song obsession friday! (around leap day)

February 24th, 2012

Song obsessions are those songs that get stuck in your head. This series of posts isn’t about what I or the other panel members think is best, but what our brain latches onto, those ear worms that loop around and around in your head.

Adrian (me):
Geographer – Original Sin (On Airstreaming session) (mp3) (buy original)

Geographer live >> Geographer on record. That’s just a fact. And, personally, I like their stripped versions (find another here) more. I found this video last week and just kept hitting repeat on it. There’s something about it, between the catchy original song, the compelling presentation, and Mike’s vocal acrobatics at the end of the track that does it for me.

Geotic – Riding Thermals (mp3) (download free)

I’ve been slowly moving towards melodic ambient music for a while now – it seems a logical outgrowth of my love for both sad bastard and instrumental music. I saw Geotic open for The One Am Radio and Dntel when they were in town, and liked him immediately (incidentally, I’m not as interested in his “main” identity of Baths, but whatever). I got home late that night, downloaded a lot of his stuff, which he offers for free, and went on a binge of dreamy drone.

This track has become my favorite of his – I think it’s a combination of the simple melodic movement, and the more subtle guitar texture in the background. He tells the story of having had it looped for 4 hours one morning – I find myself wishing that I could set loop in/out points in iTunes, so I could do the same.

Al James – Cloudy Shoes (mp3) (download, pre-order the Jurado version)

Leading up to the new Damien Jurado album “Maraqopa” the Seattle Times did a feature of local Seattle artists covering one of their own. Al James covered the Jurado track ‘Cloudy Shoes’. Since Dolorean has not so slowly been becoming one of my all time favourite bands, in turn covering someone who is already one of my all time favourites found me listening over and over again. Why wouldn’t this one be stuck on repeat? It really is a no brainer for me… it just feels right/normal to listen to this song as it seems eerily natural for me just to play it and without a thought just clicking the back arrow to hear it again. I like to think of it as a tribute to the original but will settle for calling it a “cover” if I must…

Cinematic Orchestra – Build a Home (mp3) (buy)

I saw this video a couple weeks ago and the song really grabbed my attention. I like the sparseness of the piano, strings and vocals, it just works really well.

The Lumineers – Slow It Down (mp3) (download with subscription)

I really can’t wait for their album release in April. Until then, this Daytrotter version will do.

song obsession friday! (nearish Valentine’s day)

February 10th, 2012

damien jurado
Damien Jurado’s “Working Titles” was my song obsession this time

Song obsessions are those songs that get stuck in your head. This series of posts isn’t about what I or the other panel members think is best, but what our brain latches onto, those ear worms that loop around and around in your head.

Adrian (me):
Damien Jurado – Working Titles (mp3) (pre-order)

I’d heard a couple tracks from the forthcoming Maraqopa and they were good, but when I heard this one (via Heather) I was in love. A waltz-time break-up song about someone writing a song about you, it swings and soars in a lovely way that reminds me of songs from the ’50s. But it also has Jurado’s keenly written lyrics; this is filled with amazing lines. “If I show up in the titles of your songs// I only hope someone requests it.”

Sprites – Follow Her Around (mp3) (buy)

Following Her Around is a tune that hits the spot for me in a lot of ways. Jangly 90’s indiepop, nostalgia for your early 20’s, and the dream of a girl with perfect taste in movies and music. Plus, any song that name drops the Karmann Ghia is alright in my book.

Great American Desert (formerly South of Lincoln) – Thirteen (mp3) (buy)

The song is old testament good. This is essentially speaks of becoming an adult at the ripe old age of 13 and haunts you with the rough and challenging life many (hopefully that of others) live. The stark acoustics and slight drawl in the vocals of Max Holmquist make this a cautionary tale of times that might not be so long lost. Oh, and it just guitar stumming just echos in my head as I play out this soundtrack of a father/son power struggle.

Delay Trees – Gold (mp3) (buy)

I heard about this finnish group when listening to NPR Music’s year end (2011) wrap-up and made note of them, but didn’t listen more until a couple weeks ago. I’m now a bit obsessed with this whole album actually, but the lead-off track really stands out. ‘Gold’ has a perfect build, rising to a soaring, Explosions in The Sky-esque peak, then releasing suddenly and transitioning smoothly into the second track. It must be the combination of pop and post-rock that really gets me, because I just keep hitting repeat.

Blouse – Into Black (mp3) (buy)

First heard this one on a PDX Now! compilation and now that their debut album is out it’s official that this track is the retro-gothy standout. The bass guitar riff mates mouth-watering flavor with a downbeat tempo and even more importantly resists the temptation to dominate the proceedings, giving way to a glossy chorus that provides a precisely uplifting counterpoint.

charles bradley & his extraordinaires @ the brighton music hall (review, photos)

February 7th, 2012

charles bradley

Charles Bradley says “I love you all” and I believe him. We all believe him. Then, as if there is any doubt, he walks to the edge of the stage, looking for a moment like he’ll take a stage dive, climbs off the stage and starts hugging people. He makes his way through the crowd for what seems like a long time, just hugging his now fans.

charles bradley

63 year old Charles Bradley, after years of poverty, living on the streets, being a chef in Alaska and a handy-man in New York, and occasionally playing a James Brown-like show as “Black Velvet”, finally released his debut album No Time for Dreaming last year. (He also released a few 7″s starting in 2002.) It was among the best debuts of 2011 and one of the best entries in the retro soul genre of bands recalling the sounds of R&B in the ’60s and ’70s.

charles bradley kneeling

Walking off the college-student-filled streets of Allston, into the sold out Brighton Music Hall, I saw DJ PJ Gray spinning some slamming soul 45″s on his turntables near the soundbooth. I took this as a good sign. Finding my way through the mostly young, mostly white crowd, I found a spot near the front on the left side of the stage. The Extraordinaires, Charles Bradley’s backing band–guitar, bass, drums, organ, tenor saxophone and trumpet–for this tour, took the stage to average applause. All young and mostly white, they launched into an instrumental groove that quickly dispelled any doubts if they could play authentic soul and funk–these were obviously kids who were not only talented at their instruments but were well versed in the classics they were emulating.

charles bradley horn players

After a couple instrumental numbers, the organ player came to the main microphone and, in soul show style, played the hype man and introduced the singer, ending with “Give it up for ‘The Screaming Eagle of Soul’, Charles Bradley!” The room filled with cheers.

Bradley, smiling and wearing a ’70s style three-piece suit, greeted the crowd as the band launched into the next song. Rhythm section grooving, organ adding accents and horns nailing backup lines, Bradley’s voice quickly soared above it all. With James Brown-like screeches and wails, he blew through songs, full-voiced and using a deep well of emotion and experience to give appropriate and fantastic weight to his words. By the third song, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “This is why I go to live music.” This is that once-a-year (or more) live show that buoys the spirit and leaves one with new respect not only for the artist but music in general.

Bradley sang and gestured and balled up his fists against his chest, but he also knelt, pantomimed his cross to bear using the microphone stand and, of course, danced–sometimes slick, practiced moves and others that seemed like he came up with on the spot. He did fast feet, went down in splits, and ground his hips.

charles bradley

Midway through the show, Bradley left the stage while the band did another instrumental groove. Bradley reemerged having gone through a costume change–shiny pants and an African-print vest that split open at the bottom to reveal his slight gut.

As the show went on, the band hit their hard notes harder, their soft notes softer and Bradley’s anguish, pain–one song is about his brother being shot and killed; another about drifting around trying to find a job–and joy all worked themselves out simultaneous. Here was a man who had led a tough life, struggling and striving to be a performer for years, finally getting his chance to perform in front of sold out audiences. And this audience accepted this and returned with an ecstatic atmosphere–cheers, shouts, hands-in-the-air.

charles bradley mic stand as cross

The set ended in a frenzy with the band in a loud, hard groove and Bradley on one knee talk-singing the words to the Lord’s Prayer, transported perhaps somewhere between the Lord and the audience for that moment. He stood up, declared his love for all of us and went into the audience for that multitude of hugs.

The show seemed over, the band left the stage and Bradley was somewhere in the crowd, but eventually the loud cheers brought the band back to the stage. After one last, quick instrumental, Bradley returned to the stage for “Why is it So Hard,” the anguished burning ballad from No Time for Dreaming, letting his own anguish pour out, leaving the audience nearly speechless.

At the end of it all, there was only one thing that could be said: I love you, too, Charles Bradley.

charles bradley

See the full set of photos on flickr.

Enter a contest to have Charles Bradley serenade your loved one for Valentine’s day.

Tour dates for the US, Canada, Australian and Europe after the jump. I highly recommend trying to see him if you can.

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