Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing

"American Goldwing," the latest from Blitzen Trapper, is one of my favorite records of 2011. You can stream it free and in its entirety below...

"Poi Dog Pondering Concert Film DVD / Live Recording Set" Kickstarter Project

If you love Poi Dog Pondering -- in my opinion one of the best live performing bands of the last 20 years -- you're going to want to get in on the their new Kickstarter project.

As you may know, earlier this month Poi Dog performed a two-night retrospective at Chicago's Metro. The first night featured the Austin lineup playing songs from the first three albums: Poi Dog Pondering (1989), Wishing Like a Mountain and Thinking Like the Sea (1990) and Volo Volo (1992). The second night featured the Chicago lineup playing songs from the last five albums: Pomegranate (1995), Natural Thing (1999), In Seed Comes Fruit (2003), 7 (2008) and Audio Love Letter (2011).

This Kickstarter campaign, which to date has raised over $25,000, will help finance the editing, production and release of both a video and audio recording of those concerts. For as little as $25, you'll be able to download the Retrospective concert 2 album set before it's public release. For higher contributions, the rewards just get better, including: a DVD of the shows in Chicago, a poster, t-shirt, your name listed in the credits, an art box, a visit to the PdP studio, one of Frank's musical instruments, and even a dinner party cooked by Frank.

So what are you waiting for? Click the link!

Simple Minds - "Hypnotised" and "She's A River"

"Don't You Forget About Me" would represent the peak of Simple Minds' popularity here in the United States, hitting #1 in 1984 thanks to appearing on the soundtrack of The Breakfast Club.

"Once Upon a Time," the album that followed, would be certifed Gold in the US, but sales of subsequent Simple Minds' records would follow a downward trajectory.

Too bad. Simple Minds have sold 40 million records worldwide and recorded nine studio albums in the last 25 years, all consistently excellent.

These tracks are off 1995's "Good News from the Next World," their sixth consecutive Platinum record in the UK.

The Verve - "Gravity Grave"

Most people in the States wouldn't discover The Verve until 1997, with the release of "Urban Hymns," their third and most commercially successful studio album. By then, The Verve had already dissolved at least once and would soon dissolve again.

"Gravity Grave" was the first song on The Verve's first studio release in 1992, the Verve EP. Back then they were known simply as "Verve," and perhaps were dismissed by some as being simply another shoegaze band. But it's clear from "Gravity Grave" that The Verve's sound combined elements of shoegaze, neo-psychedelia and space rock while also managing to be distinctly their own.

Talk Talk - "It's My Life"

Can you name 10 pop singles from the 1980s that are better than "It's My Life" by Talk Talk? No, you can't.

Dia de los Muertos | November 2, 2011 | San Francisco, CA

Watch live video from festivalfreak on

Last night was my third Dia de los Muertos in San Francisco. In 2009, a friend and I were observers, watching the spectacle from the sidewalk. Last year, we donned skull masks. This year we painted our faces in traditional Day of the Dead face paint and joined the procession. I carried a bouquet of orange flowers and a picture of a dear friend who passed away in July.

Caitlin Donohue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian("Start your day off dead: Your Dia de los Muertos events guide") writes:
"There is probably no more devastatingly beautiful day in San Francisco as today, Dia de los Muertos."
I agree. Dia de los Muertos is beautiful and devastating, because while it's seems festive with it's music, dance and pageantry, at it's core it's a solemn event, a time for remembering the dearly departed.

I believe we need ritual in our lives, whether it revolves around the changing of the seasons, life or death. Dia de los Muertos has become a new ritual for me, something I look forward to and take solace in.

The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"

El Camino, the seventh studio album by The Black Keys, comes out December 6. Until then, we'll be watching this video over and over again. And working on our moves.

The Happiest DJ In The World

That's the title of this video on YouTube and I won't argue.

Trixie Whitley - "Oh The Joy"

"No fancy camera’s, no effects, no mic’s or amps, just a little coffee table and a song for you…"

I love the powerful simplicity of this song, Trixie's voice and the video. If her name sounds familiar, it's because she's the daughter of Chris Whitley. She's from Belgium and has recently toured with Daniel Lanois' Black Dub. You may not know Trixie Whitley now, but you will.

Elbow - "One Day Like This"

After being a big fan since hearing "Cast of Thousands" in 2003, yesterday I finally got to see Elbow live. What a spectacular performance! The fact that they played at my favorite music festival in America, right in my backyard, only made it sweeter.

Their performance of "One Day Like This" was easily one of the weekend's highlights. It's difficult to describe the sublime feeling of joy hearing Guy lead the crowd in the ascending chorus:
"So throw those curtains wide!
One day like this a year would see me right."
If I hadn't been so enraptured and in the moment, I might have recorded it for posterity. Alas, a video of Elbow performing "One Day Like This" with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Radio 3 choir of the year Chantage will have to suffice.

Austin City Limits Festival - 2011 Playlists & Picks

After missing the last two years due to scheduling conflicts, I couldn't be happier to be back in Austin for the 10th anniversary festival.

Below you'll find my picks for the three-day weekend with selected YouTube videos.

If you're a MOG subscriber, or are ready to sign-up for a free trial, I've also created playlists for Friday and Saturday.

I'll be live blogging and posting images throughout the weekend, so follow me on Twitter @festivalfreak.


Austin City Limits Festival - Picks for Friday, September 16, 2011

Futurebirds - "APO"

Theophilus London - "Humdrum Town"

James Blake - "Limit To Your Love"

Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs - "Repo Man"

Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs - "Beg, Steal or Borrow"

Kurt Vile "Baby's Arms"

Foster The People - "Pumped Up Kicks"

Charles Bradley - "Why Is It So Hard"

Austin City Limits Festival - Picks for Saturday, September 17, 2011

Aloe Blacc - "I Need A Dollar"

Phosphorescent - "Full Grown Man"

Iron & Wine - "Tree By The River"

Fitz and the Tantrums - "MoneyGrabber"

Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You"

TV on the Radio - "Staring at the Sun"

Stevie Wonder - "Superstition"

Austin City Limits Festival - Picks for Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mariachi El Bronx - "Slave Labor"

The Greencards - "Another Night"

Joseph Arthur - "In The Sun"

Elbow - "Grounds For Divorce"

Gomez - "See The World"

Fleet Foxes - "Ragged Wood"

Arcade Fire - "Ready To Start"

Yacht Rock

Thanks to eMusic Radio, I just discovered the Yacht Rock video series, "following the fictionalized lives and careers of American soft rock stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s." Pretty funny.

Outside Lands Video Highlights

Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs"

The Shins - "Caring Is Creepy"

Foster the People - "Call It What You Want"

Mavis Staples - "The Weight" (featuring Win Butler)

The Decemberists - "The Mariner's Revenge Song"

The Decemberists - "O Valencia!"

Junip - "Without You"

Deadmau5 - "Raise Your Weapon"

tUnE-yArDs - "Bizness"


Girl Talk

Charles Bradley - Heart of Gold

The Shins - "New Slang"

ArcadeFire - "Wake Up"


Outside Lands (highlights)

tUnE-yArDs - "Bizness" [Outside Lands]

The tUnE-YarDs will play on Sunday at this year's Outside Lands Festival from 1:15pm - 2:00pm on the Sutro Stage.

Charles Bradley - "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" [Outside Lands]

Charles Bradley, "The Screaming Eagle of Soul," and The Menahan Street Band will play on Sunday at this year's Outside Lands Festival from 12:15pm - 1:15pm on the Lands End Stage.

It's early, I know, but if you're a fan of funk, soul and R&B (think James Brown, Otis Redding or Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings) you don't want to miss this set. It could be one of the highlights of the day, if not the entire weekend.

MGMT - "Kids" [Outside Lands]

MGMT will play on Friday at this year's Outside Lands Festival from 4:35pm - 5:45pm on the Lands End Stage.

I can understand why Another Planet decided to put MGMT on the big stage, right before Phish, but after seeing this you've got to wonder, how much better would they have been playing at night?

The Shins - "Sleeping Lessons" [Outside Lands]

The Shins will play on Friday at this year's Outside Lands Festival from 8:40pm - 9:50pm on the Twin Peaks Stage.

My guess is that the young hipsters and funky children will head towards Twin Peaks once Best Coast and Erykah Badu finish their sets at 8:35pm and 9pm, respectively. Those who decide to join the stoners, hippies and senior citizens who are already 2+ hours into Phish's set, do so at their own peril.

Note: This is from a set that James Mercer and company played during a rehearsal at the Crystal Ballroom about four years ago. Next week will be the first time I've seen The Shins since Mercer disbanded the group and formed Broken Bells with Danger Mouse.

Foster the People - "Call It What You Want" [Outside Lands]

Los-Angeles based Foster the People will play on Friday at this year's Outside Lands Festival from 3:40pm - 4:30pm on the Sutro Stage.

I expect it to be one of the day's highlights. (Sorry, Toro y Moi.)

After Foster's set, don't be surprised by the mass exodus of kids heading to the Lands End stage, where MGMT goes on at 4:35pm.

Outside Lands Festival - Friday, August 12, 2011 [PLAYLIST]

outside lands festival 2010
photo by lilszeto

If you're going to the Outside Lands Festival this year and you're a procrastinator like me, you probably haven't done your homework yet.

Festival Freak is here to help. I've just loaded a 335-song playlist of artists playing Outside Lands on Friday, 8/12/11 to

This playlist includes the latest albums by MGMT, The Shins, Foster the People, Phish, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Phantogram, Big Boi, Best Coast, Ellie Goulding, Erykah Badu
Toro Y Moi, The Joy Formidable, The Original Meters, The Limousines, Lotus, Big Audio Dynamite, New Orleans Klezmer Allstars and Release The Sunbird.

If you're not already a MOG subscriber, sign up for a free three-day trial. You won't regret it. And stay tuned. I'll have playlists for Saturday and Sunday up soon, as well as videos by some of my favorite artists who'll be playing Outside Lands this year.


Poi Dog Pondering - "Jack Ass Ginger"

Life is a long river learned from your past/
Been reading my history to learn what the others have seen
The dying days of the Cold War were heady times in Austin, Texas. At least they were for me and my friends. We were young, romantic, pseudo-intellectual, slacker psychonauts, discovering Whitman, Nietzsche, Kerouac, McKenna and music, sweet music.

We all heard the story about how Frank Orral was from Hawai'i, but left on a big busking adventure seeking fortune and fame and found, by some cosmic accident circa 1987, a receptive audience in Austin. Frank's rag tag collective of musicians called themselves Poi Dog Pondering. None of us knew what a "poi dog" was, but we liked the sound of it.

Poi Dog Pondering provided the perfect soundtrack for those sun-dappled, carefree lazy days, combining the right amounts of pop, world music, and folk drenched in optimism and joi de vivre.

Poi Dog Pondering seemed to be everywhere around Austin those days, on the Drag, at the Union, in Zilker Park. When Frank showed up in Richard Linklater's directorial debut, "Slacker," it was no surprise. Frank was emblematic of that special time and place in the universe. It was no surprise, either, when Columbia signed Poi Dog to a record deal.

Their third record, "Volo Volo," which means "revolver" in some Polynesian tongue, was a masterpiece, but the record buying public didn't get it, so Columbia dropped the band.

This was always my favorite song, live and on record. On the surface, the song is about bodysurfing, something I take it that Frank did a lot of growing up in Hawai'i. But to me it's always been about life.
Stop for a moment and listen to the wind
See the trees, leaves the sun they catch and
their rustling din.
Breathe deep
Fill up with relief
Don't go mad, don't go mad.

Electric Light Orchestra - "Evil Woman"

I was just six years old in 1975, when E.L.O. released their fifth album, "Face the Music." "Evil Woman" was the first single and the band's first worldwide hit.

I have a fond memory of hearing this song while riding with my Dad in his red Ford F150, running errands in Belvedere, South Carolina, where we lived for a few years. In retrospect, the song must have been on the radio, since it's not the kind of music he listens to, now or then. (I recall that eight-track tapes of Elton John and Olivia Newton-John, both going through country phases, were in heavy rotation.)

Two years later, I bought my first album (vinyl, of course) and it was E.L.O.'s "A New World Record," arguably their best. But, to my taste, no song on that record sounds better than "Evil Woman."

(Funny note: my wife used to think the chorus was "Medieval Woman." Listen for yourself. I can't hear this song now without hearing Jeff Lynne sing "medieval woman.")

Blur - "Girls & Boys" (Live "Hyde Park" 2009)

After reading a New York Times profile of Blur's Damon Albarn ("Damon Albarn’s Shapeshifting Career"), I decided to queue up the entire 106-track Blur catalog on MOG and do some reminiscing.

Damn, if "Leisure" doesn't sound as kick-ass now as it did 20 years ago. Two tracks into "Modern Life is Rubbish," and it's never sounded better.

Now I'm kicking myself for missing their reunion shows in Hyde Park two years ago.

Deerhunter - "Helicopter" [Bonnaroo]

Deerhunter play Thursday, from 11:30 PM - 12:45 AM, in That Tent.

The Walkmen - "The Rat" [Bonnaroo]

The Walkmen play Thursday, from 10:00 PM - 11:00 PM, in That Tent.

The Knux - "Cappuccino" [Bonnaroo]

The Knux play Thursday, from 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM, in This Tent.

School of Seven Bells - "Half Asleep" [Bonnaroo]

School of Seven Bells play Thursday, from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM, in That Tent.

Freelance Whales - "Generator 1st Floor" [Bonnaroo]

Freelance Whales play Thursday, from 5:30pm-6:30pm, in That Tent.

Futurebirds - "Megachills" [Bonnaroo]

In the leadup to this year's Bonnaroo Music Festival, I'll be posting videos by the bands I plan on seeing, in order, from Thursday to Sunday.

First up, Futurebirds play Thursday, from 4:15pm-5pm, in That Tent.

Jane's Addiction Play Google I/O 2011 After Hours Party

Setlist: Jane’s Addiction, Moscone Center, San Francisco, Calif. 5/10/11

1. “Stop!”
2. “Ain’t No Right”
3. “End To The Lies”
4. “Just Because”
5. “Ted, Just Admit It”
6. “Been Caught Stealing”
7. “Mountain Song”
8. “Jane Says

Brandon at stereogum writes:
What better way to unveil your new music service than to hire old guys to soundtrack its launch? Just kidding. But, as you may have heard, the reborn Jane’s Addiction did indeed handle the entertainment section of yesterday’s Google I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco. They sounded good. And check out the sea of nerds capturing the moment by hiding behind their electronic devices of choice.
One YouTube commenter said: "I can't think of a bigger waste of an audience than this. It's like Led Zeppelin reunited for a private performance at the Vatican."

Clearly, he's never been to a Google, Oracle or Genentech after party.

James McMurtry - "We Can't Make Here"

The Dean of American rock critics, Robert Christgau, called James McMurtry's "We Can't Make Here" the best song of the Aughts, and I wouldn't argue with him.

From The Washington Post ("Aughts were a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers"):
The past decade was the worst for the U.S. economy in modern times, a sharp reversal from a long period of prosperity that is leading economists and policymakers to fundamentally rethink the underpinnings of the nation's growth.

It was, according to a wide range of data, a lost decade for American workers. There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. No previous decade going back to the 1940s had job growth of less than 20 percent. Economic output rose at its slowest rate of any decade since the 1930s as well.

Middle-income households made less in 2008, when adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1999 -- and the number is sure to have declined further during a difficult 2009. The Aughts were the first decade of falling median incomes since figures were first compiled in the 1960s.

And the net worth of American households -- the value of their houses, retirement funds and other assets minus debts -- has also declined when adjusted for inflation, compared with sharp gains in every previous decade since data were initially collected in the 1950s.

Alice In Chains - "Man In The Box"

With the release of their debut album "Facelift" in 1990, Alice in Chains hit the music scene like a rush of blood to the head. For those of us who dug their sound, and there were many, we never knew what hit us.

"Man in the Box" was the first single off "Facelift," and since MTV still played videos back in the 1990s, it was most people's first exposure to the distinctive sounds of Layne Staley's voice and Jerry Cantrell's guitar.

Alice in Chains was usually lumped in with other Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. While they certainly benefited from the exposure related to their association with the grunge scene, I never really considered them to be a grunge band. Neither did Jerry Cantrell.
"We're a lot of different things... I don't quite know what the mixture is, but there's definitely metal, blues, rock and roll, maybe a touch of punk. The metal part will never leave, and I never want it to"
In the age of iPods and peer-to-peer sharing, it's difficult to imagine that a band this dark and this heavy could ever sell 40 million albums worldwide and 16 million in the US, but Alice in Chains did. They also had two number-one Billboard 200 albums (Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains), 14 top ten songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and eight Grammy Award nominations. Unbelievable and totally deserved.

It's ironic, and ultimately sad, that the EP which preceded "Facelift" was titled "We Die Young," since both Layne Staley and Mike Starr did indeed die young. Layne Staley, Alice in Chains' vocalist and co-lyricist, died in 2002 of a drug overdose at the age of of 34. Bassist Mike Starr died in 2011 at the age of 44.

It's cliche to say it, but their music lives on.

Joseph Arthur & The Lonely Astronauts - "Black Lexus"

Live at the Independent, San Francisco, CA, November 15, 2006

Cypress Hill - "Hits From The Bong"

I find it amusing that Cypress Hill, the Los Angeles-based hip hop group that has made a career out of stoner rap, chooses to play San Francisco's Fillmore on April 20, year after year after year. Suck it, LA!

Happy 4/20, boys and girls.

Videos from 2011 Coachella

I missed Coachella this year, but thanks to YouTube (and 5 Gum) I was still able to see some of my favorite bands perform live.

If you visit the Coachella YouTube channel now, you'll find performances by Flogging Molly, Gayngs, Mumford & Sons, !!!, Warpaint, Ozomatli, Broken Social Scene, Two Door Cinema Club, Jack's Mannequin and Freelance Whales. Hopefully more video will be posted in the coming days.

See you in Indio next year!

David Bowie - "Let's Dance"

David Bowie's 1983 album, "Let's Dance," represents the peak of his popular success and the introduction of Texas blues guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan to a wider audience.

In central Texas, everyone knew who Stevie Ray Vaughan was. His live shows had already become the stuff of legend, as had his blistering live set with Double Trouble at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland the year before. But it really wasn't until "Let's Dance" that people outside of Texas started to take notice of SRV.

"Modern Love" is my favorite single off of "Let's Dance," but this is the better video. Watching it now, it is outdated (bad clothes! bad hair!), disjointed (a mushroom cloud? aboriginals buying jewelry with an AMEX card?) and misleading (we're hearing Stevie's guitar at the end, not Bowie's), but still entertaining.

Animal Collective - "My Girls"

The success of Animal Collective is truly inexplicable, at least it would have been to many music listeners back in 2004. Their music defies genre, can seem dissonant at times and is often downright weird.

I wasn't sure what to make of them when I came across "Sung Tongs" in 2004, but there was something captivating about their distorted, dreamy sound that kept me listening. "Feels" came out the next year and it was a big step towards making Animal Collective more accessible, thanks to catchy tracks "Grass," "The Purple Bottle," and "Banshee Beat."

Then came "Merriweather Post Pavilion," which was arguably one of, if not the, best albums of 2009. Oddly enough, it took the departure of guitar player Deakin for the Collective to fully realize their unique sound. (In many ways, Panda Bear's "Person Pitch" is the sonic precursor to "Merriweather," moreso than "Feels.")

"My Girls" is the closest thing to a single we've ever heard from Animal Collective and it's irresistible. Pitchfork named it the #1 Song of 2009 and listed it #9 in their Top 500 Tracks of the 2000's. NME ranked it the 5th best song of 2009.

According to Panda Bear, "My Girls" is about his "desire on a basic level to own my own place and kind of provide a safe house for my family and the people I care about."

If you've never heard it before, I'm sure you'll like it. Everyone does.

Smashing Pumpkins - "Rhinoceros"

Almost 20 years ago, one of my roommates moved out and stole a bunch of my CDs. I never replaced most of them, but "Gish" and "Siamese Dream" by The Smashing Pumpkins I replaced right away.

"Gish" will always be my favorite Pumpkins album, as much for the songs as for what they represent. Listening to songs like "Rhinoceros" takes me back to a time and a place when I was 21 years old, going to college and living the dream without a care in the world.

The Pumpkins rolled through Austin on December 10, 1991 and opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. I can think of no good excuse for missing that show, except that I wasn't really that into Pearl Jam or the Chili Peppers at the time. Knowing what I know now about all three bands, if I could go back in time, I would camp out overnight to hear Billy Corgan sing "I Am One," "Siva," "Rhinoceros," and "Bury Me" from the front row.

The Chemical Brothers - "The Test" (featuring Richard Ashcroft)

From Wikipedia:
The 2002 music video for "The Test" features actress Holly Weston and is directed by Nick Goffey and Dominic Hawley. In the video Weston plays a girl who experiences an array of unusual situations. This includes swimming into a whale, meeting a female cyclops and watching her own body dissipate inbetween shots of being inside a dance club. It is implied that the video is a composite of hallucinations of someone in a club after taking LSD.

"Come with Us"/"The Test" is a double A-side single from The Chemical Brothers' 2002 album Come with Us. The vocals in "The Test" are performed by Richard Ashcroft (The Verve).

The spoken-word intro from "Come With Us" is sampled from "The Evidence" by Evidence. "The Test" contains a sample from "Pielgrzym" by Polish singer Czesław Niemen, first released in 1972.

Toad the Wet Sprocket - "All I Want"

Great band. Terrible band name.

Has it really been 20 years since Toad the Wet Sprocket released "Fear?" The album was a slow burner, back in the day when a record could take months or years to find its audience and it wasn't reason for a label to drop them. It took "Fear" more than a year to reach gold and more than three years to reach platinum, thanks in large part to the videos for "Walk on the Ocean" and "All I Want."

"All I Want" may not be your favorite Toad song, but it's probably the one that most people know. A little bit of pop perfection clocking in at three minutes and 16 seconds. If you ask me, it still sounds great 20 years later.

The Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs"

For once, the Grammys got it right -- "The Suburbs" by The Arcade Fire is indeed the Album of the Year.
Kids wanna be so hard
But in my dreams we're still screamin' and runnin' through the yard
And all of the walls that they built in the seventies finally fall
And all of the houses they built in the seventies finally fall
Meant nothin' at all
Meant nothin' at all
It meant nothin

Jeff Buckley - "Lover, You Should've Come Over"

I still get goose bumps when I hear Jeff Buckley's voice, especially this song off of his amazing debut, "Grace."

I was lucky enough to see Jeff twice -- at the Reading Festival on August 28, 1994 and at Liberty Lunch in Austin on April 29, 1995.

At Reading, I was in the Melody Maker Tent to see Morphine and American Music Club and didn't know who Jeff was. Before he went on, after Morphine and before AMC, I heard people buzzing about him, so I decided to stick around. He came out and sang his first two songs acapella. I don't remember the songs, but I remember what it felt like hearing his voice for the first time. Magical. I remember being close to the stage, no more than five feet from Jeff. The tent was silent except for his voice. His band stood silently, waiting. It's those kind of fleeting, quasi-religious moments that keep me going back to music festivals and live concerts.

It's eerie how preoccupied with death Jeff seems on "Grace," particularly in this song.
Looking out the door I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners
Parading in a wake of sad relations as their shoes fill up with water...

Sometimes a man gets carried away, when he feels like he should be having his fun...

My body turns and yearns for a sleep that will never come...

Lover, you should've come over, 'cause it's not too late
Jeff's drowning while swimming in the Mississippi River in Memphis on May 29, 1997 was a bizarre, cruel tragedy, not only to his friends and family, but to the growing legion of fans like me who had recently discovered his music.

We barely knew you, Jeff. I hope you and your father, Tim, are reunited in heaven and playing beautiful music together.

The Who - "Won't Get Fooled Again"

I was just reading a story about Bradley Manning, the US Army soldier who released classified documents to WikiLeaks and is now being being held "in extreme isolation in a Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia."

Whenever I learn about something done by the Obama administration that reminds me of something done by the Bush administration -- whether it's sending more troops to Afghanistan, breaking the promise to close Guantanamo, or backing "reform" legislation which benefits the industries that are responsible for making the legislation necessary in the first place (health care, banking) -- I'm reminded of Pete Townsend's lyrics in "Won't Get Fooled Again," the epic closing track off of The Who's 1971 masterpiece, "Who's Next." (Incidentally, "Who's Next" is #28 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.)

Forty years later, this song is as timely and meaningful as it ever was.
The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Citizen Cope - "Healing Hands"

Citizen Cope, aka Clarence Greenwood, is one of those rare artists who can uplift listeners with his music and his message.
Cause the actions of a few
Have put a world in harms way
And history has proven
That they killed our leaders dead
Here is Citizen Cope at the 2009 Austin City Limits Festival, performing "Healing Hands," off of his fourth studio album, "The Rainwater LP."

소녀시대 - "Gee"

My Korean is pretty rusty, so it took me a few minutes to translate/decipher the name of the group and title of this song.

The name of this nine-member South Korean girl (K-pop) group is 소녀시대 (So Nyeo Shi Dae), or Girls' Generation, also referred to as SoShi (소시), or SNSD.

This is the video for their 2009 hit single "Gee," which "holds the record for being the longest running #1 song on KBS's Music Bank, having held the #1 chart ranking for 9 consecutive weeks."

Granted, the music is vapid and entirely derivative, so mute the volume and just watch. What strikes me -- besides the fact that this video has been viewed over 37 MILLION TIMES since being uploaded to YouTube on June 8, 2009 -- is the choreography and cinematography. Who knows what it all means, but it's fun to watch. It's also nice to see that the storyline of "Mannequin" is fruitful fodder for young, Asian video directors.

UNKLE - "Lonely Soul" (featuring Richard Ashcroft)

Richard Ashcroft sang vocals on "Lonely Soul," a track on "Psyence Fiction," the 1998 debut album by UNKLE (James Lavelle, Tim Goldsworthy and DJ Shadow).

One song. Two video interpretations.

First, an amateur video made by "four 18 year old students with a budget of zero. all in all i dont think we did badly." All in all, I would agree.

Second, a video made with scenes from the 1984 Jim Jarmusch film, "Stranger Than Paradise."

Which do you prefer?

Morcheeba - "The Sea"

I've been a big fan of Morcheeba since I first heard Skye Edwards' voice on "Trigger Hippie." I bought their first album, "Who Can You Trust?", in the fall of 1996 and had it on repeat for weeks.

By the time Morcheeba released "Big Calm," I was prepared for disappointment. The "sophomore slump" is a music industry cliche, but one that's typically true. Not so for Morcheeba. Not only was "Big Calm" more accessible than "Who Can You Trust," it was also more sophisticated musically and lyrically.

Surprisingly, of the five singles released off of "Big Calm," only "The Sea" failed to chart -- "Part of the Process" reached #38, "Let Me See" hit #46, "Shoulder Holster" hit #53 and "Blindfold" topped out at #58.

As far as I can tell, there is no "official" video of "The Sea," the lead track and to my mind the best song on "Big Calm." If you like this song as much as I do, you'll enjoy this in-studio performance by Morcheeba on KCRW. You'll enjoy this acoustic version of "The Sea," too.

Ren & Stimpy - "The Log Song"

"It's better than bad, it's good."

Ion Audio Tailgater Portable PA System for iPod

My wife bought me the Ion Audio Tailgater Portable PA System for iPod for Christmas. Wow! It looks like a guitar amp, but it's really a kick-ass, portable party machine.

The Tailgater has an iPod dock, gets about 12 hours of playtime when fully charged and includes two jacks, so you can plug in microphones or an instrument.

We've used the Tailgater on the beach and at parties as a karaoke machine.

I have plans to buy a bike trailer so I can use the Tailgater as a mobile DJ station. You've got to admit, it would sure beat this guy's rig:

The Tailgater was a great deal at $279.99 when it was first released. Now that it's only $130.30 on Amazon with FREE shipping, you really can't beat it.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - The Warfield - February 19, 2011

godspeed you! black emperor

After talking my friend David into going with me to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Warfield Saturday night, I found someone with extra tickets on Craigslist and we made our way downtown.

The live music business might be in a slump, but you wouldn't have known it. When we arrived at The Warfield, we were surprised to find ourselves at the end of a very long line wrapping around Market Street. Inside there were more lines - at the merchandise table and at the bars. Already, it felt like we were at a happening, that musical memories were about to be made.


A night of majestic, epic instrumentals began with a low level drone as film projectors displayed the word "HOPE" in blinking, messy scrawl on a large screen above the stage.


Josiah Hughes does a good job of capturing what a Godspeed You! Black Emperor concert feels like in his review of their Vancouver show last week:
In the same way that Godspeed You! Black Emperor communicates their apocalypse-laden message of hope without words, words too fall short of doing their live presentation justice. A wall of amps, several guitarists, two bass players, a drummer, a percussionist and a violinist allowed the eight members on stage to explore dense sonics that varied from ear-bleeding cacophony to pin-dropping guitar segues within each 20-minute suite.

You would have been hard pressed to find evidence of a seven-year absence in Godspeed's ebbing and flowing set, as they explored massive crescendos and delicate transitions with unified dynamics. Also missing were any signs that their sound was dated, with the group's shimmering but voiceless anthems translating well in the current musical climate.
Suffice it to say, words don't do their music justice, so I won't bother. See for yourself.

[These clips were recorded during two shows at Great American Music Hall the following nights, but give you a good idea of the sound and fury of their live performance.]

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Hope Drone @ GAMH 02/21/2011


Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Storm @ GAMH in SF

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Friendly Fire @ Great American Music Hall SF

Radiohead - "Lotus Flower"

The new Radiohead album, "The King Of Limbs," is now available for download. The first video features youknowwho dancing like only he can.

Big Boi vs The Black Keys - "The Brothers of Chico Dusty"

What if Big Boi and The Black Keys fucked and had a baby? It would sound something like this.

Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You"

The mad genius vocalist behind the distinctive sounds of Gnarls Barkley and Goodie Mob -- Thomas DeCarlo Callaway, aka Cee Lo Green, aka The Lady Killer -- strikes again with this ridiculously catchy song about losing in love.

The best lyric has to be:
Now look here, I'm sorry I can't afford a Ferrari
But that don't mean I can't get you there
I guess she's an Xbox and I'm more Atari
But the way you play your game ain't fair
If radio and music listening weren't so fragmented, this song would have easily been Cee Lo's second "song of the summer."

Cee Lo released a radio-friendly, G-rated version of the track, too, but alas, "Forget You" just doesn't pack the lyrical wallop that "Fuck You" does.

TiKTok Multi-Touch Watch

I'm now the proud owner of a TiKTok Multi-Touch Watch Kit which transformed my iPod Nano into the world's coolest multi-touch watch.

You may have seen or heard about this item that broke all records on -- most funds raised ($941,718), most backers (13,512), most popular reward, most comments, most money raised in one day, etc.

It's gigabytes of music, a watch and a pedometer all on my wrist. Eat your heart out, Dick Tracy.

Tweakers Portable USB Mini-speakers for iPod

My wife and I were planning a trip to Sayulita, a great little beach town just north of Puerto Vallarta, and she suggested I buy some small speakers for the trip. After doing some research and asking for advice from friends, I decided on Tweakers Mini-Boom Speakers for iPod, MP3 players and laptops.

These speakers put out great sound for their size, last long and are super compact. You can't beat the price, either -- about $25 on Amazon.

Grandmax, the makers of these speakers, has this to say about them:
Give it a twist and the top portion expands, giving you extra air space which brings out the bass. The expansion chamber has built-in LED lights that light up when you turn on the speakers. With built in lithium batteries, you can have hours and hours of listening. And with the built-in retractable audio and charge cables, there are no extra cables to bring around and no cable mess. When you need to charge your tweakers, just pull the charge cable out, and connect it to a mini USB, or use the included USB charge adapter to connect to a USB port.
Btw, on our trip I ended up using these speakers with my iPod Touch and my Droid X.

Calexico - "Crystal Frontier"

Tucson-based Calexico is a truly American band, if ever there was one. To my knowledge, no other group (or "collective," as Calexico leader Joey Burns calls it) working in the rock genre utilizes more idioms than Calexico - Americana, country, mariachi, conjunto, cumbia, and Tejano. You can hear all of it in this song.

I've heard Calexico's music described as "desert noir." If that moniker is valid, "Crystal Frontier" is proof.
Blood spills out on the streets
and bodies are missing for weeks
both sides keeping a close eye
watching the bullets fly here... on the Crystal Frontier

Feist - "1234"

Just chatting with a friend about Wilco's latest, and the fact that Leslie Feist sings back up for Jeff Tweedy on the track "You and I," reminded me of this video. Leslie has a beautiful voice and this video still gives me goose bumps when I see it.

The Sesame Street version of "1234" is pretty cool, too. (Over 6 million views on YouTube!)

Spoon - "I Turn My Camera On"

Depending on your sensibilities, this video is totally cool or totally annoying. No matter, it's been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube. Spoon rocks.