Ian C. Nelson :: Album Release Party – Saturday, May 9th

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Well, folks, I’m very proud to announce the upcoming album release party for Ian C. Nelson’s soon-to-be classic Without Companion.  You might have heard me make mention before that Ian has been playing gigs here and there around the Bryan/College Station area for the last year, while toiling away hours in the studio prepping for his first release, let alone LP, and let me tell you, it’s a hit.

Full disclosure: Ian’s actually a good friend of mine, and I’ve been fascinated to have the opportunity to watch someone grow as an artist and be willing to step on a stage in front of strangers and virtually spill your guts about stuff.  It’s tough.  I can empathize.  I misspelled “temperature” as a kid in front of a live TV broadcast spelling bee, as my first word.  I nearly threw up.  Nonetheless, it takes more than just being a friend to give a praiseworthy album review to, and Without Companion is no doubt worth it.  As mentioned before, Ian straddles the line between an early ’60s Dylan and Nebraska-era Springsteen.  Lofty heights, but there exists an ability to see into the lyrics at something deeper, something as poetic and beautiful as an ode to his fisherman grandfather.  Though a vein of somber spirit courses through the album, that doesn’t mean Ian and Co. have left off the rockers, as “Where I’ve Found You” shuffles along a dirty blues-rock hook and “I Was Born” kicks off the album with a Band of Horses-esque gallop.  If there was one band’s particular influence that I was surprised to hear on the album, it would have to be Calexico–think In The Reins, their collaboration with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.

Also, proper respect cannot be paid to the album without a nod to the other players involved, namely, drummer Michael Steele, bassist Ben Love, guitarist Doug Brown, and the all-world production team of Keith Sewell and Ross King.  Michael and Ben play in College Station’s Clairmont, a fantastic band all its own, but listening to their contribution on Without Companion shows just how far they’ve come as a rhythm section, as tight and skillful as you can get.

I highly recommend Without Companion, and hope that those around the greater B/CS area can come check out the album release show at the Village Cafe in downtown Bryan at 7pm on Saturday.  See you there!

New Wilco :: “Jolly Banker” (Woody Guthrie Cover)

wilco2For fans all across the land, all is right in the “Wide World of Wilco”.  The recent news that the band’s upcoming release Wilco (The Album) was exciting enough.  I, for one, particularly enjoyed the eponymous nod to themselves, and the fans, with their Stephen Colbert-debuted “Wilco (The Song)” — how cute.  Now, throw in the little nugget that the “The Album” will feature Feist on the track “You and I” and this album is due for lots of worthy hype when it drops on June 30th.  I’ll hype it indeed.

So, shortly before its release, Wilco have thrown another log onto the fire with a cover of the Woody Guthrie classic “Jolly Banker”.  It’s no surprise at this point that Wilco are heavily influenced by Guthrie, having dropped two albums at the beginning of the decade with British folkster Billy Bragg of reworkings of unfinished Guthrie tunes.

While those two pieces were in large part thankful to the Woody Guthrie Foundation giving Wilco and Bragg the license to put music to Guthrie words, the now topical, well-timed release of the Depression Era “Jolly Banker” is a chance for Wilco and fans to give back to the Foundation.  It’s a gentle folk-rollicker featuring Ms. Feist banging away on a drum, so reminiscent of those past Mermaid Avenue albums, but still very much in the new Wilco format a la Nels Cline’s gorgeous guitar work.  Get the track for free, or with a well-deserved donation to the Woody Guthrie Foundation, at Wilco World.

Condo Fucks :: Fuckbook

condo-fucks-fuckbookDoes anybody still listen to Paul McCartney?  Perhaps you do, and have followed his every move up to the counter of your local Starbucks; or maybe your knowledge of Sir Paul exists only until the end of the Beatles.  Either way, McCartney had an amazing run through the 1970’s, dropping the incredible Los Angeles-tipped Ram with his wife Linda, continually hitting the top of the charts with Wings, and continuing to wistfully delve into and out of rock legend under his own name.  But before he released Ram and joined up with Wings, McCartney decided to record an entirely instrumental version of Ram, oddly called Thrillington, and released under the name Percy “Thrills” Thrillington.  Why?  Who knows, the album didn’t come out officially until 1977, with no mention of McCartney’s involvement anywhere to be found–in the liner notes, packaging, nothing.  In fact, it wasn’t until 1989 that McCartney even came forward that, in fact, the album was his.  Just another footnote in rock-n-roll history.  But this post isn’t about Paul McCartney, or Percy Thrillington for that matter.

No, this is about the Condo Fucks.  Who are the Condo Fucks, you might ask?  Well, they’ve only released 16 albums since 1984, and have been one of the most consistent bands on the indie circuit since their creation.  Still nothing?  Well, I guess the gig is up.  Indie rock stalwarts Yo La Tengo decided to throw together some new recording equipment and smash together an album of covers by some of the finest garage bands in music history: electric eels, the Beach Boys, and Young Rascals.  Their label, Matador, decided to have a little fun with its release and created an elaborate backstory to the rise and fall of the Condo Fucks legend.  In their notes, they claimed that the band got together and recorded it in a pacy 45 minutes in an abandoned warehouse in Hartford, Connecticut.  About a month ago, when I received the initial two singles from the album, “What’cha Gonna Do About It” and “Gudbuy T’ Jane”, I was instantly hooked.  I finally picked up the album last weekend, and I’m still hooked.  Thirty-one minutes of simple lo-fi, guitar-driven glory.  Roped in by the Condo Fucks.

Some might scoff at the idea of a band putting out an entire album of covers, but this is nothing new to Yo La Tengo.  In fact, the legendary Fakebook remains to this day one of Yo La Tengo’s finest efforts.  It contains only five original YLT songs, the others consisting of mostly folk and country tune-ups.  What is your thought on covers?  Some laugh at the idea, and consider it a lazy effort to put out more albums, while other view it as dishonest and occasionally disrespectful to predecessors.  I, for one, believe that covers can shed new light on bands that are “difference-makers” in our current scene.  What drives them or inspires them?  A masterfully crafted work of covers, or simply paying homage to influences in your shows, can often go a long way towards helping the fans understand more about music history.  And in an age where we have blogs, message boards, fan clubs, etc. devoted to the every tidbit of our favorite artists, isn’t it beautiful to be surprised, or tricked?  Like Sir Paul McCartney, Yo La Tengo has crafted their legend on not attempting to follow a normal “track” for the typical artist–they simply put out great music (lots of it), and desire to take the listener on a new ride. 

Fellow Condo Fucks-appreciators Aquarium Drunkard have done an extensive interview with Yo La Tengo’s James McNew about Fuckbook, and what drove them to release such an oddly-timed record.  For the music nerds, take the red pill and dive in headfirst here.

The Kills @ The Granada Theater, April 25th

kills-425I had the utmost pleasure to take my sidekick Ladybug to Dallas to check out the Kills at the Granada Theater on Saturday.  Great show, great band.  I’m not incredibly big on concert reviews, so I won’t doddle, but the Kills are pure entertainers on stage, and know how to work out the raw, salacious vibes that ooze from their tunes.  I’m not talking about glammed-up Prince writhing all over his guitar, but a very natural energy that adds depth to a band that has grown steadier with age.  Openers the Horrors knocked it out of the park–a very icy, fuzzed-out Joy Division meets Dirty Projectors.

House photographer Bill Ellison caught some amazing pictures, be sure to check them out here.

Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band :: Outer South

large_conor-oberst-and-the-mystic-valley-band1Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band return to the States (well, just barely) to record the follow-up to the former Bright Eyes lead man’s self-titled 2008 release Conor Oberst.  The new album, Outer South, was recorded in pretty much the most outer-south you can get (wordplay!), among the cacti and shrub of El Paso, Texas.  The new sounds drop on May 5th, but right now you can stream them in full length at NPR.org.

Cool jackets, Mr. Oberst. That press photo is so Reservoir Dogs meets We Are Marshall…

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the one and only Patsy Cline…”

patsycline-724191I have a really bad habit of diving into certain genres of music for an extended amount of time.  For weeks on end I’ll live in the shoegaze era, floating from My Bloody Valentine to Ride, and then the next month will be bluegrass and folk.  I’ll be the first to say that I probably miss a lot in the process, but I simply can’t help it–the foundations of the music I’ve grown to love over the years are built on the albums and bands that I continually return to.

One artist that is with me from month to month, though, is the everlasting Patsy Cline.  No matter where I am in my collections, I’ll put her on, if only for a few songs or a few albums.  She was only on the airwaves for a very short amount of time, but her voice is one that will reverberate through music history for ages to come.  Cline paved the way for not only country music’s fusion with the pop and jazz movements of the day, but for women artists in general.  She abhorred the way women had been treated while touring across the United States, and always made her strong personality known.  Johnny Cash revered her and introduced her on stage with the classic Cash distinction, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the one and only Patsy Cline.”

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Patsy Cline’s career was her striking ability to make even the most subtle songs truly unforgettable.  The two songs that I’ve decided to include here both fit that description; one you’ve probably heard, the other you probably haven’t.  When she was once asked about how she could elicit such emotion on her recordings, she simply responded, “Oh, I just sing like I hurt inside.”  Unforgettable.

Patsy Cline – Three Cigarettes (In An Ashtray)

*Second Mp3 on the way shortly…

New Sonic Youth :: Sacred Trickster

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Oh…hell…yes.  So Sonic Youth is back in 2009, and I’m not sure whether its my need for something new/old, or my always urgent need to unleash the punk beast inside, but the first single from their 16th(!) release The Eternal has got my blood boiling.  “Sacred Trickster” clocks in at a whopping 2:10, but Sonic Youth has always been a band that can take the smallest of spaces and cram in an orchestra of noise.  Now, many will say that they yearn for something in the vein of SY classics Sister and Daydream Nation, complete with grand, sweeping avant blasts of No Wave, but frankly, this isn’t it.  In fact, if anything, this first single suggests that they’ve managed to write songs with hooks hookier than Goo, and depth depthier(?) than Dirty.  Though considering that Thurston Moore claimed to take lots of inspiration from black metal, the rest of the album is anyone’s guess.  I mean, Sonic Youth could noise jam the phonebook and I’d still be interested, and of course, bloggers everywhere would lose their shit.

The ever-eternal Sonic Youth release The Eternal on June 6th on Matador.

Sonic Youth – Sacred Trickster

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Sonic Youth’s Website