Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Outlaw Roadshow - NYC - October 2014

Poster art by Frank Germano @ Man On Fire Design

Another October, another cross-country plane ride to the once mythical city of New York for what has become my favorite musical thing, The Outlaw Roadshow. Just two years ago New York City, to me, was like a magical far away place, a place oft thought about, but never really meant much. But now, now New York City is something completely different, New York City is part of my life. New York City is Outlaw Roadshow territory. And for three days in October, New York City is home.

It's come to be expected that Ryan Spaulding (of Ryan's Smashing Life,) Adam Duritz (of Counting Crows) and their team of amazing Outlaws, will give the fans one heck of a three day musical party down at the Bowery Electric, with this year being no exception. 

The line up included old friends, new friends, and unknown friends. 

Thursday
PARLOUR TRICKS
HOLLIS BROWN
CHRISTIAN MCNEILL & SEAMONSTERS
MAT SUCICH
BOOM FOREST
TALLAHASSEE
BAILIFF
DAN BLAKESLEE
CHRISTOPHER PAUL STELLING
K PHILLIPS
LE ROXY PRO
Friday
HALLELUJAH THE HILLS
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER
THE SILKS
ARCHIE POWELL & THE EXPORTS
OLDJACK
CORIN ASHLEY
ALAN SEMERDJIAN
NATE LEAVITT
GODDAMN DRACULAS
DOCTOR GASP

Saturday
MEAN CREEK
FILLIGAR
TIGERMAN WOAH
THE GROWNUP NOISE
NAKIA
THE LONGWALLS
THE FEED
SONIC COW GRUNT

Tallahassee
Some of the unknowns surprised me. Some I liked, some I didn't, But not everyone will like everything, right? What matters is I gave them a chance. I was thrilled to see some old favorites in the line up. Though most of them I had seen only seven months prior at SXSW in Austin, it had been seven long months since I'd seen them. The Outlaw Roadshow has become more than just a music showcase, more than just a mini music festival. The Outlaw Roadshow is a musical family reunion. Days began with friends leaping over railings to give you nearly-knock-you-over hugs, and scanning the crowded club each night I saw some of the same familiar faces, faces I'd seen the year before, faces I didn't know the names to, faces I knew and couldn't wait to see. The faces of Outlaws. 

     For me this year is was really the old favorites who were the highlight of each day. While I enjoyed several of the "new" bands, there really weren't any that I had to rush home and re-listen to as soon as possible (except maybe for the Longwalls, I really enjoyed them.)

Golden Bloom
Tallahassee's set opened Thursday. This was only the second time I'd seen Tallahassee play live, and just like the last, I was blown away. The blues/rock/country-esque band from Boston played a fantastic set which included my favorite songs of theirs, Old Brown Shoes and Minor Blues III.   



Boom Forest










   Following Tallahassee was a long time Roadshow favorite, Golden Bloom. Well, really it was Shawn Fogel of Golden Bloom, backed by Scott Thompson and Matt Raskopf of Tallahassee. Fogel is one of the best song writers out there right now. His catchy, poppy songs are laden with feeling, depth and thought provoking images. 



Fogel played several songs from the new record Golden Bloom is working on. Two of these songs are in my current favorite song rotation: Circles Round My Mind and Books You Never Read (I saw Fogel do a solo show Friday afternoon at Rockwood Music Hall. He played Books You Never Read on the piano. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. It seriously nearly made me cry (sure, it was mostly the lyrics really hitting me, but still.)) Their set ended with an on-the-floor acoustic Outlaw sing-a-long of Searching For Sunlight. Always good times when an Outlaw sing-a-long happens.


Boom Forest played a haunting, echo-y set. J.P. Roney, aside from being one good lookin' dude (yeah, I said it,) writes some amazing songs. I was immediately sucked into his set, it was one you almost couldn't get away from.

K Philips and DTP
The last set I saw Thursday night was another friend and favorite, K Phillips. K was accompanied not by his usual band of Concho Pearls, but only friend and guitarist Daniel Thomas Phipps. K's sets are always brilliant. The highlight for me was probably his new-ish track, Coal Burner. Such a great song.

Friday's line up held the Outlaw band who over the last two years has become one of my personal favorites, like listen to them pretty much all the frickin' time favorites. Also, the band is led by one of my favorite human people, Dan Nicklin, the band Oldjack.

Another Outlaw alum from Boston, Oldjack brings classic rock and soul in the form of a seven piece band. Oldjack's set was one of the strongest they had never played. Nicklin was on fire, and back-up singer Kelly Davis was in top form. The set included classic Oldjack and several tracks from their new record, What is Home to You?

Oldjack
     The highlight of the set, for me anyway, was just as the band is going into the song Lonely Alone, Nicklin gestured to me and said, "This is for you, Jen." Great moment. So yeah. If anyone asks, Lonely Alone is my song. 


Friday's show also included great sets from Hallelujah the Hills, The Silks and another favorite of mine, Air Traffic Controller. Another Boston band, Air Traffic Controller's brand of catchy, jubilant pop filled the Bowery Electric with an undeniable energy. Mixing new and old, The House, What You do to my Soul and If You Build it, Hurry, Hurry, You Know Me, and The Work, Air Traffic Controller had the whole room the whole set. I really loved the new stuff, and am looking forward to their new album (release date unknown.)

Air Traffic Controller
Saturday, day three, promised four Outlaw favorites: Filligar, Nakia, Mean Creek and Sonic Cow Grunt, plus a few newcomers: The Longwalls (the only new band this year who caught my attention,)  and Tigerman Woah (I did not care for this band at all. I'm sure some folks did, they just aren't for me,)

Filligar
Filligar rocked their set. These guys are great. Always a treat to see them play. Following the Outlaw norm this year, Filligar played new and old stuff, favorites from The Nerve, Hexagon and the new record they just recorded. Highlight songs from their set included New Local, Money on the Dark Horse, and Robbery (Shocking Love)

Mean Creek is probably the most hard rock/punk band I'll ever listen to. Nothing against that genre of music, I'm just not that big a fan. But Mean Creek, well you have to experience Mean Creek to get Mean Creek. They have a fresh intensity about them, When they get going, you'd better watch out, they will rock your socks right off. Their whole set was incendiary from start to finish.Also playing a mix of new and old, highlights of Mean Creek's set were My Madeline, Johnny Allen and Young & Wild.
Mean Creek

The last show of the night was a solo set upstairs from Nakia. I didn't catch all of his set, but I did get to hear most of his cover of Counting Crows' Raining in Baltimore, and that, my friends, was awesome.

But, probably the best set of the night was that from Sonic Cow Grunt, who for those in the Outlaw loop, is a fragmented version of Counting Crows, this year only David Immergluck, Dan Vickrey and Adam Duritz.

Like I had the two years before, I had claimed my spot directly in front, and just to the right, of the stage earlier in the day (coz I'm that kind of crazy.) This was my idea of musical nirvana. It's no secret that Counting Crows are my favorite band, and being about to see them play literally less than two feet away from me is amazing. It's kinda like we're all singing together (especially during Rain King when the whole room was singing along together. That was a moment.) I didn't grab the set list that night, so I don't remember what order they played these songs, I'm pretty sure they played The Ballad of El Goodo, Scarecrow, Four White Stallions, Sullivan Street, High Life, Earthquake Driver, God of Ocean Tides, Richard Manuel is Dead,  Washington Square, and Rain King. 

Also, Dan is a pretty funny dude. Or at least he was that night. They told good stories, made us laugh, maybe even made us cry.  



Their closing number was a cover. Probably the most touching and surprising cover ever. A cover of a song written by a friend and fellow Outlaw. Adam didn't say whose song it was in the introduction, that "he'll figure it out when we play it.." Well, he did. A few bars into the song, which turned out to be Kat's Song (What I can't Have) by K Phillips. K was about 5 or 6 people away from me. The look on his face as Adam, Dan, and Immy (accompanied by Nakia on keys) played/sang that song was that of sheer disbelief and happiness combined. K is a great guy and a great songwriter. That must have been utterly amazing for him. I can't think of a better person to have the Crows cover their song. Finally K was able to get up on stage and sing with them. The moment was magical. The air of the room was full of Outlaw love.

After saying my goodbyes to my Outlaw family at the Bowery Electric, I headed out to Dan Nicklin's
South by Northeast showcase, For Liberty's Sake, at Carroll Place. Oldjack was playing again and I had to see them one last time before it was all over. Again, that set was amazing. Oldjack is one of the best live bands out there right now, well, one of the best bands in general.

Once again, New York treated me well. I had the most amazing time, but then I always do. Seeing all my Outlaw friends and hearing the music that had over the last two and a half years completely changed by life, has become one of my favorite things. The Outlaw Roadshow feels like home. Seeing an Outlaw band feels like home. I feel honored and blessed to be able to call these people my friends, and to say that this is my life; my music life.


Thank you to Ryan, Adam and everyone involved in making the Outlaw Roadshow what it is. Until next time, Outlaws!





Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Album Review - Somewhere Under Wonderland - Counting Crows


It's been seven long years since the music world has had an all-original Counting Crows record. Though they have released two records since 2008's Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, this is the first to contain all new, all Crows written tracks. The wait has been long. But the wait has been worth it. Somewhere Under Wonderland delivers the goods. The Crows are back.

I first heard three of the songs off Wonderland last October. In a crowded basement club in New York City, four members of the band, billed as Sonic Cow Grunt, preformed "Scarecrow," "God of Ocean Tides" and "Cover Up the Sun" for the first time. I felt extremely lucky to be able to hear these songs in their infancy, and couldn't wait for the record.

Though the whole album has been streaming on iTunes radio for the last week or so, I tried my best to not listen to it in it's entirety. I had the first four songs that had been released already ("Palisades Park", "Scarecrow", "God of Ocean Tides" and "Earthquake Driver") and heard a couple more at the show I went to on their summer tour. So, as soon as the record became available to download, I jumped on it. It couldn't download fast enough. I needed these songs. The songs I'd already heard were amazing, and I knew the rest of the songs would follow suit.

Somewhere Under Wonderland carries all the emotion a Counting Crows record should. All those angsty feelings from the 90's come rushing back. It's like running into an old friend you haven't seen in years, but getting along like you haven't missed a beat. Listening to the record the first time though is a little overwhelming. There's so much to soak in. The words, good gourd the words. I love words. I love the way random words can be so beautifully strung together. There are so many amazing words on this record. Adam Duritz has long been one of my favorite songwriters, and with the nine songs on Wonderland he just keeps drilling that fact into my brain.

One by one they played in my ears. One by one my heart soared. One by one the smile got bigger and bigger. There aren't many words I can use to describe the feeling of hearing the record play out. It's quite possible to go on and on for hours trying to decipher the songs, trying to guess just exactly what it is they are about, the symbology of the lyrics, the places, the people, the themes. But why try? It's best just to say how they make you feel, what the song means to you. Everyone gets something different out of every song, everyone likes every song for a different reason, not everyone will be head over heels in love with the same songs you are. I get that. I'll just do my best to represent the music, to explain it the best I can.

Several of the songs have lyrical arcs that connect them, keeping a kind of theme on the record, not a blatantly obvious theme, but a theme nonetheless. We have spacemen and aliens, "I was an alien in utero / somehow missed New Mexico" (Dislocation,) "Mary steers clear of the men from space... Ivan the ancient spaceman race fan / Corners the market on American tastes / And says 'Spaceman! Scarecrow! Peepshow! Freakshow!" (Scarecrow,) "There are aliens on motorcycles / Riding on the radio while we destroy the world" (Elvis Went to Hollywood.) Then there's the climbing, escaping through windows, "He said 'come outside / climb out your bedroom window / shimmy down the fire escape / and say goodbye'" (Palisades Park,) "If you decide to climb out your bedroom window / pain a picture on a cloud" (John Appleseed's Lament.) I love how that works out. I have no idea if it was done on purpose, of if it just kinda happened. Either way, I totally dig it.

"Palisades Park" was the first track released from the record. I did a little review on the song when it was relaeased back in July, so to quote myself:
"'Palisades Park' is a story. It's an epic. It's a feel good call back to the likes of Mrs. Potter's Lullaby. It's the prefect summer song. It's flows flawlessly from the distant sounding trumpet solo to Adam Duritz's vocals; fresh, refreshed, and slightly jazzy. I think the lyrics to the song might be the origin to the "come outside, come out your window...." lyric inserts Duritz has been adding to live versions of Round Here over the last couple years. Or maybe I'm wrong, who knows. But seriously though, the lyrics are good. And then there's the hook right before the chorus. Good gourd, the hook. But my favorite line, well, lines, the few lines out of the whole 8 minute song, that speak to me the most, right now anyway are:

"Andy said, "Man, I need a break from the world outside"
And these days my life just careens through a pinball machine
I could do so much better but I can't get off the tilt"

The last couple years my life has felt just like that.

The song builds as it goes, grows, grabs your attention every step of the way...Palisades Park is an instant classic"



"Earthquake Driver" is a trip. On the outside a jaunty, melodic ride of guitars and carefully timed hand claps. When you listen to the words, you realize it goes deeper than that. I hear it as someone who wants to be involved, someone who doesn't want to be alone, someone who wants to be. Maybe that's why I'm drawn to the song. Or maybe it's just the carefully timed hand claps.



The song that held the title of favorite up until the whole record came out is "God of Ocean Tides." For as much as I love the guitar driven, rocking Crows songs, I love those classic Durtiz ballads even more. "God of Ocean Tides" has a bit of a "Washington Square" twang to it, but a bit dreamier. The simple acoustic guitars flow flawlessly throughout the song, the piano dancing along beside them. There are so many lines in this song that I love. I won't list them all, it'd take to much time. So I'll just leave you with this one:
"Colored lights and birthday cakes
Candle wax on paper plates
Breathe the water
Hush-a-bye
You can see through the water
All the way up to the sky"



The record jumps from electric guitar laden to acoustic and then back again. "Johnny Appleseed's Lament" is one of the heavy guitar laden tracks. It is also one of the songs on the record that surprised me the most. It's one that up until the record came out I hadn't heard. One that I had no idea what to expect. "Johnny Appleseed's Lament" is a confessional song. It opens much like "Round Here" but moves in a different direction:
"I stepped out the front door into winter and the world outside
I stepped out the door to New York City
My hair was barely dry
I could not remember where I was going
So I went back inside"

The song is like a narrative, with the writer expressing insights into thoughts and dreams and love and life: “Come on Adam, tell me what the hell is wrong with you
Come on Adam, what the hell am I supposed to do?
I could love you, I could leave you, but I can’t live with what you put me through”

In some ways the song reminds me of the unreleased, holy grail of Crows songs, "August and Everything After." Autobiographical, honest, whole:
"I cigarette the winter air
and then I Fred Astaire my way down 7th Street
Some chick yells 'Jesus loves you more than I know, but less than I need'
I parade down the Bowery to the Battery
and then I step off into the air
Point my sunglasses east toward Jerusalem
And then follow all the Pharaohs there..."

But I think my favorite part of the whole song, the part that gives me all the feels:
"I call the wind Maria because I do not know her face
I call the endless sky Amelia
Because she stays with me from place to place
I call the sun my love Emmanuelle
Because she cradled me in her embrace"

The damn song just gets better and better every time I listen to it. And those guitars. Holy cow.




The song that blew me away the most, the song that when I first listened to it left me breathless (literally, I had to remind myself to breathe, it hit me that hard,) the song that still after listening to it like three dozen times still gives me butterflies is "Possibility Days"

Why? It's amazing, first off. The words are ridiculously brilliant. The song is heartbreakingly beautiful. Adam's vocals are perfect, with a hint of yearning, a vulnerability, that makes them infectious. The lyrics tell of love, of love that just doesn't work, of love no one wants to admit isn't working, of love that falls apart. The personal aspect the story makes the song all that much better.

"It was a cold 3am at JFK
I guess you stayed because you wanted to stay
We went from zero to everything all in a day
And then Kennedy took you away...

You know that the worst part of a good day
is hearing yourself say goodbye to one more possibility day
it goes on and on...

And the worst part of a good day is knowing it's slipping away...

We were waiting for winter this year
But you came and it never appeared
Me and you, we know too many reasons
For people and seasons that pass like they weren't even here"



And on and on with word that mean so much. Word that stop my heart waiting for the next line. Words that I haven't been able to get out of my head since I first heard the song. Word to a melody that waltzes through my body with every beat. Words that with every note make me fall even more for this band.

Every song on this record is brilliant. Every song is worth everything it offers. This record is a long awaited collection of the most brilliant songs the band has ever put together. The band is sounding tighter than ever,  Duritz's writing is just as awesome as it's ever been, if not better and his vocals are sounding better than ever, refreshed, fresh, healthy. I listen to the record and am just so happy that I have this band in my life, that I can call Adam a friend.

I highly recommend getting your hands on this record, getting your ears on this record (If you haven't already)

If you want it, the track list:

1. "Palisades Park"
2. "Earthquake Driver"
3. "Dislocation"
4. "God of Ocean Tides"
5. "Scarecrow"
6. "Elvis Went to Hollywood"
7. "Cover Up the Sun"
8. "John Appleseed's Lament"
9. "Possibility Days"  



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Single Review - Palisades Park - Counting Crows


Counting Crows have a new single out. It's called Palisades Park. It's the first track off their upcoming, 7th studio release (out September 2, 2014) titled "Somewhere Under Wonderland"

Within one listen there's one thing I know for sure: Counting Crows are back. Now, I'm not saying that they ever really left, but this single is reminiscent of classic Crows. "Somewhere Under Wonderland" is the bands first record of original music since 2008's "Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings" and as a Counting Crows fan, I can tell you that this is a welcome, long awaited addition to their catalog. While 2012's "Underwater Sunshine" was a brilliant album, it was a covers album, and well, I know the world is ready for some Duritz originals.

And we get one. Palisades Park is a story. It's an epic. It's a feel good call back to the likes of Mrs. Potter's Lullaby. It's the prefect summer song. It's flows flawlessly from the distant sounding trumpet solo to Adam Duritz's vocals; fresh, refreshed, and slightly jazzy. I think the lyrics to the song might be the origin to the "come outside, come out your window...." lyric inserts Duritz has been adding to live versions of Round Here over the last couple years. Or maybe I'm wrong, who knows. But seriously though, the lyrics are good. And then there's the hook right before the chorus. Good gourd, the hook. But my favorite line, well, lines, the few lines out of the whole 8 minute song, that speak to me the most, right now anyway are:

"Andy said, "Man, I need a break from the world outside"
And these days my life just careens through a pinball machine
I could do so much better but I can't get off the tilt"

The last couple years my life has felt just like that. 

The song builds as it goes, grows, grabs your attention every step of the way. The band, Dan Vickrey, David Immergluck, Dave Bryson, Millard Powers, Charlie Gillingham, and Jim Bogios, backing with the talent we've come to expect from them, but always proves to exceed expectations.

Palisades Park is an instant classic, though that phrase has never really made sense to me. It's got to be one of the best Counting Crows tracks I've heard in a while (and I love all of them, so that's saying something.) If the first track is this good, I can't even imagine how ridiculously good the rest of the album is going to be.
Pre-order "Somewhere Under Wonderland" via iTunes, or to pre-order vinyl packages, go here.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Album Review - Phox - Phox



Breezy, whimsical, melodically magical. These are the words that come to mind when listening to Baraboo, Wisconsin's Phox.

With their self titled debut record hitting stores June 24th, the indie music world had no idea what they are about to hear. The record is flawless. Lead singer Monica Martin's voice is one of the best I've heard in a
long time; the airiness of her vocals, the lyrics seem to float on the melodies. The songs seem effortless. The backing band never failing to perfectly match the feelings the lyrics bring.

The album as a whole is a refreshing listen. I don't even know how to being to describe the sound. Take a little 1960s girl group, add a bit of pop, a bit of folk, a bit of magic, a clarinet solo, and I guess there you have it. That is Phox.

Of the twelve tracks on the album, Slow Motion, 1936 (which for some reason reminds me of my grandmother,) Noble Heart and Kingfisher are my favorite songs. But really, they are all my favorite.

This album is an essential for listening on warm, breezy summer afternoons, moonlit summer nights, and all times in between. I'm sure It's even great in Spring, Fall and Winter.

The band is currently on tour. Check out the schedule here: http://phoxband.com/

Get the record at iTunes, Amazon or at your local Barnes & Noble, or at the website above.







Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Lesson in Song: Counting Crows Deep Cuts


My favorite band, Counting Crows, are going on tour this summer. Not that it's a rare thing, they go on tour nearly every summer. Which is fantastic; they are an AMAZING live band.

There are different kinds of people who go to these concerts. You have the super die-hard fans who follow the band around, you have the fans who see the band when ever they come to their town, and then you have the casual fans, the people who have one or two of the band's albums, or who liked the band "back in the day" and saw that they were playing a local show, and well, they have nothing going on that night, so sure, they'll go. I'll admit that the first time I saw Counting Crows back in 2009, I was a casual fan, but now I'm one of those die-hard fans.


The funniest thing to me about the casual fan is that they get really, really excited when the "radio hits" get played, or on the other hand, get pissy when they don't. But Counting Crows is far more than the radio hits. In fact, some of their best work hasn't ever made it to the radio. So, for the casual fan, I've put together, in my opinion, and also taking suggestions from friends, a list of essential Counting Crows' Deep Cuts, or songs you should know before seeing the band this summer. Now, there's no guarantee that they will play these songs, but at least you'll be prepared if they do.


1. Cowboys - Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

There's a very, very slim chance of the band playing this song. But that doesn't mean it's not one to know. The guitars are amazing, Adam's vocals incredible, and the song as a whole is just incendiary. The lyrics are some of my favorite ever, the story they tell, well, just check it out.




2. Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes To Hollywood) - Hard Candy
Hard Candy is a hell of a record. There are so many amazing songs on that album, a few of them will show up here, Up All Night is just the first. From the simple piano intro to all the fantastic guitar work, to Adam's brilliant vocals, this song is all around great. It's one of my favorites to sing in the car, and though the band plays it frequently at live shows, I have yet to experience it. Maybe this year?



3. Anna Begins/Margery Dreams of Horses/Another Horsedeamer's Blues - August & Everything After/Bootleg/Recovering the Satellites

I've read that the trilogy of Anna/Margery/Horsedreamer was both intentional and unknown/unintentional. Does it really matter? Probably not. All I know is that these are three great songs, and being that they all weave together is great. 


4. Baby I'm a Big Star Now - The Rounders Movie Soundtrack

Now we're getting into the real deep stuff. You won't find this song on any Crows albums, it's not even on
the Rounders soundtrack on iTunes, if you want it you'll have to do some digging, but it's totally worth it.




5. Chelsea - Across A Wire: Live in New York City
To call this a Counting Crows song may be slightly incorrect, it's really just Adam Duritz, a piano and a horn section. But that doesn't make it any less special. Listening to this song makes you dream of NYC, makes you visualize every word. But again, don't expect to see this one live, unless you've brought along your own horn section.


6. Kid Things – This Desert Life
When you make it to the end of St. Robinson on This Desert Life, you’re treated with the hidden track Kid Things. This jaunty little tune is complete with jangley guitars and great pop-rock vocals. The Crows will sometimes play this one live, sometimes. 


7.  Good Time - Hard Candy
Another awesome song from Hard Candy, Good Time showcases one of my favorite things about the band: the guitar players. Not only is the acoustic guitar great, and there’s the added bonus of the banjo, but the main attraction for me is that sultry, slide-y guitar from David Immergl├╝ck. And there’s that last “would you please invite me in?” that just kills me every time.


8. On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago – Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
This song is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s just Adam Duritz singing, backed simply by Charlie Gillingham on the piano. From the “Sunday Mornings” side of the record, the songs lonely, yearning feeling fits so well with the theme of the record as a whole. The
“come back to me” lines just gut you.  It doesn't get much better than that. 


9.  August and Everything After – Bootleg
This is the quintessential Counting Crows deep cut, the ultimate bootleg, the holy grail of Counting Crows songs; the title track of their first record that never made it on the record, or any record for that matter. There are a few versions of this song floating around the interwebs. In my opinion, it is lyrically the best thing Adam Duritz has ever written. I even found my favorite version for you. Enjoy.


10. Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation)
Yes. The whole damn album. I’m always surprised how many “fans” don’t know about this record. Or they heard about it, but as it is a covers album, didn’t pay much attention to it. It’s their loss, the record is fantastic. Yes, it’s all covers, but the band takes all the songs and makes them their own. Most of the songs unfamiliar songs, so you’d never know they were covers if you didn’t know they were covers. Like Teenage Gravity, Start Again, Four White Stallions, and Borderline (iTunes bonus track) are my favorite tracks, but the whole record is golden.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Album Review - The Take Off and Landing of Everything - Elbow

My first experience with Elbow wasn't even with Elbow, it was Counting Crows. They weaved Elbow's Lippy Kids into their own Rain King during a live show. The track was then released on Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow. From this brief interlude of music I was drawn to Elbow, and proceeded to get their 2011 release, Build a Rocket Boys!, from whence Lippy Kids came. That record left be breathless. It in some very small, but meaningful ways, changed my life. It remains one of the most beautiful records I have ever heard. Along their 2012 release Dead in the Boot, Elbow has become a band I listen to daily, sometimes solely for days on end. So, needless to say, when Elbow announced they were making another record, I couldn't wait for the release day. I waited patiently for several months for the March 3rd (digital) release. I didn't immediately download it when the day came around, as I was in Austin for SXSW, and knew I'd be getting new music there, and thus and wanted to wait until I got home to fully immerse myself in the new Elbow. However, this didn't work. I couldn't wait anymore. I broke down and got the record on 3/10.

Over a month later, this record is still hitting me in just the right places. It's one of those records that keeps you thinking, keeps the songs in your brain for long after they are over. These are songs that stay with you, and that's one of the best things a song can be. Aside from being on of my new favorite songwriters, there's just something about singer Guy Garvey's voice. I find it soothing, almost calming, yet bold and powerful at the same time. It may also have something to do with the fact that he's British (I have always had a very soft spot for the Brits.) I have found it tricky to precisely describe Elbow's sound to people who haven't heard of them, but Peter Gabriel and Coldplay have come to mind, while some songs are almost Smiths like, in the best way possible.

The Take Off and Landing of Everything is the band's sixth studio album, and much like Build a Rocket Boys! before it, is packed with ten of the most listenable, mood-changeable, uplifting, depressingly wonderful songs one could ever hope for. The melodies and harmonies are some of the best I've heard in a long time. This is a record that almost requires being listened to with headphones, very loudly, as to block out any outside distraction, in a quiet room, just to take in all it has to offer, all the emotion that these songs will put you through. For me, listening to this record, even now, over a month later, is still a welcome musical journey into my soul.

The album takes you from the soft, welcoming melodies of "This Blue World" to the more guitar laden, jaunty "Fly Boy Blue/Lunette" and "Charge", to the superb vocal back and forth of "My Sad Captains" kind of gives you the feeling of rocking back and forth, like on a boat. The title track, "The Take Off and Landing of Everything" samples music from "With Love" from Build a Rocket Boys! while keeping the integrity of the new album. The song has a catchy rhythm and feel to it, but you can feel the deeper meaning of its words the more you listen to it. "Colour Fields" has a sort of 80s synth pop feel to it, bringing in hints of the band's Peter Gabriel influence.

I think though, for all the brilliant words, notes, sounds, feels on this record my favorite track is "New York Morning". "New York Morning" is the first song I heard off the record, a few weeks before it's release, it's the song that told me that Elbow had done it again. I can, and have, listen to this song over and over without thought of anything else. The aural masterpiece worms into every sense you have. You can almost see the song as it plays in your ears, smell the streets of New York, feel the crisp autumn New York air on your skin. Just hit repeat and experience the song over and over; turn it up, close your eyes, become the song:

The First to put a simple truth in words
Binds the world in a feeling all familiar
'Cause everybody owns the great ideas
And it feels like there's a big one 'round the corner

Antenna up and out into New York
Somewhere in all that talk is all the answers
And oh my giddy aunt New York can talk
It's the modern Rome and folk are nice to Yoko

Every bone of rivet steel
Each corner stone and angle
Jenga jut and rusted water tower
Pillar, post and sign
Every painted line and battered ladder building in this town
Sings a life of proud endeavour and the best that man can be
Me I see a city and I hear a million voices
Planning, drilling, welding, carrying their fingers to the nub
Reaching down into the ground
Stretching up into the sky
Why?
Because they can
They did and do
So you and I could live together

Oh my God New York can talk
Somewhere in all that talk is all the answers
Everybody owns the great ideas
And it feels like there's a big one round the corner

The desire in the patchworks symphony
the desire like a distant storm
For love
Did it come from me
'Cause it feels like there's a big on round the corner

The way the day begins
Decides the shade of everything
But the way it ends depends on if you're home
For every soul a pillow and a window please
In the modern Rome where folk are nice to Yoko

There are bands who I have discovered accidentally who quickly become a big part of my music life. Though their discovery may not have been completely accidental, Elbow is one of these bands. I'm excited to see them live in May in Portland, Oregon, and excited to see what they have in store for the future.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Remembering Dave Lamb (Brown Bird)

It's not that I really knew Dave Lamb of Brown Bird. I'd only meet him and MorganEve Swain twice at shows in Seattle and Spokane. But they were the first band I met from all the bands I got into after discovering the Outlaw Roadshow, and they were the first band I wrote about for the blog. Dave was always super nice each time I met them, even giving me a shout out from the stage the time I saw them in Seattle (I had driven out from Spokane for the show.) Though they technically weren't friends, I still referred to them as such, and it's hard when bad things happen to good friends.

Just under a year ago, Dave Lamb was diagnosed with Leukemia. He fought the hard fight, but on April 5, 2014 he lost the battle. For as sad as this made me, I can't even imagine what his family is going through right now. Sure, they knew going in that this may happen, but no one is ever really prepared for someone so young passing away. Dave Lamb is the only person I've ever known in my age bracket to die. It's kinda weird for me to think about.

Dave was an amazing person, musician and songwriter. His brand of Americana Folk was a refreshing thing to discover. I instantly fell for Brown Bird's music after I heard their song "Fingers to the Bone," from 2011's Salt for Salt. For being a two-piece band, they have the sound, heart and soul of a "full" band. Salt for Salt is now one of my favorite records, and their follow-up record, Fits of Reason is amazing as well, showing the duo's musical evolution. I can't say enough about how much I love the music, and even though I really didn't know Dave, how much I will miss him and the music.

There's a track on Salt for Salt called "Bilgewater," which is one of my favorite songs. There's one bit of the song, a couple lines, that have meant so much to me, and helped get me through some stuff, and I'm grateful to have it in my life:

"when everyday’s like a war between the will to go on
and a wish that the world would spiral into the sun
turn your head toward the storm that’s surely coming along"

But there is one line from that song that I've sort of adopted as a personal mantra of sorts, one line that now that I have it, I don't think I can give it up:

"have the strength to know you’re wrong
and when you’re right the strength to stand your ground"

Thank you Dave Lamb for all the music. You will be missed.