunham) weave around the piano while Enrique Gonzalez builds a creative foundation of percussion. This band belongs together.

Step Into the Future
Forgot About the Stars
[from Step Into the Future|buy]


Rachel's Legacy

It's hard to believe Rachel's has been making this beautiful music since I was 9. Being 25 now, I can press play and feel it flowing around me like I'm teetering on the edge of the orchestra pit. It feels timeless and brand new. It'll probably feel brand new in 2025 too. That's what I love so much about piano, violin, and cello...they'll never be dated. Electric guitar tones will go out of style, fuzzy bass as well. Double-kick pedals will eventually gasp their last, ditto synthesizers and sampling, but this music will live on. Someone will always be there to appreciate how these instruments connect with what music is all about.

Frida Kahlo
[from Handwriting|buy]
Water from the Same Source
[from Systems/Layers|buy]



Paul Dano, the eccentric Dwayne from Little Miss Sunshine, has a rock band and surprisingly, they're pretty damn good. Unlike Keanu Reeves' Dogstar, Russell Crowe's 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, or The Bacon Brothers, Dano's Mook actually sounds like a legitimate band. His voice is the centerpiece, a breathy but clear folk-tinged croon. The band dabbles with organ and vibraphone, quiet and noisy arrangements, solemnity and cheekiness. So refreshing! They're playing @ The Boot in Norfolk, VA May 24th. I'll be there.

Broken Bee
[from The Eggs EP|buy]


Moonbabies are Stargazing

Moonbabies! At first, I thought it was an Asian synthpop band, but I was mistaken. They're Swedish (was there even a question these days?). There is very little synth. Their pop is refined, more brown sugar than powdered. Robust. Think Snow Patrol, The Flaming Lips, and Broken Social Scene all rolled up into one. It's shoegaze for the Grey's Anatomy crowd. We'll call it Moongaze. We'll lay on our backs on the roof on a clear spring night, count the constellations, and smile.

War On Sound
Take Me to the Ballroom
[from Moonbabies at the Ballroom (out 5.29)|buy]


Head Automatica: Certified Guilty Pleasure

Head Automatica is shameless. Sporting over-the-top pop progressions, excessively bombastic vocals, ridiculous key changes, and a live show to match, they are the prototypical candy-pop indie-rock band. Fortunately or unfortunately, this means their music is like heroin you absorb through your eardrums. It's a kind of sickly sweet, the hooks big enough to land a swordfish, and honestly I feel more than a little brainwashed when I belt out the chorus to Beating Heart Baby cruising along the highway at 60 mph. I have to give props to a frontman who was the man in a hardcore band (Glassjaw), but still has that intense pop itch he just needs to scratch, and I'm sure Daryl has endured his fair share of hatemail and negative energy from former fans because of it. Head Automatica is a band I hate to like. There's a thin line between love and loathe, isn't there?

Beating Heart Baby
Lying Through Your Teeth
[from Propoganda|buy]


Listening Assignments 5.7.07

1. The Cairo Gang - Warning - The smooth sounds of the gang remind me of a slightly more lo-fi American Analog Set, the soundtrack to the 1960 home movie your parents made while driving to California. Grainy film, top-down, an endless expanse of road. [from s/t|buy]

2. Jump, Little Children - Broken - I've been a big fan of JLC's pop stylings for a few years, but I'd never heard this tune until last week on Cable and Tweed. Now I can't find anything about it, the album it says it's from doesn't appear to exist, so the mystery prevails. [buy an album, any album]

3. Chris Merritt - Lay a Finger On Me - I half-swear this is my last Chris posting for awhile, but this gem was included on the hand-burned 23-song bonus CD that came with Hello, Little Captain on Friday. The album itself is very solid, the extra songs just cement his status as a performer poised to make some noise and opens a window into the songwriting process of a visionary. This one is armed with a stellar melody and beckons Bruce Hornsby comparisons. [from Hello, Little Captain|buy]

4. Jake Troth - Caroline - With more boldness, this could be a Chris Martin ballad, but as it stands, it's got a lot more of a longing sadness that really carries. Sounds like a crooner in the corner of an empty music hall, baby grand piano, drowning in memories. [from The Ups and Downs of Being at the Bottom|buy]


Baby Got Back

I've returned. It didn't even seem like I was gone did it? That's because I'm universally loathed!

But seriously, I had a sweet time. Got Dad hooked on Mutemath and Chris Merritt, met a sweet band I'll be blogging about in the near future (Scott Fisher & 1am Approach), and finally saw Starr Hill Brewery (the hefeweizen was solid, the amber was so-so.) and Music Hall (500 capacity, really freaking sweet place, They Might Be Giants are playing there Tuesday).

Coming this week:
Listening Assignments
Scott Fisher
some other goodies?

Stay tuned.


Links, a song, a message

To my fantastic readership:

I'm departing for Charlottesville (Virginia) with mi padre in a few minutes. We're catching a show up there, meeting up with some of his old music business friends, staying up at our mountain home, and returning Sunday. Therefore I won't be able to put up any new music til Sunday night. In the interim, I'll give you three links and a song to tide you over.

1. 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Better than Anyone Else Ever Has or Will [read]
2. A really interesting (and at times, sad) point of view on the entire abortion issue. [read]
3. The 419 Eater. An absolutely hilarious site where a guy chronicles his efforts to make fools out of perpetrators of Nigerian e-mail scams. With classic pictures and e-mail correspondence. [read]

4. Chris Merritt's record finally came in the mail yesterday and it really made me giddy. Since I've already written a dedicated post to the man, I'll just quote it ("He never shook hands with a melody that wasn't beautiful") , link to it, and put an updated mp3 up for you. Here's Dance Karate, the final robotastic armada of groovy. You can buy the record at his myspace.

Chris Merritt - Dance Karate


Say Anything: Not-So-Guilty Pleasure

Picking individual songs off this record is next to impossible. I'll refer to my blurb from my "Top 20 Albums of 2006" post (...is a Real Boy was #3) and repeat: "[the album] is a masterpiece...It's a veritable rock opera with one of the most enigmatic singer/songwriters imaginable (Max Bemis spent time in a mental hospital while recording this album for legitimate reasons). If Queen met up with Pinocchio and made a record with lots of sexual frustration throughout, this is what it would sound like."

It's a concept album, absurdly ambitious and dripping with sarcasm and vitriol, lyrically near-perfect. Max is clinically bi-polar, diagnosed as such after a mental breakdown during the recording of the album. He apparently was convinced his bandmates were filming him naked in order to make porn.

This record is almost 3 years old and singles are still getting airplay. Apparently they are planning on releasing a double album this year, which is scary. I don't know how anything could surpass this monumental debut. I know a few people who are unconvinced about Say Anything, but sometimes you just need the right few songs to get you started or you never will. Regardless, I can put this album on and immediately feel like I'm in the first row, air-drumming, yelling the lyrics back. It's a good feeling. They are playing at the NorVA tonight and I have to work. Very sad am I.

Woe - "All the words in my mouth that the scene deemed unworthy of letting out banded together to form a makeshift militia and burrowed bloodily through my tongue and my teeth..."
I Want to Know Your Plans - "If you could forgive me for being so brash, you could hit me or whip me. I'd savor each lash."
Admit It!!! (probably the best anti-scene song ever written) - "I spend hours in front of the mirror making my hair elegantly disheveled. I worry about how this album will sound, because I believe it will determine the amount of sex I will have in the future."
[from ...Is a Real Boy|buy]


Grizzly Bear on Daytrotter

Download Grizzly Bear tunes at daytrotter.com

Every blogger on Earth worth their salt has written about Grizzly Bear (including me) so I'll spare you the history lesson. They are easily one of the most talented bands making music today, full of harmonies and arrangements that would make Brian Wilson proud. They stopped into the Daytrotter studio to do an interview (always insightful) and recorded three live tracks. If you are familiar with Daytrotter, it's one of my favorite sites on the web. Aside from a growing legion of amazing performances, there is custom art done up for each band, unique interviews, and just a really cool concept on the whole. Check out the archive for stellar sets by Of Montreal, Eef Barzelay, Maritime, Page France, the Never, Annuals, the Velvet Teen, Owen, and many more.

Grizzly Bear - Shift
Grizzly Bear - He Hit Me (The Crystals)
[from Daytrotter Sessions|free]


The Hope of Bill Coleman

I heard Bill Coleman a few days ago and there was no looking back. It's an unassuming name for an unassuming dude who is definitely a little crazy. Immediate comparisons to a more upbeat Damien Rice (especially since they're both Irish), but with a few different musical stylings (some more pop at times, some Jeff Buckley-esque electric-only action). This fantastic album came out in 2006 and I'm pretty sure you still can't find a physical copy to buy in the US. iTunes is probably the best/only bet other than paying in pounds on a British music website. Apparently his live shows are reminiscent of The Flaming Lips and the few live clips on youtube confirm the possibility. Press play. Tell your friends.

Offer Up the Hope
The Pull of the Pint
[from I'll Tear My Own Walls Down|info]


A Northern Chorus

It's not being overly talked about yet, but A Northern Chorus' The Millions Too Many is easily one of the best releases of 2007. They've grown leaps and bounds from their '05 release Bitter Hands Resign. This record is focused and immediate, consistent and deep. It will bring tears and smiles and approving nods. It conveys the most human elements of Some By Sea (as well as similar acoustic/violin/cello interaction) and the swirling crescendos of Explosions in the Sky. I'm so glad I own this record.

Ethic of the Pioneer
Horse to Stable
[from The Millions Too Many|buy]