Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jam of the day, Mission Hill, the first album you ever bought, and Zach Galifianakis: Cake / "Italian Leather Sofa"

Artist: Cake
Album: Fashion Nugget
Song: "Italian Leather Sofa"
Released: September 17, 1996
Label: Capricorn Records

I've been watching a lot of Mission Hill lately. I had never heard of/seen the show until a year or two ago when I watched it at my friend's place. It was hilarious, and still is. I bought the 2 DVD set of the entire show's run (one season on WB before getting axed) back in the fall and have watched it off and on, particularly with other folks who have never seen it before. Pay it forward and all that, you know? If you don't know it, definitely go check it out. It's a somewhat straightforward animated sitcom with some oddball characters and a twisted sense of humor, kinda like Seinfeld meets Family Guy for Generation X hipsters. Something like that. Plus, it has Brian Posehn! Just watch it, would ya? Here's a compendium of funny clips I found:

The theme song for Mission Hill is a sped-up instrumental cut from Cake's tune "Italian Leather Sofa". I didn't realize it was at a faster tempo until I went and listened to the song just now (right after watching an episode of the show). Say what you want about Cake, but they have a special place in my musical history. I remember listening to this CD, Fashion Nugget, in my cousin's room whenever we visited. This was sometime in middle school, and the "Parental Advisory" sticker on the front intrigued me (although I realize now it's only because they say "Fuck" a few times on the record: the chorus in the title track is "Shut the fuck up!" and their cover of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" has the line "I should have changed the fucking lock …"), and I went out and bought the CD at a Newbury Comics at some point. I don't know exactly, but that might have been the first album I actually went out to specifically purchase with my own money. Weird, right?

"When she get what she wants
She puts the rest on a tray
In a zip-loc bag
In the freezer"

One last thing: did you know Zach Galifianakis had a late-night talk show on VH1 for a short while? Did you know The Shins made their TV debut on that show? And did you know Cake played on the show and Zach kinda made fun of people who like Cake? I seem to remember a snarky comment he made in one clip, but now I can't seem to find it onthe web … maybe I made it up? But anyway, that irreverence about the whole Hollywood/getting famous scene and obvious lack of caring about what anybody thinks of him is what drew me to his comedy in the first place (and what makes this video of him in the audience at the Ellen DeGeneres show so hilarious) but I'm not sure that applies anymore after all of this Hangover business. I could barely sit through the first movie and have no desire to see the second, thankyouverymuch. I'll take Live at the Purple Onion over that shit any day. Anyhow, here's that viedo clip from Late World with Zach:

Jam of the day, an awesome but sad music video, and WYEP: Fanfarlo / "Shiny Things"

Artist: Fanfarlo
Album: Rooms Filled With Light
Song: "Shiny Things"
Released: February 28, 2012
Label: Canvasback Records

I missed the Fanfarlo show at Mr. Small's on Sunday night but was lucky enough to sneak into a last-minute admission to their live session at WYEP's studio on Monday afternoon. Lisa and I showed up right at 1:00 and were ushered into the studio as the live session was just about to kick off. Cindy Howes was up near the stage and the forty or so seats were mostly taken so we stood near the back. I smiled at the couple with their two small children also standing in the back and at the sweet old man who ducked underneath the reach of my phone while walking by me even though I was just checking my email and not taking a photograph at the time.

Fanfarlo sounded absolutely amazing. Their songs, on record, have been hit-or-miss with me, feeling like a little too over-produced twee, hyper-arranged, orchestral pop tunes to really hit me hard … but I rescind those complaints formally now. I'm a Fanfarlo fan. Part of that transformation was the band's demeanor during the interview. They were humorous, personable, off-beat, and decidely exactly the opposite of the kind of high-minded, erudite, scholarly popsters I had in mind based on their songs. Maybe I was way too pre-judgmental about their music and their image, but hey, I take it all back. Their songs now sound perfectly catchy and engaging to me, and knowing there are affable and genuinely interesting individuals behind it all … that just adds to the appeal.

The standout track of the half-hour live session was the last number, "Shiny Things". Cindy introduced the song by talking to the band about the music video, which quite literally (and quasi-violently and decidedly-creepily) portrays the song's discussion of greed and ambition and retribution and … well, now I'm kinda spoiling the imagery and surprises therein. Watch for yourself and prepare to be fucking amazed and enthralled. I can't look away from this video, even on my third straight viewing now, never mind the fact that this song is amazing. As Cindy mentioned in the interview, too, this video is incredibly sad while being absolutely awesome.

Fanfarlo / "Shiny Things" / Rooms Filled With Light / dir. Tim Nackashi

Here's a photo from the studio session. I really like their studio and I'll make it a point to go back there more often. Would you believe that this was my first time visiting WYEP's interior? Seriously! I've been in that neighborhood dozens of times for Club Café shows or hanging out at the Beehive, but I'd never actually been inside WYEP's building. It was super nice.

Fanfarlo on the web: / Website / Facebook / Twitter / Wikipedia
Buy Rooms Filled With Light: Band site / Insound / Amazon / iTunes / eMusic

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cover jam of the day and live concert radio shows: Tool / "No Quarter" [Led Zeppelin]

I was driving down to the South Side this afternoon and tuned into WRCT during the ride. Whatever DJ was on played two straight songs of live Led Zeppelin—"Misty Mountain Hop" and one other— and I was digging it. It got me wondering whether there are radio shows out there that devote themselves to replaying "classic" concerts from the past. I mean, there are Grateful Dead and Phish and DMB junkies—and others focused on bands with extensive live discographies—who collect bootleg recordings of live shows and debate which were best and discuss them with others, but I'm thinking about a show that has a different band every week. I can think of a number of live albums I enjoy listening to, and I'm sure there are lots of bands who sound great live but maybe not so much on record. Anyone know of such a show out there somewhere in internet/radio-land? Maybe a live recording blog of classic shows? Point me towards it!

The next song the DJ played was … well, I thought I correctly heard him say "Tool playing 'No Quarter' " and I wasn't sure until a minute or so in, and then … yeah, that's what it was. One of my absolute favorite Led Zep tunes played by a band that I don't really know and haven't bothered to listen to ever, but this version actually sounds really good. Faithful enough to the gloomy cock-rock guitar of the original, creepy-as-hell vocals, absolutely pounding drums. Yeah, this is a great cover. Wikipedia lists several other covers of this song, which I will be investigating, for sure.

"Lock the door, kill the light No one's coming home tonight"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jam of the day, late-night TV, music discovery, SXSW, and left-handed guitarists: Gary Clark, Jr. / "Bright Lights"

This song is a straight jam, no ifs ands or buts or becauses or what-have-yous about it. I don't know much about Gary Clark, Jr., though. I stumbled on this tune via a message board a number of months ago, and I remember really digging it when I heard it (and it was this specific video, too, not a studio recording). I didn't investigate the guy further, though, for whatever reason, thinking him too "mainstream" or something silly like that, then totally forgot about it until earlier tonight.

I was watching late night TV because the featured bands actually piqued my interest: Sharon Van Etten (*swoon*) was on Conan playing "Leonard", and then The Shins were on Letterman playing "Simple Song". I flipped over to Fallon to catch Jon Hamm (I find him hilarious whenever he's on 30 Rock and SNL) and left the TV on in the background as I came back to my laptop to do some more writing work. Eventually, Carson Daly's show came on and he said that this episode would be devoted to artists they saw and loved at SXSW.

This brought to mind a couple of things. First, it made me think about how people discover music these days, who we view as "go-to sources" for music discovery, who we trust as musical litmus tests. It's strange to think of times when, I dunno, Rolling Stone might be your one and only print publication by which to judge new releases. Or shit, the radio, even! What was music discovery like before the internet?! Personally, I didn't discover any music outside of classic rock radio that my dad played in the car up through high school, so I can only imagine what kind of dark ages the 80s and 70s and … well, fuck, there was some great music coming out back then, right? And people were finding out about it, I presume. Is the internet actually a good thing? My vast digital music collection says, "Hell yeah motherfucker!", but my exploding inbox of "Listen to my music pleeez!" says, "Hell no, motherfucker!". Only time will tell, I suppose.

Second, this reminded me of a Tweet from some friends who were down in Austin at SXSW last week. Apparently, Carson Daly was onstage playing drums with Thee Oh Sees?!?!?!? I love that band and their garage rock awesomeness, and it's hard to imagine Mr. TRL drumming along to such tune-age at all, let alone live with these dudes. Still, it makes me wish I had been there to see it, because I'm sure it was a spectacle, an experience, something interesting to witness. I've never been to any kind of music festival, so that's something on my agenda for the future.

What else was I talking about? Oh, you'll notice that the second guitarist in this video (the first guy you see in the first frame) is a left-handed guitarist. As a staunch ambidexterian (if you ask, I can list all of the things I do lefty and all of the things I do righty; there are plenty of each), I find it particularly interesting to see people doing something lefty that is vastly more commonly done righty. Guitar-playing, golfing, hand-writing, masturbating … just kidding. No really, I'm kidding, don't show me. Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney stand out as striking left-handed guitarist examples. Do you have any others? Famous or otherwise?

Where were we … back to this Gary Clark, Jr. tune, right! This was recorded at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, and it has some great footage of Clark singing and guitaring, plus his backing band of guitarist, bassist, drummer, and brass. His voice is outstanding. I think that's what really gets me, that he's belting out these lines while strumming some sweet licks and solos. Not to mention how cool those shades are …

"You're gonna know my name by the end of the night"

Gary Clark Jr. on the web: Website Facebook Twitter YouTube

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jams of the day: Pavement / Live At Maxwell's (08.12.1990)

This is apparently Pavement's 2ND SHOW EVER. Holy fuck. And it is finally surfacing now, thanks to a Soundcloud upload of a cassette tape recording by Maria T (current WPRB DJ), who was at the show. A Crush mag review of the show has also surfaced here. The recording itself is lo-fi and fuzzy, and the vocals are hard to make out, but I like to think that this is just part of the early Pavement aesthetic. I only saw them a couple years ago on their reunion tour, and it felt more like a "play these special songs" show, which was absolutely great the time (my fave show of 2010, actually), but this show feels much more like a live "experience", and makes me yearn to see them in the early days. Enthusiasm was high and predictability was low, and that's potent. Listen in here:

The false-start with Malkmus cursing at the 15:00 mark is fucking priceless.

Get more info from P4k, if you so desire.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cover jam of the day, local record stores, and vinyl to mp3: The Karl Hendricks Trio / "Out On The Weekend" [Neil Young]

Hey Pittsburghers, in case you were blissfully/woefully unaware: Paul's CDs in Bloomfield is closing its doors forever in a few weeks, and it will be replaced by Sound Cat Records, operated by current employee and living indie rock legend Karl Hendricks. Kinda sad, but kinda interesting and hopeful news, I must say. As Paul's clears out their inventory to make room for Karl and his wares, they are having ever-increasing sales. Last I heard, everything is 50% off! The vinyl is kinda picked over, but there's still plenty left, so go check it out!

I went there last week to see what I could find, and walked out with a big stack of LPs and 7"s. Oh yeah, don't forget to peruse the 7" singles at the front counter. Factor that into your shopping time, and don't just give a percursory looksee as you wait at the register. There are some good finds in there. Case in point: I snagged 3 original Karl Hendricks Trio singles for $10, and by that I mean $5! And yes, that is the very same KH whose name I mentioned above, and he was there at the register as I paid and he thanked me for buying them. I mean, I don't think any money of the purchase was going to directly to him (or indirectly, even) and yet he still looked grateful that I was buying his music. Cool dude, that Karl. I said, "No problem, I enjoy it", and gave him a smile. It's the best I could think of at the time.

One of those singles I bought was "The Worst Coffee I've Ever Had, Part Two". I was literally buying all of the vinyls of his there, so I didn't look too carefully past the awesomely cartoonish artwork. A few days later, when I got down to playing all of them, I noticed that the B-side to this is "Out On The Weekend", a Neil Young tune from Harvest! I quickly pulled out my vinyl copy of that album, played track one, then skipped over to this tune for comparison. In a way, it is a "faithful" cover—same lyrics and attitude, no big reinvention of the song's melody—but it's decidedly Karl's own—decidedly more uptempo, fuzzy guitars, sweet rock solo in place of the harmonica. It's a truly great indie rock cover of a truly great and historic folk rock tune.

Here's the Karl Hendricks Trio version, as recorded from that vinyl single I bought straight to mp3 on my laptop via some fancy-shmancy software that came with my turntable. It's not actually that fancy, but it's kinda handy. I'll try to take advantage of it more because I've basically never used it and this version turned out rather nicely. I'll try to share some vinyl singles I have that don't exist elsewhere on the web, so stay tuned for that! So yeah, here's that tune:

And now, here is Neil Young's original version: