Monday, February 28, 2011

Radiohead-The King Of Limbs (New Music Review)

"The King Of Limbs", Radiohead's eighth studio album, is a disjointed and skeletal affair in which its textures, repetitive loops and dub step beats creep up behind you and demand your immediate attention. Their last album "In Rainbows" revealed itself to be warm and inviting, meant to be played in opened air auditoriums to the masses. "The King Of Limbs" is more suited to be played in a dingy basement under a 40 watt (if they make the wattage lower, throw that bulb in) light bulb. It's full of songs that remind you that "Rainbows" don't last forever. When they disappear, you're reminded of how dark and cold the world you live in can be. But that world needs a desirably, good soundtrack.

What makes Radiohead the most engaging band in the last two decades? When they move on to another project they continue to do so by wiping the slate clean, using very little of the tricks that succeeded before for them on previous albums and plant a new seed of music to "Bloom" on each new endeavor. Anyone who calls this a transitional album is dead wrong. These guys don't make transitional albums. They move their pawn to the next square.

On openers "Bloom" and "Morning Magpie", the songs simply wrap themselves around knotty, repetitive hooks. The former comes off with Phil Selway's percussion simply keeping the whole thing off kilter enough that the rest of the music amazingly sounds hollow against it (Like throwing a rubber ball against an aluminum garage door). "Morning Magpie" works on two to three dueling guitar lines that come from all corners of your speakers intertwining into a soundtrack of utter dread. Both songs have Thom Yorke's voice sailing across them like a viking on a cold ocean sea keeping things afloat. On "Bloom", Yorke is hardly restrained, but still comes off morose as he croons "and while the ocean blooms, it's what keeps me alive". The first half, or four songs, of "The King Of Limbs" does take some warming up to do for the listener as after the mediocre "Little By Little" and son of "In Limbo", "Feral", sees the band losing a little focus and steam a bit.

It's the second half of the album that has the stronger songs firing from the cannon. First single "Lotus Flower" works Selway's shuffle to the forefront again as eerie loops stretch across five minutes of scrawny synths and hand claps into the bummed out dance song of the year so far. Melancholy piano and occasional brass synths work together to create the album's most endearing moment on "Codex". Yorke sounds above suspicion as he portrays an almost fantasy world with "Just dragonflies" where "The water's clear and innocent". It's their most breathtaking song, in mood and nature, since 2001's "Pyramid Song" and probably has Radiohead fans debating across the globe which is more gorgeous. Acoustic guitars and Yorke repeating a refrain of "Don't hurt me" on the fragile "Give Up The Ghost" bring hauntingly good returns. And by the time the arguably brightest song, in character at least, of the bunch "Separator" closes the want to go give a listen from the top again. That's usually a sign of a good album.

With a history that is now richly enshrined Radiohead as one of my favorite bands, it's still refreshing to see Mr. Yorke, Johnny Greenwood and company continue to push themselves. They really don't have boundaries. They continue to produce and write material that engages the listener enough to challenge them to go back to listen again. The rewards for the listener are either endless or empty. For the most part, "The King Of Limbs" delivers good to that philosophy again, if not as completely thorough as on past efforts.

The brevity (37 minutes) and the way it was released is of no difference to me. That is for someone else to debate. For die-hard fans, there is plenty to dissect here. For fans who wished they were releasing the next "Karma Police", you've probably been long gone anyways. In the grand scheme of their discography, I recommend it. Definitely not essential to all listeners but it's far from their weakest (which is scarce in the first place) material. The only way I see "The King Of Limbs" polarizing fans of "In Rainbows" is in it's bare bones assembly. Which is too bad. A straw hut can be a comfortable place to live. Look at the architects who built it.

Grade: A-
(Recommended, Will Offer More With Repeated Listens)

JHO Picks:
Morning Mr. Magpie
Lotus Flower
Give Up The Ghost

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The year was....1974

Random Playlist For 1974:
1. Bad Company-Bad Company
When the astute madness known as Bad Company took hold.
2. Bob Marley & The Wailers-3 O'Clock Roadblock
Off the excellent "Natty Dread" album.
3. Big Star-September Gurls
I'm more of a fan of August gurls, but September ones are OK....
4. Joni Mitchell-Free Man In Paris
Has been covered by everyone from Phish to Neil Diamond.
5. Jackson Browne-Fountain Of Sorrow
I love Browne's often overlooked album "Late For The Sky".
6. Kiss-Black Diamond
The Replacements cover is just as good, but let's give it up for the blistering original in '74.
7. The Eagles-Already Gone
Go and eat you lunch by yourself Don Henley, go for it buddy.
8. Lynyrd Skynyrd-Don't Ask Me No Questions
And I won't tell you no lies...
9. Bruce Springsteen-Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Senorita, come sit by my fire!
10. Average White Band-Pick Up The Pieces
What a great instrumental....seriously. Precursor to disco.
11. Queen-Killer Queen
Right before they broke big the next year with "A Night At The Opera"
12. Richard & Linda Thompson-I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
Giddy and fun married couple in 1974. Great song for wanting to hit the city.

7 Albums Worth Revisiting From 1974:
1. Gram Parsons-Grievous Angel
2. Steely Dan-Pretzel Logic
3. Richard & Linda Thompson-I Want To See The Birght Lights Tonight
4. Lynyrd Skynyrd-Second Helping
5. Bob Marley & The Wailers-Natty Dread
6. Genesis-The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
7. Jackson Browne-Late For The Sky

Random Quote From A Song From 1974:
"If I Could Stick A Knife In My Heart/Suicide Right On Stage/Would It Satisfy Ya? Would It Slide On By Ya?/Would Ya Think The Boy's Insane? He's Insane"
The "But I Like It" Song

Random Thoughts On A Song From 1974:
Oh I remember "You're No Good" as a toddler, probably one of the first songs I remember singing as a kid. Released in November, 1974, it soared to the top of the charts February of the next year. And there's no surprise with that. How could anyone deny the sultry vocal delivery Linda Ronstadt gave on her cover of Dee Dee Warrick's song from eleven years before. Let us not forget, Ronstadt was the most successful female artist of the seventies, and that winning streak began with the home run ball she hit with "You're No Good". Ronstadt covered a lot of styles with good results throughout the rest of the decade, mainly country, but here's the one time brought down the house.
"I Want To Say It Again"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Music Reviews: The Go! Team-Rolling Blackouts

Exhausting. That's usually how I feel after completing a task or putting together some household appliance or furniture that requires a lot of analytical thinking. Sure at first the rigorous idea of getting all the things together can be an adrenaline rush. Piece X goes into Piece Double 7 with a screw and washer, screwdriver provided. But by the end putting everything together can leave me feeling a bit exhausted. But if the end product is satisfying enough than the hard work was worth it. It's kind of like spinning a Go! Team record. "Rolling Blackouts", the Brighton band's third album, is no exception.

What The Go! Team is good at is throwing a hodgepodge of a thousand different instruments, sounds and genres all into a forty minute affair. It's tough to catch your breath as you sort out the array of songs flying by your eardrums. This mix is brought to you mostly in part by band leader Ian Parton who has been turning the same tricks for three albums on now. Lively instrumentals? Check. Sweet sixties girl group pop songs? Check. All out furied noise rock with endless MC rapping? Check. Television theme show openings, or at least songs that could pass for them? Check. For those hoping Parton has expanded his sound since the band's 2004 debut "Thunder, Lightning, Strike", you may be a bit disappointed. But hey, if it's the adrenaline you came for and the smart mix of music, you gonna like. I can guarantee it.

So what's included in this hodgepodge. "Bust Out Brigade" stomps along with assurance that the Stanford marching band is coming through your speakers. The brass is that cool and there is some, drum-roll, triangle playing. Speaking of triangles, "Super Triangle" is another instrumental that sounds like it should be the theme song to a seventies medical drama. Out of place. Absolutely. But an enjoyable 1:46 song. And of course, there are songs featuring MC Ninja (one of the best generic MC names in the past fifteen years) who half the time is so buried in the mix, her chants become just another instrument in Parton's sound. For those not familiar with the band, her raps are almost cheerleader like chants that add the SASS to the sound. Opener "T.O.R.N.A.D.O." whirls by like the killer storm it references with turntable scratching, laser guitars and MC Ninja spelling out the title. It's a trip, but thankfully doesn't go on too long. When her voice is brought more to the forefront on songs like "Voice Yr Choice" and the double dutch "Apollo Throwdown", there's still nothing groundbreaking here in her rhymes. "One Nine One Three, We Gonna Shake The AKG" or "It's A Bell And I Need To Ring It, Shake It Like Dynamite" aren't exactly Hemingway or Lennon material. But hey, who cares if the song has you.....shaking your hips like battleships (A little Dead Weather reference, I can play along, I voice my choice).

So cutting to the chase, the best thing about "Rolling Blackouts" is the guest stars. Deerhoof's Satomi Matsuzaki brings lovely Japanese pop vocals to "Secretary Song". As the music whizzes by like a busy day in the city, Matsuzaki innocently ponders her own life as a secretary "I can see nothing else to be" to great effect. Just as satisfying is the girl pop deliciousness of "Ready To Go Steady" voiced by Lispector. The chorus comes off as something as pure as fifties malt shop mayhem. It's delightful in every way and can only be hated for being so delightful. The prize of the batch is "Buy Nothing Day" with guest vocals from Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino. It's a song that benefits from Cosentino's So Cal personality "We Don't Plan At All, Cause Making It Up Is So Natural" as well as some great chord progressions, a nice guitar solo, and a kick ass chorus. It's a winner all around and probably one of my favorite songs of the year so far.

Where "Rolling Blackouts" comes up short is that by about nine or ten tracks in, you're exhausted. It feels like you've consumed so much, that nothing surprises you by the end of the affair. Even a strange little piano instrumental, "Lazy Poltergeist", can't jar you back in for the rest of the album. "Rolling Blackouts" is loud, it's sometimes fun, sometimes head scratching dumb, it has a few really strong tracks, and it's not something you want to put on to relax. Next time you have a bookshelf to put together, try building it with this album and see what you get more exhausted with first. Remember, you can love the adrenaline, only if it's a satisfactory outcome.

Grade: B+
(Slightly Recommended, will see a few more plays in the future)

JHO Picks:
Secretary Song
Ready To Go Steady
Bust Out Brigade
Buy Nothing Day

  The Go! Team - Buy Nothing Day by thegoteam

  The Go! Team - T.O.R.N.A.D.O. by Ragged Words

Monday, February 21, 2011

Primal Scream-Come Together (Personal Favorite) (Screamadelica Reissue)

Good Monday! Why not start the work week with off that makes you want to high five, hug or just give the guns to anyone you see. Let's get a little Primal Scream pumped into the veins. Their most acclaimed album "Screamadelica" was the hallmark album of house music, dub, ambient house, freewheeling alternative dance music from the early 90's. A fusion of wonderful. And "Come Together" is one of its centerpieces, a joyous epic of good vibes and unification with chemicals being spit out of every chord change and added instrument. I love it either in its American mix or UK mix (I included the US mix here because it's obviously what I've been accustomed to since picking up the album years ago). Like the best moments on "Screamadelica", it's a song playing in an otherworldly zone. 

Speaking of this landmark album, it will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and the band is releasing "Screamadelica: Collector's Edition Boxset". According to, the boxset will not only include the CD but also as a gatefold double LP. Additionally, it will include a remastered version of the ‘Dixie-Narco’ EP, a disc containing a live performance from Los Angeles in 1992, a disc of remixes, a 30-minute documentary DVD: The Making of Screamadelica, a 12″ slipmat, a Primal Scream replica tour t-shirt, an assortment of art cards and a 50-page commemorative bound book featuring interviews with the band, unseen images and more. That is the kitchen sink. If you've loved "Screamadelica" for years upon years, then this is probably a purchase you will want to look into. If not, its an album from the 90's you should probably still pick up anyways. As of now, its not going to be available in the states just yet, but the UK can cherish it with its proper release on March 7th.

Also, did you know that "Screamadelica" was one of ten classic album covers chosen by Royal Mail for postage stamps last year? It's amazing the things you can learn on a Sunday night.

Anyways, here's the youtube clip, its one of my all time favorites. Enjoy, have a great week and give a stranger a high five or fist bump, just because you listened to this song. Please?

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Music Review: Cut Copy-Zonoscope

Instead of cramming a bunch of albums into a month end review, I'm going back to new music reviews one at a time. I tend to procrastinate and listening to six albums in nine days was bit much in January. My old strategy: Stalk the album I want to hear, give it three proper listens, give my two cents. Bingo! or Yahtzee! or Sorry!

So let's take a look at the third full length release, "Zonoscope", from Australian synth-pop, dance-rock outfit Cut Copy, shall we. Cut Copy is a band that borrow a lot from eighties pop music, but never really feel like they are totally aping it. Their new album continues in the same vein and has a ridiculously sunny disposition to it. The best three songs on "Zonoscope" start the album with flying colors. Each is outstanding with lots of great hooks lurking around every corner. Opener "Need You Now" is bright and the keys flourish in a way that you would find on an old, let's see, Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark song. What really ties it together is a simple chorus with lead singer Dan Whitford simply crooning "I know we're going crazy, but I need you now." Absolutely wonderful. As impressive is the second track "Take Me Over" with tribal like percussion and hooks that are reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere" and very ironically close to Men At Work's "Down Under" (it's simply a flute bit away). Whitford delivers another great chorus: "Take me over, take me out, to the jungle through the night in paradise" as the keys simply make this song a peppy delight. My favorite is the third track "Where I'm Going" which skips along on a wonderful beat and is full of woos, ahhs and yeahs that are simply the Beach Boys over a big beat. "Zonoscope" has a refreshing start. Like feeling the sun after several cloudy days. It's like the start of a mix tape you found lying around from 1986 that you recorded from the local radio stations and makes you think "You know, the eighties weren't all that distasteful now were they."

So if your 1986 mix tape was front-loaded with your favorites, the rest of "Zonoscope" stays true to form with the more unforgettable tracks that helped fill out your cassette. The biggest problem is the sunny disposition stays in tact, but the hooks that were found everywhere at the beginning have....disintegrated. The first instance where things sour is on "Pharaohs and Pyramids" where the keyboards are just total overkill and remind you of the more cringe worthy characteristics of eighties synth pop ("Oh yeah, I guess the eighties were kind of distasteful.") Don't get me wrong, there are a few good ideas still left on "Zonoscope". Like the shimmering keys on "Blink and You'll Miss A Revolution" or the giddy chorus of "Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat". You've even got the, we'll call it, fifteen minute, 7" extended dance remix "Sun God" gracing the end of the album that builds nicely but is really unnecessary. As a whole, tracks 4-11 have nothing memorable to make you want to go back and listen to them again except for's got a sunny disposition and it's upbeat. But sometimes that's simply not enough to get by. Sorry!

I wanted to kind of compare "Zonoscope" to last year's "Odd Blood" from Yeasayer, an album with a few gems littered across a minefield of mediocre dance-pop songs. But even "Odd Blood" had a current running through it that was at least filled with some, well, odd blood to keep you off guard. "Zonoscope" is too smooth and self-conscious for its own good to develop any sort of character and that's pretty much its letdown.

So I tell you what, purchase or take a listen below to the first three tracks from the album I have posted below, and if you feel you like those songs, who knows. Maybe you'll find the rest of "Zonoscope" a satisfactory album. I could be wrong. I may have blinked and missed a revolution, but it's a revolution without memorable hooks. Now I'm off to find that 1986 mix tape I recorded off the radio. It could have some Paul Young and T'Pau on it if I'm lucky. Now that "Heart and Soul" song by T'Pau, there's a song that worked a hook to no end.

Grade: B-
(Besides a few good tracks, will not see many repeated listens)

JHO Picks:
Need You Now
Take Me Over
Where I'm Going
Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat

  Need You Now by cutcopymusic

  Take Me Over by cutcopymusic

  Cut Copy - Where I'm Going by cutcopymusic

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New and Noteworthy: The Strokes, Bright Eyes, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Kills, Fleet Foxes, James Blake

Well there is a new Radiohead album coming out this Saturday, that is worth mentioning, though I've yet to hear anything from it. I'm also excited about the new PJ Harvey "Let England Shake" from what I've listened to, it's in the que for things to pick up. Looking for some other music as well? New material below from some artists that have been at awhile and some looking to keep momentum swinging from their last releases. Listen, enjoy.

The Strokes-"Under Cover Of Darkness"
It seems like the Strokes have been gone forever hasn't it? Or was it just because their last album "First Impressions Of Earth" was so underwhelming compared to the band's first stellar albums. That would make an eight year wait then (although, technically it's only been five). From the sounds of "Under Cover Of Darkness" the first single from their March 22nd release "Angles" is purely what the band does best. Simple, smart hooks and melody. And Mr Casablancas sounds like he's actually singing more nowadays (apologies, didn't check out his solo album). Also, look for these guys on SNL on March'll be like 2001 all over again, sort of.
  The Strokes - Under Cover Of Darkness by contz
 Bright Eyes-"Shell Games"
The new album "The People's Key" was released Tuesday. Front man Conor Oberst said he was over the whole Americana and folk sound that Bright Eyes have become most known for and wanted to go with something more rocking and contemporary. "Shell Games" contains a keyboard line that drives the song along with some passion and a neat little chorus "Here it come that heavy load". Not sure if this new direction will turn off fans from before or not, I personally liked "Cassadaga" a lot, so this new sound may take some time to set in for an honest opinion.
  Bright Eyes - Shell Games by acid stag

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart-"Belong"
 New York indie pop band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are releasing their sophomore release "Belong" on March 29th. From a few listens to the self titled song featured here and "Heart In Your Heartbreak", I have to say I'm kind of excited. It's obvious the influences here range from the Smashing Pumpkins to Catherine Wheel to My Bloody Valentine. Their new album has Flood and Alan Moulder at the control table so that probably has a lot to do with the music sounding a bit ethereal but accessible. Great song, don't hear a sophomore slump here.
  The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong by Slumberland Records

The Kills-"Satellite"
Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince are back with the Kills fourth album, "Blood Pressures", due out on April 5th. From the first few listens of their first single "Satellite", it sounds like their garage blues they have become known for may be a bit smoothed out but after a few more listens, it still growls with the same intensity I've been accustomed to since I first heard the wonderful "No Wow" five years ago. We'll see how their new release fares in about six weeks. In the meantime enjoy their first offering.
  The Kills - Satellite by DominoRecordCo 

Fleet Foxes-"Helplessness Blues"
Well, if you loved the Appalachian folk pop of the Fleet Foxes debut album from three years ago like my brother Adzilla did, you're probably going to be absolutely thrilled with the sudden rush of guitars, the same harmonizing vocals and superb build to the title song from their upcoming release "Helplessness Blues". It's like they picked up right where they left off in 2008. If the rumors were true about front man Robin Peckhold having writer's block for this album, it sounds like he simply didn't over think it too much and laid down what he was comfortable with from this offering. We'll see if it holds for a whole long player as the album's proper release is due out May 3rd.
  Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues by subpop

James Blake-"Limit To Your Love"
Sparse and haunting with a voice totally indebted to classic R & B, James Blake is an early "buzz" word in 2011 with his first full length album released last Tuesday receiving quite a bit of praise. A good example of what Mr. Blake does best can be found here on the single "Limit To Your Love". His vocals become the center stage as everything else behind him just becomes an accompaniment. It may take some repeated listens for his whole album to sink in, so I'm putting it on the back burner and taking things one song at a time to decide if I want to digest the whole thing. "Limit To Your Love" is a good start, something in that voice vaguely reminds me of Jeff Buckley.
  James Blake, "Limit To Your Love" by blatanti

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday's Top Ten: Ten Songs About Mary

Why not. How about a top ten this Tuesday designated to songs about Mary. For starters, the best TV themed Mary song is "The Mary Tyler Moore" song. Hands down. Here is a look at the ten best Mary songs of all time, I suppose. All you need to qualify is to have the name Mary in your song. Simple enough. Quick summary of each Mary for each song here as well...

1. Jimi Hendrix Experience-The Wind Cries Mary
In Hendrix's song, the wind also screams and whispers Mary at times.
2. Pearl Jam-Crazy Mary
Pearl Jam's Mary lived on a curve in the road in an old tar paper shack. She was also known to take a bottle and drink it down and then pass it around. She's crazy, but in a good way.
3. Credence Clearwater Revival-Proud Mary
CCR's Mary is about a boat, or some sort of sailing vessel. Proud Mary has the support of John Fogerty hoping it keeps rolling on the river. Tina Turner turned up that support in her cover version.
4. The Monkees-Mary, Mary
Micky Dolenz is near stalker mode wondering where Mary is going to. And where she goes, he wants to know if he can come too. Run DMC used the song in the eighties with the personal favorite line "Why you buggin'?"
5. Sarah McLachlan-Mary
Mclachlan's Mary is portrayed walking to the water's edge and pondering life wondering how long she's been sleeping and why she feels so old and cold. The sad Mary.
6. The Who-Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
What has Mary Anne's shaky hands down to her man? I don't think we should ask.
7. Tom Petty-Mary Jane's Last Dance
Petty's Mary grew up in Indiana. She also grew up tall and grew up right with those Indiana boys on those Indiana nights. The Hoosier Mary. Or in the video, the Kim Bassinger Mary.
8. Rancid-St. Mary
Rancid's Mary is out the door with a loaded 44 in her hand. Why? To shoot down the law that shot down her departed man. Go get 'em St. Mary.
9. Jethro Tull-Cross-Eyed Mary
The jack knife barber used to drop Jethro Tull's Mary off at school. She's also a poor man's rich girl and the Robin Hood Of Highgate. Good intentions despite her cross eyed disability.
10. The White Stripes-Now Mary
Jack White is sorry that he had to find a way to let his Mary down. He also wants to know if there's a way to bring him down. The best supporting Mary award.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Playlist: Week of 2-14-11

Arcade Fire, speechless,  just won Album Of The Year
We've got the winner of Album Of The Year on this week's playlist as Arcade Fire shocked the world winning the category at the Grammys on Sunday night. Watching these guys go full circle from their outstanding debut album "Funeral" in 2004 to winning the top Grammy of the year for another sensational album is really cool and just leaves me with a huge smile. The kids from Canada take home a top honor and I'm just about over bronchitis. Hey, it's gonna be an alright week.

This week also features new music from Bright Eyes, The Kills, Social Distortion and Lykke Li. Also some music from Titus Andronicus and Cee Lo Green as well as favorites from Weezer, The Police, U2 and Nick Drake. These twenty songs are gonna help us all through it! Yes, feel it!

1. Bright Eyes-Shell Games (2011)
Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes are back with a new album, "The People's Key", this Tuesday. Go to Amazon to get your copy.
2. Weezer-Why Bother? (1996)
What's Weezer up to? How about their take of the State Farm Insurance theme song. No, seriously.
3. Deerhunter-Sailing (2010)
Performing at the 2011 Sasquatch! Music Festival in Washington this May. Complete lineup here.
4. Wilco-Wishful Thinking (2004)
A live performance from 2004's "A Ghost Is Born". Wilco will also be performing at Sasquatch! this May.
5. Peter Bjorn & John-Second Chance (2011)
Swedish indie rock outfit back with sixth album, "Gimme Some", due to be relased stateside March 29th.
6. The Police-Message In A Bottle (1979)
Their first number one single in the U.K, only managed to reach #74 in the U.S. From their second album Reggatta De Blanc.
7. Cee Lo Green-Fuck You (2010)
Performing this Saturday night in Los Angeles during the "NBA All-Star Saturday Night" celebration.
8. R.E.M.-What's The Frequency Kenneth? (1994)
R.E.M. says they will NOT be touring this year in support of their new album "Collapse Into Now" due out on March 8th.
9. The Kills-Satellite (2011)
The fourth studio album "Blood Pressures" is due out April 4th. Check out the video here.
10. Rage Against The Machine-Killing In The Name Of (1992)
No shows slated yet in 2011 for Rage, but front man Zack De La Rocha stated last October that a new album could be out this summer.
11. Titus Andronicus-Theme From "Cheers" (2010)
Opening for The Pogues for shows in March and a few shows with Bright Eyes in April. Their whole itinerary is here.
12. Nick Drake-Things Behind The Sun (1972)
A man who lived way too short of a life. From his final album "Pink Moon".
13. Lykke Li-I Follow Rivers (2011)
Starting April 4th in Hamburg, Germany to May 31st in Los Angeles, this Swedish Indie singer will be performing just about everywhere in between in support of her sophomore album "Wounded Rhymes" due out February 28th.
14. Beastie Boys-Rhyme The Rhyme Well (2004)
Remix from their #1 2004 album "To The 5 Burroughs". No definitive date yet for "Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2".
15. U2-In A Little While (2000)
Currently in South Africa with a show this Friday night in Cape Town at Cape Town Stadium.
16. Social Distortion-Machine Gun Blues (2011)
First single from "Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes" which debuted at #4 on the Billboard 100 a few weeks ago.
17. Depeche Mode-Blasphemous Rumours (1984)
A remix album in the works including Duran Duran remixing "Personal Jesus". More details forthcoming.
18. Arcade Fire-Ready To Start (2010)
They won top notch honors at the Grammys Sunday night as "The Suburbs" took home "Album Of The Year". I am shocked and completely satisfied. Full list of winners here.
19. Toro y Moi-Still Sound (2011)
New album "Underneath The Pine" is slated for release on February 22nd.
20. Suckers-Easy Chairs (2009)
From their 2009 self titled EP. Visit their website at

For The Weekly Playlist, Click Here

Friday, February 11, 2011

Louisiana (50 Songs For 50 States)

Just visited New Orleans last autumn for the first time. Loved it. Would love to get back there again this springtime if possible. There's a certain charm and wonderful atmosphere surrounding the city. Not sure about the rest of the state, but it's definitely in my top ten cities in the United States.

Um, let's give the Pelican State the Walkmen's "Louisiana", because I like the Walkmen as well. And they like serenading about the Creole State:

Come, Go Away With Me
We'll Take The Highway
I'll See You In Between

And then cue up the horn section...and grab me some gumbo.

The Walkmen - Louisiana
Uploaded by ADA_Distribution. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Led Zeppelin-Physical Graffiti (JHO Hall Of Fame)

Pretty much the whole idea behind the "JHO Hall Of Fame" is a fictional cabinet to place my favorite albums of all time in with some kind words and past experiences to back up their placement. The idea was to get either fifty or a hundred and they try to sort them out for my favorite albums of all time. A slight problem that comes up from time to time is making sure I'm placing the correct album from a band I admired or still admire. So I was looking at Led Zeppelin this past week as I continue to nurse some dreaded bronchitis and getting back to feeling 100%. I guess you could say..."It's just what the doctor ordered"...oh, that was horrible. No, that was really bad. Cough, hack, um, Physical Graffiti. Yes, the double album from probably my favorite AOR band of all time. Look, we all know that the first six albums Zeppelin released are fantastic. And even "In Through The Out Door" merits some good material (I'm never denying an album with "South Bound Suarez", "Fool In The Rain" and the unbelievable synth workout epic of "Carouselambra".) But I've only got so many spots in my own Hall of Fame to fill.

Why Physical Graffiti? What did it ever do for me? For starters, my beloved father, a man whose vinyl collection was a basis for my love of music contained an abundance of Zeppelin albums (even "Coda"). So when I went through my Zeppelin phase, a phase every kid goes through, these albums were like grabbing Twizzlers to hear my favorite radio tunes along with the other ones they weren't playing as much on the local AOR radio stations. But here's the thing. He had no "Physical Graffiti" in his collection. So in the back of my mind, "Physical Graffiti" was the first Zeppelin "cassette" I ever bought via 1985-86. It was mine. I could do what I wanted with it. I played the hell out of it.

That's my background. Twenty five years later, I'm putting it into my favorites of all time for another good reason. Its Zeppelin's most ambitious album. So much ambition it just couldn't be packed into a single album. All the songs on "Psychical Graffiti" cover a lot of ground. Because of this ambition, it's the one album I'm most prone to picking out of my own music collection if I truly need to get the Led out. Even if I've heard it a thousand times, there's something jolting about how the album sways from genre to genre effortlessly as I listen to it. I'm not even concerned there are several throwaway tracks from past albums littered throughout "Physical Graffiti", it's the different forays they tackle that keeps the thing still exhilarating to listen to.

There's the straight up raunchy rock of "Custard Pie" (with Plant singing "Chewin' a piece of your custard pie") and "The Wanton Song". There's nods to acoustic instrumentals "Bron-Yr-Aur", country music with the underwater guitar of "Down By The Seaside", and barroom honky-tonk "Boogie With Stu". There's straight up rock numbers including Jimmy Page's excellent workout on "The Rover" and there's hipster funk numbers with John Paul Jones working a clavinet through the foot shuffling "Trampled Under Foot". There's touching ballads such as Robert Plant's take on what life would've been like if he hadn't chosen music in "Ten Years Gone"' And then there is the tight pop like joy of "House Of The Holy", a song that for some odd reason was left off the previous titled album by the band. Starting off as an innocent song "Let me take you to the movies..." it shows itself more naughty as each verse goes on "Let me wander in your garden, and the seeds of love, I'll sow." One of my favorite straight up rock songs of all time.

And then....there's the epics. Arguably, the best epics in Zeppelin's catalog. "In My Time Of Dying" is eleven minutes of Zeppelin jamming in every way possible, from Page's excellent slide guitar work to the shifting rhythm changes from Paul Jones and Bonham. There is the fantastic keyboards that untangle mysticism during the intro of "In The Light" before breaking down into one of the most uplifting choruses in the band's repertoire. And then there are those majestic strings arranged by John Paul Jones, that wonderful guitar of Page, the mystical lyrics of Plant "Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams", and the always fantastic drums laid down by one of rock's best drummers John Bonham all wrapped into the excellent "Kashmir." It's one of the very few times you can call a song a monster. "Kashmir" is a monster of a song.

To see when "Physical Graffiti" was released, right before the explosion of disco and punk rock and years removed from the explosion of heavy metal at the beginning of the decade, makes it stand as an oasis in the middle of the seventies. It's a time when all four members had hit a creative stride, lyrically and musically. It was the first album released on their own label "Swan Song". There is so many special things about "Physical Graffiti" that I have no choice but to enshrine it in the JHO Hall Of Fame. Even if classic rock stations tend to play some Zeppelin material to a point of supersaturation, this is the one album you can step back and get lost in anytime you want to get away from that over saturation. It's an aural pleasure every time. The question will be if there's room for one more Zeppelin album in the hall before it closes for business. In the meantime, I'm moving through "Kashmir" (Oh that was horrible too. Someone get me a comic. Stat.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Artist Spotlight: The White Stripes-300 People Living Out In West Virginia

Groundhog Day this year brought the usual Punxsutawney Phil hi jinx as he didn't see his shadow, hung out for awhile and said "Hey, it's gonna be an early spring this does that grab ya?" What Punxsutawney Phil unfortunately could have predicted to happen a few hours later would've been even more significant. "Hey, I predict the White Stripes are gonna officially call it a day later on this afternoon." But the furry rodent is more designated to taboo meteorology as much as your local weather celebrities who continue to baffle and panic viewers across the country during a week of ferocious weather from New Mexico to Maine. I've been sick with bronchitis since Saturday and this wasn't exactly the news I anticipated hearing on Wednesday. The man with a cane and a guitar to shred and the girl with the peppermint drums won't be playing together anymore. Boo!

It appears from the statement from Third Man Records that it was an amicable split between Meg and Jack White. Maybe my favorite line from the presser is “The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want." What can one do with the White Stripes? Let's give ten random moments, a kind of eulogy to the White Stripes.
1. Were Meg and Jack married? Were they divorced? Were they actually siblings and if so, were they married siblings? Was it perhaps the greatest press you could ask for?

2. My first exposure to the band: "Hotel Yorba" video on MTV2. Right before "Fell In Love With A Girl" hit big and after their first two albums. I immediately liked it. And then I actually saw the hotel driving into Detroit off the highway a few years ago...not that I'd ever be inclined to stay at Hotel Yorba...

3. Going back and rediscovering their second album "De Stijl" years later. Any album named after the Dutch art movement is fine with me.

4. The video for "The Hardest Button To Button". How many edits are going on here anyways?

5. "We're Going To Be Friends" being used at the beginning of Napoleon Dynamite.

6. Their ongoing friendship with Conan O'Brien. Whether Conan showed up in their twisted "The Denial Twist" video or Meg and Jack performing on Conan's last show, they always seemed to have each other's backs.
YouTube Video: Click Here!

7. For helping coin the phrase "When You Gonna Ring It" in 2005 with the extra juicy, piano bop of "My Doorbell".

8. Meg's vocal contributions. How can anyone dislike or "Passive Manipulation", or "In The Cold, Cold Night"? 

9. "Little Acorns" producing a hilarious self help tutorial at the beginning with Jack later slyly singing "Be like the squirrel, girl".

10. For bringing Legos back in rave fashion on the "Fell In Love With A Girl" video.

Basically, it's a sad day for rock 'n roll. In a world with overproduced rock 'n roll, the White Stripes kept it simple from production to song craftsmanship. But they never abandoned the true soul of old time Blues music throughout their six album career. Along with the Strokes, the White Stripes kind of helped me gauge my musical barometer at the beginning of last decade to what I expected to hear from bands throughout the rest of the decade. There isn't any big lifetime changing stories with their music, where I can pinpoint a place or time when I heard a song, but there was one thing that was for sure....they never failed when it came to delivering just straight up garage rock 'n roll. RIP White Stripes. I wonder if we'll ever hear from that Jack White fellow again????

White Blood Cells (2001)
Elephant (2003) 
De Stijl (2000)
Get Behind Me Satan (2005)
Under Great White Northern Light (Live) (2010) 

My Personal Best Of:
1. The Big Three Killed My Baby
2. Hello Operator
3. Apple Blossom
4. Your Southern Can Is Mine
5. Hotel Yorba
6. I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman
7. Fell In Love With A Girl
8. I Can't Wait
9. Seven Nation Army
10. The Air Near My Fingers
11. Ball & Biscuit
12. Black Math
13. The Hardest Button To Button
14. My Doorbell
15. The Nurse
16. The Denial Twist
17. Little Ghost
18. Icky Thump
19. Rag & Bone
20. 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Green Bay/Pittsburgh Super Bowl Playlist

Could it come down to a Suisham Field Goal?
Perhaps the NFL's two most storied franchises. One has the trophy named after the coach who won the first Super Bowl. The other, the most dominating team in the Super Bowl era. It should be a game for the ages or, the last game of football we see in a long time if there is a lockout. But let's hope not. We don't need to see Shane Falco playing for our favorite team this upcoming autumn.

The task at hand is to put together a playlist for your Super Bowl with a little Western Pennsylvania flavor and a little Dairy State flavor. Growing up outside Pittsburgh like I did, I'm well aware that there are millions of Steelers songs available. I believe there are people who get by just writing parody songs for the Steelers for a living. Some are hysterical, and some are cringe-worthy. What I didn't know was that the same can be said for the folks up in Wisconsin (CWA? Cheeseheads With Attitude~Really?). So what I've done is mixed together sixteen songs, being fair and giving equal representation here (eight for each) including football songs and well known artists from the area.

For the game itself, I did pick the Packers to win the Super Bowl in the 2010 preview. But alas, a change in that prediction must be made. Who knew back in September that the Stillers would overcome Big Ben's suspension, Rashard Mendenhall would be a force and the defense instead of getting older would simply just be getting better. I said take the Saints and the points last year and was correct, I 'm telling you to take the Steelers and the 2.5 points. They are truly "Knockin' On Seven's Door".
Final Score: Pittsburgh 23/Green Bay 21.

Click on links for youtube cuts (Two personal favorites here are BlackMahal and The Replicates)
1. Pittsburgh Steelers Polka
2. Green Bay Fight Song
3. Stairway To Seven (Steelers)
4. Cheese and Packers (Packers)
5. Here We Go Steelers (2010-11) (Steelers)
6. The Replicates-Aaron Rodgers Seems Alright (Packers)
7. Steeler Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (Steelers)
8. Pat McCurdy-We Love The Green and Gold (Packers)
9. The Clarks-Cigarette (Steelers)
10. Bon Iver-Wisconsin (Packers)
11. BlackMahal-Black Gold and Silver (Lombardi Baby) (Steelers)
12. Bruce Kerr-The Cheesehead Song (Wisconsin) (Packers)
13. Styx-Renegade (Steelers)
14. C.W.A.-I'm A Cheesehead Baby (Packers)
15. Donnie Iris-Ah Leah! (Steelers)
16. Violent Femmes-American Music (Packers)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Music Reviews: Iron & Wine, Charles Bradley, The Decemberists, Smith Westerns, Social Distortion, Destroyer, Tennis

A run down of some new releases from the past month.

stationtostation Pick Of The Month (January):
Iron and Wine-Kiss Each Other Clean
Goodbye cozy and intimate. Hello spacious and vast. On Iron and Wine's fourth full length release, "Kiss Each Other Clean", lead man Samuel Beam has pretty much thrown away any of the lo fi recording style that fans from past albums such as "Our Endless Numbered Days" and to a lesser extent, "The Shepherd's Dog" maybe came to cherish. Those recordings were intimate affairs you could take comfort in enjoying in a small room. Here we've got Beam playing to the rafters in a sense with a multitude of different instruments and an overall cleaner proudction you'd find on classic AM 70's gold records.

There is no need for alarm here, though. If Beam had a crayon box with eight colors in the past, he picked up the sixty four pack with crayon sharpener for this affair. Whether it be the addition of saxophone on "Me & Lazarus", marimbas and vibraphones on "Monkeys Uptown", or the flutes found on "Rabbit Will Run", the one thing that fortunately stays constant throughout this huge palette of sound is Beam's strength of being a fantastic singer/songwriter. His poetry musings of a man with a bruised heart still stay intact and his songs for the most part remain charming affairs as found on the opener "Walking Far From Home", the should be a breakthrough single this year for the band, "Tree By The River", or the catchy doo wops backing the sweet "Half Moon". Other songs such as the forced funkiness of "Big Burned Hand" or the epic, unfocused closer "Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me" may seem a bit out of place on an Iron and Wine album, but they do keep things interesting, and that is part of the charm here. "Kiss Each Other Clean" never collapses under the wight of these new studio tricks and extra instrumentation. If anything, it just becomes another Iron and Wine album you probably need to hear. It's like a technicolor rainbow that is just as warm and rewarding as past efforts. A small triumph.
Grade: A-

JHO Picks:
Walking Far From Home
Tree By The River
Half Moon
Glad Man Singing
  IRON & WINE - Tree by the river by MarMat7681
Charles Bradley-No Time For Dreaming
If some offerings of late have dipped their feet into the pool of the classic soul era, "No Time For Dreaming" is where the listener is allowed to dive head first into some fantastic deep, southern soul. Sixty two year old Charles Bradley may at first seem like he's borrowing form legendary artists such as Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown, but his grizzled voice is truly unique in itself. He channels Gaye on "The Telephone Song" right down to the spoken word at the beginning of the song, gets straight down Redding like on the fantastic opener "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" and lets out some straight up soulful vocals James Brown style on "The Golden Rule" and "Lovin' You, Baby".

What makes these songs truly sizzle is the combination of Bradley's vocals with a remarkable backing band sounding true to the classic sound of Stax musicians assembled on "No Time For Dreaming". Every song stays true to the retro soul sound, from the great horns to the great rhythm and drum sections, that produced so many classic albums back in the sixties and seventies. Themes range from politics ("The World (Is Going Up In Flames)", to heartbreak ("I Believe In Your Love"), to a brief history of the hardships and difficulties Bradley has tackled through his long life ("No Time For Dreaming" and "Why Is It So Hard"). It's a truly remarkable affiar, one that sounds like a remake of a classic album, but truly original and brand new in material courtesy to the always sturdy "Daptone sound" in its finished product. Highly recommended for fans of soul music, old and new.
Grade: A-

JHO Picks:
The World (Is Going Up In Flames)
Golden Rule
No Time For Dreaming
Why Is It So Hard
  The World (Is Going Up In Flames) - Charles Bradley by dylandynamo
The Decemberists-The King Is Dead
Look, I'm still trying to get around the Decemberists lead single "Down By The Water" not breaking into "Maps and Legends" or "The One I Love" from R.E.M. The familiariarity is uncanny. Perhaps it's because Peter Buck helped on three of the songs including "Down By The Water" on the "King Is Dead". The Decemberists latest release finds the band in a more direct approach to their sound which may delight people who jumped off the Decemberists bandwagon with the overwrought "Hazards Of Love" released in 2009. Songs tend to bask in American folk roots instead of succumbing to the bands tendencies to jump off the deep end with progressive, art rock influences from the past.

The harmonica on songs like "Water" and the opener "Don't Carry It All" are straight out of the Neil Young "Heart Of Gold" catalog while the slide guitar on "Rise To Me" is rustic beauty you'd think about hearing on Wilco's A.M. album. Just as fine are the slower ballads "January Hymn" and "June Hymn" which both drip with warm and wistful vocals by Colin Meloy. If there's a knock I've got is while the band seems to tackle Americana elements left and right, it still feels a bit calculated and missing the key ingredient of looseness that makes a classic American folk album possible. Instead, it becomes more commercially ready no matter how hard you turn that those strings of the fiddle that begin "All Arise!" But if more commercial ready is the endgame, the Decembeists have hit a home run. "The King Is Dead" is currently the number one album on the Billboard Hot 100. Who would've ever thought that possible? A solid, accessible album if even a bit by the numbers.
Grade: B

JHO Picks:
Don't Carry It All
Rise To Me
January Hymn
Down By The Water
  The Decemberists - Rox In The Box by Vicente P.S. 
Smith Westerns-Dye It Blonde
These young lads (not one being above twenty yet I believe) from Chicago have put out one outstanding sounding album for their sophomore release: "Dye It Blonde" (a play on the stones "Paint It Black", get it?). There is a ton to like about the sound and songs here. Each one has an opening layer of strings and keyboards that balance out a guitar that comes straight off your favorite T. Rex or Mott The Hoople album. Lead off song "Weekend" practically enshrines everything that sounded great about glam rock in the seventies in a little under four minutes from the carefree vocal style of Cullen Omori ("A girl like you...") to the great production of music including a lead guitar that makes you think David Bowie's Mick Ronson has come back from the grave to recreate "A Song For Bob Dylan". The band's big strength is the music itself, each song sounding like pristine pieces of glitter pop left on the cutting room floor of a seventies band that sound ready for 2011. The upbeat songs "Imagine Pt. 3", "End Of The Night", "Dance Away" simply bounce along rambunctiously and the more middle of the road pieces, the absolute stunner "All Die Young" and "The Only One", never let in any piece of sappiness that may bog things down.

My lone issue with "Dye It Blonde" is that while Smith Westerns politely borrow the glam rock sound, the lyrics and underbelly of the whole affair is sorely missing the seediness and sexuality that those great classic albums from the early seventies provided. Musically they are light years ahead of where they are in life. Maybe some rough and tumble years can help add some grit to their songs, because grit is what is holding back "Dye It Blonde" from being an instant classic. Still a great listen and should please fans of the band and pick up some more as the year wears on.
Grade: B+

JHO Picks:
All Die Young
End Of The Night
Dance Away
  Smith Westerns - All Die Young by Indie Aufsatz 
Social Distortion-Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes
28 years after debuting on to the L.A punk scene with "Mommy's Little Monster", Social Distortion still have not lost their trademark rockabilly meets punk infused with roots rock formula. With their first album in seven years time, "Hard Time & Nursery Rhymes" finds Mike Ness singing more tales of hard luck guys in the same vein as he did on classic albums "Social Distortion" and "Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell".

"Hard Times" has a fantastic 1-2 opener with an instrumental that purely burns like a psycho surf classic before opening up into pure classic Stones era "California (Hustle and Flow)" with Ness growling "Take me down/Take me on down the line" accompanied with female background singers. From there, things can be a little uneven with many high points including the thundering lead off single "Machine Gun Blues" with Ness singing about being a gangster to the slow burn of "Bakersfield".  A couple lower points are when Ness sounds begins to self parody himself a bit "Diamonds In The Rough" and a Hank Williams' cover "Alone and Forsaken" just doesn't seem to fit well. But in the end, Ness seems to thrive on being comfortable in the band's survival ("And I'm still alive and I will survive/I can take what life's got to give/Just need a little time") on "Still Alive". "Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes" will undoubtedly make long time fans ecstatic as it's another worthy addition to their catalog.
Grade: B+

JHO Picks:
California (Hustle & Flow)
Machine Gun Blues
Can't Take It With You
  Social Distortion - Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes by Epitaph Records ___________________________________________________________________________________
"Wasting your days chasing some girls alright, chasing cocaine through the backrooms of the world all night." These are the lines you first hear on the self titled song "Kaputt" and it pretty much sums up the whole atmosphere of the album in a nutshell. Dan Bejar's ninth studio album wreaks of "Bright Lights, Big City" style seediness as he more or less doesn't sing these songs as much as he breathes life into the lines to push them through their icy landscapes. It bathes in that smooth, quiet storm atmosphere of early eighties soft rock while borrowing a lot (I mean a ton) from the New Romantic and Sophisti-Pop of eighties bands like Spandau Ballet and Prefab Spout.

If those bands or atmosphere is not your cup of tea, you are going to find the saxophones, synths, and heavy handed dramatics a bit too much on "Kaputt". Those saxophones, for instance, are going to wreak like Kenny G. But for some odd reason, the combination of all these elements works. "Kaputt" is an album that requires extra attention and additional spins for rewards to seep in. And if you become acquired to Bejar's mood, then songs like the excellent opener "Chinatown", the early New Orderish "Savage Night At the Opera" or the ever occurring theme Bejar keeps throwing out through the affair "A Song For America" are going to be the favorites here. "Kaputt" is an album that fans of are going to be the erratically diehard for while anyone else is going to be left scrathcing their heads trying to figure out the fuss. Or you could be in my boat: giving this repeated spins finding new nuances to enjoy that I didn't hear before. This is a grower without any doubt.
Grade: A-

JHO Picks:
Savage Night At The Opera
Song For America
  Destroyer - Chinatown by haibee_mirage

Tennis-Cape Dory
The story of a married couple (Denver duo vocalist Alaina Moore and the kitchen sink Patrick Riley) selling everything they own to buy a sail boat and sail up and down the east coast to gain inspiration for writing their debut album is fascinating at best. The album cover sporting an eighties pin up girl from the mall is every bit as fascinating. The songs themselves on "Cape Dory" are all nuggets of songs filled with 50's girl doo wop singing by Moore whose vocals don't exactly strike with a sense of urgency or passion but yet fill the air like a gentle sea breeze. Her vocal take on "Marathon" sounds timeless and effortless as a nifty organ sets a muted 50's drive in atmosphere. Elsewhere, Riley brings guitars reminiscent of the Walkmen to the forefront with a nice use of jumpy bass lines to accompany Moore's sweet voice on "Baltimore".

But as a whole, digesting 28 minutes worth of these ten songs in one sitting (it feels longer than 28 minutes somehow) you start to feel the songs' strengths aren't enough to keep things from feeling a bit misguided and by the end, well, a bit dull. Each song in itself is a cupcake, good as an occasional song in a mix with others. But eating all ten cupcakes at once leaves you eating empty calories at one time. And "Cape Dory" is unfortunately, an empty calorie type of album. First disappointment of 2011.
Grade: C

JHO Picks:
Take Me Somewhere
  Tennis - Baltimore by // OhFancy