Now Cake is a band known for its simplistic arrangements, but the guitar solo at 4:45 really takes the… cake. Backed myself into a corner on that one. What makes it so great is the guitarist just rocking out on that one note – to the adoration of thescreaming fans below. Never has the one note solo been so successfully employed in a song, so kudos, Cake.
2. “Icky Thump” by the White Stripes
The blips and bleeps that make up the solo at the end of this song are surprisingly melodic – despite the fact that most of them sound like a dying calf. Jack White is the master of odd noises as evidenced by the bagpipe sound that he pulls out of his guitar earlier in the song. Or maybe he plays bagpipe also. Who knows?
3. “Fresh Garbage” by Spirit
Now John Locke’s organ solo in this song isn’t so bad, (we’ll get to one that’s far worse) but the section around 2:00 where he starts jabbing at two dissonant notes on the keyboard is mind blowing. Bassist Mark Andes joins in on the fun by playing a swath of discordant notes at 2:05. All of this was done cognizantly however. I’m not sure I can say the same thing about our number 5 solo.
4. “If” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
What were they thinking when they included this song on their latest album, Stadium Arcadium? There’s not really a solo in this song, but John Frusciante I’m sure is really holding back some strong words as he watches Flea rock out while he sits dejectedly in the corner plucking half notes. And what about the accordionist? Poor fellow, who only get’s to play one chord throughout the entire nearly three minute song. That was probably Chad Smith being punished by the band for losing his light up drum kit. “Here, Chad, hold these three notes and Squeeze”.
1. “Do It Again” by Steely Dan
OK. This is le creme de le creme of terrible solos. I don’t care, Wikipedia, that it was “among the first in popular musicto include an organsolo featuring a pitch-shifting technique”. It’s simply not good. It’s awesome that it’s on the album recording, for sure, but especially following atfer Denny Dias’ spectacular electric-sitar solo, what was Donald Fagen thinking? It get’s better towards the end, but those first few measures…. man.
Most of the time, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what our northern neighbor is up to…. until the Olympics, that is. Suddenly I’m seeing more advertisements for whale-watching in the Canadian outback than commercials featuring creepily mature babies talking about their stock options. And for me, that’s a problem. That, and getting whooped by both the British and the Canadians in curling. (Full disclosure: I’m watching curling right now, and the match is not going so well.)
The point I’m trying to slowly meandering towards is that Canada has great music, and the Canadian music scene is something definitely worth paying attention to.
The Band, on a beach near Robertson's house in Malibu in 1975
There are the big names in Canadian music. Perhaps the biggest being The Band, from Toronto, which was four-fifths Canadian, with legends Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson (fun fact: Roberstson just masterminded the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese psychological thriller Shutter Island). The one non-Canadian in the band was “the only drummer that could make you cry” – America’s own Levon Helm.
Also from Toronto was a band I talked about last week, the prog rock gods, Rush. Their last album, Snakes and Arrows, came out in 2007 but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy. The Sports Network (TSN), Canada’s ESPN, was looking for a way to add some pizazz to their outdated “The Hockey Theme”, originally composed in 1968. The solution? The theme, which plays before all NHL games on the network, would be re-recorded by Mr. Peart which means many, many drum fills. Oh, so many drum fills. Check it out:
The new theme is set to play for the rest of the season, and hopefully will last longer than a previous tongue in cheek version recorded by the Barenaked Ladies, who also happen to be from Toronto.
Back to music that is actually written by the artists themselves: From Midland, Ontario comes one of my favorite bands, The Born Ruffians. Formed by Luke Lalonde, Mitch Derosier and Steven Hamelin, the band makes some great music that is sparse and erratic yet wonderfully rich. Take a listen to this song, and be warned that it gets a little gory towards the end:
Luke’s unique voice is what sets the band apart from other small-time indie bands, and in terms of classic vocalists he can doo wop with the best of them. In preparation for the release of their upcoming album, Say It, the band will be playing in March at the SXSW music festival but they’ll be stopping by New York before then for two private shows, one at Colgate University and the other at NYU, for the lucky students who attend those schools.
We head back to Montreal for the so-called “trip rock” band, Beast, consisting of just two members: Betty Bonifassi, and Jean-Phi Goncalves. They’ve been growing in popularity because in addition to their main single “Mr. Hurricane” being a free download on iTunes, it was nominated at the Grammys for Best Short Form Video. Despite Bonifassi’s annoying tendency to add unnecessary syllables to words (“me-a”, “safety-a”, “sea-a” etc.), the song’s really fun to listen to thanks to a fantastic drum and bass section and some spiffy production courtesy of Goncalves. And the video has some pretty cool special effects, done at a discount by Joshua Sherrett who worked on 300. But the song is the best part, and if you don’t like bees, don’t watch this:
But no Canadian group has been so prominent in recent years as The Arcade Fire, indie-rock superstars. Husband and wife duo Win Bulter and Régine Chassange have led the band to incredible fame. They have been all over the place: possibly working with Owen Pallett (the indie-violinist who formerly released solo works under the name Final Fantasy) on the soundtrack for Richard Kelley’s (who directed Donnie Darko) upcoming film The Box (incidentally, The Box is also a Canadian new-wave band from the eighties); re-recording their song “Wake Up” for the Where the Wild Things Are trailer; and licensing that same song for this past Superbowl – all the while coming in and out of the studios so they can release their third LP sometime later this year. Wow that was a mouthful.
Some of the members of The Arcade Fire, with Butler and Chassange and their duplicates in the center
For the ardent Arcade Fire fans, here’s something at least I hadn’t heard about until this week: Three other members of The Arcade Fire, Sarah Neufeld, Kelly Pratt and Pietro Amato, play in the six person instrumental band Bell Orchestre. Here’s a sample of what their hauntingly beautiful music sounds like:
I’ll come back to Bell Orchestre and Owen Pallett as well as the progressive bluegrass band, Nickel Creek, and others next Monday as I take a look at some bands that have been pushing the boundaries of rock and roll.
Well, we lost our match against Britain, effectively dashing our (my – and his) hopes at a curling medal. Canada is 6-0 at the time of this post… I guess they know what the sport is all aboot.
Shoot. I promised myself that I would contain my Canadian accent… but no one’s gonna take it to heart, eh? OKAY, I’ll stop. As long as Canada keeps turning out great tunes, I’ll leave them alone. I can take solace in good music. That, and the fact that we beat them in hockey. USA!
[If I missed your favorite Canadian band, please feel free to let me and the rest of the readers know by leaving a comment down below!]
Peter Gabriel, the former lead singer of Genesis, is putting out a new album. It happens to be his first in seven years. It also happens to be contain covers (or “song-swaps”) of some of the most varied big-name artists. Here’s the full track list:
01 “Heroes” (David Bowie)
02 “The Boy in the Bubble” (Paul Simon)
03 “Mirrorball” (Elbow)
04 “Flume” (Bon Iver)
05 “Listening Wind” (Talking Heads)
06 “The Power of the Heart” (Lou Reed)
07 “My Body Is a Cage” (Arcade Fire)
08 “The Book of Love” (The Magnetic Fields)
09 “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy Newman)
10 “Après moi” (Regina Spektor)
11 “Philadelphia” (Neil Young)
12 “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” (Radiohead)
Most of those names are familiar, I’m sure, but some may not be. Elbow is a British band – heavily influenced by U2 – that sounds like a stripped down Coldplay. The Magnetic Fields come out of Boston. As a point of reference, both bands have been about for 20 years.
Album Art for Scratch My Back
Starting his musical career as a drummer, Peter Gabriel was drawn into music by its craftwork. In an interview on his website, Gabriel says that he’s alway had interest in doing “the dreaded covers album”. But he wasn’t about to go about it in any old fashion. He reflects, “I thought, ‘If I’m going to do that, I’m going to do something different with it.”
Gabriel wanted to create self-imposed rules to rein in the creative process, stating that “giving an artist total freedom is castrating them”. At first he toyed with the idea of using homemade instruments, but finally decided that a strict no guitar, no drums policy would be the way that Scratch My Back would go.
And in the absence of guitar and drums, Peter Gabriel has turned to New Zealand composer John Metcalfe, who has written string arrangements for The Cranberries and The Pretenders. But the compositions on this record have strayed far from the beaten pop path into the realm of minimalist and classical music. Gabriel himself says that Metcalfe had Steve Reich and Arvo Part in mind when composing the music.
This has led to the creation of songs that deserve to be listened to with your full attention. These songs create in my mind a white, unadorned and simple room where the empty space is filled in by the beautiful textures of Metcalfe’s compositions.
But enough talking, take a listen and decide for yourself. First up, “Heroes”, originally by David Bowie.
A fantastic string section adds a dramatic edge to the song, especially in the context of Gabriel’s recent contribution of the track in an effort to support Haiti.
His cover of the Bon Iver song, “Flume”, starts with somber piano and then slowly brings out french horns and coronets to back the haunting lyrics, “Sky is womb and she’s the moon”. Take a listen, and if you like it, you can download the song here.
But the pinnacle of the album, or at least the songs I’ve heard so far, is his cover of The Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage” – an incredibly original and dynamic song to begin with. The song explodes two and a half minutes in, and is the only song on the album to feature a full chorus.
By contrast, his cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” is surprisingly disappointing. Barely choking out the words, or just grumbling at times, it’s simply not pleasurable to listen to.
But in the end, Peter Gabriel really has accomplished a great deal with this album. In his own words, “working with the negative” of the songs allowed him to set his album on a different plane than where the “positives” lie.
So the cold, cruel North Wind may blow, but sure isn’t stopping bands coming from the balmier parts of the country to play in NYC.
Washington State may not be particularly balmy right now, but it is quite a distance for the folk darling Brandi Carlile to come to play just for you. This Wednesday, the 3rd, she’ll be performing a sold out show at Ridgefield Playhouse. If you don’t have tickets, try to find some online, because she’s an extremely powerful singer. Check out this weird but fun video for her latest hit “Dreams” off her third album Give Up the Ghost.
On second review, the video is a little creepy – mostly because she sings half of the song with her eyes closed, lying down in the crook of a willow tree. But we’ll let it slide because it’s such a strong song.
Giveaway! Head over to the Listener Advisory Board right now to win some tickets to see the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures at the Roseland Ballroom on February 8th. You can read about them in this post from last November.
The men of Delta Spirit, lead singer Matt Vasquez second from left
Coming from a really warm clime is the California band, Delta Spirit. Coming out of San Diego, the band’s only been around since 2005, and have only released one full-length album, Ode to Sunshine. Well they’re playing four whole shows in NYC this month, on the 4th and the 11th at Pianos, and the 5th and the 12th at Union Hall in Brooklyn. You may have heard their song “People C’mon” on the Peak
They’ll be playing that and other songs of Ode to Sunshine, hopefully in addition to a few sneak peeks off of their upcoming record, History from Below, due out in May.
Here’s the video for “People C’mon”, lying at the intersection of art and violence:
Speaking of a lot of shows, Citizen Cope a.k.a. Clarence Greenwood is playing five already sold out shows in NYC. The 10th and 11th, he’ll be at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and then on the 12th,
13th and 14th he’s relocating to the Bowery Ballroom. The reason he’s selling out all of these shows is that on Tuesday he’s releasing his third album The Rainwater LP, especially important since the now brooklyn-based artist hasn’t released anything since his Clarence Greenwood Recordings in 2004.
That’s a jam-packed week, because just before Citizen Cope gets to the Ballroom, the Aussie John Butler Trio will be headlining there. They’ve got an album coming out soon too; April Rising, the band’s fifth.
Then on the 16th, after Mr. Cope clears out, Phish’s Trey Anastasio will be taking over Bowery Ballroom. He’s hitting the road again starting on the 8th in Virginia with his “Classic Trey Anastasio Band (TAB)”. He says he’ll be trying out some new songs – in his words, TAB “is sort of a breeding ground for Phish material”. You can check out the interview with him that I was reading here.
Now you may be reading this and thinking to yourself “Gee, how did I not know that Bowery Ballroom was such a groovy place? Why don’t I go there all the time?” And the answer is because if you just go to Bowery Ballroom then you would miss Eric Clapton coming to Madison Square Garden!
Jeff Beck, left and Eric Clapton, right
That’s right, Thursday and Friday, February 18th and 19th Eric Clapton will be playing two shows at the Knicks’ home, with long time fellow guitarist Jeff Beck. Beck just yesterday won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for his work on “A Day In The Life” off of his 2009 Performing This Week…Live At Ronnie Scott’s. This makes him a five-time Grammy winner, which is also how many Grammys Beyonce won last night.
If that’s not enough stardom for you, John Mayer will be playing on the 25th and 26th, with guest Michael Franti on the “Battle Studies Tour”. Everyone knows John Mayer now, and a growing number of people know Mr. Franti through his super catchy song “Say Hey” off of 2008’s All Rebel Rockers.
Finally, don’t miss Umphrey’s McGee coming to Nokia Theater on the 25th also. They played last year at Summerstage in Central Park, and it was a really fun show. If you’re thinking about going, practice your “U” hand signs well in advance.
Phew! Well happy concert hunting in New York’s back yard – and don’t let these winter blues get you down.
[If you end up going to one of these or any other concerts this month please let us know how it was – if you met the band, or even if you just moshed a little bit.]
To make sure you didn’t miss out on it, this past Thursday I let you know of a few ways that caring souls in the music community were pitching in to help raise awareness and garner donations for the victims of the recent 7.0 earthquake that occurred just outside of Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti.
Bands and artists are finding unique ways to urge people to chip in to the relief effort. Music for Relief, a non-profit organization founded by the members of Linkin Park that has raised $3 million dollars since its founding, is currently offering a compilation album for free on its website, urging you to donate after the download. The album features unreleased music by artists such as Peter Gabriel, Alanis Morisette, Linkin Park, The Dave Matthews Band and more. You can check out the full track listing and get more information about Music for Relief on their website by clicking here.
Download “Typical Situation (Live)” by The Dave Matthews Band off of Download to Donate for Haiti – courtesy of Music for Relief
Paste Magazine's Songs for haiti
Paste magazine has set up songsforhaiti.org, where hundreds of artists have donated tracks in an effort to entice more people to donate. The funds raised will be split three ways between Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. Artists in the download archive include quite a handful of Peak regulars: Andrew Bird, Ben Folds, Bob Mould, Cowboy Junkies, Indigo Girls, Marc Broussard, Of Montreal, She & Him, The Avett Brothers, Dan Dyer, The Decemberists, The Jayhawks, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee and many many more.
Paste is aware that this may not be the best way to raise support. In their words:
We don’t think people should donate to the relief efforts in Haiti just to get a reward. But this gives Paste and artists a way to help, using the thing we’re most passionate about—music.
And seeing as they’ve already raised over $100,000 through Songs for Haiti, it has proven to be a smart idea.
In the realm of raising awareness, one artist has gone above and beyond normal measures in telling her personal story. Régine Chassange, of The Arcade Fire, wrote a heart-breaking piece for the Guardian the Sunday before last documenting her shock and disbelief as she saw and felt the events of the earthquake unfolded. Régine is one of the founding members of the Montreal band, where she sings vocals and mans the accordion (and the drums and xylophone and piano from time to time). Although she is a citizen in both Canada and the U.S., her family emigrated from Haiti before she was born, and therefore news of the earthquake affected her in ways that those who don’t have relatives there will not be able to understand.
I ran downstairs and turned on the television. It was true. Tears came rushing right to my eyes and I let out a cry, as if I had just heard that everybody I love had died. The reality, unfortunately, is much worse. Although everything around me is peaceful, I have been in an internal state of emergency for days. My house is quiet, but I forget to eat (food is tasteless). I forget to sleep. I’m on the phone, on email, non-stop. I’m nearly not moving, but my pulse is still fast. I forget who I talked to and who I told what. I leave the house without my bag, my keys. I cannot rest.
Partners in Health
In her article, she beckons her readers to donate to Partners in Health, saying that PIH is the best relief organization “in terms of thorough medical care, follow-up and combining of parallel necessary services (education, sanitation, training, water, agriculture)”. You can read the full article here.
But for every shining instance of goodwill, there are plenty who pass up opportunities to pitch in. If none of the above relief efforts moved you, here is a list of ways to help support those in need, including a breakdown how each organization uses its resources.
Thank you for doing your part to help those who, at this point in time, can’t help themselves. To quote Régine again we, as humans, are “[i]mpossibly weak, but standing”. And as we look to the horizon in this dark night and broaden our awareness of those in need, we can see the sun begin to spill outward and upward. My thoughts are with Haiti.
[PS: If there is a relief organization or effort that you would like to bring to this blog’s attention, please feel free to talk about it in a comment below – thanks!]
*Thanks to my readers for informing me that it is no longer 2009.
So in my zeal to try out posting some decades-old Spirit for your entertainment pleasure, I completely neglected a close-up look at some of the concerts that are coming through New York’s backyard this month.
The Little Feat lineup in 2009
This Tuesday, you can catch Little Feat at The Concert Hall in NYC, on 64th Street just west of Central Park. They’re playing in despite of the fact that, as they announced in August, Richie Hayward, drummer and founding member of the band is battling cancer of the liver. The band has offered many ways to support Richie on their website. In the meantime, the best way to support the band is by hopping on that One train and seeing what’s always been a great live performance, provided by a living legend Bill Payne.
But if Little Feat doesn’t strike your fancy, how about a band that combines two of America’s favorite things: vampires and weekends. Vampire Weekend, the uber-trendy nerd band from Colombia University (just a jaunt North on that very same One train), is doing three shows in three nights in NYC. They’re appearing first at Union Palace on Sunday the 17th, followed by Webster Hall on the 18th and Bowery Ballroom on the 19th. They’ve been around for three years now, featuring Ezra Kroenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio. The reason for the band’s heavy touring is upcoming release of their second album, Contra (2010). Expectations are high, but most eagerly awaiting fans were appeased by this nifty, frenetic and sometimes creepy video for the first single off the album, “Cousinz”:
Bonus! Click here to download a fun remix of “Cousinz” by Toy Selectah. And if you want to get a jumpstart on Contra (which comes out tomorrow), you can stream the whole thing on the band’s website.
And the talented Suzanne Vega will be in her hometown of New York City on January 28th. Her most recent album, Beauty and Crime, was released in 2007. It featured “Frank and Ava” a subdued song that paints the tumultuous relationship between Frank Sinatra and his second wife, Ava Gardner. Just last year, she worked on an album (still unreleased for legal reasons) with musician and producer Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley) and the indie band Sparklehorse. If all of these funky names are making you anxious, here’s a throwback to the song that made Ms. Vega the “Mother of the Mp3“:
How calming is that? For more artists, concerts and concert information, check out the Peak’s Concert Calendar (put together by yours truly).
Next week: I examine a great find that’s coming straight from the Peak’s junk pile to your ears. Until then, happy listening!
PEAK KEYWORD: COUSINZ
[If you’ve looked at the concert calendar, and you think there’s a band or singer more important than the three I’ve mentioned here – please let me know!]
So no radio station blog-writing intern is perfect, and this one is no exception. In August, when this blog was still a baby germ of an idea, I came across an article talking of an upcoming album, The Sun Came Out, by a group called “7 Worlds Collide”.
What caught my eye at the time were some of the names on the back of the CD. 7 Worlds Collide is the brainchild of New Zealand rocker Neil Finn. In tow is Scottswoman KT Tunstall; Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, plus fellow band members John Stirratt, Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche; Phil Selway, the drummer from Radiohead is on there; and so are Neil’s two sons – Liam and Elroy and his brother, Tim. And there are plenty more.
The 7 Worlds Collide lineup
Jeff Tweedy of Wilco
Talk about some world class rockers – you’ve at least heard Neil Finn’s voice backing Sheryl Crow’s “Every Day is a Winding Road”. You’ve heard numerous cuts on the Peak off Tunstall’s debut album Eye to the Telescope – most notably “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”. Wilco and Radiohead pretty much go with out saying, and if you’re a devout listener, then you may remember hearing Liam Finn’s “Second Chance” on Next about two or three years back.
Now when I went back to find that original article last night, I’ll confess I was a little mixed up – and found a bunch of great information about the soy milk company – 8th Continent.
But soy milk and British internet tech firms ( Continent 8 ) aside, check out some of these videos to see the really great songs that make up The Sun Came Out. You can head over to their website, and buy the album for just five pounds!
The best part is all proceeds from the band go to benefit Oxfam, a non-profit that brings aid to those living in poverty. So by listening to great music you get to help the poor. And just in time for the Holidays too!
And don’t forget to check back next Monday for Josh The Intern’s Blog (JTIB)’s first annual Record of Records (no science included)! I’ll be looking at some of my favorite records of the year based around arbitrary categories – you’ll see. But if you’ve got an album that you’ve been digging and it’s from ’09, drop me an email or a comment and maybe it’ll deserve a category of its own.
Check out these great videos from 7 Worlds Collide:
A really great intro video for the 7 Worlds concert this past January
So first up: “Hazel Black” with KT Tunstall
Next, father and son perform “Learn to Crawl”, a truly powerful song
And last but not least, Mr. Selway gets his chance to be a songwriter with “The Ties That Bind Us”
**UPDATE** Hot off the press: The new music video for “Up Here For Thinking, Down There For Dancing”
If you haven’t heard of Black Taxi, it’s time to start tuning in.
The band from left to right: Bill, Ezra, Kris, and Jason
Black Taxi was formed in 2007 in the heart of Brooklyn by Ezra Huleatt, Bill Mayo, Kris Soponpong, and Jason Holmes. The most important thing you need to know about these guys is that they are very, very good at their job. What is that job? Putting on a great live show that rests on a backbone of catchy rock songs that have the uncanny ability to wriggle their way into your bones.
Can you label them? People have tried. Attempts include “indie rock”, “rockabilly”, “part-rock, part-carnival”, and “high-octane punk infused with a swagger found in … a Tarantino Film”. The band likes to promote this mystique as well. For example:
BLACK TAXI plays like a vintage spaghetti western dressed up in neon lights…the soundtrack to that desert road trip you should have taken back when your girl dumped you and you chanced upon her acid cache.
Black Taxi at the M.E.A.N.Y. Festival in January
But acid caches and spaghetti westerns aside, Black Taxi is really doing something right. In just two years, they’ve gone from one in a sea of indie bands out of Brooklyn to winning the 2008 M.E.A.N.Y. Festival for best new NY band, and releasing their first full-length album with a show (/party) at the Blender Theater this past September. The Peak’s Chris Bro recently gave them 4 straight weeks of airplay on his show, NEXT, so you know they’re good.
Kris on stage
And with four shows lined up in NYC between now and February, they’re here to stay. The new album, Things of That Nature (self released), has got some old favorites reworked like this one, which I featured a while back, and some new gems like their boppin’ “Up Here For Thinking, Down There For Dancing”.
I saw these guys this past August at the Rack n’ Roll Cafe in Stamford, CT as part of the NEXT Charity Concert Series. It was a great show, and the amazing thing is – the guys were really humble after the show. Ezra is captivating to watch on stage – often baring his chest in a true display of 70’s rock-god showmanship. And once the tight guitar licks lock in with the slick bass and sick drums, it’s game over.
Ezra rallying the troops
So the bottom line? I give them less than a year before a record label snatches them up – if they want to be snatched, that is. But label or no label, Black Taxi will continue to take the East Coast by storm. Check out the “This Week” tab for some of their latest songs and videos, and a sweet Talking Heads cover. And no matter if you love ’em or hate ’em say it!
Check out some tunes and videos from New York’s own Black Taxi.
Wanted Man (2008 Untitled EP)
Bon Appetit (not released)
Some clips and music:
Love Song For a Ghost (Things of That Nature)
And don’t forget to check out their great cover of the Talking Heads’ Life in Wartime .
“Cause I wore my tye-dyes
until they rotted to shreds
and I can no longer follow
The Greatful Dead
and it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even identify with most Phish fans anymore”
That’s from the Jeffery Lewis song “I Saw a Hippy Girl on 8th Avenue”. But just because most hippies have successfully made the transition into the 21st century isn’t a reason to shun Phish. As you might guess, there are plenty of great reasons to catch them while they’re in the area. Starting tonight through Friday they’ll be at Madison Square Garden, so you can just hop on down to midtown for what’s going to be a great show. They just put out a new album – “Joy” this year, which was a first for them in five years. And in part of the buzz-making process they played a full-length acoustic set a month ago at Festival 8. So anything will be possible at these upcoming shows.
Also, tomorrow night you can catch another fantastic show – Tim Reynolds at the Blender Theater at Gramercy. Tim, as you know, is good friends with Dave Matthews since they met at a bar in 1987 and most recently played Electric guitar on Dave’s “Big Whiskey and the Gru Grux King” which came out earlier this year. Tim will be performing with appearing with the other two members of the Tim Reynolds Three (TR3). It’s going to be awesome, and what’s more – we’re giving away tickets to the show! Sign up in the lab soon!
Jumping ahead two days we come to a band that I’m very excited about and frustrated at the same time. Excited, because they put on an incredible live show, and frustrated, since I’m not going to be able to go. I’m talking about The Cat Empire, who are coming to the Nokia Theater on the 5th. If you haven’t heard of The Cat Empire, they’re a Aussie rock band out of Melbourne, that’s got a great world sound to their music. The last time they were in NYC was three years ago, where they opened for the Brazilian Girls at a free Summerstage show in Central Park.
Felix Reibl, right, and Harry Angstrom, left of The Cat Empire
But they’re back now, one album later, with the devilishly handsome Felix Reibl leading the vocals. Following close behind is Harry Angstrom, who’s voice can be heard on about half of the band’s new tracks. Harry backs up his powerful tenor voice with a blazing trumpet that cuts through the rest of the music. And he scats to boot. Of all the shows in NYC this month, this is the one I wish I could go to the most. So please, if you can, check it out for me and let me know how it was.
Good friend of the station Derek Trucks will be playing with his band down at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU on the tenth, with a follow up performance the next day at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill. Audiences at both shows will be treated to a performance by Shannon McNally as well, the singer/songwriter from Long Island.
Matthew Paul Miller a.k.a. Matisyahu
Now in the realm of Zion-reggae, December means Hanukkah time, and when Hanukkah rolls around, things come in eights. White Plains’ own Matisyahu knows this and that’s why he’s got eight shows this month – a climactic end to his appropriately named Festival of Lights tour, which has been ongoing since the release of his latest album “Light” in August. The 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th you can catch the bearded bard at Webster Hall, and the 16th, 17th, 19th and 20th he’ll be at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. Each show will be with a different local artist ranging from indie singer Kevin Devine to dub rock group Dub Trio – both from Brooklyn. Check online to try and win free tickets from The Peak!
December gets rounded out with two great female performers – Ingrid Michaelson and Dar Williams. Michaelson will be performing a sold-out show at City Winery on the 21st, a Monday, as she settles down in New York for the holidays. She’s just come off of a host of shows abroad with fellow musician Greg Laswell in Europe. Hopefully you snagged tickets for that show.
And Dar Williams will be playing at Southpaw Entertainment and Music in Brooklyn on the 27th. Support this Mt. Kisco singer by seeing her live in her home state. Plus Vanguard Records is offering a free holiday sampler of some of their singer/songwriters. She is giving away one of her songs, It’s Alright, which was the first cut off her 2008 album “Promised Land”. Incidentally, Greg Laswell is on the album as well, with his cover of Kristen Hersh’s “Your Ghost”.
So big things, as always, happening in New York’s backyard. Check them out – and if you feel like there’s a great concert or event going on that I should be talking about, feel free to leave me a comment.
So happy holidays – and make sure to see some great concerts so you’ll have plenty of conversation material to fall back on at that awkward holiday work party.
Imagine holding your Thanksgiving dinner in the back of a bar. As Dad carves up the turkey, cigarette smoke wafts around the room. There is an extreme sense of stillness and quiet in the room that mingles with low tenor saxophones playing in the opposite corner. It’s dark – past two a.m., and there’s a guy who’s been staring at you all night long. The place was packed with bodies and vitality at one point, but is now empty.
Now, why you’re having your Thanksgiving dinner in a bar, I can’t say, and I certainly don’t recommend it. However this is a brief glimpse into how it feels to experience the great 90’s band Morphine. Their sound arose from the alleyways of Boston and slowly crept across the country. It was a truly innovative blend of rock roots and jazz elements that steered away from guitar-centric song composing.
The band was led by the dark voice of Mark Sandman, who joined together with his college roommate, Dana Colley, to form the band in 1989. A typical morphine song featured Sandman on his 2-string slide bass, Colley on tenor or bari sax, and then Billy Conway or Jerome Dupree (depending on the era) on drums.
But makes the band so unique is the melancholy that they were able to capture in their music. Their first album, Good, was released in 1992, and was met with some acclaim. The second song on that album is called “The Saddest Song”, where the chorus is “My biggest fear is/If I let you go/ You’ll come and get me in my sleep.”
They soon began to branch out, however, adding more layers and more complex ideas to their work – a particular favorite of mine being “Early to Bed” off of Like Swimming (1997) which I posted on the blog last month. The video for this song is particularly worth checking out – with the three band members operating scaled-up versions of their faces from in their own heads. It’s pretty meta.
But Morphine’s most staggering album came at the end of the band’s career. February 1st 2000 saw the release of The Night. The range that Morphine covers on this record is incredible. For me, the song with the most force is the title track. Although this song is more subdued than the rest on the album, it holds a passion behind that explodes from its restraints. Sandman sings
“You’re the night, Lilah
A little girl lost in the woods
You’re a folktale
You’re a bedtime story
The one that keeps the curtains closed”
The next big ticket number is “Souvenir” which has the slickest bass and drums I’ve ever heard. “Souvenir” is coupled back-to-back with “Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer” both of which have incredible harmonized sax sections.
After that comes “Like a Mirror”. I remember being blown away by this song the first time I heard it – the refrain goes: “I’m a mirror, I’m a mirror, I’m nothing ’till you look at me.” This song, more than any other typifies Morphine’s ability to create an atmosphere
Sandman, left, and Colley, right.
But this story doesn’t have a happy ending – Sandman passed away in June of 1999. While performing at the Nel Nome del Rock festival in Italy, he had a heart attack on stage and died soon thereafter. Colley and Dupree stuck together for a little while to raise funds for the charity they started the Mark Sandman Music Education Fund. They returned to Nel Nome del Rock in 2009 as Members of Morphine to honor the tenth anniversary of Sandman’s death.
Ok, so that got a little more dark that I meant it to be, but Morphine is all about facing dark topics head on. And so should you as well.
So if the typical holiday music fare seems too banal this year, try putting on some Morphine for your friends and family, if nothing else, they’ll think you have an exquisite taste in music. But in all seriousness, this band is one of the most unique groups to come out of the 90’s and if you haven’t heard of them you should definitely take a listen.
Oh, and good news! As it turns out, turkey has no more tryptophan than other meats – so that itis is completely imaginary – just like the state of Nebraska.