Archive for the ‘What Am I Listening To Now?’ Category

A well-pruned list of recent releases I can still listen to after several plays.

(Spotify link below)

Ben Franklin’s Song—The Decemberists

(Technically this is from the middle of last month, but I had started my Christmas Holiday by then and wasn’t plugged in the new releases.)

You had me at Ben Franklin, and happily the song is nearly as epic as the man it’s about. This is an outtake from “Hamilton”, or at least the lyrics are. Lin-Manuel Miranda couldn’t quite get Franklin’s character to work in the show, and eventually handed the lyrics off to the Decemberists to add the music, stating that he heard the song in his head as being sung in a “Decemberisty” sort of way.

This is a first-person introduction to Ben Franklin with plenty of attitude. (Do you know who the f**k I am?”), so I don’t recommend it for the workplace, or anyplace where people are easily offended.

This song was earwigging me all last week.

All Time What—They Might be Giants

Here’s another song that got stuck in my head, perhaps not quite as much as the first track. The quintessential nerd rockers are back with another album this week. This is a track from it, and we can only hope the rest of the album sounds this good.

I Can’t Quit—The Vaccines

Another upbeat rocker from a band that seems to have picked up where the Ramones left off, in a straight-forward three chord way at least.

Finesse—Bruno Mars, feat. Cardi B

I just realized this is another holdover from last year (i guess the word “remix” should have given that away) but I do like Bruno’s taste in pop funk. And the track is also remarkable for making Cardi B tolerable to me after being made to listen to that odd and twisted “Bodak Yellow” enough to feel masochistic.

If You Leave Me Now—Charlie Puth feat. Boyz II Men

Not a remake of the old Chicago song (thankfully) but just a nice soul ballad done with velvet harmony from Boyz II Men.

No woman, No Cry (arr, Cello)—sheku Kanneh-Mason

I went back and forth on including this, but I thought I owed it to you to let you hear this classical, instrumental arrangement of the classic Bob Marley song at least once. sounds nice, but I’m not sure I’ll be racking it much in the future.

London’s Blues—Ferris & Sylvester

Maybe a bit more folk-rockabilly than blues. I’d never heard of this young duo from England, but their website says they’re being compared to Laura Marling and the shovels, among others. I don’t know about that, but it’s a pretty good track.

Amsterdam—Spilt Milk Society

Another relatively new band (2015) in the Indie Rock/Pop vein who are doing quite well on Spotify, apparently. I can understand that if this track is representative.

Spanish Sea—Toto

Don’t get too excited old timers—it’s only one of three unreleased tracks from an upcoming compilation. This one is firmly in te style of “Africa”. If you liked them before, you’ll like this, and if not…

Where the Sidewalk Ends—Sydney Gish

There’s a certain upbeat,’60s folk/pop vibe to this song despite the lyrical references to amazon, for example. Through yet I’ve never heard of her before, this is from the Bostonian’s second album “No Dogs Allowed”.

All this Useless energy—Jeff Rosenstock

This one reminds me a bit of a mid-tempo Weezer Song in the way the big guitars fill up the sonic space. Jeff has been kicking around the New York area for over twenty years, with a solo career for the last six having previously played in bands such as the ska -influenced Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Kudrow.

Hey Heartbreaker—Dream Wife

Is it just me, or are women playing some of the hardest rocking music these days, such as this track from the London trio’s current EP “Fire”.

So it Goes—Only Sun

Some more upbeat Indie rock/pop for you from another relatively new London-based band.

Echo—Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

I have to be honest and say that this band is one that I always felt like I should like more than I actually do, but I don’t have to try so hard on this typically, downbeat track. the chorus hook and harmonies carry it for me.

Wildwind—Young Dreams

This is a track from “Waves 2 You”, the second album from this Norwegian band. Though they’re called Indie there is a certain art rock feel that reminds me of something by Supertramp, or maybe 10CC, that eludes me at the moment. Might have a lot to do with the synthesizer, beat and melodic vocal line.

Tell Me—Joan as Policewoman

This seems to be Joan Wasser’s first single in a couple of years. I admit the past work that I’ve heard hasn’t resonated strongly with me, but this one is a fairly straight-forward track that might not be my favorite of the week, but isn’t bad either.

Toxic Love—the Beach

I picked this for the list before I realized they’re a relatively new band from Dublin. I certainly didn’t guess from listening to it. It’s a fairly solid pop-rock song with a dance beat (four on the floor) kick drum and a decent chorus hook. It’s early days yet, and hopefully they’ll find a way to make their music a bit more distinct from other bands. Still, pretty decent.

Party Tattoos—dodie

Although this young singer/songwriter from Epping has seems to have just one traditionally recorded album from 2016 to her name, she also has a Youtube channel doddleoddle that features more than 150 videos and over a million and a third subscribers. Not too shabby. This is the new single from what I expect will be the next album. Or not.

Vincent—James Blake

This probably made the list for sentimental reasons. Still a great song after all these years (about 40 I’d guess) and a decent, straightforward reading from James.

Like a Motherless child – Slow Light Version—Moby

I vacillated on this one too—yet another version of “Motherless Child”, but I do like the feel and the sung part of the vocal. I’m not convinced about the rap though. If Moby is as busy this year as he was last year I’m sure I’ll have plenty more opportunity to find something I like better.


Move Like This - The CarsSeveral times since their breakup in 1988, singer/guitarist Ric Ocasek, one of the founding members of The Cars, stated that the band would never reform. So one has to wonder how much of a roman candle was lit up his butt when, in 2005, erstwhile band mates, guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes, joined forces with Todd Rundgren to form The New Cars, which performed classic Cars songs and Todd Rundgren songs. Sure, Ric gave them his blessing, but a year later he was on “The Colbert Report” putting Rundgren on notice.

I’m just guessing, but the phrase “Don’t get mad, get your band back” comes to mind. Well, if anyone is capable of filling in for the Toddmeister filling in for Ric Ocasek, it’s probably Ric Ocasek. Cut to the 17th of this month. Ric, Elliot, Greg, and restaurateur and last surviving car member, drummer David Robinson, have released the first video from their upcoming new album Move Like This.

“Blue Tip” is an upbeat pop song that continues The Cars new wave stylings. If you liked them before, you’ll like this song too – they still sound quite like themselves. There will be a different track from the album, “Sad Song” released soon as the first single. We’ll have to wait until May 10th to hear what the bulk of the album sounds like.

Unavoidably absent is singer/bassist Benjamin Orr, who died in 2000. Benjamin had the more “normal” voice, and sang “Drive”, one of their best-remembered songs, so his absence will probably be missed even by the more casual fans.

There are two Dave Masons. Who knew?

Sounds of the Orient - Dave Mason

Sounds of the Orient - Dave Mason

I’m sure some of you aren’t aware there is one, since the more famous of the two has been pretty quiet on the recording front for at least two yonks and half a donkey’s age. However, according to the official website, the former Traffic guitarist and high-profile 70s solo artist is still touring . in fact, tonight he’s in Pennsylvania. Playing “We Just Disagree”, “Look at You, Look at Me”, and other numbers well known to his fans, no doubt.

The other Dave Mason is a clarinettist who played with the Royal Signals before spending 35 years as a music teacher. Since retiring he has focused on recording. He has just released a new age album entitled ”Sounds of the Orient”, which sounds much as you would expect during a reiki session, for example.

I’m relating this information in case some of you are confused, like We7 is, and think that the new age album is a new recording from the other Dave Mason. It isn’t, and it couldn’t be more different (well, maybe if it was a cycle of Gregorian chants).

The Vaccines are the latest in a long line of wall-of-sound garage rock bands epitomized by the Ramones. Reminiscent of late summer nights by the beach in the car with the AM radio blasting (there was no FM), maybe not quite as fast and rough, but close enough, and all the songs are under three minutes. Hey, somebody has to carry the banner.

So far there are two “single” releases (i.e. two songs each). All four songs are from an album due to be released March 21st entitled, “What Do You Expect from the Vaccines”.

The first single, released last November, contains “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”, which is the song most likely to get you to go “Hey Ho, Let’s Go”, churning full crunch until it stops dead at 1:25, making it the first new song (I assume) shorter than what I hear are the new preview times at iTunes. Despite, the harsh chords on the intro, “Blow it Up” is moderate-tempo, two-chord, teen-angst splendor. “Were you ever my age? No, I doubt it.” Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, I said it 40 years ago, and I’m pretty sure I heard someone say it before me.

The second single, released just a few days ago, continues the sound and style of the first release. The single includes “We’re Happening”. “I don’t want to bore you”, they sing. Not yet anyway. “Post Break-Up Sex”, with it’s line “What do you expect/ from post break-up sex”, may be the one they’ve picked as the big song from the album, given the album title.

All songs have the vocals down in the mix, and the overall reverb turned up to 11. It’s about the feel of the song, and having a few words to sing along to. The style is as old as I am, although it’s all about youth. It sounds OK to me. It remains to be seen whether The Vaccines can compete in the twenty teenies. Hopefully, they can.

“The Words that Maketh Murder“ is a PJ Harvey song out in advance of the new album, “Let England Shake”, that will be released February 15th.

The song starts with a “Boots are Made for Walking” kind of groove, ends with a quote from “Summertime Blues”, and has an easy 1960s feel. The lyrics also have a 60s feel – it’s an anti-war protest song teaming with disturbingly graphic descriptions of the aftermath of battle – confrontational action born from confrontational words. It doesn’t preach so much as it illustrates and, hopefully, inspires thought and action.

If only this one would go viral, but at least the PJ Harvey fans will go out of their way to hear it.

Sadly, another good thing comes to an end. Or should I say two, because as much as I will miss the program that spawned this enjoyable nonsense, I will equally miss listening to The Official Lost Audio Podcast to hear what hints, subterfuge and downright silliness would be improvised by writers/executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, AKA Darlton.

In the six seasons since “Lost” began, Damon (the one not wearing trousers) and Carlton (the one with the banjo) have put aside time between intensive writing, producing and editing to produce just slightly fewer podcast episodes per season than there were episodes of the show, each running about 20 – 30 minutes.

Ostensibly, each podcast supported the upcoming episode, which Darlton would “pre-hash” after rehashing the previous one. After dispensing with those topics in a few minutes, the remainder of the time was spent answering viewer’s questions. Or, to be more accurate, not answering them at great length, at least not in a way that would leave you feeling any more informed about the main issues than you were before you played the podcast, although you might have enough of a hint to form a theory that may or may not have any foundation in Lost canon. The closer viewers came to asking a real question (e.g. Who is the man in black? What is the smoke monster? Will Kate end up with Sawyer or Jack?), the more subterfuge was delivered, and the most you could hope for was something along the lines of “That is a good question”, which was an implied wink, maybe.

Viewers soon found it more rewarding to ask questions of less import. Each question provided the lads with a subject to riff on, which was the real raison d’etre of the podcast. Why doesn’t Sawyer know who Anakin Skywalker is? – Answer: He did not want to ruin his “StarWars” experience by watching the prequels. Questions were answered that no one asked. For example, did you know that the name of the shark with the Dharma tattoo is James Ezra Sharkington? Or how to play the Politburo game, by looking at a photograph of Russian politicians to see how far away they are standing from the premier, and then determining who would be executed next. (Damon: In our house we played Monopoly). Questions that Darlton assumed the program had already answered were also fair game. One viewer’s season five question about where the polar bears came from was answered by pointing out that Sawyer and Kate were imprisoned in bear cages in season three. Who brought the bears? Dharma brought the bears. Enough about the bears already.

As serious as these guys were about creating a unique television experience, they seemed to be just as eager to have some laughs at its expense. No one appreciated more that season’s two and three were bulked out with filler, the unavoidable cost of having a hit show in the states. The writers had a beginning, middle and end. What they didn’t have was a timetable, but they did have an undefined number of seasons to fill at 20+ episodes a season, an issue that was only resolved during contract renegotiations at the end of season 3. Darlton didn’t mind rubbing their own faces in the superfluous Nikki and Paulo, who they were still fielding questions about in season 6, or the fact that nobody gave a rat’s about how Jack got his tattoo, and how that may have been one of the worst Lost episodes of all time.

On the flip side of this protracted storytelling was the real possibility that “Lost” could be cancelled, especially with the ratings dipping in the second and third season. So the lads concocted a back-up plan where the world’s oldest orangutan, Joop, who could conveniently talk, revealed what the show was all about in the last scene if the show was cut short.

Of course, “Lost” wasn’t cancelled. Some people left after the first season or two, but a central legion of fans kept the momentum going. Darlton continually used their podcast to show gratitude to those fans. Even as the momentum picked up with the later seasons, and critical recognition and approval swung back their way, Darlton were more concerned with doing the best job they could for the people they worked for (i.e. the fans) than they were with critical approval or awards, as heard in the following example from early in season six:

Carlton: Damon, what would you have said to me if I had told you in season two that we were going to France to accept an award?

Damon: I would have turned to you and said, ‘OK Carlton, what happens if they don’t push the button?’

At the end of the last podcast, Darlton were asked what their favourite moment was. It was a difficult question – they came up with two answers. The runner up was the episode with both their mothers, each making their case for Sawyer to choose them over Kate. The one they went out on was an extended sound bite of Carlton and Damon laughing uncontrollably at an answer they had just given. Thanks guys. That is exactly how I want to remember you.

Don Was revisits “Exile on Main street” – Don spoke to NPR’s “All songs Considered” host Bob Boilen about the new deluxe release of this classic Rolling Stones album, and managed to make the recording sessions sound even more dark and mysterious than they seemed from listening to the record, before I knew any of the details. It was recorded in the dank, smoky basement of the French castle Keith Richards lived in when the Stones went into tax exile in the early 70s. Apparently, George Harrison wasn’t exaggerating in “Taxman” – British people in the Stone’s tax bracket were paying 93%.

Reportedly, “Exile” is mostly Keith’s baby, at least on a soul level. He was in his element surrounded by drugs, derelicts and fellow strung-out musicians such as Graham Parsons, who doesn’t appear on the album but coached Keith in countrified chord fingerings between takes. Bill and Charlie were an integral part of the daily sessions of course, but it sounded like they were a bit homesick, sending home for parcels of baked beans and brown sauce. Mick was there for all the vocal takes, but he was equally interested in hanging out with the “jet set” in Paris, so he wasn’t always around. And by now I imagine Mick Taylor was wishing he’d joined another band – ANY other band. The next album, “Goat’s Head Soup”, was his last.

Whatever the circumstances, “Exile” is surely the Stones most unique album – a dense, swampy mixture of blues, funk soul and rock. And now it’s been remastered, again, with “ten new tracks”. Well, no, actually it’s eight new tracks and two alternate takes.

Apparently there are a vast number of songs that were begun and recorded during that period, but never finished. Don listened to about 300 hours of the stuff before the glimmer twins came along to cite 30 or 40 tracks they specifically wanted him to look out for. Now you tell me. Don had to give the raw multi-track tapes their first mix. In many cases Jagger had to record entire vocal parts, or at least punch in vocals between the existing ones. Surprisingly, the old and the new blend together pretty seamlessly, and the small bit I heard has me interested in hearing the rest.

So here we go again – another album to buy multiple times. At least it will sound better than the CD version I bought in the early 90s, which is yet another victim of poor mastering in the early days of CD releases.