My NPR Music Notes newsletter today contained an interesting article on music and kids that completely resonated with me. Entitled Bringing Up Baby, As Music Lovers Might,it speaks to the careful diligence new parents, who are passionate about music, take when selecting the music their child will listen to.
Being a music snob, I always found children’s music to be trite and belittling. Why do we have to dumb down music for children? Just because they’re tiny and unable to speak, doesn’t mean they can’t comprehend what’s going on around them. Turns out I was right about that. Babies can recognize surprisingly complex rhythms and are sensitive to the differences between consonant and dissonant music.
Hell bent on eliminating Barney and anything remotely like it in our household, I created my own child-friendly music program for my little guy, Judah – which has turned into a bit of a rock history overview in the process. James Brown, The Flaming Lips and Cut Copy were early favorites. Now he asks for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Duke Spirit and The Raconteurs by name. And I swell with pride every time he does so.
I know I’m going to catch flack from all you kid haters for this, but here’s the video that solidified my theory on kids and music – that they don’t need to be fed music through a purple dinosaur in order to connect with it. Here’s Judah, not even 2 years old, channeling the Grandfather of Soul himself. (He still uses our T.P. holder as a microphone to this day.)
My man Jack White announced the formation of a new band, The Dead Weather, this week. The supergroup features Alison Mosshart, of the London-based The Kills as lead singer; Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age on guitar; and Jack Lawrence, from the Raconteurs, on bass. The renowned guitarist, Jack White, plays drums. Go figure.
Their debut album Horehound will be released in June. The single “Hang You From the Heavens” is available now on iTunes.
And here it is.My top 20 albums for 2008.This list represents the music that inspired me throughout the year and the albums that I kept coming back to again and again.I’ve tried to put the critic hat aside to be very honest in my ranking.What you see here, in order of appearance, are the albums I listened to the most throughout the year.In order of heavy rotation, so to speak.
So while some of you may judge my harshly for listing bands like The Raconteurs in the top 10, the truth of the matter is I listened to that album a lot this year and it got me off every time. It’s a great rock album. Plus they were one of my favorite live performances of the year.And hey, if they’re good enough to make Nic Harcourt’s top 10 list, it’s good enough for me.
1. Deerhunter, Microcastle
This album blew me away from the first listen and put Bradford Cox into the genius category for me. I really and truly can’t stop listening to this album. It’s brilliant start to finish and much more melodic and song-oriented than other Deerhunter albums. A classic for sure.
I’m truly obsessed with this Austin-based band. I listen to this album, without fail, every single day. I start with the Let’s Talk About It EP followed by Exposion. It’s my go-to, late night, ‘gotta wake my ass up to get some work done’ combo. I just love their stripped down Stooges/White Stripes vibe. Feels really good. And seriously rocks!
“I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce…,” is the opening line from the rockin’ single, ‘Grounds for Divorce,’ off Elbow’s fourth and best release to date, The Seldom Seen Kid. The song is immense, snarling with emotion and emblematic of the theme of the album – the joys and sorrows of everyday life.
‘The Rockintours’ as my 3 year old son calls them, this album was most definitely on heavy rotation throughout 2008. To the point where he has developed an obsession with Jack White and tries to emulate his moves on his toy guitar. Could Jack White be the rock god of his generation? Very well could be. He made demi-rock god status in my book after seeing them play at Bimbos earlier this year, one of my concert highlights of the year. A relentless assault of rock and roll I haven’t seen the likes of in quite some time.
I’ve been a fan of The Duke Spirit since their first album, Cuts Across the Land, hit the US in 2005.With their second release, Neptune, the band has clearly come of age.The album is a seductive blend of lead singer Leila Moss’s bluesy-rock vocals and ferocious guitar riffs.The songs, evoking images of sea gods and ships, are a journey of brooding intensity that, in the end, leaves me only to say… “All Hail The Duke Spirit.”
This album is almost entirely a solo project showcasing the genius of David Brewis, member of the on-hiatus group Field Music, and is a true album experience.Like a mini rock symphony, the album starts and ends with a series of songs called ‘Rockists Part 1 and 2’ and ‘Rockists Part 3 and 4’.Parts 1 and 4 are different versions of the same song but strung together and listened to in it’s entirety, is a stunning arrangement. The songs are exquisitely constructed and I love the way he plays with structures and sounds.
My biggest regret of the year? Having to miss Beach House play The Swedish American Music Hall. Grr. It’s such a lovely, lovely, album. I love their etherial, haunting, lovelorn music and Devotion was a late night favorite on my headphones all year long.
Department of Eagles is essentially a side-project of Grizzly Bear singer-songwriter Daniel Rossen, who developed its dreamy, autobiographical songs with college friend and cohort, Fred Nicolaus. Their latest album, In Ear Park, was developed over the years between the two, stealing time on weekends and between tours.
This is the kind of album that grows on you over time. As you dig deeper through the album, you’ll start to appreciate the complexities and amazing orchestral arrangements that continue to unfold listen after listen.
Have you heard the one about this girl who walks into a bar in Austin, TX and sees Fleet Foxes for the first time? Call it serendipity, call it love at first sight – er, listen – she’s smitten. And so is the rest of the indie rock world. With good reason. Another one of my top live performances of 2008
Are you a Pavement fan? If you are, you’re gonna like the latest release, Heavenly Bender, from the Brooklyn-based quartet,Sam Champion. Steeped in lo-fi, garage-rock jams, their sound may be a little too Wowee Zowee for the non-Pavement aficionado, but for me it’s the perfect combination as bands like Pavement /Stephen Malkmus represent everything I like in Indie Rock music – crunchy guitar jams sandwiched between sweet harmonies. My indie rock PB&J.
Remember when this band was fresh on the scene and how great it was, for that brief moment, to have them all to yourself? Then suddenly they were everywhere and even your non-music friends started talking about them. ’Have you heard of this band called Bon IVER?’ At least we had the satisfaction to smugly correct them on their mispronunciation. ”It’s pronounced Bon Hiver – like good winter in French? Phht.” Okay, maybe that was just me. All kidding aside, this is such a beautiful album and truly one of my favorite live performances of the year. It gave me goosebumps.
The Portland-based duo, The Helio Sequence, released their third album ‘Keep Your Eyes Ahead’ in January of this year; but it’s one of those records I just keep coming back to again and again. It makes me feel so nostalgic. Perhaps it’s because there are moments on the record that sound so early U2/Joshua Tree I can’t help but feel that way.
This stripped down, two-man San Francisco band consists of Meric Long on guitar and vocals and Logan Kroeber on percussion.Both are feature performers- on the recording and live.Their simplicity has drawn comparisons to a crop of new-primitivist bands like Yeasayer and High Places.Whatever the case, you should listen to this album and make a point to see them live. They’re mesmerizing.
Welcome to the Night Sky is the third album for the Halifax-based Wintersleep, and one that seems destined for success in the US. Already quite popular in Canada, the band recently received the 2008 Juno award for ‘New Group of the Year’. Their sound is expansive with heavy, smashing guitars combined with delicate, heartbreaking vocals. A sound so well represented in the track ‘Drunk on Aluminum’.
Women are a Canadian group (two of them brothers, actually) with their self-titled debut released July 8 on Flemish Eye Records. I was very pleased to learn that Chad VanGaalen produced this album, of whom I’m a big fan. He recorded the album in his basement on old tape machines and ghettoblasters. To say their sound is lo-fi is an understatement. My guess is you’ll be hearing a lot more from this band.
I adore this guy. He’s a wonderful and interesting artist, a virtual one-man band who’s notoriously very reclusive and apparently obsessed with death and other morbid topics. I find a stark beauty in the basement-recorded ‘Soft Airplane’ (as well as a nice cover of The Shins ‘City of Electric Light’). And while it’s true that the basement can be a dark and scary place at times, it can also be filled with wonder and surprise.
This Chicago quartet has been around for quite a while and there’s a comfort in the familiarity and consistency of their music. Their latest release, Car Alarm, is no exception. One of their best albums in over a decade. I’ve been listening to their electronic grooves a lot. Mellow yet powerful at the same time, they are firmly rooted in Indie rock with a splash of that electronica sound I like so much. It’s smooth, well balanced, easy on the ears and layered with just enough complexity to keep it interesting listen after listen. Like a fine wine.
Last, but certainly not least, is Juana Molina’s, Un Dia. This Argentinean singer /songwriter is an amazing interpreter of sound. I discovered her by chance many years ago opening for a band I can’t even remember now because her performance was so compelling and mesmerizing I’ve forgotten everything else about that night. I’ve been an ardent fan of her dreamlike, hypnotic music ever since. Her fifth full length album, Un Dia, is her most adventurous, upbeat and rhythmic release to date.
The Treasure Island Music Festival epitomizes the ideal festival experience for me. You could almost say it’s the anti-festival. The crowd size is small – around 10,000 a day, the location is beautiful, the line up is thoughtfully curated with the most cutting-edge indie artists, and the event organization is impeccable – no lines for food, beverages or toilets and only 2 stages scheduled with non-competing performances so the attendee never has to choose or compromise. The result is a beautiful day of rockin’ music. In an era where behemoth, corporate festivals reign supreme, these qualities do not go unnoticed. Kudos to Noise Pop and APE. Please, keep up the good work and don’t change a thing!
Day 2 of Treasure Island was one of the better festival line ups I’ve yet to see. Fleet Foxes, Dr. Dog, The Kills and – most of all – The Raconteurs were the highlights for me. ’The Rockin-tours’ as Judah calls them. Quite astute for a 3 year old, for these gentleman do ROCK. I’ve had the pleasure to see them twice this year (the first time at Bimbos!) and can say with certainty that, after last night, Jack White has firmly secured a spot in my rock god pantheon. Which is precisely what separates a Raconteurs show from so many of the shows I see these days. It’s just straight up, fist pumping, good ‘ol rock-n-roll. When’s the last time you’ve seen a good rock show? The kind that just makes you want to bang your head and play air guitar. I’m hard pressed to recall one. Rock fist forever, Raconteurs.
What do you think: Is Jack White the rock god of our generation?
Here’s one of my favorite songs from the Sunday set:
With Muxtape still battling the RIAA, 8tracks has emerged as the new online MP3 playlist solution. 8tracks allows you to create a playlist of 8 tracks and share it with your friends online. It’s easy to use and they are Beta testing an Uploader feature for Mac users that allows you to drag and drop a playlist directly from iTunes to 8track. Hmmm, given how DRM happy Apple is, I wonder how long that will last. Well, go check it out now before the RIAA shuts them down too.
Here’s a mix I created for the Treasure Island Music Festival this Sunday in San Francisco, featuring Fleet Foxes, Port O’Brien, The Dodos, Okkervil River, The Morning Benders, Vampire Weekend, Dr. Dog and The Raconteurs. Can’t wait!
It’s the last day of July and half the year has gone and passed. To celebrate, I’ve compiled a mixtape of my favorite songs (not albums) of the year…so far. You can listen here, but if you want the file, you’ll have to subscribe to the OCMD Mixtape. Enjoy!
Topspin officially emerged from stealth mode last week to unveil their technology platform that aims to help music artists build their business and brand directly with fans – without the help of a label.There’s not a lot of public information on the product itself other than it sounds like a Salesforce.com (CRM) for the music industry – a suite of tools designed to help artists build relationships and distribute music directly to fans.
What’s great is that Topspin is not trying to brand this product to consumers.It’s completely B2B, which means artists will be able to incorporate Topspin technology into their own websites and social networking platforms.Reportedly artists like David Byrne and Dandy Warhols are already using the technology to offer a subscription model to fans that will give them access to a host of content either exclusively or before general release.
While the direct-to-fan model is not a new concept – think Radiohead, The Raconteurs and supposedly the forthcoming Beck album – not every band has had the longevity or popularity of groups like these to implement such a strategy successfully.That’s where the beauty of technology like Topspin comes in.As Topspin’s new CEO, Ian Rogers, stated in this month’s Billboard interview, it empowers the middle class of artists – those either past their commercial prime or too new to enjoy the marketing support of a major label.
It’s a paradigm shift either way you slice it, for both artists and fans in terms of how music is distributed and consumed.I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I just hope Topspin plans on launching a similar platform for the film industry too!