Thursday, July 17, 2014

"If you've got a spare half a million..."

A little over a year of satellite radio service and it's proven to have introduced me to quite a few records that I otherwise would have probably paid no mind to. The Cayucas album is in heavy rotation at the Blackwell house (being a particular favorite of Violet's) and I don't absolutely hate Foxygen either.

One of the most pleasant surprises has been Courtney Barnett. I feel like I first heard "Avant Gardener" about six months ago on Sirius and my immediate reaction was that I was surprised to hear something that belied a sort of substance on the XMU channel. I heard it a couple more times and painted a picture in my mind...Courtney was some sort of exhibitionist tart, "fake", too good to be true... just all kinds of things that would make me not like her. Almost as if I didn't want to even give her a chance.

I bought the vinyl of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, listened once, didn't hate it, and filed away. A last-minute in-store in Nashville was enough to bring me out to investigate further. I found the simplicity and bare-bones feeling of her songs performed without additional accompaniment was far more intriguing than the full-band backing on the recordings.

It all came to a head with the last song she played, a yet-to-be-released song called "Depreston." Courtney explained that Preston is a neighborhood in Melbourne and the song is about the task of trying to find a place to live. The structure of the song almost feels a bit off, like each verse is missing a line, that's it's still in progress. That lends a certain beauty to it, in addition to the poignant observational lyrics, with just enough winking wit to keep you paying attention.

The final lines, sung about a house, repeated, repeated, repeated, burrowed into my head.

If you've got a
spare half a million
you could knock it down
and start rebuilding

Maybe it's because that's exactly what seems to be happening in my neighborhood in East Nashville. Maybe it's the ever-so-percpible lilt of an Australian accent that renders "half" as "hoff." Maybe it's through some sort of quirk in the cosmos that Barnett seems to inhabit and mean every single word she sings. I don't know. I just know that over a month later and this song has not left my head for more than a day. I can't remember a new song that I so quickly learned all the words to. 

Funny thing is for an unreleased song Courtney seems to be playing this thing every damn opportunity she gets. Having delved through at least half-a-dozen different performances, I feel like the one embedded above, has a little magic that seems missing from the others. Here's hoping you enjoy it half as much as I have.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Contemporary Record of Rock and Roll...

The camera was kept just far away enough so you can't see the shit-eating grin on my face. Talking about records at a museum and people paid to listen. Wow.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Motor City's Yearning #8

Monday, March 31, 2014

Random Jam-doms...

Any info I can share on this record is pretty much contained on the label. The band is called Off Whidte Larey, the record was pressed at Archer Record Pressing in Detroit in 1988. Beyond that, I can tell you that the song "Extended Brain Vacation" is compelling for some reason that cannot be contained in words. So just listen.

Friday, February 28, 2014

When You Least Expect It...

Life-changing records show up when you least expect it, from unlikely sources. That's a theme that only partially threads this story. In addition…headphones are necessary.

The Dirtbombs were on tour in May of 2002 and it was trying. The van was too small, the advance promotion was nonexistent and our lone excitement (a day off scheduled in Groningen) instead turned into a day in Slagelse, Denmark with a broken down van where one band member literally shit his pants.

In the middle of all of this, we played a show at the Loppen club in Christiania. I was surprised by the fact that Christiania claimed itself independent from the rest of Denmark, that drugs were openly sold on Pusher Street, and that I'd never heard the word "pastoralism" until Mick Collins and I took a vaguely romantic walk around the nearby lake.

Before the show, the Dirtbombs found ourselves in conversation with a bunch of kids. They were clearly excited by the fact that we were from Detroit. "Have you ever been to Fred Smith's grave?" they asked. None of us had. "If we lived in Detroit, we would go there every day."

I forget any further conversation, but at the end of it they gave me a copy of a self-released single of their band, Dollhouse, called "Shangri-La Tiger." The cover was a confusing collage, it was on red vinyl and hand-numbered. (#51 of 500)

I was intrigued and mentally noted that I needed to give this record due attention upon arriving home.

As we emptied out the van to check in to our flights at Heathrow a few weeks later I mistakenly left my LP case…where the single was living snugly. It would be another two months before a lazy tour manager finally shipped it back to me. I'd almost forgotten about it.

Embarassingly, I'd never really listened to music on headphones before. No one really told me I should until Malissa and even after she did, it took awhile before I found a suitably cool pair from the 70s that made me look like I should be directing airplane traffic.

It was late at night when I put the record on. No one else was home. The opening groove is hypnotic, a drumbeat that envelops on top of itself. As the rest of the instrumentation kicks in the MC5 influence is clear, but avoids becoming a pastiche. It motors, it motors, it motors. Good little number. Enjoyable. As one of the first things I'd listened to on headphones, this beast definitely lent itself to that form of delivery.

Towards the end there's a little breakdown, things get quiet, chill and then without warning, the record FUCKING EXPLODES! A bomb detonates in the distance, space junk crashes in my front yard, glass windows liquify, my blood begins to run backwards screaming and my teeth grow baby teeth of their own.

It is, nearly twelve years later, still one of my most favorite moments I've lived while listening to a record. Later consultation with the band revealed they literally "turned on every pedal in the studio at the same time" to accomplish that affect. Bravo.

The best part about all of this is simple…records given to bands while on tour are 99.999% of the time absolute garbage. Not only did Dollhouse manage to transcend this fact of life, they managed to absolutely obliterate 99% of the records I've ever explicitly bought on my own.

#51 lived a long time on my jukebox. It currently has a little bit of heat warp from the great house fire of '08, but as I've just listened to it five straight times (each with increasing volume) it has lost none of the sheer bombast that made me first fall in love with it so long ago.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The World's Most Important Swimmers

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Nine Albums My Infant Daughter Enjoyed This Year and One She Hated

Fatherhood has provided me with the greatest excuse to share the things I love. Below is a list, roughly in popular/frequency order, of the albums my daughter Violet has enjoyed most in her first eight months. I don't know what exactly they signify (if anything) but listening to music with her is second only to "making her laugh" for favorite activity that was new to me in 2013.

1. Nick Drake Pink Moon (both the first full song and album she ever heard)

2. Medico Doktor Vibes Liter Thru Dorker Vibes

3. Total Control Henge Beat

4. Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy

5. Bob Dylan Bringing it all Back Home

6. Duane Pitre Bridges

7. The Dirtbombs Party Store (pitched down minus six so it's nice and chilled out)

8. Peter Walker Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms?

9. Ella Jenkins Jambo

And one she hated:

Sun Ra The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (Can't say I really disagree with her on this one)