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August 30th, 2008

I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the blogosphere that took note of this, but we know I have a soft spot for mid-tempo soul/ R&B songs. It’s Little Anthony & the Imperials, a group which is now 50 years old, performing their 1965 song, “Hurt So Bad”. The verses are so-so but the chorus is classic.

Sort of reminds me of when Darlene Love goes on Letterman at Christmas time; she can still tear it up.

song obsession friday! (for the week ending August 29)

August 29th, 2008

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

Adrian (me):
Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit – Wayne Rooney (mp3) (buy)

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I remembered these guys from SxSW so when the album, A Larum came around, I paid it a little more attention than usual. I was pretty intrigued by it in general but my obsession focussed a bit more quickly on this track. It’s not a particularly long song but it feels like it washes over my ears for a long time. Beautiful melody and instrumentation. The lyrics are engaging and insightful. The slow-down and restart halfway through even plays into my obsession.

Keith:
the Cat’s Miaow – It Might Never Happen (mp3) (buy)

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Y’know how sometimes the random play option can just find a groove and lace together a half dozen songs tighter than an old school Converse? Such was the case last night, when it kicked off 6 song run with Another Sunny Day and provided this sublime slice of indie pop as the capstone, with The High Llamas, Pony Up, Mark Eitzel and Sam Spence providing the meat.

Oz:
Mason Proper – Lock and Key (mp3) (pre-order)

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One of fall releases I’m most excited about. I completely overlooked these guys last year and have quickly fallen in love with the advanced copy of their upcoming release, Olly Oxen Free.

Andy:
Kind of Like Spitting – Title Track (mp3) (unavailable? get track)

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neil halstead @ cafe du nord

August 28th, 2008


opener Miranda Lee Richards

On Tuesday night I saw Neil Halstead at the Cafe du Nord.

Miranda Lee Richards (myspace) was onstage when I arrived. She played acoustic guitar and harmonica and sang. Her sound was pleasant enough in the singer-songwriter genre but I didn’t find it too engaging.

Neil Halstead is the front man in Mojave 3 and he was in the seminal shoegaze act, Slowdive, before that. While I don’t know the recorded output of either of those bands particularly well, he has also released two solo albums, Sleeping on Roads and Oh! Mighty Engine (previously), both of which get a good number of plays on the old ipod.

He started his set alone on the stage with “Martha’s Mantra”, one of my favorite Halstead tunes. After a few more tunes, he was joined by another guitarist and a bass player. Halstead’s tunes are the sort that make you want to dance or jump around. They’re actually quite soporific, but their strength lies in the soothing melodies, his hushed vocals, good lyrics and solid finger-picked guitar patterns.

I feel like his live set could be hit or miss. For me, both times I’ve seen him, I really enjoyed his set. However, I could see that if you’re not in the mood for a very low key show, you might not enjoy it as much.

When the show and encore ended, I looked at my watch and was surprised to see that he’d played for about 1.75 hours; that’s a pretty long set at the Cafe du Nord, especially since much of it was solo or only with a few added flourishes from the other musicians. The time seemed to fly by for me.

on sale soon (08.28.08 edition)

August 28th, 2008

Posted every Thursday, On Sale Soon is a weekly series of the tickets going on sale that weekend.

Where to get tickets: The Independent, Great American Music Hall, Slim’s, Fillmore, Warfield, and other Livenation venues. Another Planet booked venues like Greek Theatre @ Berkeley, Palace of Fine Arts, etc. Bimbo’s.

Note: All the Talking Music series shows at the Herbst Theater are evenings in song and conversation. Tickets for those are available here.

On sale now/ Thursday August 28:
9/25, 9/26 Cold War Kids @ Great American

10/23 The Felice Brothers, Deer Tick @ Great American

11/3 She & Him @ Bimbo’s
11/17 Rachael Yamagata, Meiko, Thao Nguyen, Kate Havnevik, Lenka, Emily Wells @ Great American

On sale Saturday August 30:
11/7 Steel Train, Dear And The Headlights, Forgive Durden @ Bottom of the Hill

On sale Sunday August 31:
10/2, 10/3 Barrington Levy @ The Independent
10/9 Sean Hayes @ The Independent
10/10 Sila and the Afrofunk Experience @ The Independent
10/17 Mondo Cello Fest, Portland Cello Project, Bonfire Madigan, Lindsay Mac, MERCH, Luke Janela @ Slim’s
10/19 Four Year Strong, I Am The Avalanche, This Is Hell, Loss For Words @ Bottom of the Hill
10/22 Fito Reinoso & Ritmo y Armonia, The John Santos Sextet @ Slim’s
10/23 Sherwood, The Pink Spiders, Barcelona, The Reign of Kindo @ Slim’s
10/29 Devin the Dude, Coughee Brothaz @ Slim’s

11/3 Torche, Coliseum, Clouds @ Slim’s
11/9 The King Khan & BBQ Show @ Great American
11/11 Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, The Mother Truckers @ Slim’s

12/2 The Sea and Cake, Field Music @ Great American

Double check all information as venues and promoters often change on-sale times and days up until the last minute.

open source stompbox is very cool, expensive

August 27th, 2008


product image from openstomp.com

Open source hits music geekdom! A guy by the name of Eric Moyer has developed a digital effects pedal, the OpenStomp Coyote-1, that has open source software and documented hardware. Users can make their own patches or combine patches into effects or just download effects others made.

I think this is a really cool idea and it would be cool if more things like this were developed. There are a couple drawbacks: 1) The price tag of $350 is understandable for a small-run production like this is, but it’s a big barrier to entry. 2) As with any open source project, the value of it can depend highly on the quality of the community writing for it. Given the price tag, I would be afraid that the number of people in that community could be too small to make this project great.

The Coyote-1 is available for order now.

special edition of my radio show today: “I Once was Old-Timey (and/ or Irish)”; 3-5pm PST

August 26th, 2008


cred: me

Given all the old-timey (and some Irish and Cape Breton fiddling as well) music I’ve been listening to recently , I’ve decided to do a special edition of my radio show today and I’ll be calling it, “I once was Old-Timey (and/ or Irish)”. I’m also going to throw in some of the current folky stuff and I’ll see if I can make it all work well together.

It will be on today, as with most Tuesdays, from 3-5pm Pacific. It’s on KZSU 90.1 FM in the Bay Area or you can listen online.

During my show you’ll be able to follow along online with my playlist.

rock make street festival 2008

August 25th, 2008

I spent most of Sunday afternoon on Treat Street in the Mission. Blue skies and sunshine greeting the first ever Rock Make Street Festival, co-organized by the rock stars at the Bay Bridged, Tartufi and Whiz Bang Fabrics.

It was a wholly relaxing afternoon with good music, interesting crafts and cool people to chat with. With two stages set up at opposite ends of the block and bands alternating between the two (and crafts between), the only rushing around was portions of the crowd going between the stages during the short set change over times. The stages were actually just tents and the bands being on even ground with the audience made them even more approachable than the normally quite approachable bands are. Almost everything about the afternoon seemed to be geared toward it being a pleasant experience.

Here’s a run down of who I saw.

Settler from San Jose: I arrived right before Settler’s set. While their post rock sound wasn’t ground breaking, it was enjoyable and good.

French Miami: I was obsessed with their “Science Fiction” back in April and I’ve liked their whole EP but I hadn’t seen them before. They put on a pretty tight and energetic set. I’d like to see them again some time. (If you missed this set, they’re playing Tuesday the 26th at the Bottom of the Hill.)

Rademacher and Man/ Miracle: I didn’t hear much of either of these bands as I managed to be at the other end of the street for each.

Emily Jane White (myspace): I’ve seen her a few times now and it’s always been decent, but here her band seemed tighter and the addition of another guitarist/ pedal steel player helped fill out the sound. This was definitely the best I’ve seen her.

Silian Rail: They’d been recommended to me by Will at New & Used Records as really good instrumental indie pop. I’d put they more in line with instrumental indie rock but I did like their sound. The two members (guitar + drums) put on a good show.

Maus Haus: They’ve been really solid both times I’ve seen them. Sunday was no different as they had the crowd into their set of hard-to-describe spastic-freak out-rock.

Tartufi: I chose the wrong time to leave to get a snack. I would have liked to seen their set.

Low Red Land (myspace)
I’d only see them acoustic and on a roof top. Their electric set at the festival was completely different. I didn’t love every song, but they were engaging in the amount of energy they put into their songs and I enjoyed the set overall.

Originally I was a little sad or surprised that the festival was scheduled the same day as Outside Lands’ last day, but in the end I felt it provided an appropriate juxtaposition to that giant, corporate festival: small, DIY, approachable and communal.

singing old-time gospel on four sides of a square: an introduction to sacred harp singing

August 25th, 2008

Gospel singing might bring about a number of images to mind: modern mass choirs, fiery vintage small group gospel, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, James Brown (and Rev. James Cleveland) in Blues Brothers, old Southern gospel, or spiritual bluegrass. I think very few people would immediately think of Sacred Harp singing.

Alabama Sacred Harp Convention – Sherburne (mp3, recorded 1959, from Southern Journey, V. 9: Harp of a Thousand Strings, All Day Singing From the Sacred Harp)

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Sacred Harp is a form of shape note singing, which was developed as a form of notating music such that four shapes on either a line or a space indicate the eight notes of the scale, allowing easier sight-singing than standard notation. (See the scale graphic below.) Sacred Harp was a hymn book written using shape notes in 1850s. It’s been sung in pretty much the same way since that time, largely in the American South. If you’re curious on more of the details, check out this page on how Sacred Harp is sung.


public domain

Alabama Sacred Harp Convention – Ocean (mp3, recorded 1959, from Southern Journey, V. 10: And Glory Shone Around, More All Day Singing From the Sacred Harp)

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I like the music and I like the idea of the music. Usually there is a different conductor for each song, conducting in the center of singers lining four sides of a box. The singers run through the melody tune once on solfege before running through the song once. They then move right on to the next conductor and the next song. There’s no practicing or rehearsing songs. My favorite idiosyncrasy in the style are that the singers just sing. There are usually no pretenses of being polished.

This is, in many ways, truly American music: democratic, individualistic and unpretentious. This is (usually) not music done for performance, not something practiced to death. People sing because they want to create the music, not because they want to be perfect. And the singers usually sing in their natural voices, not trying particularly hard to blend in perfectly with the group. That said, beautiful music comes out of Sacred Harp conventions and groups.

Henagar-Union Sacred Harp Convention – Invocation (mp3, recorded 2006, from I Belong to This Band: 85 Years of Sacred Harp Recordings)

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If you want more information, I’d encourage picking up any of the CDs I’ve plucked tracks from here. They’re all worthwhile, with my favorite being the first, Southern Journey, Vol. 9. There was also recently a documentary, Awake My Soul: the Story of the Sacred Harp that came out two years ago. I haven’t seen it yet, but from the trailer (below), it looks really interesting.

Lee Wells & His Jasper Alabama Sacred Harp Singers – North Point (mp3, recorded 1930, from I Belong to This Band: 85 Years of Sacred Harp Recordings)

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trailer for Awake My Soul: the Story of the Sacred Harp

For those that aren’t content just listening to the music, Sacred Harp singings still happen all over the country and right here in the Bay Area where you can join in singing. You can still buy the Sacred Harp book either at some of the singings or from the publisher.

And, as if that’s not enough proof that this music is still out there, there’s a compilation, Help Me to Sing of current artists coverings songs from the Sacred Harp. It will includes Elvis Perkins doing a version of “Weeping Pilgrim” which Perkins has been doing for a while (and that I’ve been previously impressed with). That compilation comes out October 14.

Update: For a limited time, you can watch Awake My Soul on Pitchfork.tv.

if you’re reading my blog right now, you should go Rock Make Street Festival

August 24th, 2008

If you’re reading my blog on a Sunday morning, perhaps–there’s some small chance–you’re lacking things to do with your time. Well, Rock Make Street Festival starts in a few hours. Organized in part by rock stars over at the Bay Bridged, it’s free and it’ll be a lot of fun. I suggest you head over.

The set times have also been announced (thanks to new and used records for pointing that out):

Dame Satan (12:00pm)
Settler (12:30)
French Miami (1:00)
Rademacher (1:30)
Man/Miracle (2:00)
Emily Jane White (2:30)
Harbours (3:00)
Silian Rail (3:30)
Maus Haus (4:00)
Tartufi (4:30)
Low Red Land (5:00)
Trainwreck Riders (5:30)

The festival will be on Treat Street between 17th and 18th Streets.

song obsession friday! (for the week ending August 22)

August 22nd, 2008

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

Adrian (me):
Avett Brothers – Tear Down this House (mp3) (buy)

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I heard “Murder in the City” at a few blogs, but hearing this song at NPR sold me on getting the EP. I’ve been listening to the whole thing quite a bit, but especially this song (and to a lesser extent “Murder”.) I’m a sucker for a straight up folksy song with a great story and a timeless melody. Oh and tasteful banjo certainly helps, too.

Keith:
No Doubt – Simple Kind of Life (mp3) (buy)

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I’ve never doubted the fun factor of No Doubt’s singles it took a greatest hits collection to finally compel me to compensate them for their talents. While the “It’s My Life” cover was the real impulse behind this purchase several other unknown (to me) tunes also proved their worth, such as this urgently smooth song.

Oz:
Blitzen Trapper – Furr (mp3) (pre-order)

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If there’s a better new track on the world wide web right now, I’d like someone to tell me about it. I’d then say that you are wrong.

Natalie K:
Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines (mp3) (pre-order)

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Let’s just say I can’t wait for The Stand-Ins to come out in September.


Scott:
Amps for Christ – the Cruel Sister (mp3) (out-of-print? buy)

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