Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Spin From Sarah

Cold. Rainy. Dark. That's how this day began. I piled it on by rolling over and playing this one. OK, you sad sacks, let's get melancholy. "Gotta get up off the floor..."

The stable of Sarah Records' "stars" was vast, but I think I might like Brighter the best. A decade ago, Matinée Recordings gathered the band's three singles and the 'Disney' 10" EP on one wonderful disc and called it 'Singles 1989-1982.' Sadly, it is no longer in print, but you can still get some of Brighter's work from the label.
'Out To Sea' collects the essential 'Laurel' eight-track mini-album with hard-to-find flexidiscs and several songs that have never been heard before this 2006 compilation. I give this my highest recommendation.

Sorry, didn't mean to brighten the day. Back to sulking and song.

Brighter - Inside Out (mp3)

Monday, April 29, 2013

'...No Commies in My Car. No Christians Either'

Bergman, Truffaut, Cassavetes, Altman, Kubrick... Cox? Damn straight. What does Alex Cox have in common with these legendary directors? Their films have been deemed crucial enough to be a part of the Criterion Collection. Nobody brings a film to DVD like the Criterion folks, and I was pleased as punch to read that earlier this month one of my all-time favorite flicks, 'Repo Man,' had just become one of their latest releases. The director-approved special edition has plenty of extras, but the best of the lot is audio commentary with Cox and executive producer Michael Nesmith, as well as new interviews with Iggy Pop and Dick Rude. I'm pretty excited about the deleted scenes too.

We all have one of those movies we've seen so many times that we can recite it forwards and backwards. Well, this one is mine, and the music was the soundtrack of my early to mid teen years. Here are a couple of pieces Criterion has posted on the film. The first is Ten Things I Learned About 'Repo Man.' The other is a very entertaining snippet from the Iggy Pop inteview.

Keep making me money, kid."
Buy the 'Repo Man' soundtrack.
Buy the 'Repo Man' film (Criterion).

Iggy Pop - Repo Man (mp3)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Study the School's U.S. Curriculum

As promised, here are is the School's brief American syllabus. If you, like me, live west of the Mississippi (OK, St. Louis makes the cut), you may give the band an F for their course. Take a deep breath and keep in mind touring America isn't like covering a European country. You can't really do it successfully in two weeks. All this does is make it official. It's time to book a flight and get your tickets to NYC Popfest. You'll have the added bonus of seeing the Monochrome Set, the Bats and Close Lobsters too. This might be the only time I have envied (or will ever envy) Salem, Virginia. If you haven't heard one of my favorite bands, check out some of their videos below after the band's itinerary.

The School U.S. Tour Dates
May 30: Cake Shop, New York (NYC Popfest)
June 4: Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, Cleveland
June 5: Burlington Bar, Chicago
June 6: Off Broadway, St. Louis
June 7: The End, Nashville
June 8: The Caledonia Lounge, Athens, Ga.
June 10: Krankies Coffee, Winston-Salem, N.C.
June 11: Billy's Barn, Salem, Va.
June 12: Cake Shop, New York
June 13: Sierra Grille, Northampton, Mass.

Also See:
Top 25 Songs of 2012
Top Albums of 2012
Music Video of the Year
Jangle Pop Dreams (NYC Popfest)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Songs in Heavy Rotation

These newer (and impending, in some cases) releases have my ear right now. Give them a listen:

The Boy Least Likely To - "Climbing Out of Love"
From the album 'The Great Perhaps,' released April 21

Eleanor Friedberger - "Stare at the Sun"
From the album 'Perfect Record," out June 4

The Primitives - "Lose the Reason"
From the 7" single "Lose the Reason," released Feb. 18

Camera Obscura - "Do It Again"
From the album 'Desire Lines,' out June 4

The Pastels - "Check My Heart"
From the album 'Slow Summits,' out May 28

She & Him - "Never Wanted Your Love"
From the album 'Volume 3,' out May 7

Van Dyke Parks - "Hold Back Time"
From the album 'Songs Cycled,' out May 6

Golden Grrrls - "Past Tense"
From the album 'Golden Grrrls,' released Feb. 25

Sunday, April 21, 2013

OMD's Best Since...

One of my most solemn moments of the day is while washing the dinner dishes. Tonight, for the third night in a row, I listened to the new OMD album as I scrubbed in quiet contentment. I started thinking about the band's best moments in the studio when it hit me that I might like 'English Electric' better than just about anything they have done in the past 30 years. I'm wondering what you readers think. I imagine your all-time favorite would be found among OMD's first four albums, but what about after that? If you have a moment, please vote for your favorite album, post-'Dazzle Ships,' on the first ever Linear Tracking Lives! poll in the upper right corner of the blog. If you have more than a moment, expand on your answer in the comments section below. Feel free to rant and rave about OMD.

Update: The polls are closed. 'Junk Culture' and 'English Electric' ruled the day. 'Crush' was the only other album that received votes. Thanks for participating.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recommended for Record Store Day

I had a pretty rough time at Record Store Day 2011. I got up at the crack of dawn and waited outside in a line that was blocks long. When I finally got in in the door of my favorite shop, it was pandemonium. The albums were just inside the door (thus, a bottleneck at the entrance) in cardboard boxes. Fanatics circled the temporary tables like vultures. The wait to pay was painful. When the dust cleared, I got what I wanted, but that's because I wasn't looking for the star attractions. There were many disappointed faces that day.

I took a different approach last year. I slept in. I took my time and arrived at a different shop in the middle of the afternoon. The store had the look and feel of a typical Saturday. I still got what I wanted (again, because I wasn't looking for Nirvana or some other big name). That's the plan this year too. To be honest, I hate Record Store Day. I don't think a two-hour infusion of album geeks and ebay sellers solves the ills of the indie store. Sadly, I'm one of those geeks. So, I must go. Just remember to visit your favorite shop all year around and as often as you can.

Here are some of my recommendations for you Saturday shoppers.

The dB's - 'Revolution of the Mind' 12"
This was one of the first songs we heard from the band when the original lineup reunited a couple of years ago. It was available as a free download, and the song wasn't included on 'Falling Off the Sky,' the dB's first album in 25 years. Looks like you can still get it here, but an mp3 is no substitute for vinyl.

Marshall Crenshaw - 'Stranger and Stranger' 10"
The second submission in the singer-songwriters subscription series is available a la carte for the holiday. I wrote about this one last week.

Robyn Hitchcock - 'There Goes The Ice' 12"
Chock full of songs that weren't included on his latest release, 'Love From London.' A few of the selections were available as free mp3s on Hitchcock's Web site as far back as 2010 as part of his 'Phantom 45s' series. Here is a sample:
Robyn Hitchcock - To Be Human (mp3)

Komeda - 'The Genius of Komeda' 12"
I liked all of Komeda's albums, even the ones in Swedish, but this one is their best. This is the first time it has ever been available on vinyl. If you have never owned my favorite album from 1996, now is the time.
Komeda - Disko (mp3)

Orange Juice - 'Texas Fever,' 'Rip It Up,' 'The Orange Juice,' 'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' 12"
The band's Polydor era is available again on vinyl. Albums include mp3 download cards. This is not a set. Each are sold separately. I won't insult you with explanations. You already know these are vital.

Van Dyke Parks - 'Song Cycle' 12"
Rhino has reissued the songwriter's debut album in mono and on vinyl. I got this record 20 years ago at the height of my Brian Wilson fandom, and I'm still fascinated by it. I can't imagine what it must have been like to hear it in 1968. Of course, few people did. "Baroque" doesn't come close to describing it.
Van Dyke Parks - The Attic (mp3)

Various Artists - 'Factory Records: Communications 1978-1992 (Sampler #2)' 12"
First of all, if you have the 2008 Rhino box set by the same name, congratulations are in order. Go to ebay and you'll see why. 'Sampler #1' was a much sought after 10" at Record Store Day 2010. Here's the tracklist to the followup: Joy Division - "She's Lost Control (12" Version)," New Order - "1963 (12" Version)," The Durutti Column - "Otis," Happy Mondays - "Loose Fit (12" Version)." There are 4,000 copies, but 3,000 will be for UK shoppers. Better wake up early for this one.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pay Attention to the Pastels Again

I'm a big fan of Scottish C-86 legends the Pastels, but I must admit I have lost track of the band's output for the last decade or more. (Although it was cool to be buy an album from the band's frontman at his record shop in Glasgow last year.) With the infrequent releases and lengthy hiatuses, that was a pretty easy thing to do. At the end of 2012, Domino Records announced a new album from Stephen & Co., along with a little audio trailer of the songs, but it was difficult to judge whether the impending record was going to be a keeper. As the release date for 'Slow Summits' approaches, we finally have a full song for streaming, and I think it sounds fantastic. "Check My Heart," along with non-album B-side "Illumination Song," will be available as a 7" on April 29. The full album hits store shelves on May 27. The following song proves the indie-pop pioneers still have a jangle in their steps. I'm really loving this one. It's like time is standing still.

And here is that very brief album trailer from last year:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: 'Burning Down the House'

I rarely like any songs that make the Top 40. I was trying to think of the last time a hit grabbed my attention. I could be wrong, but I think it was either "Naked Eye" by Luscious Jackson or "Lovefool" by the Cardigans. Both of those songs came out in 1996, folks.

It wasn't always this way. In the early and middle '80s, I liked quite a few popular songs. I'm thinking about starting a series of posts on those hit singles that captured my heart, albeit in 12" form, but I'm getting a bit off track. The point is it was this idea that got me thinking about the Cardigans. Although I must admit I haven't pulled either of them off the shelf in many years, I liked the Swedish band's second and third albums quite a bit. I was looking at the records today and also noticed this nearby CD single I bought back in 1999. I have never been a big fan of the pop duets of Tom Jones. So, this is further proof I was really into the Cardigans for a spell. Enjoy four versions of a classic... and by "classic" I mean the original song from the Talking Heads.

Tom Jones and the Cardigans - Burning Down the House (mp3)
Tom Jones and the Cardigans - Burning Down the House (Delakota mix) (mp3)
Tom Jones and the Cardigans - Burning Down the House (Pepe Deluxe mix) (mp3)
Tom Jones and the Cardigans - Burning Down the House (DJ Scissorkicks Instrumental mix) (mp3)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Feeling 'Squeezed' Out of a Favorite

Sometimes it's better to be oblivious. I just read that one of my favorite tunes from Glenn Tilbrook's solo catalog is a not-so-subtle jab at longtime partner Chris Difford. I imagine you already knew that about "Neptune," a very catchy piece of pop from his 2004 album, 'Transatlantic Ping Pong,' but I had no idea. This piece of news will forever change the way I listen to the song. Here are Tilbrook's words... allegedly about his Squeeze collaborator:

With several years worth of air to clear
You tried it alone now the big idea
Is to see if we're in a similar dimension
You always talked a terrific game
But the results turned out just the same
So what's different now to get my attention?

Oh! here you come here you come now
Oh! where are you coming from now?
Uranus and I'm here in Neptune

Your folksy noodling has petered out
It didn't raise pulses or your bank account
An insomniac's dream it's best not to mention
You thanked me for turning out the light
Well thanks to you maybe you were right
So what's turned you around for this resurrection?

Oh! here you come here you come now
Oh! where are you coming from now?
Uranus and I'm here in Neptune

I got so tired of wondering
I couldn't distinguish the truth
And then I'd find myself wondering about you

Today I'm finding the "Uranus" joke a lot more infantile than I did yesterday. Although I didn't like 'Transatlantic Ping Pong' as much as his first solo album, 'The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook,' I still think it's a worthy buy for "Hostage" and "Untouchable," even if I'm going to have to skip the third song from now on. Difford rules!

Glenn Tilbrook - Neptune (mp3)

Monday, April 8, 2013

OMD Live in Seattle, 4/6/13

Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark's second stop on the English Electric tour found the Liverpudlian synth-pop outfit here for an inspired performance at Showbox at the Market. Prior to the History of Modern tour, it had been nearly a quarter century since the band had visited Seattle. In a stunning turn, it took OMD only a short 18 months to return. Thank you, Coachella! The first fantastic moment was visiting the souvenir stand to find the new album for sale a few days before the official release. The second pleasant surprise was opening act Diamond Rings. The twentysomething Toronto native was a real ham and quite entertaining. The synths and electronic drums were a welcome sound for us aging new wavers, and the energy of "Mr. Rings" eventually won over a crowd of skeptics. I blame the initially chilly reception on his Vanilla Ice look.

If you're all about the first four albums, you might be a bit disappointed by the setlist. To take 'Dazzle Ships' as an example, all we got was "Radio Waves." In reality, the show was a fair representation of the band's entire career and, unlike many concerts, the new material didn't grind the proceedings to a halt. In fact, as Andy McCluskey told the crowd before "Dresden," "here's another new one, but don't worry, it's brilliant." I won't argue. When the song ended, he asked the crowd, tongue in cheek, whether we thought this was just going to be another nostalgia tour. Before anyone could answer, and with big smiles, the band broke into "Messages."

McCluskey was quite the MC, and the passion and energy of this 53 year old was something to behold. Paul Humphreys was his usual laid-back self, and when he got his turn to front the band, his quiet crooning style was quite a contrast to McCluskey's spastic dance moves. Oh, how the ladies swayed and swooned.

OMD played for about an hour and 45 minutes, but it still wasn't enough. They are one of those bands that can't possibly play everything you want to hear. The fellas, including the classic lineup of drummer Malcolm Holmes and multi-instrumentalist Martin Cooper, have dozens of shows in 2013, including a return to America this summer. If I find out "Genetic Engineering," "Telegraph" and "Never Turn Away" make it into their repertoire, perhaps I'll catch them again on the East Coast. I may be wrong, but I think this was the setlist:

OMD Setlist: Showbox at the Market, Seattle 6/6/13
Please Remain Seated
Radio Waves
History of Modern (Part 1)
(Forever) Live and Die
If You Leave
Night Café
Joan of Arc
Maid of Orleans
Our System
Atomic Ranch
Kissing the Machine
So In Love
Sister Marie Says
Sailing on the Seven Seas
Enola Gay
Walking on the Milky Way

Friday, April 5, 2013

Nearly Time for Next Marshall Crenshaw 10"

I really enjoyed the first 10" in Marshall Crenshaw's subscription series. Truth is, I'm not a subscriber, but I bought "I Don't See You Laughing Now" during the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day last fall. After the purchase, however, I felt like I had painted myself into a corner. I knew I would want all of the records in the series, but now I had bought a la carte without even knowing if any of the other records would even be available without a subscription. That's why I was so pleased to see the second 10" on the list for the next edition of Record Store Day.

As with the first EP, "Stranger and Stranger" will be on colored vinyl and individually numbered. If you are unaware of the format, each EP has a brand-new original, followed by an inspired cover and a new recording of a Crenshaw classic. This time around, the cover is "(They Long To Be) Close To You" by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Yep, the one made famous by the Carpenters. The EP closes with "Maryanne," one of the greats from Crenshaw's self-titled debut. This is worth lining up for on April 20. If you don't have the patience, however, you can still subscribe to the series. I'm really hoping for the best with "Stranger and Stranger" because we don't get the next EP until fall. Hmm. Could that be around the next Black Friday Record Store Day?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: 'I Fall to Pieces'

I'm trying not to fall to pieces, but this is going to take a while to get over. We have all missed seeing a band because we just plain didn't know they were in town, but I'm guessing this has never happened to you.

On Saturday night, completely out of the blue, I got to wondering what Michael Nesmith was up to these days. He's one of my favorites, but I must admit I have no idea what made me think of him at that moment. Quite random. I started fishing around and read that he was embarking on a short tour. "Ooh. If he's coming to Seattle," I thought, "I'm so there." I found the show dates. No kidding. Nesmith was playing Seattle at that very moment. In this day and age, when apps can notify you as to the whereabouts of a given artist at almost any given moment, there isn't much of an excuse for me missing this show, but the music gods seem to be rubbing it in a bit.

Two years ago this week I dedicated an entire week of posts to this hero of mine. Hope you were around to catch that. Today, let's listen to to "Nez" covering a classic from his 'Loose Salute' album, circa 1970.

Michael Nesmith - I Fall to Pieces (mp3)

Here are Nesmith's remaining dates. Don't make the same mistake I did.

April 3: Boulder, Colo., Boulder Theater
April 5: St. Paul, Minn., Fitzgerald Theater
April 6: Chicago, Old Town School of Folk Music
April 7: Ferndale, Mich. The Magic Bag
April 9: Munhall, Pa., Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead
April 11: Northhampton, Mass., Iron Horse
April 12: Rahway, N.J., Union County Performing Arts Center
April 13: Somerville, Mass., Somerville Theater
April 15: Philadelphia, World Cafe Live
April 16: New York, Town Hall
April 17: Alexandria, Va., Birchmere