Let The Good Times Roll
08 March 2011
Let The Good Times Roll
07 March 2011
The Night Owl is going to try his best to find his way into a sold out Strokes show scheduled for this weekend at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Encouraging our presence was their especially fine form this past weekend on NBC's Saturday Night Live, with Julian Casablancas throwing off an obscenity near the end of "Under Cover of Darkness" that scooted by the censors delay button.
Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold took to Twitter today and dropped three new musical treats on us, presumably to tide fans over until the 1 May release of the band's sophomore effort Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop). Pecknold indicates that they were recorded in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago: "These aren't Fleet Foxes songs, but I didn't know where else to disseminate it. Pretty mellow jams." The first is a contemplative rambler titled "Derwentwater Stones":
The final selection is a beautiful cover of English musician Chris Thompson's "Where Is My Wild Rose," a Gaelic lament that fits right into Pecknold's vocal wheelhouse.
06 March 2011
My Morning Jacket's sixth studio album is set for release this spring. Titled Circuital, a writer from Rolling Stone opined that the record “feels like the culmination of the sonic adventures the band began with 2005's Z—while also capturing the power and dynamics that have made MMJ one of the greatest live bands of their generation.”
04 March 2011
Codes and Keys, the band's seventh effort, will be released 31 May on Atlantic. Back in December, bassist Nick Harmer spoke with Stereogum:
Recorded at various studios over the course of several months in 2010, the new Death Cab for Cutie album — Codes And Keys — represents a departure of sorts for the band, but perhaps not one as radical as initial press reports have implied. The band employed a more cut-and-paste style of songwriting — as well as more of guitarist/producer Chris Walla’s compositions — on the record, but it will still sound very much like a Death Cab record. Despite comments from front man Ben Gibbard that likened the new record to Brian Eno’s Another Green World, Harmer is quick to point out that there will still be plenty of guitars as well.
“Oh, there are definitely guitars on this record,” he says, “there are just less of them than before and we’re using them in different ways this time. Ben was really inspired by writing on acoustic guitar and on a piano, so often those parts become voices or keyboard lines, rather than guitar parts. We really experimented with piecing the songs together in different ways and using the studio differently, so this a much less guitar-centric album than we’ve ever made before.”
In other Death Cab news, Consequence of Sound reports this morning that the Washington State group will appear at the Hop Farm 2011 Festival in Kent, England this summer. Other performers include Lou Reed, Morrissey, Iggy & The Stooges and Patti Smith.
Ben Gibbard, "Codes and Keys" (SF Noise Pop Festival, 27 February 2011)
03 March 2011
We've had our eye on Amos Lee since his self-titled debut album was released in 1995. Now the Philadelphia/Cherry Hill, NJ singer-songwriter has released his fourth long-player, Mission Bell, on Blue Note Records. The record went to number one on the charts and Lee will begin his American tour at the end of March; many of the mid-size venues are already sold out.
"Windows Are Rolled Down" is a breezy melody juxtaposed with lyrics from the point of view of a broken down soul. It is in the great tradition of John Prine and Neil Young, and TNOP thinks you will enjoy it.
02 March 2011
01 March 2011
As we've been reporting over the past few months, a new Paul Simon album is in the offing. His tenth solo effort, So Beautiful or So What, will be released on Concord Music Group on 12 April. It reunites Simon with producer Phil Ramone, who manned the sound board for some of the singer-songwriter's more memorable efforts (There Goes Rhymin' Simon and Still Crazy After All These Years).
Is it the word? Is it the music?
It generates few visible blisters, so may even be mistaken for an unearned reward.
As Fred Astaire once wisely sang, you have to "Let Yourself Go."
So how do you begin? When do you know when you've reached your destination? What do you cut and when do you run without painting over the picture?
A thing of beauty?
Who needs it?
But that's the very mystery and fascination of it.
The trick is, as I know it, is to care like hell and not give a damn at the same time or as more elegantly proposed here; So Beautiful Or So What.
I believe that this remarkable, thoughtful, often joyful record deserves to be recognized as among Paul Simon's very finest achievements.
It's a lot to add to what you've done when those songs are titles anyone could name but Paul's greatest songs will find worthy, easy company here.
This is a man in full possession of all his gifts looking at the comedy and beauty of life with clarity and the tenderness bought by time.
It seems no accident that three of the song titles contain the word, "love" and most of the others consider it in its many manifestations.
The record begins with a fragment of a sermon underpinning the promise of the song, "Getting Ready For Christmas Day."
Within it is the voice of the Rev. J.M. Gates, who waxed warnings of eternal punishment from his first hit homily, "Death's Black Train Is Coming" to his last caution in 1940, "Hitler and Hell."
These days it might court shallow mockery to sing so openly of our humanity, mortality and divinity but not with music to make these themes fly or words containing such wit, grace and humility.
The musical shapes and shades arrive from all over the world and back in time to illuminate the heartfelt intelligence of the writer.
Central to the picture is Paul's vivid singing and own beautiful guitar playing - which doesn't always get full measure in the shadow of his writing.
Throughout the record, I kept coming up against what I can only call, rock and roll surprises; not some orthodox formula but indelible, hypnotic guitar motifs and swinging, off-center rhythms tipping your expectations into a new kind of thrill.
Then there are the ballads...
In "Love and Hard Times," two-thirds of the Trinity arrive on earth only to disagree over who and what is worthy of salvation. This bold and, for any other songwriter, completely humbling piece of composition took my breath away on first hearing.
The opening statement is as lovely as anything Paul has written. I felt as if I was suddenly within the idyllic scene of natural beauty that it describes, only for it be leavened by the Lord's blue aside, "We'd better get going," as He departs the scene.
The song concludes with recognition that it is the reassuring touch of a lover that calms an uneasy but grateful heart near dawn. If love is discovery made in a moment, then it is still one for which we must give thanks.
Equally startling is the rushing, telescopic journey from creative to destructive explosion and the making and undoing of the world in "Love Is Eternal Sacred Light."
These wonderful songs refuse to despair, despite the evidence all around us. "So Beautiful Or So What" rejects the allure of fashionable darkness and the hypnosis of ignorance - better to contemplate and celebrate the endurance of the spirit and the persistence of love.
"The Afterlife" – 3:40 [SAMPLE HERE]
"Dazzling Blue" – 4:32
"Rewrite" – 3:49
"Love And Hard Times" – 4:09
"Love Is Eternal Sacred Light" – 4:02
"Amulet" – 1:36
"Questions For The Angels" – 3:49
"Love And Blessings" – 4:18
"So Beautiful Or So What" – 4:07
16 February 2011
Radiohead - 15 Step
The front men of some pretty good indie bands have banded together to form Middle Brother: Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit) and John McCauley (Deer Tick). McCauley takes the lead on the first single, a rave-up that reminds us of another (unfortunately obscure) side project named Rockpile, which featured Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Turn it up and maybe try out some private dance moves.
14 February 2011
Seems as though the reported on-going collaboration (presumably four songs in at the studio) between David Byrne and Annie Clark aka St. Vincent has got Annie listening to some of David's old pals.
"Valentine's Day" is the memorable final cut of the album. As far as we can tell from our research (although this is certainly subject to intense scrutiny from Bossophiles), the only time Springsteen has played the song live is a handful of dates in 2005 during his Devils and Dust solo tour.
But our treat to all of you on this feast of St. Valentine is an obscure audio recording of "Valentine's Day" from a 28 January 1988 band rehearsal at the Expo Center in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Backed by the E Street Band and The Horns of Love (Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg and associates), its a shame the arrangement never saw the light of day.
31 January 2011
The Louvin Brothers, Charlie and Ira ... One of the great close-harmony brother acts. The sound of Ira's mandolin and Chet Atkins' guitar, making the best music this side of heaven, even when singing about Satan. These songs on death, sin, and despair resonate with raw power and start beauty. . .
28 January 2011
"The boys helped me out," Robertson told Rolling Stone. "I think I've written some really good songs, and ... it turned out quite extraordinary." He adds that the album explores addiction, 60s idealism and "rock and roll's early reputation as the devil's music".
Two tracks are particularly interesting. "This Is Where I Get Off" recounts the end of Robertson's affiliation as lead guitarist and chief songwriter with The Band upon the conclusion of The Last Waltz project. The second can be sampled below: "When The Night Was Young" is a quiet, soulful melody complimented by Scottish singer Angela McCluskey and anchored by Martin Pradler's piano; subtle allusions to The Band's apprenticeship in the American South and its wide-eyed introduction to New York with Bob Dylan are evident.
Here's the track listing:
1. Straight Down The Line
2. When The Night Was Young
3. He Don't Live Here No More
4. The Right Mistake
5. This Is Where I Get Off
6. Fear of Falling
7. She's Not Mine
8. Madame X
10. Won't Be Back
11. How To Become Clairvoyant
12. Tango For Django
27 January 2011
Steve Earle & The Dukes
24 January 2011
CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS FOR TV TIMES AND/OR REPEAT SHOWINGS; ALSO CONSULT WEB SITES AND YouTube
TONIGHT, MONDAY 24 January
The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) - The Walkmen
Conan (TBS) - Iron & Wine
The Tonight Show (NBC) - Lizz Wright
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) - The Script
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC) - Local Natives
Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) - Menomena
Lopez Tonight (TBS) - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
TUESDAY, 25 January
Conan - Wanda Jackson
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Iron & Wine
Last Call with Carson Daly - Broken Bells
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central) - James Franco
WEDNESDAY, 26 January
Conan - Motorhead
The Tonight Show (NBC) - Amos Lee
Jimmy Kimmel Live - Cold War Kids
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Two Door Cinema Club
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Syndicated) - One eskimO
THURSDAY, 27 January
The Late Show with David Letterman - Robert DeNiro; Dustin Hoffman
Conan - The Ghost of A Saber Tooth Tiger
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Neon Trees
Last Call with Carson Daly - Fitz & The Tantrums
FRIDAY, 28 January
The Late Show with David Letterman - Gregg Allman
Last Call with Carson Daly - Tift Merritt; Matt & Kim
The Ellen DeGeneres Show - Amos Lee
23 January 2011
As regular readers are aware, our Irish correspondent Celtic Ray is always looking for the next big thing on the Emerald Isle. This week he turns us all on to Derry, Northern Ireland electronic trio The Japanese Popstars, who have been a popular house DJ act since 2008. Now Declan McLaughlin, Gary Curran and Gareth Donoghue are on the eve of releasing their third release, Contolling Your Allegiance, due in March on Virgin/EMI. While Ray notes that there will be guest appearances by Green Velvet and Jon Spencer, "Song For Lisa" with songstress Lisa Hannigan really caught his ear. Try it for yourself below.
Sargent Shriver, architect of the Peace Corps and, with his late wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver, creator of the Special Olympics, was eulogized at a funeral mass in suburban Washington D.C. yesterday by many family members and dignitaries. What struck us as particularly touching and apt for a life well lived was the singing of two Dubliners - Bono, accompanied by Glen Hansard - of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.
21 January 2011
Tickets are available at the Festival's website.
17 January 2011
The happiest of birthdays to Stephen Fain "Steve" Earle, born this date in 1955. The Texan singer-songwriter continues to be prolific in a number of areas of the arts as a musician, actor (The Wire and Treme) and playwright.
10 January 2011
Sam Beam and crew showed up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last week, performing a couple songs from the new LP Kiss Each Other Clean. Here's one of them, a song that feels like it has dropped gently from the sky and settled inside Levon Helm's barn in upstate New York: "Half Moon." Gorgeous.
06 January 2011
This 23-year old Kansas City native studied musical theater in New York before reversing course and heading down to Atlanta to make her musical bones. Monae was "discovered" there by Outkast's Big Boi and then introduced to Sean Combs, who ended up producing her debut, the stunning The ArchAndroid. Setting aside the attempt at a linear science fiction theme, everything else works. Monae genre-hops with ease, producing some of the most groove-tastic numbers since Stevie Wonder's heyday of the 1970s. Not a note wasted, the album is a repeated listening pleasure from beginning to end. What's more, she backed it up with a mesmerizing stage presence while on tour as an opening act for Of Montreal this year. In short, A Star Is Born.
KEY TRACKS: "Locked Inside"; "Tightrope"; "Come Alive (War of the Roses)"
FURTHER READING: Greg Kot interviews Janelle Monae (March 2010).
2 The National - High Violet
This was the year that this quirky band broke through into the mainstream, thanks to this superlative effort. The National tell compelling stories that are drenched in Heartland Americana. They get better with each studio album. The songs range from lost Flannery O'Connor-like short stories set to a brooding melodies to pastoral feelings to fuzzed out metal guitars.
KEY TRACKS: "Bloodbuzz, Ohio"; "Conversation 16"
LIVE: "Terrible Love" (Brooklyn Academy of Music, 15 May 2010)
FURTHER READING: "The National Agenda" by Nicholas Dawidoff (New York Times Magazine, 23 April 2010)
3 Villagers - Becoming A Jackal
Wee Irishman Conor J O'Brien uses the moniker Villagers. This set of engrossing tales challenge the listener in the best Dylanesque tradition: Clever social commentary? The yin and yang of an individual's daily struggle to fit in this world? The unsure journey of a romantic relationship? All of the above? Whatever the interpretation, the songs confirm that this artist is a wordsmith with the goods to endure in the music business.
FURTHER READING: Allison Stewart of Click Track interviews Conor J O'Brien (18 June 2010)
5 Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
In which the Canadian indie darlings swing for the fences . . . and hit a triple. The concept as a whole is interesting, a series of middle class John Updike-type tales of how life can be complex even away from the grittiness of an urban environment. While that theme starts breathing heavy by the end of this 16 track opus, it's definitely built for arenas from a musical standpoint. The Suburbs nods to everyone from Bruce Springsteen to The Cars. And Win Butler and Regine Chassagne are not afraid to rock the boat and actually stand up for their politics, which is refreshing in the present world of rock.
KEY TRACKS: "Ready To Start"; "Sprawl II"; "Month of May"
LIVE: The band performs "Ready To Start" at Madison Square Garden (5 August 2010)
FURTHER READING: Win Butler talks to metro.co.uk (23 November 2010)
6 Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
FURTHER READING: Laura Barton writes in The Guardian about the band (11 February 2010)
7 Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Outtakes of Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge Of Town sessions, recorded back in 1977 and 1978. The Boss & The E Street Band had famously been away from the recording studio for almost three years due to a managerial dispute. But then Springsteen came to The Record Plant in New York City with a wealth of material, and this 21 (22?) track archive stands as a great double LP addition to his wonderful catalog. The majority of the record could be peeled off and titled Born To Run 2.0. And boy is that a good thing: we hear all of Springsteen's glorious influences sprinkled throughout the album (Phil Spector, Memphis soul) as well as the songs that could have cozily fit next to Darkness' track listing.
KEY TRACKS: "Gotta Get That Feeling"; "It's A Shame"'; "Because The Night"; "Talk To Me"; "The Promise"
VIEWING: Bruce Springsteen talks about The Promise
LIVE: Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes joined by Bruce Springsteen on "Talk To Me" (8 December 2003)
8 Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Damon Albarn puts together his loose collective once again for the first time in five years in the guise of illustrated characters created by Jamie Hewlett. While there may not be numbers as groove-laden as "Feel Good, Inc." or "Dare" (from 2005's effort Demon Days), Plastic Beach finds Albern continuing to push pop music forward. The album includes fantastic takes from vets Bobby Womack, Mos Def and Lou Reed. Oh, and a solid rhythm section in two vets from the English music scene: Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Like most worthy albums, Plastic Beach takes a few listens to digest and enjoy. Take the time to do so.
FURTHER READING: Albern & Hewlett talk to The Fader (30 April 2010)
9 LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy is no young pup to the music scene. When the first cut ("Drunk Girls") was leaked from This Is Happening we were fooled into thinking his first LP in three years might be a rave filled dancefest. Wrong. Really wrong. The album marks a giant step forward, with Berlin-era Bowie haunting many of its tracks. Let's hope this isn't Murphy's last go-round; he obviously still has plenty to say.
FURTHER LISTENING: James Murphy talks with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogotis on Sound Opinions (3 December 2010)
10 The Black Keys - Brothers
After years of toiling in and slogging across the country to small clubs, the Akron duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney hit it big commercially. Seemingly in the background every time you view a commercial on TV (we're not against making a buck, but boys . . . a jewelry store?) or hear a bumper on sports talk radio, it cannot be denied that Brothers strikes gold once again to our ears. They went into the studio with Danger Mouse for the sole purpose of coming up with a radio friendly single that would not belie their blues roots and damned if they didn't do so: "Tighten Up" is one of the best songs of 2010. The remainder of the record is loose and playful, drawing on influences from Junior Kimbrough to Credence Clearwater Revivial. We dare you to try to turn it off while driving.
KEY TRACKS: "Tighten Up"; "Everlasting Light"' "Howlin' For You"; "Next Girl"
11 Los Lobos - Tin Can Trust
The Band From East L. A. shows once again that it cannot make a bad album. Mostly a bluesy affair, but not above the occasional fiery aside that Los Lobos is noted for when armed with electric guitars.
12 Richard Thompson - Dream Attic
From our review of Thompson's live show back in November, which included a performance in full of Dream Attic: "Any guitar solo by Thompson is never an exercise in naval-gazing. Indeed, the crowd has witnessed one of the best ever at his instrument, who is still contributing vital music over 40 years after bursting on the music scene."
KEY TRACKS: "If Love Whispers Your Name"; "Big Sun Falling In The River"; "The Money Shuffle"
13 Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - I Learned The Hard Way
Miss Jones continues her progression into one of the true greats in the soul genre, helped in no small way by her crack nine-piece Brooklyn band. Not to mention one of the more dynamic live shows you'll ever see.
KEY TRACKS: "I Learned The Hard Way"; "Better Things"; "Money"
14 Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
This 20 year old songwriting wunderkind broke through the noise of mediocrity with this effecting sophomore effort, evoking a young Joni Mitchell.
KEY TRACKS: "Rambling Man"; "Goodbye England"; "Devil's Spoke"
15 Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone
The grand dame of gospel and soul returns to the spotlight in this Jeff Tweedy produced disc. Mavis sings some of her father's songs and also takes on with great success John Fogerty, Randy Newman, Allen Touissant and Little Milton. She's a national treasure.
KEY TRACKS: "You Are Not Alone"; "Wrote A Song For Everyone"; "Downward Road"; "Losing You"
16 New Irish Collective - Popical Island
One of the best kept secrets of the year. This interesting batch of songs was gathered by an Irish collective of Dublin indie bands. The 15 tracks run the gamut of musical styles and tastes.
KEY TRACKS: Lie Ins - "Vegetarian Girls"; Tieranniesaur - "Sketch!"; I Heart The Monster Hero - "Car #9 (Nintendo Mix)"; Land Lovers - "Is Nowhere Far Away Any More?"; Pantone247 - "Maybe Tonight"
17 Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer
Further proof of the resurgence and vitality of soul music. Cee-Lo's obviously got the goods and delivers on this jukebox crammed album. Speaking of which, why wasn't "Georgia" included?
KEY TRACKS: "F*** You"; "Bright Lights Bigger City"; "Love Gun"
18 Elton John & Leon Russell - The Union
One of the pleasant surprises of the year. Elton John teams up with one of his idols, the very underrated Leon Russell, to make an album which reinvigorates Captain Fantastic, who until recently has been on rock icon cruise control. And the choice to have T-Bone Burnett produce didn't hurt, either.
KEY TRACKS: "If It Wasn't For Bad"; "I Should Have Sent Roses"; "Hey Ahab"
19 Spoon - Transferrence
Lost in the shuffle because it was released at the beginning of the year, the Austin minimalist rockers went back to basics on this, their seventh studio long-player. More stripped down than Spoon's last two efforts (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimme Fiction), Transferrence still pays attention to the basics of rock 'n roll: swagger and great hooks.
KEY TRACKS: "Who Makes Your Money"; "Written In Reverse"; "Got Nuffin"
20 The Cast of Cheers - Chariot
Irish correspondent Celtic Ray turned us on to this 33-minute blast of post-punk glory that's not above nicking groups as diverse as The Beatles and Foals. You can still download the album for free by going to The Cast of Cheers' bandcamp site.
BEST REISSUE: The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St.
BEST OFFICIAL ISSUING OF A BOOTLEG: Bob Dylan - The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9)
BEST TRIBUTE ALBUM: Dirty Hearts & Broken Windows: Songs of John Prine
REGRETS, WE'VE HAD A COUPLE (Albums that made the list in 2009, but should have been ranked higher): Passion Pit - Manners; Dawes - North Hills
BOY, DID WE MISS THE BOAT (Album that should have made the 2009 list, but didn't): Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below
PREVIOUS WINDMILL LANE ALBUM OF THE YEAR WINNERS:
2009 Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
2008 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
These topics and events, as well as Ochs' personal struggles with mental illness and alcohol, are mined by director Ken Bowser in the new documentary Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune, which opened in New York City last night. Selected cities will see screenings in the coming months. In addition to archival footage, the film is interspersed with commentary from Ochs' immediate family as well as Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, Sean Penn, Christopher Hitchens, Ed Sanders, Baez and others.
You can view the movie trailer here.
05 January 2011
[This happy new year's post comes to us from TNOP's UK music correspondent Miles Gallagher.]here are the dozen from 2010 ranked most played to least played - just click on the song title to listen!
if nothing else don't miss the video for number 11 ( unfortunately, as far as i can tell its available on video only )
1 conversation 16 - the national - high violet2 loving cup (alternate take) - the rolling stones - exile on main street (deluxe version, remastered)3 rill rill - sleigh bells - treats4 congratulations - mgmt - flash delirium5 bang pop - free energy - stuck on nothing6 melancholy hill - gorillaz - plastic beach7 sprawl ii - arcade fire - the suburbs8 surprise - family of the year - songbook9 down by the water - the decemberists - the king is dead10 jamie, my intentions are bass - !!! - strange weather, isn't it11 martian bossa nova - shorty rodgers - frankly jazz ( video only )12 dance floor stalker - flying lotus - reset
It is worth a short column to celebrate Gerry Rafferty's contribution to pop music. The Scottish singer/songwriter died after a long bout with alcoholism yesterday at the age of of 63. If it hadn't been for the perpetual presence of two songs on oldies radio for the past 30 years, Rafferty may have vanished without much notice.
04 January 2011
Laura and Lydia Rogers, sisters hailing from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, go by the name The Secret Sisters. Their first full-length eponymous LP was released in 2010. Executive Produced by Americana major domo T-Bone Burnett, the album was recorded in Nashville. You can get a great feel for their gospel and bluegrass roots by listening to a recent interview and performance for The World Cafe here.