Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's Playing | Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Beestings and All

By Jen Eide

We Brave Bee Stings and All was released way back in January and, while I was instantly charmed (as were 5 out of 7 Euclid Records staffers--and you know we can't agree on anything), I also had the disheartening thought that this could be an indie rock if-you-blink-you'll-miss-it moment. Which makes it all the more gratifying to see that this album which might have once had a snowball's chance in hell is actually gradually snowballing. Thao started out the year opening for Kill Rock Stars labelmates Xiu Xiu, got picked up as an opener for an East Coast stint with Rilo Kiley and just embarked on a national headlining tour which rolled through St. Louis last week.

In singer-songwriter Thao Ngyuen, the Kill Rock Stars roster may have somehow stumbled upon Elliott Smith's heir apparent--they both possess skillful folky guitar chops and have a tendency to write lyrics that lean towards creating autobiographical mythologies. While Elliott had a tendency to portray himself as someone barreling down a path of despair and addiction who, nonetheless, somehow stunningly revealed to us the beauty in life, Thao seems to show us that, though life can be bittersweet, there is also a great capacity for joyfulness. In the midst this time of war and recession, We Brave Bee Stings and All was just the album to remind me of that.

With both artists, the content of the lyrics are also paradoxically juxtaposed against the backdrop of the music. Elliott's love for the Beatles and Big Star shine through with great obviousness in his music (have you ever heard a cheerier sounding song about serial killers than "Son of Sam" on 2000's Figure 8?). Unlike Elliott's melancholia, Thao's lyrics sometimes linger in the realm of the dysfunctional, and the words are often draped against breakneck tempos and occasional frenetic banjo pickin'. Her musical influences, however, seem more diffuse, much harder to pigeonhole. I can't do it. In fact, in every review I've read the comparisons fall flat. Most writers deal with her uniqueness by name checking a number of the "quirky" female singer-songwriters du jour. I won't mention those other artists by name because, one, the comparisons seem uninsightful and lazy and two, the intention almost marginalizes her music, much as all the "Women In Rock" discussion of the late 1990's tended to ghettoize a number of compelling artists. It's difficult to sell an album when you are unable to articulate anything about the music.

Let's just call it exuberant indie pop by-way-of Americana, or something we imagine might sound like that. Or we can just nick what she wrote in the "sounds like" portion of Thao's MySpace page: "tangles of guitar, knots of singing, threads of beat and thump make a rope fit for hauling the heavy machinery of your day." Yeah, that sounds about right. I suspect that you'll be seeing We Brave Bee Stings and All on a number of music critic's year end best of lists.

Here's the video for "Swimming Pools" which has a lyric that contains one of my favorite (albeit unusual) boasts in a song this year: "We brave bee stings and all / And we don't dive, we cannonball."

As much as I love "Swimming Pools" the song "Bag of Hammers" won out as my favorite summer jam. Click here to check out the video for "Bag of Hammers" and my list of runners up for best summer jam.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What's Playing | CSS - Donkey

by Jack Probst

Cansei de Ser Sexy is the perfect bouncy summertime fun band. While the indie world knows them better as CSS, their name translates to “I got tired of being sexy.” Well, CSS, you’re doing a horrible job at not being sexy. I don’t think you can help it. (Though I have heard you stole your name from something BeyoncĂ© once said...) These four ladies and a dude know how to funk the world. The more I listen to Donkey, which has been a lot if you ask my co-workers, the more I think that this is a transition album for CSS. It’s either going to be a building block to something bigger, or it’ll be smooth moves from here on out. There’s one lyric from the song “Left Behind” that sets the tone for the entire record: “I want to jump up on the table and dance my ass off till I die.” Oh, CSS!

On their brand spanking new album Donkey, lead singer Lovefoxxx can be found singing on more tracks than the sort of talk/rap I’ve come accustomed to hearing. Guitars are definitely more prominent over the electronic bits. There’s nothing quite like “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above,” what I consider the summer anthem for 2006, on Donkey. Also on this record, the band has toned down a lot of the crude language that was used frequently on their first album. There’s a bit here and there that is barely noticeable, but I do kind of miss being bombarded by a constant extreme naughtiness. It feels like CSS are only being a tease and flirting with my ears. Neither of these points affects the record in a negative way; it’s still pure CSS from start to finish.

CSS are moving their music into new directions, working on showing they aren’t just a gimmicky band in dire need of attention. (Not that I’m saying they ever were). “Rat is Dead (Rage)” comes out with an unforgettably loud guitar riff, rips powerfully though the end of a hurtful relationship. “Let’s Reggae All Night” is not a reggae song at all, but is definitely about getting your funky groove on. I cannot stand reggae one bit, though if Lovefoxxx asked me to reggae with her, I would put all of that all a side for just one night. As the record drifts onward, the music chills out and shifts to the sweet disco grooves on “Move.” The lyrics on “Beautiful Song” truly are beautiful, and reminiscent of times spent “with the ones you know, with the ones you love, with the ones you trust.” Donkey has completely filled my summer with dancing, singing, and static clings.

Visit the CSS myspace page and you can take Donkey out for a spin.

Check out the new video for “Left Behind” here:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scarlett Johansson's "Summertime"

by Steve Pick

I don't intend to pile on poor Scarlett Johansson, who has taken way more blogosphere hits than her interesting if flawed tribute album to Tom Waits deserved. But, in looking for an example of contemporary versions of "Summertime," I realized this truly appalling take is a perfect example of the ways in which popular music has changed, decreasing the likelihood that more classic takes on the song will come our way outside the jazz repertory world.

Problem number one: Swing just ain't her thing. That's not her fault - even in the 90s when that whole lounge revival thing happened, not too many people born after 1970 were able to slip into that syncopated rhythm without either sludging it over the head or exaggerating it to the point of inanity. When Gershwin wrote "Summertime," swing was moving out of the African-American ghettoes and into the DNA of every popular singer who made a record between 1935 and 1960. It wasn't an affect, it was the natural order of being. If you can't feel the swing in "Summertime" - and the difference between the muted trumpet player, who glides along with the rhythm, and Johansson's vocal, which stomps on the downbeats makes it obvious - you're gonna have a hard time finding something to do with it. That is, unless you decide to completely deconstruct it and invent something new. Johansson, however, falls prey to . . .

Problem number two: R-E-S-P-E-C-T - That sometimes demeans, you see. The arrangement, played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is similar to Gerswhin's original, so the idea is to capture the nuances he wrote into the song. But, Johansson treats it like a museum object, afraid to inject her personality into the music in any way. Her voice here is wispy thin, as if her vocal chords are standing on tiptoes for fear of getting the melodic carpet dirty. Look, this is a song written by a white man in emulation of African-American folk music at a time when the originals couldn't get any respect. If you don't try to feel something about the music other than the fact that you're standing on the shoulder of giants, you're gonna fall to the ground pretty damn quick.

Between the lack of swing and the fear of originality, Johansson drowns the song in a sea of bathetic love for an imaginary baby. She even goes so far at the end as to "ssh" the kid to sleep. With this level of overprotectiveness, I suspect that infant is gonna grow up to have some serious difficulty relating to people out in the world.

By the way, I'm sorry it took so long to get this post up - sometimes, real life gets in the way, and sometimes I'm lazy, and when you alternate between the two, wow, suddenly it's been ten days or so between posts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Check out the last in the Old Orchard Gazebo Series...live music &movies!

It's time to drag out the lawn chairs and settle in down at the Gazebo here at Old Orchard for the final event in our annual summer series of tunes and flicks. Don't forget to save the date on Friday, July 25th. We've got pub-rockers The Zonkies playing at 7:00 PM followed by the movie "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" which was selected as the viewer's choice by previous attendees of the series at 9:00 PM.

There will be food from Grove Deli, ice cream from Serendipity, and beer and wine from Cyrano's, so there's no excuse not to come and have a great time. You can also buy limited edition posters for the Gazebo series, numbered and signed by the artist Gary Houston (famous for his work with the Grateful Dead). They'll be available at the event, or at Euclid Records.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Old Orchard Gazebo Series tonight at 7 PM--tunes & flicks

Come on out tonight for music and movies as part of the Old Orchard Gazebo Series! Music starts at 7PM with performer Raven Moon & "Young Frankenstein" shows at 9PM for your viewing pleasure.

Bring the lawn chairs!

Austin Bluesman Guy Forsyth to Perform at Euclid Records Sunday, July 20th at 2 PM.

Catch Austin singer/songwriter Guy Forsyth here on stage at Euclid Records playing his unique blend of blues and Americana styles before you head down to BB's Jazz Blues & Soups that evening at 9 PM.

Sure to be a good time. We sure hope he breaks out his singing saw as well as his harp, cuz that's not something you see everyday.

Euclid Records
601 East Lockwood
St.Louis, MO 63119
(314) 961-8978

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Saw John Hiatt at the Pageant Last Night

by Steve Pick

I haven't been out to many shows this year - the old call that made me see 150 live performances a year has long since faded to a tiny twinge, one that realizes how much I'm missing but still prefers its time on the couch or hanging out with a couple friends now and again.

That said, John Hiatt has so consistently surprised and delighted me as a live performer that I leaped at the chance to catch him on his latest tour. And, he once again delivered a performance of passion, invention, and pure pleasure.

I admit I was a little worried when the first couple of songs seemed a little lackluster, almost as though the band was feeling its way into the arrangements originated by the great musicians Hiatt has worked with in the past. But, about twenty minutes into the show, they connected on a stunning version of "Cry Love" which completely reinvented the song, with a ringing guitar line, an invigorating bass line, a propulsive drum rhythm, and Hiatt's astounding vocal, which leapt above and beyond anything I've heard him do before. This song deservedly received the first of three standing ovations the audience gave him.

From there, it was a trip through the last twenty years of Hiatt's catalogue, dotted with five or so of the best songs from his latest album, Same Old Man. I was a little disappointed by this record at first, but repeated listens have revealed a songwriter madly in love with his wife of 22 years, and not afraid to say it as simply and directly as possible. Which doesn't mean the songs are corny - his metaphors are, to say the least, a little unusual. How many men have shared a pupu platter with a woman and found in that experience a vision of a life together?

Anyway, the band was terrific, especially the bass player and drummer, who were exceptional. The guitarist wandered now and again into cliched territory, but he always found his way out, and considering he had to find new things to say in parts originated by the likes of Sonny Landreth or Ry Cooder, he did a heck of a job. Hiatt's voice grew stronger as the night wore on, so that by the time of the second encore, a new guitar arrangement of TV's go-to-song for redemption montages, "Have a Little Faith in Me," he was capable of belting out long, lean notes of pure love and confidence. Man, when I feel this good after a concert, I wonder why I don't go out more often.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Love Sculpture's "Summertime"

by Steve Pick

Yet Another in the Summerlong Summertime Blogathon.

This is what I can't believe. Dave Edmunds, who we all learned to know and love in the late 70s when he and Nick Lowe co-led Rockpile and he sang all those blistering rockabilly-inspired rave-ups, started out his musical life singing with a completely different bluesier approach. I mean, Love Sculpture, his first band of note (most famous for the instrumental take on Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" played in triple time with guitar distortion), was mostly a blues band a la Fleetwood Mac, but I would never have guessed from what I'd heard that Edmunds was doing the vocals.

In the middle of their debut album, the 1968 Blues Helping, Love Sculpture offered their take on "Summertime," and it's fairly remarkable, first for its dynamics, and second for its astonishing technique. Beginning with delicate arpeggios and working its way into a full sound with backing vocals, overdubbed slide guitar comments, and an overwhelming display of power from Edmunds on both vocal and guitar, this version of "Summertime" seems more interested in waking baby up and getting him revved up for a great life.

The two verses are sung distinctively different. The first verse is mostly quiet, and sticks closely to the melody as written, until Edmunds leaps up at the tail end of "Don't you cry." Now he sings the second verse with a refusal to be held down by the lullaby quality of the song. Again and again, he belts out high notes, holds syllables to greater length than expected, and infuses the confidence of those lyrics about rising up singing, and the protection of the parents, with an irrepressible assurance.

And then, he takes to the sky himself, with a guitar solo of heavenly skill. After a blues-inspired beginning, with some nice stuttering steps and familiar licks on the first couple lines, he flies up to the high notes, bends and swoops and even throws in a quote from the original melody before ascending all the way to a peak of transcendent emotion. The second chorus is less rarified, but powerfully reassuring, as he scats a vocal perfectly in synch with his guitar before returning briefly to the melody and then hammering home some exhilarating high notes. We're left breathless, but he's not, as he has to sing the last two lines again before a brief guitar coda on the fade out.

Even on an album of impressive takes on familiar blues and r'n'b standards, "Summertime" stands out as a tour de force display of Love Sculpture's skills. I worship the records Edmunds made - Tracks on Wax 4, and Repeat When Necessary are both damn near perfect. But, I don't think music history would have been sorry if he'd been able to keep going in this direction, either.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What's Playing | Famous L. Renfroe - Children

By Jen Eide

No one seems to know much about Famous L. Renfroe's Children, including Fat Possum--the label that's issuing it--they've even misspelled Renfroe's name on their own website. I first heard of this great lost soul/gospel album through the efforts of legendary zinester and gospel music afficianado Mike McGonigal, who even went to the trouble of contacting gospel music scholars in hopes of finding more information, and turned up...nothing.

All we have to go on is this artist's statement: "A long time ago I used to hear beautiful spiritual singers singing beautiful spiritual songs and I wanted to be a singer too. I first started my musical career by singing in small local groups in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. In the year 1968, I came to Seattle Washington and started singing with local groups but failed to find one that was stable enough to record so I decided to cut an album by myself. The music was written and produced by myself who except for the drum parts, done the entire record." Intrigued yet?

Children--apparently cut in 1969 in Memphis--features funky guitar vamps and idiosyncratic gospel quartet styled harmonies that apparently are all sung by Renfroe himself. I've spoken about my love for African-American gospel music before in a previous blog post. Now, I tend to favor the period between World War II and the mid-sixties--before the assassinations of MLK, RFK and Malcolm X--when vocal quartets and quintets reigned supreme and the whole genre served as a tremendous metaphor for the civil rights movement. For me, gospel music from the mid-to-late sixties on got a little less interesting, with the trend moving towards massive, bloated choirs and the addition of electric instruments. It also seemed that the profound sense of disappointment following these assassinations and perhaps some loss of momentum in the movement seemed to make the metaphor in the music a bit more diffuse and more focused on the spiritual side of the message.

These things make me all the more surprised that I'm enjoying Children so much--it's even made my short list for Best of 2008. Renfroe references some of the great soul artists of the time--check out "It's So, " a loose, funky (if somewhat out of tune) Booker T. & the MG's styled guitar instrumental--and he also recreates some of the fervered gospel quartet harmonies that I'm so fond of.

"Why Not I, " "Circle" and "Tell" feature such lengthy vocal refrains--with some inspired soul shoutin' on top--that you find that you've almost achieved some sort of mystical trance state by the end of the songs. At times Children is a pot-boiler, it's music that's set at a slow simmer and frequently boils over and catches fire. Other times it's just real funky, like on this track, "Believe."

If I had to guess, the master tapes to this recording have long since been lost. It's been cleaned up fairly well from one of the few albums in existence--you'll hear some surface noise and a few pops--but it's what you might expect from archival material that is about forty years old.

Children is raw, it's mysterious and it's so inspired that it makes you catch the spirit whether you're so inclined or not. One of the guys on staff here mentioned to me the other day that he was so glad that he's heard this album--if he were lying on his death bed, this is what he'd want playing in the background. Not a bad way to go out. I have a feeling that Children will slip under almost everyone's radar this year, but make sure that you don't miss out. I've got a play copy--be sure to ask to hear it next time you're in the store.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Miles Davis' "Summertime" & Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross's Miles Davis' "Summertime"

by Steve Pick

Miles Davis puts the exclamation point right at the beginning. His muted trumpet doesn't stop him from punching that first note right into our gut, and then he bobs and weaves with our expectations for three minutes and twenty seconds. Miles plays off the melody, but never plays it as written. He knows we know the head of this tune, so he can call our attention to aspects we might not have noticed, the way "Summertime" can be a song of personal declaration, of statement that one is to be acknowledged, accepted, admired.

Miles had worked with Gil Evans before, but the two albums he did in the late 50s - "Porgy and Bess" and "Sketches of Spain" - are the acknowledged classics. I've always preferred the latter, but I think I wasn't giving the Gershwin record enough credit. Perhaps I was drawn to the exotic rhythms of "Sketches of Spain" so much that I didn't even notice the delicious methods Evans applies in his orchestrations of "Porgy."

Take "Summertime," for example (as of course, that's the point of this whole project, isn't it?). The intricate chord changes Gershwin wrote are slimmed down to a bouncy little riff which flows across two different chords every time. It's played by different horns throughout the piece, and occasionally saxophones or tubas will play a deft counterpoint drawn from the "Mommy and Daddy are standing by" section of the tune.

All this allows Miles to jab comments on the melody, and even to create his own counterpoint to the tune that's not even being played. You can't lose your place in this familiar piece, so it's easy even for jazz neophytes to hear what Miles is doing. He's taking credit for the good times of summer, acknowledging his own role in the creation of the baby being lulled to sleep, and of course, he's bragging about his riches and the beauty of his woman. All this without singing a word, just swinging that delicious trumpet tone across the bed of beauty laid down by Evans.

If you want words, you can go to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, who transpose the Miles solo and Evans arrangement into three parts for vocals. Now, these guys tend to bug me more than they please me - there's just a smugness about the whole vocalese thing, where jazz solos are given lyrics, all too rarely resulting in anything half as interesting as the original. But, I'll grant that this brief excursion has it's own pleasures, even if they are purely sonic rather than thematic. In other words, by bringing the words back to the forefront (and either slightly changing syntax or inserting phrases like "Yes indeed" to cover up the places where Miles changed the rhythm), all the audacity of intent is removed. Instead, we've got a hard-swinging display of skill, and there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Jen's Summer Jams

By Jen Eide

Well, we had a lot of common ground as far as staff choices for summer jams go. My nominee is...

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down's "Bag of Hammers" from the album We Brave Bee Stings and All. I love her exuberant and idiosyncratic vocal, the funky acoustic guitar strum and the lyric "it just soothes you, doesn't it? / like a lick of ice cream." Hands down one of my favorite albums of this year. Check out the video.

I was lucky to see Thao live earlier this year in the small setting of the Lemp Arts Center. I was struck both by her completely relaxed demeanor and her ability to rock out on an acoustic guitar. I wanted to post the live video of "Bag of Hammers" that she recently did at the offices of Paste magazine, but they won't let me embed--you'll just have to follow this link. It's worth your while, especially if you've never heard someone hum and beatbox at the same time. Don't miss Thao with the Get Down Stay Down on their second trip through St. Louis--July 22nd at Off Broadway.

Runners up:

Panther "Puerto Rican Jukebox." Polyrhythmic funkiness reminiscent of mid-1980's Talking Heads and King Crimson bubbling up underneath a chant that makes you wanna wave your hands in the air...and then just you wait until they take it to the bridge for that weird, weird vocal riff that will stick in your head forever.

The Ting Tings "That's Not My Name." Feminist statement or pseudo-hip hop boast? I think probably the former since by the end of this unbelievably catchy tune I know plenty about what her name isn't and no idea what her name is. Will I remember this album next year? Doubtful, but damn it's fun--and the bass line sounds like they inadvertently nicked a snippet of the tail end of the synth part in Gary Numan's "Cars" which is good enough for me.

Cassandra Wilson "St. James Infirmary." Really? A song about tuberculosis as a summer jam? Jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson is constantly reinventing and reimagining the American songbook whether it's standards (as on her current release Loverly), Joni Mitchell or the Monkees. This interpretation--so remote from Cab Calloway's famed version--with its unrelentlessly funky guitar part and breezy vocal delivery is really transformed into music fit for a summer jam.

Santogold "I'm A Lady." Darren must have read my mind on this one (as well as with She & Him's Volume 1 as this year's summertime album). "I'm A Lady" has a hook that just won't quit and I can't quit singing along with it. Unlike the Ting Tings--which is probably just this season's ear candy for me--this jam has staying power. Santogold is getting a lot of comparisons to M.I.A., which is an unfortunate way to pigeonhole her sound--there is a world music influence here, but an equal part love for 1980's new wave.

Oh yeah, and a handful of songs on CSS's upcoming release Donkey could make this list as well. More bounce than you can imagine. Details forthcoming. Donkey is set to be released July 22nd.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sharon Jones & Charles Walker's "Summertime"

by Steve Pick

The Latest Part of the Summertime Series - I Can't Count This High

Soul music is equal parts testifying, seduction, and show business. Even though I realize Sharon Jones and Charles Walker aren't literally floating on air, or likely to go back stage and immediately begin having the multiple orgasms they hint at in the performance, I'm enraptured with this live video from a concert appearance last Fall.

Almost as soon as I began telling people about my plans for this series, I started hearing about the incredible version of "Summertime" performed by Charles Walker and the Dynamites at this year's Twangfest. Then Roy Kasten sent me this video of Walker and co. joined by Sharon Jones and a couple Dap-Kings. For those of you who don't know, Walker and Jones are a couple of veteran soul singers who learned how to perform in the classic 60s traditions only to find their own obvious talents unable to succeed just as the styles were changing around them, anyway. In the last few years, each has hooked up with young powerhouse musicians looking to recreate the tight-as-a-funky-drum approaches of James Brown, Motown, and Stax. Charles Walker and the Dynamites, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are among the most exciting acts working today.

Here, I imagine, they've only performed this song together a few times, and the sexual energy between them is ramped up by its freshness. After the band introduces the song with punchy horn riffs, Walker stops the audience in its tracks with a spine-tingling delivery of the song's first line. He and Jones trade lyrics, each sounding more sexually ambitious than the last. If they are singing to the sleepy baby of the original setting, they're doing it to get the kid out of the way of their own late-night plans.

Build up, climax, pull back, repeat, again, again, pull way back, and climax one last time. That's the formula of this performance, and these two know a million tricks to tweak it every time they take a stage. It's necessary for an "impromptu" duet between two classic soul singers to be a standard, and "Summertime," with those minor chords and wide open spaces for melisma or stomping rhythmic interjections, happens to be a perfect choice. The meaning of the song itself is lost behind the raw sexual energy of the performance, but that's alright, too. It's a formula open to improvisations, with everything calculated and designed to achieve pure spontaneous pleasure.

Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July!

Catch punk legend Exene Cervenka & the Original Sinners Saturday, July 12 at The Tap Room with the Black Diamond Heavies and Rats & People. Only 3 bucks!

Click here for more 1980's music video binge.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Darren's Summer Jams

By Darren Snow

I could tell you about plenty of old songs that remind me of summers past, but this year? Man, I just don't know. There's got to be some shared experience involved for a song to be a bona fide Summer Jam, and music and I have had kind of a private relationship lately. That may sound strange coming from a guy who's on the radio for a couple hours a week and spins records in bars a couple of times a month--but they're not the kind of bars where everyone goes "WOOOOO!!" and dances madly when they hear their favorite song. The most I'll get is a thumbs-up from someone across the room who catches my eye--Hey, this guy likes CSS!--or maybe someone will come up and ask me what I'm playing. Otherwise, I'm just providing atmosphere and I don't get a lot of feedback.

Now, I used to spin records at a top-forty club, and I felt some connection to the popular tunes of the times, but that was in the heyday of Nelly and Christina Aguilera. These days, I can usually look at the Billboard chart and recognize maybe three songs in the top twenty. I think I've heard Rihanna's "Umbrella" all of twice, but I have a pretty good grasp of what a huge record it was. (See, that subscription to Entertainment Weekly comes in handy!) However, I don't know Lil Wayne from Young Jeezy, and I have a vague notion that there were recently about six songs in the top ten with "Shawty" in the title but I haven't heard any of them. I try to listen to anything new that Gwen Stefani or Justin Timberlake puts out, because they're the "important" pop stars of the day; the ones it's okay for the critics and hipsters to like. I figure I should be familiar with the records that Stereogum and Pitchfork semi-ironically pinch catchphrases from, right? I'll never take sexy back if I don't know which shit is bananas!

But can I identify a true Summer Jam--mainstream or indie--without sharing it with a crowd in a bar, or singing along with the windows down with at least one other person in the car? I guess I can still imagine potential "soundtrack hits" from an idealized version of my life. The retro-lite-rock vibe of My Morning Jacket's "Sec Walkin" sure sounds like a faded photograph of someone in oversized sunglasses and a big grin; it might as well be me. Music Go Music's Abba-tastic "Light of Love" similarly sounds like a monster hit from summer of '78, delivered thirty years late. The Volume One album by She & Him would be a great summer-lovin' record if only my wife liked it; without a receptive person to project its swoony pop goodness onto, it just feels like I'm mooning inappropriately over Zooey Deschanel by default. The Virgins' "Rich Girls" would qualify as one of the year's great summer singles, but I've been digging it since it first leaked onto the internet in early '07. (The Dandy Warhols' "Welcome to the Third World," kind of an ersatz-Duran to the Virgins' ersatz-Stones, would do in a pinch.) And yeah, yeah, the Ting Tings...what about 'em? I like 'em just fine, I guess, and as I just demonstrated, I have nothing against the recycling of styles past...but I'm not sure I'm ready to be nostalgic for Voice of the Beehive just yet. Or, God help us, Republica. Or, wait! Anyone remember Westworld? But I digress.

Jack and Jen were onto something, suggesting Thao's "Bag of Hammers." (What, not "Swimming Pools"?) The breezy beatboxing, the Mungo Jerry-ish chinka-chinka-chink, the ice-cream chorus--and, yes, the knowledge that I'm sharing it with my peers--it all adds up to a fantastic little summer song, and the CD it's from is still my favorite album so far this year. And if you're reluctant to accept something called "Bag of Hammers" as a suitable Summer Jam, may I suggest Santogold's "I'm a Lady?"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ian McLagan This Thursday

Here’s a reminder that Euclid will be presenting the legendary Ian McLagan this Thurday at The Duck Room. It’s doubtful you would need convincing to go out and hear an amazing band the night before a holiday, but how about this:


O.K. if that doesn’t convince you, how about some vintage Mac videos.

Here’s Mac in 1978 with The Rolling Stones performing Chuck Berry’s Let It Rock:

How about some vintage Faces:

Ahhh yes…The Small Faces:

Check out Mac and The Bump Band from a few days ago on KUT in Austin.