For Christmas I received two gifts that will hopefully enhance my ability to post more music for sharing. No, it's not drums! I now have an external hard drive with 320 Gig capacity (actually only 298G of real space) to store my music. I've been storing all the albums I've been snatching, and I usually burn then delete live shows that are received in WAV or FLAC format because of it's size. Now I can pick and choose whether I want to keep it on my hard drive without worrying about filling up my drive. The other item is Instant Music, which is capable of recording analog sources such as cassettes and LP's onto the computer via the USB. I also have a stand-alone CD recorder connected to the stereo that works great, but I'm hoping this new toy will help cut back on discs and possibly a quicker method to transfer music straight to the hard drive (but, you have to remember that transferring tape or LP is in real time).
Since I'm hoping to eventually convert most of my concert tapes to CD, I thought I would start with an interesting radio recording that's been collecting dust on my cassette shelf since 1999.
Zumpano formed in 1992 in Vancouver and featured lead vocalist/guitar player Carl Newman. Carl may be familiar to most as the frontman for the New Pornographers who formed in 1997, and for his solo project, A.C. Newman. On this recording, Zumpano performed semi-live in the studio on the now defunct CBC radio show Radiosonic which was a fantastic program that featured interviews, in-studio sessions and live concert recordings. A dream come true for a concert taper geek, like myself. All the concert footage was decent FM quality, it's too bad I recorded most of the shows on cassette. This unique recording is an all-Burt Bacharach special, with Zumpano playing an all-Burt set to the delight of anyone that appreciates the complex time signatures and frequent modulation of Bacharach pop classics. It's clear that Zumpano is a group of very talented musicians that should be further explored if you don't already own their two CD's, Look What The Rookie Did(1995) and Goin' Through Changes(1996), both these discs are highly underrated and should be considered power-pop classics.
I've posted mp3's of the songs, minus the interview portions. If you want the whole session complete with host Leora Kornfeld's lovely voice in FLAC format (that converts to uncompressed WAV), download it from dimeadozen where it's presently posted (need to be a member).
Good news Wilco fans, in case you haven't heard yet the new Wilco album, Sky Blue Sky, is set for release May15th. Currently Jeff Tweedy is on tour through the southern US and Wilco is scheduled to tour Australia in April.
To tide you over until the new record, I'm posting the More Like the Moon EP (..or Australian EP or Bridge EP) from 2002, I saw this posted on one of the many blogs I've bookmarked (I Am Fuel, you Are Friends) and it reminded me, why haven't I downloaded this already? It's available for free download at Wilcoworld and if you want your own CD covers, you can print them off yourself, they've provided you with a choice of three. This disc was originally a bonus disc for the Australian version of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a year after YHF was released Wilco offered it up at their site for anyone that purchased the album, it's now available to everyone. These songs were recorded during the YHF sessions, so they are alternative versions or unreleased songs. The YHF sessions must have been epic as there have been a few different versions and incarnations of the album floating around. I have a disc of demos and another disc of the engineer's demo mixes, I prefer several of the alternative versions to the released versions, but with every group of unreleased songs comes much filler and duds...looking forward to the new album!
Despite the title this is not the debut album of a "new" band called the Smithereens, no it's actually the seventh studio album from the New Jersey based rock band the Smithereens. A quick history lesson; the Smithereens were formed in 1980, had a string of great (near great?) albums in the mid-eighties (Especially For You and Green Thoughts, 11), kind of coasted through the nineties somewhat under the radar and released several best-of/rarities/greatest hits anthologies in the 00's. Personally I didn't think they were still around, but a quick check to their website reveals they are still alive and touring like it's 1986 again. I remember when their first album came out in 1986 and they swung through Winnipeg virtually unknown. The radio DJ of the I can't-remember radio station (it wasn't a College station because we didn't have one!) announced they were playing that night (I think they were just passing through and we're looking for a place to play) and offered some sort of money back guarantee if you didn't like them (I seem to remember the band drew a sparse crowd). The radio station played their single , Blood and Roses and Behind the Wall Of Sleep, and I was hooked, to this day I regret not attending the show.
Meet the Smithereens! is their tribute to the Beatles album from 1964's Meet The Beatles! The Smithereens have rerecorded song-by-song the album in its entirety, and they have maintained the sound and style of the fab 4 right down to the drum and guitar sound circa '64. At first listen this may sound like a tight Beatles cover band, but if you are familiar with the Smithereens sound, you know they have stayed true to their own sound while giving the listeners a fresh interpretation to this classic. The hits are great, while some of the lesser known songs do tend to drag in spots (blame the Beatles) the overall listening experience is enjoyable, though too short (again blame the Beatles). Meet The Beatles was their groundbreaking album as it was their first release in the US and it contains songs written by Lennon and McCartney instead of covers like on their UK debut, With The Beatles.
In case you weren't lucky enough to be in Montreal last Saturday night, the Arcade Fire, after a year long hiatus, performed an unannounced show for the band's friends and those who heard about this show only hours before. They played in the basement of a Polish Catholic Church, (with only a small P.A. system) in the Mile End area of Montreal where the band lives, to an enthusiastic hometown crowd. (For a full account of the festivities, read this review) The previous night the Arcade Fire debuted songs from their forthcoming CD, Neon Bible, at an Ottawa High School where member Richard Perry attended. The Arcade Fire are playing a series of "warm-up" shows, including a run of 5 consecutive sold-out dates (in each city!) in London, Montreal and New York, before embarking on a European tour throughout all of March and some of April.
Fortunately, someone recorded the show and if you want to hear the whole concert, head over to Dimeadozen.org. (registered members). I'm posting a few of the brand new songs, beware the sound quality isn't perfect (this is a church basement for Christ's sake!), but it still captures the band's energy that makes them so great to see live and it's a chance to hear them showcase the new material. If you are an Arcade Fire fan, this should get you excited and drooling for their new album (out March), if you're not familiar with their sound, get Funeral NOW!
ARCADE FIRE - January 20, 2007 St. Michel Church, Montreal, Quebec
We are only into the second week of the new year and already there is lots of great new music. I think everyone in the world knows that the Shinsare releasing their newest disc Wincing The Night Away, on January 23rd, and they will make a few high profile TV appearances on Saturday Night Live (January 13th) and Late Night With David Letterman (Jan. 23rd). The first date on their current tour will be at the First Avenue in Minneapolis on February 8th, this will be closest they'll come to Winnipeg.
SONDRE LERCHE - Phantom Punch The year of the Phantom, you think? Anyone familiar with Sondre's music will be interested to hear him explore his "rock" side a little more. His previous releases, Faces Down and Two-Way Monologue rely heavily on Sondre's smooth vocals, classic pop sounds and lush melodies, while 2006's Duper Sessions was more acoustic and band focused. The songs on Phantom Punch definitely have been punched up both in volume and tempo. This album will surely catch the attention of the masses and Sondre Lerche will get the critical acclaim from North American audiences he truly deserves, trust me on this one.
SUKI BROWNIES - Suki Brownies I don't know too much about this band, I read their bio on their Myspace site and from I can gather the band is from Lyon, France and their lead singer Suki is actually from England (she has a distinct British accent sometimes when she sings/talks). The songs ranges from Britpop to melodic, piercing guitar rock to a hypnotic electronic sound overlayed with poetic texts. A very interesting listen, I believe they are still indie, so this may be hard to find...impressive debut.
When reviewing the year in music, I wanted to list CD's (albums, tapes, whatever) that received extra attention from myself, which I suppose means enjoyable and repeated listenings, recommendations to friends and a permanent place on my hard-drive or in my CD boxes. In this age of fast internet connection my eyes are wide open to how easy it is to access any new and old music. This past year I listened to more recent music than ever before, I could probably list dozens and dozens of really good CD's that I've heard this past year.
I've made a listing of my top favourites for 2006 in no particular order, some I have already written about in previous blog entries, but all these artists are well worth seeking out. (check out their links, I've linked their Myspace sites so you can sample their music easily) I also wrote random thoughts about the album, just off the top of my head, so it's not exactly a review, just a comment. Of course, I welcome your comments and maybe your top choices for the year, let me know if there is anything I should be listening to.
NEKO CASE - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood Never really got into her other albums, maybe because their too-country. Love all her New Pornographers work. On this album, her voice grabs you right from the beginning and sucks you in for a very satisfying listen. Neko is definitely a chick I would love to hang out with!
THE HOLD STEADY - Boys And Girls In America Heard lots of hype about these guys and they sure live up to it, a rock band that truly rocks! Kind of a vintage Springsteen-ish thing happening...without the sax, but better!
GOLDEN SMOG - Another Fine Day The mighty Golden Smog's first record in 8 years. Next best thing to a new Jayhawks record. Not their best, but Dan Murphy always saves his best work for GS. Interestingly, Soul Asylum's first album in 8 years is released within a week of Golden Smog's.
SADIES - In Concert Vol 1 I've said too much about the Sadies already (see a previous post), can't wait for Vol 2! A Canadian treasure.
HONEYDOGS - Amydgala A hugely under-rated band from the Twin Cities that improves and matures each and every release. Saw the Honeydogs in St. Paul, in November 2005 around the time they finished recording this disc. They premiered most of the new material with many guests musicians from the Minneapolis music community in a special intimate show recorded for public radio. This show and this much anticipated release are both highlights for the year.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN - The Life Pursuit Never really listened to much B & S, but the Life Pursuit was a pleasant surprise. When I put this on, it instantly cheers me up and adds a bounce to my step. A well crafted pop album with extra emphasis on poppy.
MINUS 5 - Minus 5 (aka: The Gun Album) The busiest man in music today has to be Scott McCaughey and his various projects. He performs solo (including some upcoming gigs with Jeff Tweedy), tours and records with R.E.M and Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3. He still fronts my heroes the Young Fresh Fellows who actually played a couple of gigs this year (Seattle and Spain) and he continues to pump out great music with the Minus 5. With special guests on this disc such as Colin Meloy, John Wesley Harding and Wilco, along with M5 regulars John Ramberg, and Peter Buck and Bill Rieflin of R.E.M. Another essential listen.
THE LEMONHEADS - The Lemonheads In my opinion, this is the comeback album of the year. Sure he released a solo album a few years ago and Evan Dando has pretty much a different Lemonheads line-up every album, it's still the Lemonheads. A slightly more aggressive sound combined with those great hooks Dando is known for, this is their best album since It's A Shame About Ray. Proof that rehab can be a good thing.
BEN KWELLER - Ben Kweller Remember when self-titled albums were traditionally the debut release? Ben (like the previous 2 other artists) seems to have run out of clever album titles, such as his previous classics, On My Way and Sha Sha.This is Kweller's 3rd full-length solo album, another step forward for the former frontman for Radish (Ben's band when he was 15), he continues to create strong material with maturity well beyond his age. On his latest record, he plays all the instruments himself.
ANGELA DESVEAUX - Wandering Eyes This debut record was a wonderful surprise that seemed to come out of nowhere, at least for me living outside of Montreal. I love this album, it has this soothing effect on me that makes me want to replay Heartbeat over and over again... Be sure to watch the video I posted about a month ago for the song Wandering Eyes.
Other noteable releases in 2006: THE DECEMBERISTS - The Crane Wife Colin Meloy and Co. continue to gain more critical acclaim and mainstream attention, kind of like Death Cab For Cutie did last year. A weird marriage of catchy pop-rock and 70's Prog rock, very interesting.
SOME GIRLS - The Crushing Love Some Girls was probably suppose to be a one-shot project with one album and a tour. Though not quite as satisfying as 2003's Feel It, this record sounds more like a collaborative band instead of a glorified Juliana Hatfield album with a female band.
JENNY LEWIS and the WATSON TWINS- Rabbit Fur Coat This Rilo Kiley vocalist amazes with this sometimes eerie, sometimes spiritual, but always stunning performance. I doubted her range and lyrical skills, but I think Jenny legitimately pulls it off just fine.