Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Album Review: Ben Sollee – Inclusions

Last Friday at an in-store appearance at the Disc Exchange in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ben Sollee explained to a crowd of thirty or so people why his music is the way that it is. “People keep asking me ‘What genre is your new album?’ And I just don’t understand why I have to put a label on it. Why can’t the music just stand on it’s own?” This is a fair defense on Sollee’s part, because his music is incredibly difficult to define. There are no borders or boundaries in his musical world. This was clear on his debut album Learning to Bend, but Sollee made it even clearer on his sophomore album Inclusions. The genre-blending cellist got help from a pair of DJ’s (DL Jones and DJ 2nd Nature) to help him crack the code on what Inclusions was meant to become, and the result is eleven freak-folk songs featuring hints of all other genres.

The opening track “Close to You” mixes an array of horns and strings over lines about feeling connections with nature and the things around him. This use of combining a mixture of instruments is seen all over the album, especially on tracks, such as “Bible Belt” and “Cluttered Mind.” Sollee utilizes percussion much more on Inclusions than he did on his debut album, and this is best demonstrated on tracks like “Hurting” and “Electrified,” with drums beats serving as the driving force of the songs. The closing track “I Need” is one of the most beautiful songs on the album, a back-and-forth verse-swapping ballad between he and Cheyenne Marie Mize

If Inclusions is proof of anything, it is that Ben Sollee does not want to limit himself to anything. After all, the man rides a bicycle to his shows as opposed to riding in a vehicle. But what really makes Sollee so unique and so inspiring is his strong belief in the healing powers of music. He sees that ability in all types of music, too. He challenges himself by taking the entire gamut of music and tries to make it unified. On Inclusions, Sollee does that brilliantly.

Standout Tracks: “Hurting,” “Captivity,” “Electrified”

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Music Monday: I Get Around

Go ahead and admit it.  You missed me.  I was MIA last week, but only because I've spent the last week and a half traipsing across the eastern part of the U.S.  That's not an understatement at all.  A little over a week ago, I left Englewood, FL and headed up to Pensacola for a night of baseball land drinking with some good friends of mine.  We left Pensacola and flew down I - 10 to spend the day eating and drinking through New Orleans.  Then, it was off to Baton Rouge for poboys at Dempsey's and a good nights sleep.  From there it was off to College Station, TX for a wedding, but not before a pit stop in Houston.  While in Houston, there was a hamburger incident.  I refer to it as an "incident" because the burger I ate at Burger Guys in Houston literally changed the way I view hamburgers now and as long as I live.  It was basically an entire pound of pure, unadulterated LOVE, stuffed between two perfectly absorbent buns.  With each bite, I simply thanked the world for allowing this burger to exist and as the love dripped off my hands in the form of bloody grease, I smiled a bigger and more ridiculous grin (and simultaneously wondered how in the hell anyone could possibly be a vegetarian).  In all honesty, I cried as I took the last bite and, as of this very moment, I'm still in mourning. Just above, to the right, is the Jesus Christ of burgers.  As a testament to the sheer genius of this little nondescript burger joint in Houston, TX, we witnessed the invention of a new menu item as we finished up our little slice of heaven between two buns.  The geniuses at Burger Guys invented, as we sat there, a new burger.  It was a lump of lust that included a Cheetos Hollandaise topping.  These guys invented their own Hollandaise sauce made from Cheetos.  There were even Cheetos on the burger.  CHEETOS ON A DAMN BURGER!  That's just good living, man . . .

Anyway, after the burger incident and the wedding we headed north through Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio on our way to Philadelphia.  We parked it in Pittsburgh for the night and headed out the next morning.  Upon our arrival to the Philly area, I was reminded that you can't just walk into a store and buy a six pack.  Oh no, you have to go to special stores where you can only buy beer by the case.  This, boy and girls, is a completely foreign concept to me.  But, there is reprieve . . .because you can buy a six pack at just about any bar in town and, as we were in Telford, PA, we stopped in at the Greenhouse Tavern for a few pints and some wings.  We eventually made the genius purchase of Rolling Rock pounders, and they were divine.  Oh yeah, and I ate some scrapple.  From there, we had breakfast in a dive diner in D.C. then headed back down south for a pit stop in Savannah, GA, where we absolutely devoured a large platter of seafood and washed it down with my favorite beer, Red Stripe.  

The next day we wandered through historic Savannah and found Vinny Van Go Go where we murdered a pizza and downed a pitcher of Yuengling.  Here's an odd fact about Yuengling . . .if you order a "Yuengling" in Pennsylvania, people will look at you like you have a three foot personal massager growing out of your forehead.  You have to simply order a "lager."  Write that down.  Just a tip from me to you so you can't say I never taught you anything.  Enough about me, let's get to the music.

It's safe to say that, since I've been traveling I haven't been keeping up with the world of music.  I made it a point during this trip to reconnect with some older stuff or stuff that I hadn't heard in awhile and being on the road is the perfect excuse to reacquaint yourself with great music.  The only new stuff I really swam in was the new Beastie Boys album.  Other than that, a lot of stuff was played.  Titus Andronicus, Les Saavy Fav, Pete Yorn, Wolf Parade, Pearl Jam anniversary reissues, Bon Iver, some old school hip hop like Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul and LOTS of MMJ.  I may have said this before, but there really isn't any song that comes quite as close to "At Dawn" when you first hit the road in the morning.  It's, for lack of a better word, perfect.  I'm not going to go on and on about that song for two reasons, 1.) i could go on forever about it, and 2.) that's the responsibility of fellow contributor, Gabrielle and although I have no regard for most people, she's a fan so she gets mad, nasty, stupid props in a totally gangsta way.  But I digress . . .

I had every intention of talking about Okkervil River's new album, I Am Very Far, but I woke up this morning to an email from a friend that directed me to an Irish band that, for the most part, is basically unknown here in the states.  Director is an Irish export that toes the line somewhere between the sounds of Joy Division or Interpol and early Pixies stuff with a stiff splash of the Smiths for good measure.  The band, Michael Moloney (vocals/guitar), Eoin Aherne (guitars), Shea Lawlor (drums) and Rowan Averill (bass) produced their first album, We Thrive On Big Cities and within a week earned a #2 spot on Irish charts (losing out to the disappointing "Sam's Town" by The Killers at #1).  Director's second album, I'll Wait For SoundMoloney said, "You can expect a much harder sound than the first album, but mixed with some of the softest,  most delicate tracks we've ever recorded. I think we've captured more of the live essence of Director on this album."

I like this band.  I like this band a lot and fans of Interpol or Joy Division or any other band that's remotely similar will like this band, too.   If you're at all interested, let me know and I'll send you a few songs so you can decide for yourself.

Just FYI, the new Okkervil River album is really good.  It seems like they've found the perfect balance between Will Sheff's powerful lyrics and the expansive music for which the band is famous.  Check the album out ASAP because it's definitely worth it.

Until next week, boys and girls, keep the music loud and your drinks strong. . . .


Start Your Week Right: With My Morning Jacket – Weeks Go By Like Days

Well, hello! It’s nice to see you again! I hope you’ve all had a fantastic weekend. A few things My Morning Jacket-related have happened since last week: a live stream of the May 31st show on YouTube (to be directed by Todd Haynes), a WFPK radio interview with Tom and Patrick, and a special single of “Holdin On To Black Metal” to be released on May 17th! Not to mention some kickass previews for that May 31st Louisville show and livestream!

We’ve continued to celebrate demos and covers from MMJ’s earlier years over at The Countdown, jammin’ out to “That Someone Else Was You” and a cover of the lovely Erykah Badu’sTyrone” - two MMJ classics that are highly recommended. Another element was added to The Countdown last week when we learned of the Circuital leak that occurred Monday, May 5th. Some of us (myself included) have decided that we’re going to hold out until the end (that is, May 31stdid you get it?!). I intend on carrying out The Countdown with my ears virgin to Circuital. As for the rest of you, I’ve been hearing good things about the album. Enjoy it!

Forever: that's how long it would take.
forever: not as long as a day.

In the wake of this new MMJ era, let’s take a step back into The Jacket’s earlier days and check out a track off 2004’s Chapter One: The Sandworm Cometh: Early Recordings, “Weeks Go By Like Days.”

“Long is the road”
I have always been told.
How lonely can one boy be?

This simple yet stellar track from those charming “early years” is another one of those tracks that is so honest – lyrically and emotionally – that it can cut right into your heart if you let it. Youth and youth’s optimism ooze from this track as Jim claims that there is something out there worth waiting forever for.

“Long is the road”
I have always been told.
How long can one man wait?

As I lay here, bumming on my sister’s couch (now and for the next few days), I come to appreciate these early songs, particularly “Weeks” because it has the immaturity of early MMJ, but flecks of what My Morning Jacket has become still shine through. I love this track because, at its core, it is a youthful look at love and, of course, that sweet feeling of invincibility.

Hope you all have a great week and have more than enough things to appreciate!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Morning Jacket - UNSTAGED 5/31 Live Stream, CONCERT FILM Announced

Video almost says it all! Here are the details though:

Who - My Morning Jacket & Todd Haynes
What - A live concert stream, probably a DVD release too (speculation!)
Where - The Palace Theater, Louisville, KY
When - Tuesday, May 31st, 9pm Eastern Time
How - Magic

Monday, May 2, 2011

Start Your Week Right: With My Morning Jacket – Dear Wife

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope everyone had a restful and enjoyable weekend. With finals looming for many students around the country (myself included!), I’m sure we’re not the only ones looking forward to getting through this week. We’re getting so close to summer!

Over at The Countdown, we celebrated some interesting covers from My Morning Jacket – 1986’s “Take My Breath Away” and 1984’s “West End Girls.” Two very unlikely covers, masterfully done, and highly entertaining.

Today, let’s cover another one of those “lesser known” tracks. “Dear Wife” is one of those songs with an unknown origin (at least to most of us). Perhaps telling the story of a man and the complicated romance with his wife, “Dear Wife” simplifies the sometimes frustrating and mysterious topic of love.

Sweet, sweet dear where are you?

I am out here, somewhere, workin’ through the days

I imagine you out livin’ life and I must exclaim

“Dear wife, I miss you always”

Ain’t it strange how quickly things can change?

The track comes from 2009’s live LP “Live From Las Vegas Exclusively at The Palms” and doesn’t seem to appear anywhere else on the extensive My Morning Jacket catalog (if it does, someone please point me in the right direction!). I love getting these “new” gems, tracks that might not have made the cut on a previous studio album. Which makes me wonder about Circuital and the tracks the band decided not to include in the studio album. For instance, when will we hear a studio (or at least better-quality live version) version of “Friends Again”? That’s a good track!

I’ll be out here wantin’ you, you’ll out there wantin’ me

I’ll be back there wantin’/lovin’ you, you’ll be in here lovin’ me

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. For today, lets enjoy “Dear Wife” and its sweet and simple message: there are people in our lives who we love in such a way that it makes us accept otherwise unacceptable behavior.

Sweet, sweet dear how are you?

Well, the name of your kindness hits my brain

When you pop it in with such violence, I must exclaim

“Dear wife, I love you always”

Ain’t it great how quickly things can change?

Have a great week, everyone! The weekend will be here before we know it, and I’ll catch ya then!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kick Off Your Weekend Right: With My Morning Jacket – Holdin On To Black Metal

What a week! I knew things wouldn’t be quiet for too long. We have soooo much to get us pumped up for the weekend – how can things get any better?

First off, My Morning Jacket announced several new shows this week – including a hometown show at the Louisville Palace Theatre on Circuital’s release date, three Canada shows, and Lollapalooza and Kahbang Festival 2011! Hope everyone can make at least one of MMJ’s summer tour dates. It’s gonna be a wonderful summer.

Also on Monday, MMJ released a second single off Circuital via Facebook: “Holdin On To Black Metal.” If “Circuital” didn’t whet your appetite for Circuital, “Black Metal” sure should do the trick!

It’s a darkness you can’t deny
But it don’t belong in the grown up mind
Suppose you’ll find this place will suffice
Coming into life you needn’t cry

This dark, unruly track certainly brightened up my Monday morning this week. Inspired by the Thai-soul track “E-Saew Tham Punha Huajai” by Kwan Jai & Kwan Jit Sriprajan, “Black Metal” has the lyrical and musical fire to incite a riot – in the best possible way. In Jim James’ words, via Rolling Stone:

"I want it to sound like we're Cuban or Cambodian kids, and we're wearing berets and we're walking through an alley and we stumble upon this band, and it explodes into this crazy sing-along….”

Despite minor disapproval among some Facebook fans, MMJ clearly and respectfully pays homage to and credits “E-Saew” as an inspiration for this track. Additionally, Jim has been citing “Siamese Soul” as an influence for months! It’s unfortunate that some would assume otherwise. It’s fantastic that a band in this industry can draw from such diverse genres and time periods for inspiration. Few, if any, other bands are doing such amazing things. It is to be appreciated, not ridiculed!

Catchin’ waves on Lucifer’s beach
Takin’ shade underneath Lucifer’s tree
Gettin’ sustenance from Lucifer’s peach*

Hope you all enjoy (and have been enjoying!) this badass track and live it up this weekend!

*These lyrics are as accurate as I could get them!*

DOWNLOAD - Kurt Vile - 2011-02-01 - Live at Luna Music - Indy, IN

This guy is just cool. I think it's because he just doesn't care, maaaan. Or at least he doesn't seem to with his lazy vocals (meant in a good way), long hair and poor composure. His latest, Smoke Ring For My Halo, will easily be one of my favorite records of 2011.Catch part one and part two of these video's here and here.

01 Hey, Now I'm Movin'
02 Overnight Religion
03 Classic Rock In Spring
04 Monkey
05 Freeway
06 In My Time

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The General Specific

- 2011 is shaping up to be the year of My Morning Jacket. In the past week, the band have announced a Circuital release show in their hometown of Louisville (I got tickets!), they released a killer new song, as well as the tracking listening to their aforementioned upcoming album, and it was also announced this week that they will be headlining a night at this year's Lollapalooza. Can it please be May 31st now?

- A great batch of artists including Paul McCartney, The Black Keys, The Stroke's Julian Casablancas, and, yes, My Morning Jacket, have been tapped to record a Buddy Holly tribute album.

- Radiohead's newspaper album for The King of Limbs has been released early.

- Ryan Adams debuted new songs last week in Los Angeles when he opened for Emmylou Harris. Oh, and it was a surprise, too.

- Jeff Tweedy shed a little light on Wilco's highly anticipated eighth LP, tentatively titled Get Well Soon Everybody.

- The Beasties Boys' Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2 can now be streamed.

Check back next week!

DOWNLOAD - Bright Eyes - 2011-03-18 - SXSW - Austin Club - Austin, TX

01 An Attempt To Tip The Scales
02 Hot Knives
03 Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
04 Jejune Stars
05 Falling Out Of Love At This Volume
06 Beginners Mind
07 Bowl Of Oranges
08 Poison Oak
09 The Calendar Hung Itself
10 Road To Joy

DOWNLOAD - The Greenhornes - 2011-03-22 - KDHX - St. Louis, MO

If you guys can't tell, I've been hot on The Greenhornes sound. New retro rock and roll perhaps? Listen to the slightly fuzzy, perfectly constructed guitar solo in "Go Tell Henry" or try NOT to sing "Better off without it!" every time it's sung in "Better Off Without It."

01 Underestimator
02 Song 13
03 Go Tell Henry
04 Better Off Without It