Thursday, April 30, 2009


Think of today’s post as a sampler, a create-your-own-six-pack of instrumental music. No over-rambling today, just six solid tracks to listen to, and the bare essentials on where to find more. Let’s begin.

Telefon Tel Aviv - Fahrenheit Fair Enough
Perhaps the best use of ‘clicks’ and ‘beeps’ I’ve ever come across. Released a new album late January and it’s stellar.

An incredibly layered song with a solid beat. I find Four Tet to be a little all over the place, but their cd Rounds has at least three of their best tracks on it.

The last record these guys released was back in 2004, and I don’t even think they still make music. That said, their disc Easy Pieces is a great instrumental compilation, and these guys play with a whole orchestra sometimes, which is cool.

Not a lot of people liked the Beastie Boys album The Mix-Up. Hell, I wasn’t one of them. However, the disc has this one incredibly rockin instrumental, and it’s worth spinning.

YACHT is crazy. And this song is my favorite. I think there’s one actual sentence in it though, so for shame Nate, tis not a true instrumental.

Thank you Pandora. Enjoy this song, and appreciate the combo of live drums and drum kits.

Happy Thursday. Happy listening. Hope ya dig.

Til next week.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rocco DeLuca and the Burden

The first three quarters of last Sunday were pretty standard. It was a dreary day. I slept in late, watched the brewers, and grilled out. As evening approached I battled Sunday night laziness and journeyed downtown for the Sunday night set at the Majestic Theatre in Madison. I was somewhat familiar with the headlining act, Rocco DeLuca and the Burden. I saw them pop up on the venue’s schedule several months ago and checked into them. No amount of youtube video watching or internet searching could have prepared me for the show that ensued (That being said, I’ll still link a couple of the better videos I’ve found). I was completely blown out of the water.

DeLuca is definitely the genuine article; he has a tremendous amount of unpolished talent. His raw, dirty slide guitar licks combined with his haunting vocals hypnotized the entire crowd. He is certainly his own thing, but if I had to draw comparison to more well known artists, I’d say his playing reminds me of pieces of Ben Harpers work, and his vocals aren’t totally dissimilar to those of Jack White.

DeLuca’s musical biography is a pretty brief one from what I could find. He has two albums out, “I Trust You to Kill Me” and “Mercy” released on the independent record label “Ironworks” (Interestingly enough the label is co-owned by Kiefer Sutherland (actor) and Jude Cole (musician)). His band formed in 2005, but when I saw him on Sunday he only had a drummer as accompaniment (DeLuca really doesn’t require any accompaniment at all). Evidently there has been a falling out in the band and the other members of “the burden” left do to creative differences; maybe the band name got to them...

I really can’t emphasize enough how good this guy is. Certainly the best I’ve come across in a while. So if Rocco DeLuca is coming to a town near you, check him out. If not, pick up one of his albums.

Rock and Roll.

- ben

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dead MSG 04-26-09

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Saturday Night in NYC with the Dead ... sounds like an epic evening to say the least. In preparation for the event, we started a new Dead tradition: the Dead Draft. Since we were in New York City with Radio City Music Hall right nearby, we figured it would be a good idea to 'draft' five songs apiece for all three attendees that we anticipated they would play that evening. With the Dead you have an extensive song inventory with well over 200 songs that could pop up in the show that evening. In order to select songs correctly, the Deadhead would need to have an extensive knowledge of the Dead repetoire and understand the frequency of plays in addition to what songs had been played recently.

The rules were as follows:
- No Drums and Space (you smartass Drew)
- The song must be actually played and not 'teased'
- Whoever selects the most correct songs wins the pot, in this case that pot equaled $15, or just enough to buy about 1/3 of all the nasty NYC food we consumed immediately after the show
- The Over/Under on correct songs was set at 2, which allows for additional side bets if desired

The draft followed and resulted in the following list:
China Cat
US Blues
Feel Like a Stranger

Ship of Fools
Help on the Way
Franklins Tower
New Minglewood Blues
Casey Jones

Other One
St. Stephen
The Eleven
Another Saturday Night

The first set played out with eight songs as the Dead got cranked up. The set started very slowly, but picked up and peaked with an 18 minute Sugaree that closed the set.

First Set:
Disc One/Set One:
Cosmic Charlie
China Cat
Shakedown Street
Ship of Fools
He's Gone

After the first set score: Drew 2 - Adam 1 - Steve 0

The second set opened with Drums/Space, which is somewhat of a departure from convention. From there, an outstanding sequence of epic classics ensued with The Other One through to St. Stephen and a slightly watered-down version of my all-time favorite 'The Eleven.' Maybe the unexpected highlight came with a version of the Stones classic 'Gimme Shelter.' A favorite encore of Brokedown Palace calmly closed the night and allowed us to reflect on a weekend of the 'Ship of Fools,' freaking out the nuns, pantless techno parties, late night NYC fare, Gray's Papaya, and Hoboken.

Second Set:
Crypitical Envelopment
The Other One
Born Cross Eyed
St Stephen
The Eleven
Uncle John's Band
Unbroken Chain
Gimme Shelter
One More Saturday Night
Donor Rap
E: Brokedown Palace

Final Score: Drew 2 - Adam 1 - Steve 4

In my opinion, calling 4 of 5 songs at a Dead show is an amazing feat in itself. If they would have closed with a Lovelight encore, I would have nailed all five. I thought for sure it was coming too ...

Check out the show here:

The Many Faces of The New Deal

Though it may seem historically appropriate, no, this post is not about U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's economic programs of the 1930s. As matter of fact, the subjects of this post are not even American. Drummer Darren Shearer, bassist Dan Kurtz and keyboard player Jamie Shields are all members of Canadian group The New Deal. Formed in 1998 after a jam session in Toronto, The New Deal have been offering their unique "progressive breakbeat house" to listeners across the world.

In recent years, however, The New Deal in its purest form has been an elusive gig only performing a few shows a year. But, rather than become reclusive the members of The New Deal have branched out and formed/joined new groups with equally as impressive results. When Kurtz left the band to form Dragonette, Shields and Shearer formed The Join...kind of. The Join is a constantly evolving group of musicians with only Shields and Shearer as the constants. Their first iteration featured David Murphy of STS9 on bass. Other shows have seen then play with Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits. Tom Hamilton and Clay Parnell of Brothers Past have also joined in on the experiment. This approach, while ambitious, leads to a unique experience for every show.

Shields and Shearer have also recently formed a one-off group with Ryan Stasik (bass) and Brendan Bayliss (guitar) of Umphrey's McGee called the Omega Moos. For these gigs its really all about throwing off each respective band's expectations and mixing it up.

These guys are all over the place under a bunch of different names but they still haven't lost their roots. The New Deal proper are playing a couple of U.S. dates (Chicago 5/29 and Red Rocks 5/30) before heading to Japan.

If you're looking for more from The New Deal check out their catalog of live shows at The Live Music archive here. You can do the same for the Omega Moos here as well as The Join here.

This my personal favorite New Deal show from the Palladium in Worcester, MA back in 2003. Highlights are the 3rd track "VL Tone" and the 13th "Gone, Gone, Gone". For a detailed setlist click here.

Use the forward and back buttons to skip tracks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

MSG Dead Show Review


I'm still in Dead Show recovery mode and unable to complete a competent post at this point. My plan is to review the Dead Show from Madison Square Garden this weekend, but suffice it to say that the day was a success.

More on the way ...



Sunday, April 26, 2009

Randy Who?

If you know anything about Minnesota sports you know that bitterness and disappointment are central to the fan experience. How on earth can one take perennial failure and turn it into amusement? What could make me laugh out loud after a Vikings blowout loss? The answer: City Pages 2009 Best Sports-Talk Radio Host Dan Cole, the Common Man. This isn't sports radio in the traditional sense. Indeed, a large portion of the show is made up by mocking the cliches of sports management and media. Here is an example. The most successful segment of 2008 was a "tournament" in which listeners could vote to crown the Most Preposterous Statement uttered by a Twin Cities media member or celebrity. These statements were then mocked ruthlessly by the host, callers, and emailers to the broadcast booth. Some notable quotes...

Vikings Radio Commentator Greg Coleman: "Sidney Rice will make Vikings Fans forget about Randy Moss"

Vikings DE Ray Edwards: "This year I definitely plan on going out here and breaking Strahan's record of 22 1/2 sacks this season." (Ray ended up with 5 sacks)

Columnist "Shooter" Walters: "I wouldn't trade one Al Jefferson for two Kevin Garnetts"

Golden Gopher Football Analyst Justin Conzemius: "the Gophers' defense is Minnesota's version of the Steel Curtain."
Needless to say, I love this. This is all I ever really wanted from my sports coverage. A level of cynicism that can compete with my own. The show's not all about sports, because it would be depressing to talk about these teams for 3 hours a day. Mr. Cole meanders through current events, politics (the election coverage was very entertaining), and most frequently second rate comedy bits like this.

When all is said and done, the more you listen, the more you appreciate the humor. If you don't like it, or don't give a damn about Minnesota, please send in an angry complaint email (naturally name-dropping TSAD) so that I can hear it read on-air and mocked for weeks afterward.

The Common Man Program streams live weekdays from noon to 3pm at For a commercial free, on demand listening experience, you can download podcasts of the Progam Here or by searching "KFAN" in iTunes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

addy's dutch cafe

In honor of Addy's birthday. A man who started a dutch bar and cafe many years ago before most of the people reading this were born. He has brought light to new music to my ears but the following non related videos were just to funny not to post. He is opening a beer garden next month that I look forward to checking out.



Friday, April 24, 2009

Chicago Hip Hop

Yessir. The Second City has been much maligned when it comes to its perceived dearth of rap talent. My personal theory is that the negative perception of the city's hip hop scene is based on the fact that there were never any recognizable "crews" that hailed from Chicago. New York had Bad Boy and Rock-a-fella, the dirty had Cash Money, and the West Coast had Death Row, among others. Hell, even Minneapolis has Rhymesayers. To my knowledge, Chicago has never had any of that. However, hip hop is alive and well around here, and I've divided the scene into four groups. Please, please, feel free to point out notable rappers that I've missed, as I'm sure there will be many.

The Locals
There are a number of hip hop acts around Chicago that have signed national recording deals but are really only well known locally. In this group I'd place The Cool Kids, Million Dollar Mano, He Say She Say, Mic Terror, Hollywood Holt, Rhymefest, Typical Cats, and Diverse. The first five acts represent a new movement in local hip hop that has been embraced by the indie scene. The Cool Kids are at the forefront of this group that has supplanted acts like Typical Cats and Rhymefest locally. These guys have a decidedly old school style that is pretty enjoyable. Million Dollar Mano and He Say She Say go a little more electronic with things, and could be classified as something other than hip hop. Here's Hollywood Holt's somewhat ridiculous video for "Throw a Kit":

Diverse is a recent find of mine. His flow is tremendous, like Mos Def on crack. Additionally, his debut album, One AM, features numerous tracks produced by RJD2 and Prefuse 73, two of my favorite DJs. Released in 2003, the album is a must have for serious hip hop fans.

The Veterans
Two rappers are primarily thought of when music fans think of "classic" Chicago hip hop: Common and Twista. Common is the introspective rapper with the meaningful lyrics that critics and rap snobs love. Twista is the party rap all star with the motor mouth. I love em both. Common's Resurrection is a seminal rap album of the early '90s. But his recent releases are solid too. 2008's Universal Mind Control is very good, and there are some pop rap highlights to go with the deeper stuff. Twista's been around almost as long: Adrenaline Rush and Mobstability are classics, and 2004's Kamikaze was a serious comeback for a rapper who had become less known for his own albums and more of a guest artists on other people's tracks.

The Newcomer
Lupe Fiasco emerged on the scene in 2006 as the skateboard riding youngin with Food and Liquor, a tremendous album. Lupe has only gotten more famous since then: I saw him do a set in a parking lot in the Loop for Columbia College's graduation celebration in early 2007 with only his local rapper friends to help him; at Lolla 2008 he came onstage in a full white suit with a choir, a horn section, and numerous guest appearances. 2007's The Cool was a solid follow up to Food and Liquor. Now Lupe's got his own record label. He's officially arrived as a major player in the rap game.

The Face of the Franchise
In terms of pop culture, Kanye West is more famous than all of these guys put together. Everyone knows his story by now: renowned beat maker gets a shot at rapping, hits it big with Through the Wire and The College Dropout, proceeds to become a pop culture icon, go a little crazy, express his hatred for George Bush, and generally be around way too much. What sometimes gets lost in his public persona is the fact that Kanye is a hell of a rapper. He comes up with extremely clever lyrics, has a slick delivery, and can still drop a killer beat. His recent foray into singing with autotune aside, this man's work has been stellar. Of course, Lupe and Kanye wouldn't be nearly as famous without help from Jay-Z, which kind of cheapens their Chicago street cred. But overall, the hip hop scene in Chicago is alive and well, and I urge everyone to give it a shot.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


An actual post about driving music.

So I have this theory, and those of you who drive/commute a lot, please weigh in. I think that driving music (as in, music you listen to whilst driving) can be classified the same way miles per gallon (MPGs) are: highway and city.

And while it has always irked me that cars have these two separate MPG classifications (although I understand why), to classify driving music in such a way seems much more appropriate.

These days I don’t drive much, but I’ve made the two-hour-and-some-change drive between here and Madison, WI more than a few times, and along the way I’ve done my fair share of jamming. That said, the following is among my favorites for I90:

You Are Beautiful At All Times

Yppah a.k.a. Joe Corrales’ debut album is up there in my opinion as one of the best blends of electronica and rock (methinks the rock-leaning Ratatat is the absolute best). The disc is a shade over an hour, and man is it awesome. Starting with a great track to get things going ‘Ending With You,’ the album is one talented and catchy melody after another until you reach the finale ‘Longtime.’ This disc was made for the highway – a lot of heavy bass, excellent drums, and those melodies I mentioned – perfect for passing someone on the shoulder – I suggest you put it to the test.

Thanks to lala, here’s the entire album. Be sure to listen to ‘Ending With You’ and ‘Again With Subtitles.'

A second, much-anticipated release from Yppah (which is ‘happy’ spelled backwards) is scheduled for mid-May.

A commercial for a shitty videogame, featuring the music of Yppah...

If you like what you hear, definitely pick up the disc. And if you like the kind of music I’ve been posting about, download Simplify Media and listen to my entire iTunes library (screen name: striznate).

That’s all ‘til next week, what are your favorite jams for the highway/city?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back Door Slam

Back Door Slam

In a rock n’ roll scene largely dominated by indie-rockers, I sometimes find myself longing for more of a classic-rock/blues sound…you know, some good old fashioned CCR/Clapton infused ass-kickin’ rock n’ roll. While there are a few big bands that fill the niche (The Black Keys, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Black Crowes come to mind) it seems to me there is a small space at the forefront and then a large drop off in the popularity of this sort of music.

It was about a year ago that I first caught wind of a Blues trio out of Liverpool by the name of “Back Door Slam”. They were playing a weeknight show at the Majestic theatre in Madison. I decided to go, and was one of about 30 people in the audience that night. I witnessed one hell of a show. The band, largely fueled by Davy Knowles (lead guitar/vocals), really blew my away. Knowles is a true prodigy on the guitar and the spirit of Clapton is definitely strong in his playing. His vocals are equally as strong. I am certain that he will be a big name in rock music for years to come.

I picked up their first (and I think only) album “Roll Away” at the show and was pleasantly surprised with it as well. It is a really excellent first effort, and I think their sound translated pretty well to the studio. So if you are looking for some solid rock/blues you should certainly check it out.

As a side-note, I took a look at their touring schedule, and it looks like they are going to be touring heavily in the Wisco/Illinois area (including Summerfest and the Prairie Dog blues festival), which I know is convenient to a number of you.

Rock on.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Decent Music Videos

We are all acutely aware of how rare it is to see music videos on television anymore. Its almost become cliche to mock MTV for its lack of actual musical content. And what they do show is only available to the insomniac viewers who like artless, self promoting crap. I've simply come to expect that in order to find anything good anymore, you have to look online.

So, in the interests of brevity, I'll jump right in.

This first video comes from Kwoon, a French post-rock band. The art is exceptional and the action follows the story arc of the lyrics. The song is very dramatic and really fits what is on screen. Title is "I Lived on the Moon" from the album Tales and Dreams.

Next is a great stop-motion video from Oren Lavie, a folk/pop singer from Tel Aviv Israel. While stop-motion is nothing new in the music video world (just ask Peter Gabriel) it can still be done right. The tone of the song mixed with the whimsical nature of the video make for a good combination. Title is "Her Morning Elegance" from the album The Opposite Side of the Sea.

British artist Jarvis Cocker gave is this next video in 2006. After fronting the band Pulp for years, Cocker released his first solo album, Jarvis, in November and from that came his first single "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time". The video for this song is a creative play on fake, in-studio car scenes and made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it.

For those of you familiar with Boards of Canada, you already know of their great music but reclusive nature. Not ones to favor the camera's eye, it took until their 2006 EP, Trans Canada Highway, for them to release their first official music video. While the beginning footage for "Dayvan Cowboy" is not original it has an amazing story behind it. The man falling from space is Joseph Kittinger, an Air Force officer who, in the summer of 1960, leapt from a weather balloon at an altitude of almost 103,000 feet. The music really fits the video here.

Last, but not least, is one of my favorites of all time. Kung Fu fighting Cowboys on Mars, Scantily clad damnsel in distress, robots, unicorns, lasers, etc. etc. You name it Muse had it in their video for "Knights of Cydonia". I actually owe my discovery of this video (and Muse) to MTV's extremely late night block of music videos. This video and its album Black Holes and Revelations started a coming out party for Muse and started it right.

<a href="">Muse - Knights Of Cydonia (Video)</a>

Thats all for now. If you have any suggestions of your own music video favorites from classic to contemporary, feel free to post them in the comments below. You can even post bad ones if you're so inclined. Sometimes those are more entertaining than the good ones.

Monday, April 20, 2009



Show review comes from Drew McLean, who was in attendance at the first show of the run in Greensboro, NC
What a beautiful Easter Sunday! We could not have asked for a nicer Spring day that what was 4/12/09. While I myself am not religious, celebrating Easter or the Passover, I decided instead to spend this wonderful afternoon with some of the greatest family in the world, Deadheads.

After 5 years off everyone is anticipating about the long awaited return. People of all ages journey to Greensboro for the start of the 09 tour, full of excitement anew and stories of joyous times spent. My brother and I join several close friends from our hometown and college, many that haven’t seen each other for 3-4 years.

While Greensboro in not the freshest of cities, I was thoroughly impressed with the Coliseum and the fairgrounds. The lot scene was terrific, surrounding the entire arena including grass areas to throw the frisbee and several different “shakedown streets” full of lot goodies and friends enjoying the scene.

He's Gone meant a lot to me, coming as it did on Easter Sunday and very early in the first set of the first show of the tour. The whole crowd was singing "He's gone, he's gone, and nothing's gonna bring him back."

Somewhere near TOG or Miracle I was handed an extra chocolate, which had been melted in the confines of my friend’s wife’s bra. (Why do chicks always hide things in “the vault”?) I quickly gobbled this down and was on my way.

On the stage below you see Bobby out front, but it’s clear who is driving this show from stage right, as Warren was layin it down. Second set starts off with a rippin Shakedown Street, energizing everyone in the swirling cauldron below (as I see it from the upper deck).

Always a pleasure to get Shakedown, however from there on the show seemed to slow way down. I’m usually a fan of drums>space having played drums myself for many years, but after Mickey was done the energy never seemed to peak again. Very low key with the second set, but overall it was still a stellar show to kick off the tour. For those of you lucky enough to see them on tour soon, you are in for a real treat as everyone returns to form. I look forward to hearing your experiences from random venues on the tour, as well as experiencing Madison Square Garden for myself in 2 weeks.

(set 1)
The Music Never Stopped>
Jack Straw
Estimated Prophet>
He's Gone>
Touch Of Grey>
I Need A Miracle>

(set 2)
Shakedown Street>
All Along The Watchtower>
Rhythm Devils>
Cosmic Charlie>
New Potato Caboose>
Help On The Way>
Franklin's Tower

Samson And Delilah

FREE DOWNLOADS are available at for this show and all others on the tour. Tape quality has improved over the years and these recordings are excellent as compared to years past.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

DOOM - Born Like This

Spring is in the air and I miss the city of Madison, Wisconsin. The oft-jogging housewives of Fairfield County are nice, and yet I find myself indifferent. Give me Bucky shorts any day. Maybe it's nostalgia based on that idyllic college lifestyle. Perhaps it's a rosy memory born of a young mind erstwhile altered. For whatever reason, Madison wins. Always.

And now to bidness. Our issue this Sunday is a brief review of a brief album, DOOM's Born Like This. You should download this album. You may even choose to purchase it, if you happen to be a wealthy moralist. If that's all you wanted to know, you can stop reading now.

Still there? Fuck. I wanted to stop writing and "evaluate" a newly completed torrent. This album is nothing new from DOOM. If you've listened to his past work, under any number of aliases, you'll recognize both rhyme scheme and subject matter. You may not find anything profound here. This does not matter. This is crazy stream-of-consciousness shit. It's entertaining and bizarre. Unique? Yeah, if you compare it to just about any other artist. That's all I ever really wanted. If you're bored with the drug addled antics of our anti-hero, Ghostface, Raekwon, and Slug make appearances. Kudos go the first person to locate the track where Doom tries to sound like Biz Markie.

The production is lush and layered. I find the sample in Lightworks to be incredibly annoying, but it's in my head now like McDonalds Filet O' Fish. If you want the 3 hottest beats you'll find them on Gazzillion Ear (thank God for J Dilla), More Rhymin', and That's That. While I can't describe the dopeness of the first, the latter two are sweetly balanced productions based on classical instruments.

When all is said and done, this is a solid album. The rhymes are either inspired, random, or incomprehensible. Repeated listens are the only way to determine which is which. So it goes.

NEXT SUNDAY: Podcastable radio immortality. Music related? Not for the most part. Daily audio staple? You be the judge.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Medeski, Martin, and Wood - Radiolarians 2

The avant jazz (I would say acid jazz) trio Medeski, Martin, and Wood released the second installment in the three-part Radiolarians series Wednesday. For the uninitiated, MMW is a jazz act that focuses on improvisation, often using free form jams that do not have a lot of structure. The can be downright spacey from time to time, leaving you wondering if what they are making can be called music. But they are also deeply, DEEPLY groovy. They have churned out some of my favorite funk jazz. Their work with jazz guitarist John Scofield is particularly groovy. Check this out:

I had to do a little research to figure out what the deal is with the album title. According to MMW's website, "Radiolarians (also radiolaria) are amoeboid protozoa that produce intricate mineral skeletons, typically with a central capsule dividing the cell into inner and outer portions, called endoplasm and ectoplasm. "

These "Unicellular Planktonic Marine Organisms" grow their intricately beautiful patterned skeleton around their soft core in defiance of normal biological process, similarly to Medeski Martin and Woods latest creative cycle.

So there. The album is solid, with an excellent combination of funky grooves and spacey jams. It's nothing MMW hasn't tried before, but they haven't had this much success in the studio since my two personal faves, Uninvisible and The Dropper. It is certainly better than the first Radiolarians album. But why read what I think of it when you can rock the whole album right here:

Check em out. The really spacey stuff is not for everyone, but the groovy stuff sure is. These guys are great live and tour relentlessly, so if you like what you hear, go see em!

Also, I highly recommend checking out kick-ass bassist Chris Wood's work with The Wood Brothers. A completely different, folksy style. I love it.

Til next time...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Black Cab Sessions

A different kind of driving music...

I’ll keep this post short, mostly because your time is better spent perusing the 77 videos (and counting) on The idea is simple: put a lot of great bands in the back of a cab, strip them down to just the bare instrument essentials, and drive them around London and NY as they play some sweet tunes.

You’ll recognize many a face on the site, as bands such as My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, The New Pornographers, Calexico, The National, etc. etc. etc. have graced the back of this old-timey black cab.

Here are a few choice performances to whet the appetite:


Ane Brun

Death Cab For Cutie

Hope you dig, happy Thursday, and a big thanks to Tim & Emily.

Until next time…

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bert Jansch

Hey All –

A special thanks to Nate for posting for me last week. I was traveling the beautiful country of Spain for the last 12 days and was not around computers very much. I kept my eyes peeled while traveling for a great new band to bring back as a souvenir for all of you, but found very little aside from the very somber, and beautiful, music that encompassed the holy week processions over there. What I did find is that American music greatly influences much of Europe. Many people I talked to from various countries listened largely to American music. Nevertheless, in the spirit of being abroad I will focus this weeks post on one of my favorite musicians from across the pond. Bert Jansch.

Bert Jansch is a legendary folk musician from Scotland. But I don’t think his fame has stretched too far beyond Scotland/England and the folk community. He has been putting out albums since the 1960’s and has worked with many of the most legendary musicians in recent history. He has released over twenty of his own albums, and I must admit I have heard only a portion of them. His most recent offering was “The Black Swan” from 2006. It is a drifty folk album, and one of the finest of its kind that I have ever heard. It is also one of the best rainy day driving albums that I have encountered.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Venetian Snares

The edge of madness

There is often a fine line between genius and insanity. Both sides of the spectrum constantly toiling for dominance. Aaron Funk, known more commonly as Venetian Snares, has forsaken this psychological battle entirely, choosing instead to fully embrace the best (and worst) characteristics of both sides.

As one of the premier names in electronic breakcore music, Funk has composed a massive discography (21 albums since 1998), the lion's share of it imagined, devised and performed by him alone. The music that comes from this man's head is some of the most complex and creative music I have come across.

It is, however, very difficult to write about the music of Venetian Snares primarily due to the fact that I actually dislike most of the songs he has released. His discography is a veritable minefield of insane, unlistenable and frankly terrifying tracks that it seems no one in their right mind would ever want to hear. His style is often abrasive and his album and song titles can be dubious in nature. But sprinkled into that giant mess are some gems that truly shed light on this man's talent and dedication to his craft.

One of Venetian Snares' most ambitious, and probably most accessible, albums is 2005's Rossz Csillag Alatt Született. In Hungarian, Rossz Csillag Alatt Született translates to "Born Under a Bad Star". The album, inspired by a previous visit to Hungary, combines traditional orchestral compositions with Funk's shattering break beats. Compared to his previous body of work, this album was truly a departure from Funk's previous electronic-only releases.

The fifth song on the album, Hajnal, opens with terse staccato strings including samples from Niccolò Paganini's 7th Caprice in A minor. Piano and horns enter as the song progresses leading into a short, jazzy break. A return to the opening theme puts the song on an inevitable collision course with Venetian Snares' signature drill-and-bass attack. Elegant Baroque strings coexist with relentless, skittering beats and diverse electronic samples.

Editor's Note: If you really want to hear the intricacies of each recording I recommend skipping the videos and clicking the link for high quality audio below each one.

(For better audio click here: Hajnal.mp3)

Now, I completely understand if I've lost some of you already. This style of music is not for everyone. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but I think that aspect is what I find most attractive about it. More traditional electronic music relies on simple themes and sections repeating over and over, while Funk's music is meticulously crafted and wholly unique from one bar to the next. Your brain is constantly at work trying to analyze what you just heard but the sounds change so quickly it forces you to completely release and just absorb it as it comes. This is not background music.

For me, a great deal of Venetian Snares' albums are complete throwaways. Some may have a good track or two but cannot be listened to in their entirety. If you are interested in hearing more from him, I'll save you the trouble of wading through the entire catalog.

Aside from Rossz Csillag Alatt Született also check out its 2007 follow up release My Downfall (Original Soundtrack). Don't be fooled by the title, there is no film involved. Instead, it is meant to be the soundtrack to Aaron Funk's figurative "downfall". My Downfall carries on in the style of its predecessor mixing classical instruments with spastic breakbeats. Here is my favorite track from this album, Integraation.

(For better audio click here: Integraation.mp3)

For more "traditional" Venetian Snares, try The Chocolate Wheelchair Album. The fourth track, "Einstein-Rosen Bridge", is probably my favorite of all of his songs. It is a bit more structured and has a great beat.

(For better audio click here: Einstein-Rosen Bridge.mp3)

Another good starter album is 2006's Cavalcade of Glee and Dadaist Happy Hardcore Pom Poms (yes that is the title, I told you this guy embraces his insanity). One of my favorites from this release is the third track "Pwntendo". This one is for all of you who played too much NES as a kid. Funk incorporates some nostalgic 8-bit sound samples too good effect.

(For better audio click here: Pwntendo.mp3)

If you want to delve deeper into the complex world of Venetian Snares, here are some links that will start you down the rabbit hole:

Venetian Snares on MySpace
Venetian Snares on Facebook
Venetian Snares on
Venetian Snares on

You can also access all of the over 200 Venetian Snares songs that I have in my iTunes library by downloading Simplify Media and sending an invite to my screen name, "steveklay". Explore at your own risk.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Warlocks


The Warlocks were an up and coming Haight Asbury group spawned in conjunction with the birth of counter-culture in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. The band started playing local gigs in SF, with early tracks borrowed from the Rolling Stones such as 'King Bee' and 'Little Red Rooster, as well as Chuck Berry's 'Promised Land' and Johnny B. Goode.' With Garcia on the lead, Weir with guitar and vocals, Kruetzmann on the drums, Pigpen with vocals and keys, and Lesh on bass, The Warlocks were an early favorite in the area which eventually led to an official record deal with Warner Brothers.

However after discovering another band with the same name, an acid-fueled search for another name would ensue. An account of the band naming is now famous: when Garcia opened a dictionary in 1965, all words melted off of the page with the exception of two: Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead went on to become an incredible touring act for the next 30 years until Jerry Garcia's death in 1995.

The Grateful Dead are and will always be my favorite musical group. In honor of their first tour in five years as The Dead, we will be creating a series of posts entitled 'Grateful Dead: Band Beyond Description.' It would be impossible to create a single post regarding the myriad of topics the Grateful Dead bring to the table. As part of this series, we will also encourage show reviews from anyone who attends any stops on the tour. Reports will certainly be coming from three of the most high-profile stops: opening night in Greensboro, a Saturday night in April in Madison Square Garden, and a stop at the Dead's home base in San Fransisco. The tour will extend throughout the next month, so you will have a chance to read as the tour progresses about a variety of Dead matter.

My personal library on Simplify Media contains several different shows from a variety of different areas which you are more than welcome to explore. In addition, other members of Simplify Media such as wiscostew and drew.mclean have extensive libraries. Many of these libraries were built from before the soundboard restriction was put in place. Our libraries may offer more in terms of quality because they are comprised of mostly soundboard recordings, which you can no longer post on for Dead shows.

From The Warlocks to the Grateful Dead and now on to The Dead, A Long Strange Trip it certainly has been and will continue to be. In order to start the festivities, please take a listen to a few favorites of mine.

Bird Song - Radio City Music Hall, NYC - 1980
A Jerry original that remains in the rotation from early on into the current Dead material

China Cat Jam -> I Know You Rider - Copenhagen, Denmark - 1972
The instrumental transition from one song to the next presents the peak of energy in many shows throughout Dead history

So Many Roads - June 1994
The emotions in 'Jerry Ballads' like 'So Many Roads' and others such as 'Stella Blue' and 'China Doll' touch me more deeply than any other music that I have encountered

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Stamford, CT --
I love it when other folks throw down datelines, so I'll follow suit.
My mom and grandparents are visiting this weekend so I've been extremely busy locating a hot lobsta' spot . The good news is that they (reppin' WI to tha fullest) are helping me review DOOM's new album. "Born Like This" will the subject of next Sunday's highly anticipated, inevitably controversial TSAD post (APRIL 19, 2009 Suckas). For now, YouTube yourself some tracks from weird-ass Daniel Dumile, aka Madvillain, Metal Fingers, Viktor Vaughan, Zevlove X, MF Doom and DOOM. Suggestions include: All Caps, Strange Ways, Figaro, and Deadbent.

*Stray Observations*

1. I stole the phrase "stray observations" from the exceptional Onion TV Club,

2. Watching SNL last night I noticed that the guitarist from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (think Rock Band) is the poofy haired goth kid from South Park.

3. Watching the pilot of Parks and Recreation on Thursday, I was amused until I realized that Roger Federer is in the show.

4. "And definately don't go see The Haunting in Connecticut...What's scary about Connecticut? Loosing your tennis raquet at a Pottery Barn? Bitch Please!" ~SNL actually being funny/me actually understanding a joke.

Now if you will excuse me, I've got to rest up for a strenuous Easter Sunday. Granny is hooking up some swine while Gramps and I rock the Masters final round coverage with bottle of Black Label.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Andrew Bird - Civic Opera House

April 9, 2009, Chicago-

When a local band makes it nationally, that band usually gets the opportunity to do things in their hometown or state that they never thought possible. Whether it's Yonder Mountain String Band playing to a sold out Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado or Umphrey's Mcgee shutting down a random city block in Chicago so they could rock it, these bands tend to take special pride, and get special treatment, when playing shows in their hometown.

Thus Andrew Bird played the Civic Opera House last night (with another sold out show tonight), a big, beautiful theater located within a skyscraper in downtown Chicago. The local boy has made good, as they say, and he came back to show some love to his hometown while on tour in support of his new album, Noble Beast, which I'll touch on briefly here in addition to discussing the show. For those who don't know, Andrew Bird is a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/violin master/whistler extraordinaire who grew up in Chicago.

Mr. Bird started the set solo, playing two songs with the help of some fairly ingenious looping. I've seen Keller Williams and John Frusciante do some pretty incredible loops, and Bird was right there with him. And of course, his violin play is second to none.

His band (guitar, bass, drums) joined him on stage thereafter and the quartet proceeded to play a wide selection of songs from his albums Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs, Armchair Apocrypha (great album name), and Noble Beast, putting a particular focus on Noble Beast. I'd estimate Bird played half of the new album.

Personally, I found Noble Beast to be very enjoyable. It's not as good as "Eggs" or "Apocrypha," but it's damn close, and I wouldn't discount the album merely because it doesn't live up to the very high standards Bird set for himself with his two prior efforts. Interestingly, I thought that a couple of tracks in the middle of the album, Not a Robot, but a Ghost, and Anonanimal, could have passed for Radiohead songs based on the song style and Bird's lilt, which can be similar to Thom Yorke at times.

For me the biggest disappointment on the album wasn't really the album at all, it was the companion album (or second disc if you've got the deluxe edition), Useless Creatures. This album is all instrumental tracks, and based on Bird's instrumental prowess and creativity and my love for instrumentals, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, the album doesn't live up to my expectations and is mostly stuff that could be the basis for a real Andrew Bird song, or slowly building dirges that aren't particularly exciting. I can definitely listen to the album while working, but I wouldn't put it on just for the hell of it while sitting around my place.

But he didn't do any tracks from Useless Creatures during the show, and I really enjoyed the entire set. Bird is extremely talented and is fun to watch during the songs; I couldn't look away. He's also goofy between songs and had the audience laughing. At times I really wanted to get up and move around a bit (this was a sit-down concert, which I'm not used to at all). Towards the end I was getting anxious to hear his two most upbeat and loud songs, Fake Palindromes and Plasticities. Out of nowhere he broke into Fake Palindromes and I was really excited for the set to end with a bang (or three). Then, IT happened. He DROPPED HIS VIOLIN mid-song, and the neck snapped clean off. A gasp went up from the crowd, and the song died midway through. Bird dealt with the loss pretty well, cracking some jokes about the tragedy, but he only played one more song before the two song encore, and for all three songs he played guitar. He said he didn't have a spare violin with him. I've never seen anything like that, and I hope he got a spare or found a repair man before tonight.

Despite the catastrophe it was still a really good show, and I'm very glad I went. The videos I'm posting give you a pretty good idea of what the show was like; they were all recorded during the current tour. If you haven't given Andrew Bird a listen, I highly, highly recommend him. He has a unique style and has created some great music. He puts on an excellent show too, as long as he hangs on to his instruments.


Fake Palindromes. He dropped his violin while singing the second verse last night:

Effigy, off Noble Beast

Andrew Bird on myspace

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Iron & Wine if Sam Beam played the drums instead of the guitar?

Ok, no, not really. But let me introduce Talkdemonic, a self-described folktronic (I’m sorry, what??) duo from Portland, OR. The band consists of two members Kevin O’Connor (percussion, synthesizer, piano) and Lisa Molinaro (viola, synthesizer).

Talkdemonic hits my sweet spot perfectly – I’m a sucker for the strings and I love me a good beat. Like so…

Around since 2002, Talkdemonic has three albums under their belt. Mutiny Sunshine in 2004, Beat Romantic in 2006, and Eyes at Half Mast in 2008. And over the years their style hasn’t changed much, they’ve just gotten a helluva lot sharper.

That said, it was their sophomore release, Beat Romantic that first caught my ear. They, like so many others, were a Pandora find for me. Their songs tend to be shorter and interesting combinations of subdued synth melodies, EXTREMELY talented drums*, and beautiful string accompaniments. For example:

Literally I can’t get enough of these guys, and I urge you to check them out further. Be it here, here, or here.

Thanks for reading, hope you dig Talkdemonic.

And if you like the kind of music I’ve been posting about, download Simplify Media so you can listen to my entire iTunes library (screen name: striznate).

Let’s talk next week.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ezra Furman and The Harpoons

By guest poster Adam Levy

I have this once in a lifetime opportunity to post some new music on Top Shelf - can't screw this one up or I'll never be offered another chance...

And so, I have a great new band, so talented, I don't think even I can squander a thing like this. If you haven't heard of them, welcome Ezra Furman and The Harpoons to the stage (or stages, considering they've been playing all over the states including with South By Southwest right now). The rumor mill has them already booked at Lollapalooza this summer as well, which according to "sources," aka friends of his, is true.

Ezra's a Chicago native, but the band hails from Boston where they attended Tufts. The entire group is blooming with talent, and Ezra leads the way with a voice that ranges from an easy comparison to Bob Dylan all the way to Jack White. Ezra really is something new though, I haven't heard anything similar in recent memory (think wobbly voice of Violent Femmes but, well, more wobbly), and when I sit and listen to him wail away with lyrics that clearly came from somewhere meaningful, I can't help but feel a sense of urgency, like these things need to be said. He's not careful in letting you know how he feels, with satirical and at times almost desperate lyrics. But it all comes in different forms - like my favorite song from their latest release, the first song of the record titled "We Should Fight" from the album "Inside The Human Body." It's upbeat and screams energy, a perfect way to open an album, which is followed by their single "Take Off Your Sunglasses."

Later in the album, a quick and quieter (but not mellow) 1 minute acoustic track called "The World is Alive" summarizes exactly what I love about this band and Ezra's writing, specifically because we see a small glimpse of what's going on in his mind. It's a insider view at what he's looking at when he opens his eyes: that we go through life looking at a million things a day, usually without any thought that these random items and people we pass every day actually exist and play a role. I don't know what it is, but the fact that he's able to conceptualize this idea so strong and quickly clicks for me. Call me overly sentimental or cheesy - but hey, it's difficult to find bands these days that you can jam out to, and that have something worthwhile to say. It's 1.5 minutes of your time, and I really think it's worth it, especially because he says it better than I do:

"There is love in the eyes of the birds and bees, there are plastic bags in suburban trees, keep your eyes open all the time and I think you'll find there's no place to hide, and the world is alive..."

"Take Off Your Sunglasses is a phenomenal song as well, a lot of other people are figuring this out too, see it here:

Ezra's myspace
Ezra's website

Check out the album on iTunes or other places online, either way let me know what you think, peace yall.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tapes 'n Tapes

The band that saved the album.

For the last two to three years of my college life I subsisted musically on an almost exclusive diet of live recordings. My taste was unrelentingly entrenched in what could be loosely (and for lack of a better word) described as the "jam band" genre. Phish, String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, and a host of lesser known but no less cherished bands were my food and drink. The Live Music Archive was my mecca.

Due to the nature of these bands' heavy touring schedule and improvisationally tilted approach to performance, they had a tendency to be amazing on stage but entirely underwhelming in the studio. Because of this phenomenon, I almost completely lost my faith in album rock and rarely sought out commercially released music.

It took a thousand mile move across the country, a new job at a music store, and a debut album from a quartet of unseasoned Minneapolis indie rockers called Tapes 'n Tapes to change all that. Freshly settled in Colorado, I was still green at the new job but already loving the employee discount. I spent a lot of time (both on the clock and off) familiarizing myself with the product.

Impulse buys are always done with the best intentions and never for the best reasons but we are all guilty of it on occasion. It was the album cover of The Loon (pictured above) that facilitated this musical pot shot. If there were any other reason for me to pick this one out from all of the others, the memory of it has long been washed away due in large part to my appreciation for its contents.

The blunt and ringing opening notes of the first track "Just Drums" quickly make way for dense guitar strumming, heavy drums, deep bass and the distorted, gritty vocals of front man Josh Grier. To someone more familiar with the genre, it may have sounded like just another wannabe indie group grasping for a foothold but for me it was different. There was an irreverence about their sound, an edge that was completely missing from everything else I was listening to at the time.

What comes out of that irreverence is what I admire most about The Loon. The band could have stuck with that style that drew me in from song one, but instead the album jumps from one style to another, highlighting nearly each of the band's musical influences in the process. And the best part is, it never loses its impetus or that newly discovered audacity.

One of the best tracks on the album, "Insistor" is a fast paced, country infused, polka chorused assault with excellent vocals.

"Omaha" is a complete change of pace from "Insistor" but shows how the band can switch gears stylistically.

The pace picks back up again with "Cowbell"

Another favorite, "In Houston", mellows a bit but is lyrically charged.

Before hearing this album, I was content to leave Indie to the "hipsters". Now I'm waist deep in a genre so expansive and full of creativity that it is impossible to keep up.

Thanks to lala, you can listen to all of The Loon right from this page:

For more from Tapes 'n Tapes check out these spots:
Tapes 'n Tapes homepage
Tapes 'n Tapes on MySpace
Tapes 'n Tapes on Facebook

Here is the excellent video for "Hang Them All" from Tapes 'n Tapes sophomore release Walk It Off.