Albums »Grinderman

by Grinderman (2007)

Grinderman’s self titled debut swaggers. It sways and struts around the stage in tight pants while extravagantly yanking the mic around thrusting its hips. It is pretty much the embodiment of most of the rock and roll fantasies of most of the men I know.

It’s racous, simple rock and roll and the world absolutely loved it when it was released. I enjoy it too, though if I had to pick, I am more partial to the weirder, genre bending stuff from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

It’s interesting seeing this other side to these musicians though. Grinderman is made up of Cave plus various “Bad Seeds” and it sounds like they’re having fun; leaving behind some of the signature gloom while still retaining enough to set this apart from other rock albums out there.

Now that I’ve finally got caught up with this release, I need to look into Grinderman 2, released last year.

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Posted on February 17, 2011

Songs »Honky Tonk

by Bill Doggett (1956)

Honky Tonk is an early classic of instrumental rock and roll. The kind of tune that makes you want to sway by the jukebox with your bobby sox, cute straight cut bangs with a beer in your hand and a bad boy in your sights.

I am not surprised to find that Bill Doggett, who made the song a hit before the Beach Boys adopted it later, was the pianist and arranger from one of my favorite 1940’s bands, The Ink Spots.

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Posted on January 23, 2011

Albums »Polyfonia

by Apparat Organ Quartet (2010)

If you took the biggest movies of the 80’s (specifically Conan the Barbarian and Beverly Hills Cop to name a couple) and set them in the future (I can tell you already like where this is going) then asked a talented avant garde orchestra with rock and roll leanings to write a score, then let video game musicians play it – you’d end up with something like Polyfonia, a bold, instrumental album from the Icelandic band Apparat Organ Quartet.

According to founder Johann Johannson, a think tank leader (of a group called Kitchen Motors) in his country, the band’s latest release is “more suited to the musical tastes of the masses” so even us common folk will find it enjoyable.

Before you think their band name was just chosen by the latest facebook game, they are in fact a quartet of organ players (plus one drummer) who use old, cast away keyboards, synthesizers, and other machinery. Fellow young and talented Icelander, Siggi Eggertsson is the artist behind the sweet cover.

Thanks to Shaun for introducing me to this unique album.

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Posted on January 12, 2011

Albums »Big Time

by Tom Waits (1988)

Seeing Tom Waits live is like the Holy Grail for me. After a couple years of fulfilling my live in concert dreams (Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac, Britney Spears, Nick Cave, Grace Jones, and R. Kelly) he’s the only big one left. It’s a rare occurrence, with the last tour being a couple years ago. Fortunately for all of us, his previous concert film, Big Time is available to stream from netflix even as DVDs are difficult to track down.

Theatrical with a German expressionist meets vaudeville vibe, it’s a joy to watch, especially for long time fans. Waits performs some of my favorite songs from Rain Dogs, Frank’s Wild Years and Swordfishtrombones and charms the audience with piano side monologues about pregnancy, erotica, and strip clubs.

His wife Kathleen Brennan, who sparked Waits’ gravely, strange and fantastic turn by introducing him to Captain Beefheart was the co-creative behind this performance.

The album, which was released after the video, is a great listen even with out the visual accompaniment.

Click here for the rest of Big Time

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Posted on December 23, 2010

Songs »Superstar

by Sonic Youth (1994)

If the real deal Carpenters version of Superstar doesn’t sit well with you, maybe you’re of a hipper ilk and prefer somewhat ironic covers instead. Well, despite tons of iffy attempts by lesser artists, only a band as effortlessly cool as Sonic Youth can really pull of a modern take of one of 1970’s cheesiest (in a good way) ballads. Thurston Moore sounds drugged out and heart broken in a much drowsier and noisier take than The Carpenters (little wonder Richard does not care for it). It’s even more of a departure from the jazzy first incarnations by original artists Delaney and Bonnie and Rita Coolidge.

Aside from being one of my favorite Carpenters songs, I am partial to the hit due to its large part in the very funny Cintra Wilson book, Colors Insulting to Nature.

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Posted on October 12, 2010

Albums »The Bends

by Radiohead (1995)

Let’s pretend we can drop in on me the Spring of 1996. You will find me listening to The Bends and feeling introspective. It was an album that had been released the year before but was only introduced to me on a soul igniting Chicago visit to life long and dear friend, Billy (Radiohead hadn’t made the rounds in Colorado Springs yet, where people were pretty much still hung up on Steve Miller and Led Zeppelin). It was a visit that found myself in puppy love, teetering on the edge of  semi independence into young adulthood, and finding that that world was going to be so much larger and fascinating than I could have imagined.

It was this, Radiohead’s love letter of cryptic moodiness that would be the soundtrack to those first steps towards someplace larger than High School. Which is probably why I don’t listen to the album all that much, even though it really stands up to the passing years as artful and lovely and much more sophisticated than it’s time of the mid nineties… home to Alanis Morissette and belly button piercing.

When it popped up on a random shuffle it was immedately transporting in the best way possible. I guess the me of now, about to embark on an unknown life as a mom can relate to the me of then that was about to embark on college and beyond. Both versions of me are romantically swayed by lyrics like “I keep falling over I keep passing out when I see a face like you”. Sigh.

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Posted on October 6, 2010

Albums »Songs of Love and Hate

by Leonard Cohen (1971)

I guess Leonard Cohen‘s third album, Songs of Love and Hate could be considered baby Van’s first album pick because he’s been quite moved to kick and punch whenever it’s played. Looks like he’ll be one moody little poet kid because Jim Morrison also gets him going. Fortunately mommy likes the album too. It’s got my favorite Cohen song possibly of all time, the incredibly sad Famous Blue Raincoat.

The entire album is perhaps his most effectively depressing with suicide, infidelity, the pain of becoming obsolete, and lost love as just a few of the topics covered. It’s spare and sparse (only eight tracks) with the focus being on his signature melancholy and beautiful lyrics. I’d call him the perhaps the best lyricist of all time, and this album is certainly evidence of this.

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Posted on September 26, 2010

Albums »Blood Visions

by Jay Reatard (2005)

From the tragic drug related death at age 26 of Jay Reatard, aka Jimmy Lee Lindsey, it would seem he lived as he made music: short and hard. His energetic, agitated Blood Visions squeezes life out of the pop punk quick song tradition with a critically adored album that calls to mind Operation Ivy and The Ramones with a modern wave that almost sounds like Wire-like.

It’s not the genre of music I usually go to first, but I’ve found myself mysteriously drawn to the spastic album lately that lends a sense of urgency to any project you happen to be working on while listening to it. It’s not revolutionary but for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, it’s far more interesting and worthy of repeat listens than other similar takes on pop punk. It’s a shame we won’t be hearing any more from this talented showman.

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Posted on September 18, 2010

Songs »I Thought You Were Someone I Knew

by Jail Weddings (2010)

A strong douse of Scott Walker, a touch of Elvis Costello, a whole lot of 60’s pop mixed with the funnest side of Nick Cave.. put it all together with a ten piece band and you’ve got Jail Weddings. I was psyched when the video for “I Thought You Were Someone I Knew” popped up while browsing facebook and not just because that dapper front man is my cousin. Yes, a relation to me, and so cool! This is not his first music project. Los Angelians may know him from his previous band, The Starvations or Dante Vs Zombies. The album for this song, Love is Lawless comes out Oct. 26th.

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Posted on August 29, 2010

Songs »The Wild One

by Suzi Quatro (1974)

I saw The Runaways. Thought it was shot nicely, the costumes were cool, but am I the only person that was totally bored by the end? No matter, it did remind me of the great Suzi Quatro hit abroad, (she rarely made the charts in the USA) The Wild One.

Click here for the rest of The Wild One

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Posted on August 1, 2010

Songs »If I Told My Baby

by The Paupers (1965)

I discovered this fun little song, If I Told My Baby, while posting a sweet photo of the band, The Paupers over at Rotating Corpse.

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Posted on July 18, 2010

Songs »Rock Around the Clock

by Bill Haley (1955)

Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock is considered iconic of the mainstreaming of rock and roll even if it wasn’t the first or the most popular of it’s time. It’s inclusion in the rebel teen movie, Blackboard Jungle sealed it’s place in pop culture infamy and now I think it’s catchy awesomeness as a song is overshadowed by it’s position as a background to our history. I mean, how many times have we heard the song over the years? Still, even though it might be overplayed and is by no means a rare hip find, when you really listen to it again, it’s a whole lot of fun and makes me think of bobbysox, rebellion, and high school dances – all good things!

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Posted on June 27, 2010

Albums »Born in the USA

by Bruce Springsteen (1984)

I was once told, when Dancing in the Dark popped up on my ipod play list at work, that I was considered cool until that moment. Born in the USA, due to it’s affirming pop sensibility, was basically a blockbuster of an album, making red blooded Americans the country over into hip swinging radio rock lovers. Sure, it doesn’t have the kind of quiet cred of the dark and brooding Nebraska and nowadays anything too popular is bound for a backlash, but to ignore and deny the albums enduring greatness is a mistake.

First, there’s all those hits. I mean, my god, there’s the title song, Dancing in the Dark, Cover Me, I’m on Fire, Glory Days and My Hometown – all solid rock anthems with his homegrown social commentary that go perfectly with fireworks, worn denim, a beer, and back yards. When these songs come on, I still feel happy to hear them, and maybe by now, when their days of constant radio play behind them, they can incite the same energy in you. At least give it a try on the 4th, and don’t skip the lesser known tracks that you probably haven’t heard too many times to count.

And, for the record, if loving this album is lame, I don’t want to be cool.

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Posted on June 27, 2010

Songs »Turn the Page

by Bob Seger (1973)

Yes, Bob Seger’s been here before (see Still the Same). His songs are just too good to ignore. Turn the Page is a somber lament about a rock stars life on the road. I am particularly partial to the references to Midwestern boobs making fun of the long hair since both my dad and husband sport the do, I’ve seen the confused faces plenty. While Metallica’s take on the song was not as mismatched as one might expect, I still prefer the lonely original that evokes the empty sound of deserted roads passing by.

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Posted on June 6, 2010

Songs »I Like It Like That

by Chris Kenner (1961)

There’s probably no way to get around the dorkiness of getting reacquainted with a song through the local Starbucks. I should probably lie for street cred and say I heard this long forgotten song again at some boutique you’ve never heard of but no. It was me and a really loud off duty firemen, both getting excited about the 1961 Chris Kenner hit, I Like It Like That, a song that reminds me of my pre-teen 1950’s obsession. Stand By Me had just come out, my sister (who had converse with “I Love River Phoenix” doodles on them) and I nearly wore through the tape of the white cassette soundtrack and almost like an answer to my little girl prayers, a glorious place called Fuddruckers had opened at a local strip mall.

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Posted on May 2, 2010

Songs »Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

David Bowie (1981)

Quentin Tarantino recently plucked this gothy Bowie gem from Paul Scrader’s remake of  Cat People, putting it back on the cinematic map by powering the big eyeliner application scene with its eerie slow build and dramatic tempo shift. Despite its rather anachronistic inclusion in Inglourious Basterds (which boasts an otherwise era-appropriate score), it’s definitely the only thing salvageable from the 1981 dud.

I’m a fan of the original Cat People, so it was with high hopes that we began Schrader’s interpretation the other night; hopes that were quickly dashed. Even a singularly creepy (even for him) Malcolm McDowell, a dopey young Ed Begley Jr, a bra-less Natasha Kinski and an atmospheric Egyptian sex ritual sequence couldn’t save this drag.

Even though Bowie lends his unique vocal stylings, it’s producer Giorgio Moroder that gets the credit for the song’s unique spooky synth mood, as the music was written before Bowie’s involvement.

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Posted on March 28, 2010

Albums »The Doors in Concert

by The Doors

I have a bunch of friends that hate The Doors. On one hand, I simply do not understand but on the other, if you’re really big on the contemporary, sensitive and overly modest indie rock man style, I can see there would be more than a little resistance to the shirtless leather panted swagger of Morrison and co with their drugged up poetry and out of control sexual confidence. If you count yourself among these haters, you should definitely avoid The Doors in Concert. If you think he’s got the bluster of an high school senior talking the pants of every girl he meets on record, you should listen to him ask “wrap your legs around my neck” followed by “it’s getting hard” live. As full of high school hormones the innuendo is, god help me, it still works on me like gang busters.

As an adult, I might be snide about the equivalent sexual pop stars of kids today. The silly antics and puffed up machismo or bravado, but the same things make me tingle with delight here. It helps that the music is genuinely dynamic, exciting, and classic and never more so than when the band is performing at their best. And they’re at their best in phenomenal, angry versions of the epic When the Music’s Over – perhaps my favorite Doors song (it makes me want to scream along “We want the world and we want it now!”) as well as the equally epic The End and the jangly Roadhouse Blues.

There’s so much youthful exuberance and this is exactly the kind of album that makes me feel like I really missed out by not living through the sixties then wonder how everybody’s parents turned out so square and republican regardless.

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Posted on March 21, 2010