Tuesday, December 28, 2010

NYE Countdown With Big Country

When I think of New Year's Eve, I think of one band and one show. After a lengthy and successful tour of America, Big Country returned to Scotland for a homecoming show at Glasgow's Barrowlands on Dec. 31, 1983. This was at the peak of the band's popularity and, thankfully, MTV broadcast the gig to the United States. For those of you who haven't seen the concert, the general-admission, standing-room Barrowlands was packed to capacity with young Scots ready to celebrate the holiday. The lads ripped through four songs from 'The Crossing' and two new songs that would appear in 1984 on the 'Wonderland' EP. Then the clock struck 12. In an absolute first for any any show I have seen, the band gave the stage to a bagpipe clan called the Dundonald & Dysart Pipe Band. It's a very Scottish moment, and the raucous rock-n-roll crowd absolutely ate it up, kilts and all. Then Big Country returned to play several more songs, including all four singles from their debut album, as well as a sweet rendition of the Motown classic "Tracks of My Tears."

The consensus of Big Country is that the "Barras" is the band's "spiritual home" and that this show, in particular, was really something special. I have to agree. That's why I watch it every New Year's Eve as if I'm about to ring in 1984. I'll be thinking about the band more than usual this Dec. 31 because the surviving members of Big Country have reunited to play O2 ABC in Glasgow. Yes, things will be different this time around. Stuart Adamson, sadly, is no longer with us, but I think it takes real courage for Tony Butler, Mark Brzezicki and Bruce Watson to take the stage without him. Mike Peters of the Alarm will be taking lead-vocal duties. Although I won't be there to hear the results, I will be around in spirit. Good luck, fellas.

The Dec. 31, 1983, show was out of print for donkey's years but, as of last year, it is now available as a DVD/CD edition. Take my word for it. The sound and picture is fantastic. Order here. So, I know I'm going to have a great New Year's Eve. I hope you do, too. Stay alive!

Big Country - In a Big Country (mp3)
Big Country - Auld Lang Syne (mp3)
Interview with Stuart Adamson about the show (mp3)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2010

If you have already checked out my Top 50 Tracks of 2010 list, none of the following picks for top albums of the year will be much of a surprise. It just happens that way sometimes. There isn't much science here. According to my iTunes, these are the albums that were played the most this year. It's as simple as that. The only exception would be 'Broken Dreams Club.' That's because it has only been out for a relatively short period of time. In case you're curious, Deerhunter, the Divine Comedy and Devo were the bands just out of the running. All in all, it was another stellar year in the world of indie music. It always will be as long as you dig... and digging is most of the fun anyway. See you in 2011.

10. Harlem - 'Hippies' (buy)
Listen: Gay Human Bones (mp3)

9. The Drums - 'The Drums' (buy)

8. Mates of State - 'Crushes' (buy)
Listen: Sleep the Clock Around (mp3)

7. Belle & Sebastian - 'Write About Love' (buy)

6. Tender Trap - 'Dansette Dansette' (buy)
Listen: Fireworks (mp3)

5. Club 8 - 'The People's Record' (buy)

4. Crowded House - 'Intriguer' (buy)

3. Girls - 'Broken Dreams Club' (buy)
Listen: Carolina (mp3)

2. Arcade Fire - 'The Suburbs' (buy)

1. She & Him - 'Volume 2' (buy)
Listen: Thieves (mp3)

Do You Need 'All You Need Is Now?'

I purposely put off my list of this year's top albums because I had such high hopes for Duran Duran's latest, 'All You Need Is Now,' out today exclusively on iTunes. I bought it last night the minute it was available and have listened to it several times in the past 24 hours. Sadly, it will not make the cut, but there are a few bright spots on the nine-song download. So, although it's not one of the ten best albums I have heard this year, I do recommend it.

It's clear Mark Ronson, Duran Duran's producer this time around, is a huge fan of the band's heyday, and you can hear several flashes of the band's signature sound, circa 1981-1983. This is particularly true of the opening three songs, the title track, "Blame the Machines" and "Being Followed." This trio is full of thumping dance beats, jangly guitar and cool keyboards that rival the 'Rio' era. Unfortunately, as the tempo slows down, so does my enthusiasm. I get what Ronson and the boys are going for when, for example, they attempt to capture the magic of "Save a Prayer" with "Leave a Light On," but they fall well short of that classic. Duran Duran doesn't spend every moment trying to bring back the past, but the more modern the sound the further the reach. I don't want to leave you thinking there is nothing else here beyond the opening three songs. For example, "Girl Panic!" will have those nostalgic for 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger' smiling.

At $1.29 per song, if money means everything, I would say buy the first three songs and 'Girl Panic!' a la carte, but you may as well shell out the relatively paltry $8.99 for the entire album download. It's a better value and, hey, my take on the album, after only a day of listening, is not gospel. I'm a big Duran Duran fan, and at least a couple of the other five songs on 'All You Need Is Now' are bound to grown on me with time. After only a day, however, I can safely say Simon, John, Nick and Roger have managed to make the best Duran Duran album since 'Notorious.'

Happy Holidays From OMD

We must all be on the nice list. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's "Sister Marie Says" just appeared at No. 19 on my list of the year's top tracks. So, I'm pretty excited that OMD has just released a new mix of the tune as a free download to say thanks to their fans. Get "Sister Marie Says (Soil in the Synth Remix)" and a few other free goodies this week at the band's official Web site. Happy Christmas to you, too, boys.

Monday, December 20, 2010

This Will Get You in the Spirit...

Set your DVRs. Don't miss one of the all-time great holiday traditions when Darlene Love performs "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" this Thursday on the "Late Show" with David Letterman. Here she is in 2006 to set the mood:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top 50 Tracks of 2010

Can you feel the electricity? Calm down. Before I unveil the best songs from this year, please remember these two caveats. I have returned to the rule that bands may only appear once. This keeps Arcade Fire, Crowded House and a few others from overcrowding. Also, if a band has released a song this year that won't be officially released on an album until 2011, it is still eligible for the 2010 list. Feel free to send in your picks, too. Now on with the countdown:

50. Sade - "Soldier of Love" (Buy)
The beauty makes a triumphant return after a ten-year absence.

49. Paul Weller - "No Tears Left to Cry" (Buy)
This was a bright spot from an album that left me cold.

48. Vampire Weekend - "Giving Up the Gun" (Buy)
My love affair has nearly run its course.

47. Jay Bennett - "Twice a Year"
Posthumous release reminds us we have lost a treasure.

46. Badly Drawn Boy - "Too Many Miracles" (Buy)
Damon Gough is producing inspiring work for the first time in years.

45. The Divine Comedy - "I Like" (Buy)
My favorite from his latest changes with the wind. Today it's this one.

44. The Coral - "Butterfly House" (Buy)
I abandoned these lads after their debut. Might have been a mistake.

43. Tapes 'n Tapes - "Freak Out" (mp3)
Our first listen to a 2011 release sounds interesting.

42. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Say No to Love" (Buy)
Prolific popsters make the list again.

41. Tracey Thorn - Why Does the Wind (Buy)
One of my all-time favorite voices returns.

40. Blur - "Fool's Day" (mp3)
I'll take any new throwaway I can get from these guys.

39. The Like - "Fair Game"
These gals shuffled the lineup and created an album that is worlds better than their debut.

38. The Postelles - "White Night" (Buy) (mp3)
Do you miss the Strokes? Give these guys a listen.

37. Interpol - "Lights" (Buy)
No, It's not 'Turn On The Bright Lights,' but at least this song is in the neighborhood.

36. Spoon - "Written in Reverse" (Buy)
Kind of a disappointing album, but this one stood out.

35. The Futureheads - "Heartbeat Song" (Buy)
Another in a long line of bands that returned to form in 2010.

34. British Sea Power - "Zeus" (Buy)
The band's sound has changed since their critically-acclaimed debut, but I must have changed with them.

33. Lucky Soul - "A Coming of Age" (Buy)
A solid followup to the even stronger 'The Great Unwanted.' What's left of the Pipettes should take note.

32. Jim Noir - "Car"
We appreciate the free downloads, but it's time for a proper album.

31. The Drums - "It Will All End in Tears" (Buy)
What can I say? The hype on these guys is unbearable, but the music is too good to ignore.

30. Dum Dum Girls - "Jail La La" (Buy)
Jesus and Mary Chain meets '60s girl group. Yes, we heard that a lot this year, but this is one of the best of that lot.

29. Kid Canaveral - "Good Morning" (mp3)
Big thanks to Scottish bloggers for turning me on to these guys.

28. Duran Duran - "Blame the Machines"
It's like listening to 'Rio'-era "Hold Back the Rain." If there were no rules, I could have easily chosen "Being Followed" for this list, too.

27. Best Coast - "Boyfriend" (Buy)
I'm a late convert to the duo's noise pop. This was my introduction.

26. Freedy Johnston- "Don't Fall in Love With a Lonely Girl" (Buy) (mp3)
Nice to hear you again. It's been too long.

25. Modern English - "It's Ok" (Buy) (mp3)
No joke. The band that did "I Melt With You" more than 25 years ago is back, and this is their best song since "Ink And Paper."

24. Devo - "Fresh" (Buy)
Not just nostalgia. It's never too late to join the Devolution.

23. Tender Trap - "Do You Want a Boyfriend?" (Buy) (mp3)
"Does he have to please you psychologically? Does he have to tease you gynecologically?" It gets my vote for video of the year as well.

22. The Apples in Stereo - "Dream About the Future" (Buy)
The album marks the first time this band has disappointed me, but this song stands out.

21. Brian Wilson - "I Got Rhythm" (Buy)
His Gershwin project produced love it or hate it results. This one captures the pre-'Pet Sounds' sound.

20. The Lodger - "Have a Little Faith in People" (Buy) (mp3)
Three for three, lads. You haven't put out a bad LP yet.

19. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "Sister Marie Says" (Buy)
Classic lineup reunites with mixed results. This one sounds the most like the old stuff.

18. Cloud Nothings - "Leave You Forever" (mp3)
I can't believe there's some 19-year-old Clevelander putting this stuff out. Incredible.

17. Twin Shadow - "I Can't Wait" (Buy)
I didn't love the album as much as the blogosphere, but this song is outstanding.

16. Wild Nothing - "Chinatown" (Buy)
This was my first taste of the brilliant 'Gemini,' a candidate for album of the year.

15. The New Pornographers - "Crash Years" (Buy)
'Together' hasn't done it for me like the band's previous albums, but their worst is better than just about anyone else.

14. Girls - "Heartbreaker" (Buy)
One of my favorites from '09 backs it up with best EP of '10. "Carolina" should have been here, too.

13. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - "I Learned the Hard Way" (Buy)
I love this whole old-school funk/soul revival, and these guys are the best in a crowded field.

12. Harlem - "Friendly Ghost" (Buy) (mp3)
Austin's latest jewel comes straight from the garage.

11. Crowded House - "Either Side of the World" (Buy)
Deep cut stomps on the singles and helps push 'Intriguer' into running for my album of the year.

10. Sufjan Stevens - "I Walked" (Buy)
I didn't like like the new Stevens sound very much, but I can't get this one out of my head.

9. Deerhunter - "Revival" (Buy)
Overrated album, to be sure, but this song caught my ear a couple of months ago and hasn't let go.

8. Here We Go Magic - "Collector" (Buy) (mp3)
They sound like a bunch of bands from my youth, including the Feelies. That's praise enough.

7. Crystal Stilts - "Shake the Shackles" (Buy) (mp3)
Is that Ian Curtis? If I wasn't in a holiday mood, this moody lo-fi masterpiece would rate even higher.

6. Surfer Blood - "Floating Vibes" (Buy)
Here is another band that could have hogged slots on this list if I didn't have my one-song-per-band rule. One of my favorite new bands of 2010.

5. Club 8 - "Shape Up!" (Buy)
It took seven albums, but these Swedes have finally stolen my heart.

4. Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" (Buy)
With so many memorable songs from 'The Suburbs,' this was one of my tougher choices.

3. Mates of State - "Laura"
Even I can't believe a cover rated this highly, but it's as least as good as the Girls' original from last year.

2. Belle & Sebastian - "I Want the World to Stop" (Buy)
Seems like die-hard fans were disappointed, but I put this song up there with their best.

1. She & Him - "In the Sun" (Buy)
The first single from (by far) my most listened to album of 2010 was a logical choice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Download New Song From R.E.M.

For the price of an e-mail address you can have "Discoverer" from the upcoming album 'Collapse Into Now,' out March 8. For me, a new R.E.M. song hasn't been exciting since their I.R.S. days, but you may feel differently. Here is the tracklist:

1. Discoverer
2. All The Best
3. Überlin
4. Oh My Heart
5. It Happened Today
6. Every Day Is Yours To Win
7. Mine Smell Like Honey
8. Walk It Back
9. Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter
10. That Someone Is You
11. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I
12. Blue

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Hits! Vol. 1

Music is the one thing that can get me in the holiday mood. For some reason, this year, even the tunes are barely enough to help me capture the spirit of Christmas. Perhaps the following mix will help me. Surprisingly, I'm not a huge fan of complete holiday albums. There are, however, a few that come to mind that I hope you own. My two absolute favorites are 'Christmas Album' from the Beach Boys and 'A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector.' 'In the Christmas Spirit' from Booker T. and the MG's and 'Wishes You a Swinging Christmas' from the great Ella Fitzgerald would be on the next tier.

The truth is, when it comes to holiday songs, I'm all about the mix. I like to blend standards with originals and icons with contemporary indie bands and '80s nostalgia acts. Unfortunately, you won't find many icons on LTL!'s mixes posted here. That's only because uploading, for examples, the Beach Boys or Johnny Cash, could get me into trouble. Believe me, it's happened before. Bah humbug, right? Still these are some of my absolute favorite songs of the season, and I hope you enjoy them, too. Look for another volume early next week that will precede my best songs and albums of the year lists.

The Apples in Stereo - Holiday Mood (mp3)
Belle & Sebastian - Santa, Bring My Baby Back to Me (mp3)
Marshall Crenshaw - Sock It To Me Santa (mp3)
Freedy Johnston - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (mp3)
The dB's - Christmas Time (mp3)
NRBQ - Jolly Old St. Nicholas (mp3)
Ron Sexsmith - Maybe This Christmas (mp3)
The Chamber Strings - Everyday Is Christmas (mp3)
Paul Carrack - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (mp3)
XTC - Thanks for Christmas (mp3)

Download 'All You Need Is Now' Right Now

This is no joke. You can download the first single from Duran Duran's new album on iTunes for free. This wasn't supposed to be released until next week. The stunt should create quite a bit of buzz for the nine-song record, also called 'All You Need Is Now,' out exclusively for iTunes on Dec. 21. If you want to actually hold the physical CD, you'll have to wait until February. I don't have the patience for that. I'll take the download a week from Tuesday. What do you think? I love the chorus, but I'm not sold on the verses. I have only been listening for the past hour. So, I may change my mind.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 'Double Fantasy' Fantasy

I have thought a lot about John Lennon this week. I have heard others opine that -- chances are -- his best work was behind him. For some, imagining Lennon records in the '80s and beyond is more than they can bear. I disagree. I contend if you put his songs from 'Double Fantasy' and 'Milk and Honey' together (without the Yoko Ono tracks... as they should have been) this would have been his best record and the greatest solo album from a Beatle. Consider this tracklist:

Side A
(Just Like) Starting Over
Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
I'm Stepping Out
Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

Side B
Nobody Told Me
Watching the Wheels
Borrowed Time
I'm Losing You
I Don't Want to Face It
Grow Old With Me

This may seem like a fella trying to stir up the pot, but I am being sincere. Does this look like the album of an artist with nothing left to give? What a tragedy. I have a mix of these songs on my iPod I call The 'Double Fantasy' Fantasy, and I listen to it all of the time. OK, feel free to sound off now. I can take it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cars Turn Back the Odometer

The surviving members of the Cars have once again given us a sneak listen to a new song via their Facebook page. First, we got a minute or so of "Blue Tip." This week, the Cars give us "Sad Song." As I have mentioned a time or two, I'm not a big fan of these incomplete listens. I have to admit, however, both of these clips accomplished exactly what the band wanted. I'm intrigued. This sounds like vintage Cars, and I'm a huge fan. Although there is no official word, it seems clear a new album is in the works. Welcome back, boys. Have a listen below:

Frank Gifford, Really?

As you no doubt realize, today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death. Howard Cosell will forever be linked to the announcement of Lennon's demise because he broke the news to a live audience. It was near the end of the Patriots-Dolphins game on "Monday Night Football," and we have all heard Cosell's famous words "dead...on...arrival" many times.

If you get the chance, check out ESPN's "Outside the Lines" program this week. There is an audio clip of Cosell with color men Frank Gifford and Fran Tarkenton discussing Lennon's death off the air during a commercial break. They have just been told. Amazingly, Cosell doesn't see how he can announce the news. There is only three seconds left in regulation and a dramatic field goal will be kicked at the conclusion of the timeout. Gifford, of all people, is the voice of reason, telling Cosell that he must do it. "This is going to shake up the whole world." Cosell reluctantly agrees. "All right, I will get it in." This clip is only about 30 seconds long, but it is a must listen. Way to go, "Giff." Listen to some Lennon today. It won't hurt a bit.

In happier times, here is Lennon visiting Cosell in the booth during a "Monday Night Football" game in 1974.

John Lennon - Real Love (mp3) (from 'Acoustic')
John Lennon - Real Love (mp3) (from the 'Imagine' soundtrack)
The Beatles - Real Love (mp3) (from 'Anthology 2')

Huddle Up... It's New Go! Team

Am I alone in the sentiment that it's damn difficult to put on a Go! Team record and listen from beginning to end? I liked 'Thunder, Lightning, Strike' when it came out five years ago, but it's just so dense. It's like Phil Spector went crazy. Wait, that analogy isn't going to work, is it? Anyway, by the time the band followed up with 'Proof of Youth' a few years ago, it all started to sound the same to me.

Before "T.O.R.N.A.D.O" hit the blogosphere a few weeks ago I can honestly say I had not listened to the Go! Team in years. Unfortunately, the song sounded like more of the same. So, I assumed the new album, 'Rolling Blackouts,' out Feb. 1 on Memphis Industries, would prove they are, indeed, a one-note pony. Surprisngly, another song is making the rounds this week that has caused me to have some optimism. "Buy Nothing Day" features Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast on lead vocals, and every aspect of the tune is greatly toned down by Go! Team standards. I'm happy to confirm this approach completely works. You can stream it below. Check out "T.O.R.N.A.D.O." too. If you're a fan, you probably won't be disappointed. Mark your calendars. "Buy Nothing Day" will be out as a 7" and digital download on Jan. 24.

The Go! Team - T.O.R.N.A.D.O. (mp3)

Buy Nothing Day by threeminutesthirtyseconds

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ring in the Holidays With the Pipettes

You must have been good this year. Fortuna! POP released a new holiday song by the Pipettes today called "Santa's On His Way." Get your free download now. Yes, in 2010 the Pipettes fell out of favor with me. This gesture on their part makes me feel a little guilty about it. Try to remember the good times with the old lineup and a very catchy debut album... if you can.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Primitives No Longer 'Out of Reach'

When the Primitives started its Facebook page a little more than a year ago, we were told some exciting news was coming soon. On Wednesday we finally received the bulletin we all assumed was coming: The C86 legends will, indeed, perform again. For now, it looks like they will only play in the United Kingdom. Those shows are slated for March 2011.

Since the chances of me catching any of these shows is somewhere around zero percent, I will shift my excitement to the announcement the Primitives will release a new four-song EP to coincide with these shows. The digital download, called 'Never Call a Secret,' will be out on Fortuna POP! in late February or early March. The songs are "Rattle My Cage," "Need All the Help I Can Get," "Never Kill A Secret" and "Breakaway." A couple of these songs are obscure covers from female artists. "Need All the Help I Can Get" was sung by Suzi Jane Hokum, and "Breakaway" was recorded in 1966 by Toni Basil. Yes, that Toni Basil. The band's original producer, Paul Sampson, returned to the studio to help them with these tracks. I hope they were able to capture the magic on the Primitives' first two albums, 'Lovely' and 'Pure.' I have to admit I never had their last album before the 1991 breakup, 'Galore.' Here's one of my favorites from 'Pure' to get you in the mood for the reunited Primitives.

The Primitives - Secrets (mp3)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Target Gives the Gift of Music This Christmas

When I first heard that Target was giving away a Christmas music sampler, my heart raced. Would Jim Noir's Christmas countdown song be on the mix. If you don't remember, in 2007 Noir wrote new words to his bouncy song "My Patch" for a Target commercial. Instead of "If you ever step on my patch / I'll bring you down / I'll bring you down," we heard "Holidays are times of magic / We're counting down / We're counting down." In case you have forgotten it, here's a quick look at the 30-second ad:

Well, I loved "My Patch" at the time and found the spectacle disgusting. I have softened my stance considerably since then and wish I had the entire holiday-themed version of the song often referred to as "Christmas Calendar." Truth is, I don't know if Noir ever even completed the song. Perhaps he just wrote those three lines. Anyway, I quickly checked the Target site for the mix and was disappointed to see Noir's song was absent. Still, discovering 13 free holiday tunes eased the pain.

There are a couple of goodies here, including songs by Best Coast/Wavves and Bishop Allen. The real find, however, is the tune by Coconut Records. If you don't know, Coconut Records is actually actor Jason Schwartzman, and he has released two really good albums out there, 'Nighttiming' and 'Davy.' In fact, I loved 'Davy' so much it was No. 4 on my list of last year's best albums. Hear his new holiday tune, "It's Christmas," right here:

Then download Target's entire holiday mix. Check back in the coming days for some of my favorite holiday songs. 'Tis the season, you know.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cover Me Impressed: 'Everybody's Talkin''

You may not know the fella pictured above, but you do know a folk song he wrote in 1966 about a man's disconnection with the rest of the world. The beautiful and haunting "Everybody's Talkin'" would, of course, become an international smash when Nilsson covered it in 1968 on his 'Aerial Ballet' album and became the theme song to the 1969 film 'Midnight Cowboy.' I just watched the movie again the other night. Although it clearly hasn't aged well (especially the far-out party scene near the end), the song is an absolute classic that will always stand the test of time. Quite a few musicians must think so, too. There are more than 100 known covers. Here are a few of my favorites. If you like the song as much as I do, you may want to check out this blog post from back in September by Cover Lay Down. Thankfully, I didn't overlap with this writer's selections too much.

Fred Neil - Everybody's Talkin' (mp3)
Nilsson - Everybody's Talkin' (mp3)
The Beautiful South - Everybody's Talkin' (mp3)
Crowded House - Everybody's Talkin' (mp3)
Matthew Sweet - Everybody's Talkin' (mp3)

A couple of quick notes: The Nilsson version is from an excellent two-disc set called 'Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology.' If you are a novice, this is a great place to start. If you aren't familiar with the Beautiful South, that's the band Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway started after the underrated Housemartins disbanded in 1988. The Housemartins deserve a post of their own here soon. The Crowded House version was recorded in 2007 on Australian television. You can watch the performance here. Matthew Sweet's version is an outtake from his work on the 'My Name Is Earl' soundtrack. It eventually appeared on this Shout! Factory sampler. Last (but not least), you can buy the original Neil take here.

More Cover Me Impressed:
"What Goes On"
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
Halloween Edition
"Porpoise Song"
"Prairie Rose"
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"

The Soundtrack Is All Right

Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations are reserved for Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! and I to catch up on all of the films we have wanted to see during the year. We go to the movie theater all of the time, but it's for flicks like 'How to Train Your Dragon,' 'Toy Story 3' and the like. That's just where Mommy and Daddy are right now, but we do like to be grownups, too. So, we fired up the DVD player and crossed two films off the list this past weekend with 'Please Give' and 'The Kids Are All Right.' Both were worth the wait. I assumed I would be at least a little disappointed with 'Kids' because, frankly, I couldn't imagine it would live up to the critics' praise. I was wrong. Several of the performances should be remembered at awards time.

LTL! is about music, however, and I want to highlight the excellent soundtrack. The opening credits are accompanied by Vampire Weekend's "Cousins." I don't know about you, but thanks to the 'Saturday Night Live' appearances and the Tommy Hilfiger commercials and the car ads and the seemingly endless plays on horrible radio stations... I have lost all zeal for this band. So, needless to say, this was not a good start. Then, something wonderful happened. I heard a few seconds of one of my favorite early David Bowie songs, "Panic in Detroit." More Bowie followed, as well Deerhoof and X. By the time MGMT closed the film I realized this was potentially the best soundtrack I had heard this year... if all of the songs actually made the cut.

A quick search showed that, indeed, a couple of the best songs in the film didn't make the soundtrack. Still, if you don't have many of these songs, this record is worth $10. In order, here is a complete list of the songs used in 'The Kids Are All Right.' It makes for a nice mix. The songs with an asterisk are the ones that can be found on the soundtrack. Buy the soundtrack here. I'll also include a couple of my personal favorites.

Deerhoof - Milk Man (mp3)
David Bowie - Panic in Detroit (mp3) This file was removed by the powers that be.

Vampire Weekend - "Cousins"
Leon Russell - "Out in the Woods"*
Tom Hirschmann - "Tailgating"
Tame Impala - "Sundown Syndrome"*
David Bowie - "Panic in Detroit"
David Bowie - "Win"*
Deerhoof - "Milk Man"*
Trespeso - "A Matar En La Disco"
Quadron - "Slippin"*
Tom Hirschmann - "Red Handed"
David Bowie - "Black Country Rock"*
Deerhoof - "Blue Cash"*
X - "The New World"*
Uh Huh Her - "Same High"*
Fever Ray - "When I Grow Up (D Lissvik Remix)"*
Ge-ology featuring Yukimi Nagano - "Blues Alley"*
Gabor Szabo - "Galatea's Guitar"*
Little Dragon - "Fortune"
Betty Wright - "Good Lovin'"*
Joni Mitchell - "All I Want"*
CSS - "Knife"*
MGMT - "The Youth"*

Friday, November 26, 2010

Curtain Call: Elvis Costello (4/12/79)

You've got to give it up for the Italians. They know how to assemble a good bootleg. For whatever reason, most of my Costello shows have come from "The Boot," and this one, 'I Stand Accused,' is no exception. Every time I listen to it I think, ah, if I could turn back time, this is the show I would attend. Sadly, Cher and I don't have the power. Contrary to the information on the back cover, Costello and the Attractions made this stop at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., on April 12, 1979 (not Lehigh Community College).

The sound on 'I Stand Accused' is raw and a little high on the treble, but I have always been able to get past these issues since the stellar tracklist is matched only by the band's sneers. I love Costello's disdain. "Look at that lot over there," he bellows at the students. "Not a doctor's degree among 'em." Amazingly, some of these lads weren't standing near the end of the show. "We'll give you all a big drum roll, and then you can stand up after the drum roll. Will that make you all feel better?" Then there is my favorite. During the encore, just before "Pump It Up," he yells "watch out!" As the song ends and he goes into the finale of "You Belong to Me," he screams "watch out or we will taunt you a second time!" Gotta love the British sense of humor.

Now a bit about today's songs. "Rhodette's Song" is a cover of a very early Ian Dury tune that's actually called "The Roadette Song." OK, so the Italians aren't into details. It was originally released in 1975 when Dury was in a band called Kilburn and the High-Roads. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned 'Get Happy!!' was nearly a new-wave record? "High Fidelity" will give you a taste of what I meant. "Accidents Will Happen," as Costello says, was the band's new single in America. The rest of the songs I selected are here because of the enthusiasm to which they were performed. I'm not sure these guys ever sounded better.

1. I Stand Accused
2. Goon Squad
3. Two Little Hitlers
4. B Movie
5. Oliver's Army
6. Girls Talk
7. (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea
8. Green Shirt
9. Opportunity
10. Tiny Steps
11. The Beat
12. Rhodette's Song (mp3)
13. High Fidelity (mp3)
14. Accidents Will Happen(mp3)
15. Watching The Detectives
16. Big Boys
17. Radio, Radio (mp3)
18. Pump It Up (mp3)
19. You Belong To Me (mp3)

Also See:
Curtian Call: Elvis Costello (9/22/94)
Curtian Call: Elvis Costello (10/17/83)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Curtain Call: Elvis Costello (9/22/94)

Prior to 1994, I had the privilege to see Elvis Costello a number of times, but the Japanese leg of the Brutal Youth Tour was very special to me because it marked the first time I ever saw Costello perform with the Attractions. As you know, Costello and his famed band went their separate ways after 'Blood and Chocolate' in 1986. So, this was a huge deal. In fact, I would only get to see Costello with the Attractions once more -- at the Capital Ballroom in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 9, 1996 -- before Bruce Thomas was gone for good. For the record, I saw the boys eight days after this show. It was in Osaka at Festival Hall, their final Japanese stop. I got the feeling they were ready to go, too. There was no opening band, and they actually started a little early. How often does a band even begin on time?

My Costello fandom was at an all-time high in '94. Not only was I enjoying 'Brutal Youth,' but this was right in the middle of the Ryko reissues. Seems silly now with the umpteen reissues that would follow, but I was buying them all as quickly as I could. There were about 2,700 very well-behaved fans in attendance that politely applauded when appropriate and never considered standing until the show had nearly concluded. That was in complete contrast to the standing-room only general-admission show I attended in D.C., but that's another story.

So, back to the bootleg. 'Brilliant Parade' is a whopping 29-song two-disc soundboard recording from Tokyo's Kosei Nenkin Hall. I have read quite a few reviews of these discs, and the so-called "audiologists" out there with the time and knowledge to grade such things always seem to rate this one highly. The crowd noise is almost non-existent, and it's easy to forget they are there. It gives this record a live in the studio feel.

As for the six (or seven) songs I have selected to share, I chose "Sulky Girl" because it's my favorite song from 'Brutal Youth.' "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," Brilliant Mistake" and "So Like Candy" are here because I think there is a pretty good chance you haven't heard the Attractions perform them since they didn't appear on the studio versions. I have also included "Uncomplicated" from 'Blood and Chocolate' and another 'Brutal Youth' single that leads into one of the band's all-time crowd pleasers.

Disc 1:
1. Pony St.
2. Waiting for The End Of The World
3. Beyond Belief
4. Sulky Girl (mp3)
5. London's Brilliant Parade
6. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror (mp3)
7. Oliver's Army
8. You'll Never Be A Man
9. Temptation
10. New Lace Sleeves
11. Clown Strike
12. Kinder Murder
13. Shabby Doll
14. Rocking Horse Road
15. Brilliant Mistake (mp3)

Disc 2:
1. So Like Candy (mp3)
2. This Year's Girl
3. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
4. Mystery Dance
5. You Belong To Me
6. 13 Steps Lead Down/Radio Radio (mp3)
7. Favourite Hour
8. Uncomplicated (mp3)
9. Lipstick Vogue
10. Watching The Detectives
11. Little Triggers
12. Alison
13. Peace, Love And Understanding
14. Pump It Up

Also See: Curtian Call: Elvis Costello (10/17/83)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

XTC's 'Skylarking' Gets Old Treatment

I have been waiting for this one since XTC's Andy Partridge announced it this past June. The 1986 classic 'Skylarking' is out today as a double LP played at 45rpm. Even if you already own 'Skylarking' on CD, this is one of those rare reissues when you should purchase it again. Partrige's own Ape Records is in charge of the clean up, and here is what they had to say about why you need this new version:

In the course of world renowned mastering engineer John Dents work on preparing the new double vinyl set of XTC's Skylarking for release, an interesting and wonderful thing has been discovered. John has informed us that that somewhere in the chain from Todd Rundgren's Utopia sound studio and London's Master room studio, way back in 1986, a fault has occurred that means all of the versions of Skylarking you've ever heard, on CD or vinyl, have sounded...how shall we put this?... wrong.

How can this be I hear you think, sounds fine to me?

The band themselves always had a nagging doubt that the album sounded a little too thin and bass light, not like they remembered it sounding from the recording process. Well, what John has identified is that the previous vinyl and CD's {including the flashy US Fidelity version unfortunately} have been manufactured with their sound polarity reversed. In laymans terms this mix up means that sound waves that should be pushing out from your speakers are actually pulling them back and projecting from the rear. Something as simple as a wrongly wired XLR plug in Todd's studio or the Master room would have resulted in this sound mishap. Making the record sound distant and thinner. He has identified that the original tapes appear in very good condition and with this problem now rectified APE will be able to present to you shortly a splendid double deep vinyl cut of this classic XTC album as it was intended to sound, but never has done due to human error.

On top of correcting the audio gaffe, the original artwork (see above) banned by the label will finally see the light of day. Ape also says for the first time the tracks lost in the shuffle between the British and American versions will be reunited, meaning both "Dear God" and "Mermaid Smiled" are "in their proper places at last." So, let's get to the bottom line. There are no extra bells or whistles. There are no bonus tracks, demos, etc. This is simply 'Skylarking' as it always should have been. It's retailing for about $45. That's a bit steep, to be sure. Sounds like a good Christmas present to me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Curtain Call: Elvis Costello (10/17/83)

Curtain Call is an occasional series where I present one of my favorite live albums. This submission was inspired by the recent releases of classic Elvis Costello shows by the Hip-O label. I have quite a collection of Costello concerts, and this week I'm going to share songs from a from a few of my favorites. Today's tunes are taken from 'Riot Act,' an Oct. 17, 1983, show from London's Hammersmith Palais. It was originally broadcast on BBC radio and is rumored to be one of Hip-O's future releases. 'Punch the Clock'-era Costello is not normally a fan favorite, but I really like it. The additions of the TKO Horns and Afrodiziac on back-up vocals gave shows from this tour a sound never found again with the Attractions. This is Costello without venom, balls or whatever you want to call it. Just enjoy it for what it is... unapologetic pop.

Here are three songs from 'Punch the Clock,' as well as "Man Out Of Time" from 'Imperial Bedroom.' Finally, I have included a rousing rendition of "Clowntime Is Over" from the 'Get Happy!!' period. Actually, this live version is closer to "Clowntime Is Over No. 2." The studio version can be found on deluxe editions of the 1980 album. It is, in my opinion, the best moment from the set. I still get goosebumps near the end of the song, when the horns burst in after Costello's repeated "Clowntime! Clowntime! Clowntime!" vocal. Be sure to give that one a listen.

1. Let Them All Talk (mp3)
2. Possession
3. Watch Your Step
4. The Greatest Thing
5. Man Out Of Time (mp3)
6. Shabby Doll
7. From Head To Toe
8. Charm School (mp3)
9. Oliver's Army
10. Shipbuilding
11. The World And His Wife
12. Alison/Living A Little, Laughing A Little
13. Clowntime Is Over (mp3)
14. Everyday I Write The Book (mp3)
15. TKO (Boxing Day)
Bonus Tracks:
16. Psycho (London, June 6, 1981)
17. Back Stabbers/King Horse (Austin, Texas, Sept. 7, 1983)

Friday, November 19, 2010

New EP From Jim Noir

I have some catching up to do. Manchester's own Jim Noir released the four-song EP 'Melody Junction' as a free download from his Web site this past summer, and I completely missed it because that was during my move from Chicago to Seattle. I have a widget for that one down below (in case you're also tardy). Earlier this week the eccentric Noir released another EP. This one is a six-song affair you have to purchase, but he did give us one song, "Car," as a freebie. Download that tune below, and buy 'Zooper Dooper' here.

For the record, I consider Noir's first two albums must purchases. This is especially true of his 2005 debut, 'Tower of Love.' It's a brilliant piece of pop. It's a little bit lo-fi and, yet, there are times it seems complex and like something right out of the best of the Beach Boys' songbook. If you are asking yourself how that's possible, give "Turbulent Weather" a try. It was No. 30 on my list of the last decade's best tracks. I hate to single out this one song when so many others would fit the bill. Just pick up the album and put on "My Patch" or "Key of C." You won't be disappointed.

Jim Noir - Car (mp3)
Jim Noir - Turbulent Weather (mp3)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cover Me Impressed: 'What Goes On'

"What Goes On" is taken from the Feelies' 1988 major-label debut, 'Only Life.' This isn't considered their best of a brief four-album career, but it's my favorite. I think it's because 'Only Life' was my introduction to the band. Thus, the album is the one I have played (by far) the most. The Feelies have laid down a few very good covers, but I always felt like this Velvet Underground classic was meant for them. There's just something about that guitar work in the VU original that screams "FEELIES!"

If you're a Feelies fan, the past couple of years have been exciting. After opening for Sonic Youth at New York's Battery Park on July 4, 2008, the band has since played a couple of other shows, including one last year at my old stomping grounds. Their first two albums were reissued by Bar/None last year as well, but the really good news surfaced a few weeks ago when we learned they are in the studio working on a new album for Bar/None that should be out in the spring. We haven't had any new music by the Feelies since 'Time for a Witness' in 1991. So, yeah, it's kind of a big deal.

The Feelies - What Goes On (mp3)
The Velvet Underground - What Goes On (mp3)

More Cover Me Impressed:
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
Halloween Edition
"Porpoise Song"
"Prairie Rose"
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Return of British Sea Power

British Sea Power have been busy. Earlier this year we got the excellent "Zeus" EP, and now there is news the band's next full-length album, Valhalla Dancehall,' will be out Jan. 10, 2011, via Rough Trade. To celebrate, for the price of an email address, the lads have given us all a sneak listen to the the first single, "Living Is So Easy." The song will be officially available for digital download on Nov. 29. The 13-track record will not include "Zeus." So, I'll include that one below. It's clear British Sea Power will never return to the hard sounds of their critically-acclaimed debut, 'The Decline of British Sea Power,' but I have really dug the more "mature" take of their last couple of LPs.

British Sea Power - Zeus (mp3)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Has Duran Duran Returned to Roots?

I'm not a big fan of promoting a song snippet. I resisted the idea this past summer when we got a brief listen to Duran Duran's "Blame the Machine." It was easy since I didn't think the song was that great anyway. In a complete reversal, I'm sending you over to Spinner to listen to a sample of "All You Need Is Now," the upcoming single from Duran Duran's album of the same name. Producer Mark Ronson seems to have captured the band's signature sound, circa 1981. Cross your fingers. The current lineup, in case you were wondering, is John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon. The song will be sold exclusively by iTunes beginning Dec. 14, and then the nine-track album hits the downloading service one week later. The physical album won't be out until February. Rhodes also tells Spinner there will be a music video for each of the album's nine songs. Now that's old-school Duran Duran.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Crenshaw Turns 57 and Goes Turntable

First off, happy birthday to Marshall Crenshaw. Turns out, however, we are the ones about to get a gift. When it comes to making new music, Crenshaw freely admits he has difficulty staying motivated. That's why he's had such long gaps between albums. So, he has self-imposed deadlines for his next project and -- woo-hoo! -- it's an all-vinyl venture. According to Holly Hughes of blogcritics.org, Crenshaw will release six 7" singles over the next two years. I imagine a fair number of you gave up on Crenshaw sometime around 'Downtown.' As someone who has anxiously awaited for every one of his releases and has seen him on stage more than just about any artist, I obviously think those of you in that camp have made a big mistake. Here's an absolute pop gem from 1996 that I hope will bring you back into the fold.

Marshall Crenshaw - There and Back Again (mp3)

Pretty great, eh? Now go buy 'Miracle of Science' or his latest, 'Jaggedland.'

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cover Me Impressed: 'Sad About Girls'

The other day, when we listened to the cover that almost didn't qualify as a cover (because Johnny Marr appeared on both versions), it got me thinking about 'Sad About Girls.' The following cover (again) barely qualifies. Let me explain.

If you have ever listened to any live sets from Elvis Costello & the Attractions, circa 1979, you no doubt heard that the new songs slated for the followup to 'Armed Forces' were new-wave affairs. After a short time in the studio, Costello realized this and scrapped the dated sound for something more closely related to Stax and Motown for what would eventually be 'Get Happy!!'

Meanwhile, in 1980, the Attractions decided to go ahead with an album sans Costello that sounded quite a bit like the new-wave songs they performed on tour the previous year. The result was 'Mad About the Wrong Boy.' If you're a big fan of the Attractions, you may want to pick up the LP. It's quite a curiosity. How often do you get to hear Steve Nieve or Bruce Thomas take lead vocals? All in all, I wouldn't say it's a great album, but I imagine I like it better than most Costello fans. Nieve wrote the bulk of the tunes, but Bruce and Pete Thomas should be given full credit for one of the best songs of the lot, 'La La La La La Loved You.' There are a handful of songs credited to the mysterious team of Brain/Hart. I have read over the years that the duo is Nieve and his wife, poet Fay Hart.

One of the Brain/Hart songs is the aforementioned 'Sad About Girls.' Costello must have liked that one a bit because he later recorded a version with the band in 1981 during the 'Trust' sessions. Although the song didn't make the album, there are a couple of 'Trust' reissues that have 'Sad About Girls' as a bonus song. I took the one below from my 1994 Ryko version. It's a nice piece of songwriting, but I must apologize to Nieve and humbly bow to the the later version performed by Costello & the Attractions.

The Attractions - Sad About Girls (mp3)
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Sad About Girls (mp3)

More Cover Me Impressed:
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
Halloween Edition
"Porpoise Song"
"Prairie Rose"
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Crowded Household Enjoyed Crowded House

I'm at that stage when it's almost impossible to go see a band. I was fortunate enough to take in the Pixies performing 'Dootliitle' last year because Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! got me the tickets for my birthday and set up the babysitter well in advance. Since then live experiences have been almost non-existent.

There are, however, rare times when the venue is friendly enough that the entire family can go and enjoy the music. The criteria to pull that off is as follows: 1) it has to be early in the evening, 2) outdoors and at a place where you can bring captain's chairs or spread out a blanket picnic style in a general-admission area and 3) it needs to be an older band with equally mature fans willing to bring kids along.

I have seen a few shows within that scenario, but none have been better than when I saw Crowded House on Aug. 28 at the beautiful Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Washington. I won't dwell on the setting, but suffice it to say the mountains, trees and sunset were like a postcard to this Evergreen State newbie. The 24-song setlist was a nice mix of old favorites and new songs from their latest, 'Intriguer.' It was about three songs in that the inevitable happened.

Why is it that no matter the show you always end up by at least one obnoxious clown? It's usually a non-stop talker, texter or video-taking junkie, but this guy was even worse. For obvious reasons we set up camp in the back, but there was one douche that squeezed in behind us, paced and incessantly screamed his one request. In a thick London East End accent he yelled, "SPLIT ENZ! SPLIT ENZ!" As the show continued he got louder and more irritated. "NEIL, PLAY SOME SPLIT ENZ!!" By the encore he was ready to pound somebody. "NEIL, FOR CHRIST SAKE... SPLIIIIIIT EEEEENZ!!!" I'll be damned if his wish wasn't finally granted. Before breaking into "History Never Repeats," Neil Finn claimed Crowded House had never played this one before. The band followed up that one with "I Got You." It was an unforgettable moment. Perhaps I owed this bloody Brit an apology. The show concluded with a lengthy take of "Better Be Home Soon." Finn asked the crowd to join in. "NEIL, THIS IS AMERICA! THEY DON'T SING!" The apology I made up in my mind was immediately rescinded.

So, you may be asking yourself, why is this bloke going on about a concert he saw back in the summer? I have a good answer. I went into the show owning all but one Crowded House album. I had not yet bought their latest. Hearing several songs from 'Intriguer' that night should have inspired me to get it, but it wasn't until I came across it for $5 at a used record store in Seattle two weeks ago that I finally made the purchase. That's shameful because, contrary to lukewarm reviews across the globe, I think it's brilliant. I can't stop listening to the following deep track. If you like it, buy the record now. You may also enjoy a live song from their double-disc set 'Farewell to the World.'

Crowded House - Either Side of the World (mp3)
Crowded House - Better Be Home Soon (mp3)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cover Me Impressed: 'There Is A Light...'

With a catalog as stellar as the Smiths, it's tough to state a particular song as being the band's best, but Simon Goddard, author of the 2003 book 'The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life,' wrote that "in a straw poll among Smiths fans today, 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out' would more than likely still come out victorious." There have been a few bands brave enough to take a stab at the classic, including the Lucksmiths, the Magic Numbers, the Divine Comedy and Death Cab For Cutie. Of that lot, I can recommend the Divine Comedy's take. I believe only Neil Finn's live version -- taken from the 2001 album '7 Worlds Collide' -- is in the same league as the original song from the Smiths' 1986 album 'The Queen Is Dead.'

This is as good a time as any to add the caveat that Finn had a lot of help with the song. So much so, in fact, it's almost cheating to call it a cover. You see, Johnny Marr, guitarist for the Smiths, performed with Finn during the show recorded at the St. James Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand. Other notable friends on stage for the song include Lisa Germano on violin and Phil Selway of Radiohead behind the kit. Here is the original song (ripped from my vinyl), as well as the only cover that has nailed it. Also, check out a couple of videos I dug up for the occasion. More on Mr. Finn next time. Enjoy.

The Smiths - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (mp3)
Neil Finn - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (mp3)

More Cover Me Impressed:
Halloween Edition
"Porpoise Song"
"Prairie Rose"
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"