I don’t know a lot about this band…not sure how I came to own this track…don’t even know how many people are in the band, or if they’re guys or girls, or what the fate of the project was…are they still going strong today? Who knows. What I do know is that this Scandinavian indie band put out 2 albums on the Buffel label, a sub-label of Skelleftea, Sweden-based record label West Side Fabrication. This track is off of Garp’s 1995 album, “Opium”. Translated directly from Swedish to mean, “the ultimate of thousand”, this song borders on repetitive and ordinary, I know. But it also magnificently showcases the obvious Beatles influence (the opening noise and keys are soooo reminiscent of both “A Day In The Life” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” as well as the backup vocals in general), the band’s talent with easygoing modern bluesy guitar, and the poppy catchiness that is fundamental to the Swedish scene.
A droning track that’s meant to be the real opener of this mix. Sometimes I’ll do that, stick a song on the very beginning that I like but that really doesn’t work elsewhere on the mix. This song from the middle of the 2004 album “Blue Cathedral” is an instrumental worthy of tripping out to. It’s my lay-there-and-think track (one of many, really). The beat picks up and you’re gone, far, far away; out of your head and your life. Transcending. Moving along as you’re meant to. Feeling my existence, it’s there. This album was the 5-piece California-based group’s first release on the Sub-Pop label, and with the addition of Ben Chasny (of Six Organs of Admittance fame) as well, the band was able to depart some from their previous noise-oriented rock and release a true psych-rock record that earned them a wider audience and got amazing reviews — allowing the group access to tours with bands like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney and Dead Meadow and gain the fame they were always meant to have.
3. WILSON SIMONAL — Nem Vem Que Nao Tem
So, oh well, the liner notes show a typo in the last name as well as the song name. ARRGH! Fix your liner notes accordingly or email me for a download of the corrected notes. That’s sometimes what happens when someone makes you a mix and messily handwrites the liner notes. A new-to-you artist sometimes mean you don’t recognize an error and therefore, every place the name is needed, gets messed up. It’s been like this for years, misspelled in my music collection…ew. I hate that it’s been imperfect for so long! My frustration with this aside, let me introduce you to Wilson Simonal! A former Brazilian legend in the pop arena, the late Simonal was known for his orchestra-meets-big-band arrangments. He was also known for disgracing behaviors such as hiring men to beat up his embezzling accountant as well as working with militants. He was an outcast of Rio de Janeiro from the late 70s through the early 90s, when he released a compilation called “A Bossa de Wilson Simonal”. This loungy song can be found on the 1967 vinyl album called “Alegria! Alegria!”, an album (and individual track) that helped to solidify a positive aspect of his reputation as the “Mel Torme of Brazil”.
4. MANSUN — Egg-Shaped Fred
Off of the critically acclaimed debut full-length album, “Attack of the Grey Lantern”, the English rock band Mansun began their careers here. It was a (highly debated as) thematic disc, apparently tracking the hijinks of a superhero in a small English town. If one was to buy this album today — be sure that you pick up the U.K. pressing, because the U.S. one replaces a song as well as rearranges the order (thus ruining any intended theme). Known for their satire, ever-changing musical styles and fashion trends (hailing from Chester, the band certainly got in on their fair share of the “Madchester” trend — see EMF’s listing in the September blog for more info on this) , the highly-praised Mansun was sadly a short-lived project — they were only active from 1995-2003. Yet they did influence many other projects, one of which was Radiohead, and collaborated with icons such as Tom Baker and Howard Devoto to produce their brand of unusually classic rock.
Before being shot and killed in his Harlem neighborhood in 1999 (at the age of 24), this rapper had made quite a name for himself. He was signed to Columbia at the age of 19, fathered the term and style of “horrorcore” lyrics, and (among other things) put out a debut album that floored the underground community. The 1995 album, off of which this is the title track, was little-known and ill-promoted by Columbia yet still introduced to the world slowly but virally his metaphorical and genius rhymes as well as the up-and-coming talents Jay-Z and Cam’ron. Produced by Lord Finesse (Diggin’ In The Crates crew), this is a masterpiece of one of the original New York hip-hop pioneers.
Hey, remember No Doubt? Remember when they were really really good at being a Jamaican-influenced ska band (“third wave ska“), before going all commercial and radio-friendly with stadiums full of screaming fans? No? Yeah, neither do most people. The opening track off of their very first album ever (“No Doubt”), I love this 1992 instrumental because it really helps paint a picture of the time — of the line-up as it was before Gwen was the front gal (she used to share those duties with the late John Spence), before her brother Eric left the project; of a time when the band was doing the only thing they knew how to do — be a high-energy Southern California force of horns and pith — when depression and grunge were popular. That said, this album was a failure. It’s just not what people wanted to hear, nevermind wanted to buy! It wasn’t until the famed “Tragic Kingdom” that the band really took off…and that was 3 years later.
More Swedes and another debut to pack yer pipe with. The Creeps arrived on the scene in 1986 with “Enjoy the Creeps”, a 60s garage revivalist ruckus that had hipsters everywhere bouncing along to the beat. The band covers the Sonics frequently and channel other bands of the era, yet, it’s noted in reviews that they were musicians and not punks, therefore their albums were mainly dance-oriented and lack that authentic assholequality. Still, they remain defiant and outspoken, which is punk enough for me and I think they represent well the “dirty echo” and “stiff swing” sound, and it’s so unexpected for the mid-80s! In the early 90s the band changed their sound to be more soul/funk, but I prefer this era for them. Definitely take notice of the piano/keys solo around 2:10, after it sounds like the song has ended…classy and indicative of what they can really do.8. OLD CANES — Taxi On Vermont
In honor of yet again leaving behind my hometown after an extended visit, I give you “Taxi On Vermont”. This Kansas band, fronted by Appleseed Cast member Chris Crisci, is a project involving 8 members, rotates for tours based on availability — they only travel as a trio. Interesting, right? This album, their first “Early Morning Hymns” is recorded on equipment probably older than their audience; is a gorgeous melting pot of indie balladry, punk and bluegrass. Listening to the album, one realizes that it’s a knee-slapping, toe-tapping, rolicking good time — with a seedy underlayer of pain and longing. One is forced to think of things and people left behind; you’re taken along on the band’s ride. Don’t fight it!
9. TELEVISION PERSONALITIES — I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives
Amateurish and whimsical, this track by the English pop stars, and the pop stars themselves, became infamous when lead singer Daniel Treacy revealed on national television the actual address of Pink Floyd cornerstone Syd Barrett. Appearing on 1982′s “They Could’ve Been Bigger Than The Beatles” (a joke since the band, though loved in the U.K., would never truly enjoy commercial success), the band throws at a person a handful of cinematic and literary references wrapped in an invention of psychedelia. This album is said to have “honored a culture” rather than contributed it. So, where’s Dan Treacy now? Well, he’s battled drug addictions and homelessness for the last decade and has only recently surfaced in a public way when rumored to be the driving force behind the Arctic Monkeys (fun fact: Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys frontman, is not credited with any songwriting. Hmmmm…).
10. SOPHE LUX — Stella
When I first discovered this local (Portland, OR) group, it was on a recording and I thought that it was this one girl, Sophe Lux, with a solo project. Whoops, nope. If you like Tori Amos and other girl groups, this will be right up your alley. Lead singer Gwyneth Haynes helps the quartet (3 ladies and a gent) put on an almost-Edwardian, ethereal and theatrical performance. Her range is startling and shrill, and I’ll tell you right now I wasn’t a fan of this song the first time I heard it — yet it stuck with me and all of a sudden I had to hear it again and again…and then move on to the entirety of their January 2007 chamber-pop introduction “Waking the Mystics”. I’m hooked on the drama and the mystique, and on the artistic representation. A post-Victorian “hysterical woman” vibe; a creation of amazing musical havoc.
11. THE MARY ONETTES — Explosions
If you haven’t noticed already, this disc has a Swedish focus of sorts — and here’s another band for the roster. New to the public ear but not new ingeneral, the indie rockers frm the small town of Jonkoping have been striving for that “perfect pop” sound since their band’s formation in 2000. Unabashedly 80s in style and technique, the sound is a breezy marriage of the Jesus and Mary Chain and The Cure (and many reviewers say New Order as well). New wave beat, dreamy melodies and a swoon-worthy catchy chorus…listen if you haven’t already. You can find this song any number of places, as it was released as a single first, then on an EP, then will also be on the forthcoming 12/4 U.S. release of the full-length “The Mary Onettes”.
Fun fact: “Grey’s Anatomy” has featured this song and one other in past episodes.
12. DEAS VAIL — Anything You Say (Unreleased Version)
This is the first and probably the last time I put a Christian rock band on a mix. Actually, it wasn’t until after I made the mix that I really listened to the lyrics from some other tracks and said to myself, “Heeeeyyy waitaminute, they’re talking about Jesus, aren’t they”. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jesus or Christianity or positive religious lyrics — it’s just not usually my bag and I’d hate for this site to end up with a reputation for being all up in the religious stuff. WE’S SECULAR ‘ROUND THESE PARTS. That said, this is the first and probably last time I put a sort of whiny Blink 182-ish track (especially one that can be found on a website called “emotionalpunk.com” — *shudder*) on a mix, too. This one is just so damn catchy and fun to sing along to, though!!! This Arkansas bunch do a really nice, surprisingly advanced job with their 2007 debut, “All The Houses Look The Same”. They boldly show that not all southern bands have to fit a mold, that not all Christian rock bands have to fit a mold and that not all bands found on aforementioned website have to be shudder-worthy. Also, Deas Vail are just one example of a whole generation of new bands with advanced musical prowess that can rock hard and still remain light-hearted pop rock.
13. SUNSCREEM — Love U More
Rave pop! I found this sucker on a compilation called “Hits of 1993″ (while digging around in the now-defunct Tower Records during their last days in Harvard Square — I think this disc cost me a buck) and boy, was it ever a hit in 1993. Officially off of “03″, it is considered one of the U.S.’s first Top 40 techno songs (they hit #36, the only instance of them making the Top 100), and was the Essex, England group’s most successful song. The band was known for their upbeat dance tracks, emotional lyrics as well as for working with remix producers to release ahead-of-their-time, commercial failures that were revered in the underground and in the rave scene. A solid piece of early electronic music.
Fun fact: Lucia Holm (vox/keys) and Paul Carnell (keys) met at a warehouse rave and decided there to form the band.
“We’re a lil 2 piece band based either side of London but originally hailing from the same little town in Essex, Stanford-le-Hope is its name and y’all should never have reason to visit there, but if you happen to find yourself in the center of deepest darkest Essex, why not have a stroll along the sea wall to look at out derelict fertilizer factory and massive oil refinery.” (MySpace) Known for the hit “Thou Shalt Always Kill”, the independent electro-hip hop artist Dan LeSac and the political poet Scroobius Pip have teamed up to make hipsters everywhere very happy. They have kind of a Streets thing going here, wouldn’t you say? Creative use of skipping in the back; it’s a total earfuck at first, though. The guys are gearing up for their first U.S. (mini-)tour, playing a few select cities December 14-18. If you live in NYC, Boulder or LA, you’re lucky — and you should have your tickets already or be heading over to Ticketmaster right now (pssst — as of 11/30 at 3:52 PST, there are still multiple tickets available)!
15. CHINSTRAP — Sundays
Also written as “Chin Strap” (not sure which is right!), this band is made up a handful of my Boston acquaintances and friends who are either current or past members of this Waltham, MA-based band. If you get a chance to see these guys live, I say, “oh my god”, yes. The high-energy and charismatic group bangs out some aggressive, hard-hitting tunes without being angry. A brilliant mix of punk, modern grooves and classic hard rock, the new lineup includes front man Orlando West, drummer Gary Robley, bassist Jay Cornwell and brand spankin’ new guitarist Charlie. Definitely catch them at their next show 12/29 at drummer Gary’s birthday bash at O’Brien’s in Allston. It’s guaranteed to be a rough-and-tumble hell of a drunken rock-out, with Gary’s other band (Dashboard Jesus) on the bill as well. Even I might make my way there if I can find a cheap enough fare (I miss you, Allston Rock City)! And ladies, be sure to give birthday boy Gary celebratory kisses and birthday spankings (oh, he’ll like that, I promise). Look for former guitarist Tom Gibson there…chances are he’ll mosey on down, along with other well-knowns in the good ol’ Boston rock scene. Oh — and the inside scoop is that this song will be in their set! *wiiink*
16. THE BLOOD BROTHERS — Fucking’s Greatest Hits
After a decade of making music together, my beloved Seattle-based Blood Brothers made the announcement on November 8th that they are breaking up. So, I thought it’d be fitting to put their music on this month’s mix as a last-minute addition. The art-punkers (certainly influenced by No Wave — see the James Chance listing in October’s blog for more info on this sub-genre) formed the group in 1997 and pumped out 5 full-length albums, all in varying styles — sometimes nu-metal, sometimes punk, sometimes post-hardcore — always experimental. This track is off of their third album, “Burn, Piano Island, Burn”, an album pressed and re-pressed on vinyl and credited as being responsible for the band’s breakthrough. Produced by former thrash metal guitarist and “Nu-Metal godfather” legend Ross Robinson (The Cure, Vanilla Ice, Slipknot), the album was a new direction for both band and producer in its longer, complex compositions and experimental leanings and received high praise from listeners and critics alike. It’s a shame this happened. And, while it was rumored that a breakup was imminent, when I last saw vox/keys player Johnny Whitney, he not only didn’t mention a breakup, but even speculated on a new album for next year. Oh well, the unexpected still happens sometimes. R.I.P., Blood Brothers, and good luck in future endeavors (Jaguar Love, anyone?).
Hehe, on with the parade o’ Swedes! This former Refused drummer departed in a big way from his punk and hardcore roots and has produced albums like this one (2004′s “The Dominant Need of Needy Soul Is To Be Needed”), neo-jazz, poppy soul with very poignant lyrics that’s easy to get into. Not much more that I know about Mr. Sandstrom (accent over the o), sorry. I know that his solo efforts are not widely known, and that he is now known as David Overdrive Sandstrom — purportedly to give an edge? Check out David’s very first album, the 2000 “Om det inte hander nat innan imorgon sa kommer jag”, able to be downloaded for free at http://www.demonbox.com/david/. Just click through the Swedish site, you’ll find it under “Musik”.
This London band really took off after Pitchfork gave their debut full-length “Schmotime” an excellent review in 2006. The brainchild of front man and songwriter Dan Michaelson, Absentee are touted as a indie/country band that has mastered the art of writing an energetic pop song with dark, morbid and masculine lyrics (“I’m tired of being a man / always something to bang” or another example, listen to “Body In A Car Somewhere”). And they have a sense of humor, too — on their MySpace, under “Sounds Like”: “Leonard Cohen singing from the trouser backed up with a mix of incompetence and occasional surprise.” For being funny, it’s actually rather accurate. Judge for yourselves. What do youthink? Produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys), the album has the music world buzzing. Are you? After having been on tour for the last half-year, the band is back in England, playing approximately one show a month. Sounds are being made that the group is planning a second album…
Yeah, you might’ve heard this one on TV, on the Reese’s Cup commercials. I’m always a little thrown when I hear a song I like used in a commercial (*ahem*TargetandtheGo!Team*ahem*); it always makes me double and triple check my musical tastes (Do I really know anything at all about good music?!), hehe. Chromeo is an electro-funk duo from Montreal/New York City who have won over fans with theirshameless 1970s-meets-the-year-2000 electric disco tracks. Imagine the Bee Gees and Daft Punk shacking up (no, wait, don’t — but that’s the sound I mean)! Artful and streetwise, the 2004 “She’s Outta Control” album went over like a ton of bricks, hitting the music world hard and out of nowhere.
Fun fact number 1: both the aforementioned artist Absentee and Chromeo supported Blur on their 2007 tour.
Fun fact number 2: guitarist and vocals guy David Macklovitch teaches undergrad French classes at Columbia (more like “Distracting Hot Famous Musician Smartypants Bilingual Professors 101″ — hehe, am I right or am I right, ladies?!).
(“Stands for deciBels”) Though the majority of the band members were from Winston-Salem, NC (which explains the southern rock sound), the band didn’t form until they were all residents of New York City in 1977. They were regulars at the rock disco club on W. 62nd Street, “Hurrah”, and also played shows at clubs like CBGBs — but in 1979 the success of the Knack created a demand for “short, fast pop-rock songs and skinny ties” — and the dBs realized even more that their music had trouble finding an audience. Their music was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it wasn’t until their signing with Albion Records in London in the early 80s that they started gaining recognition…though it was slow in coming; there was a period of inactivity. This song, off of 1981′s “Repercussion” (U.K.) and 1984′s “Like This”, was one of the band’s more popular ones, and signifies a turn for them in their careers. “Amplifier” was only included on the U.S. album because of the music video made for them by Mr. Bill creator Jim Ford (see VIDEO below). Despite relative popularity, and tours with bands like REM, the band broke up in 1988 and have not been notably active since.
This Leiber & Stoller song is directly inspired by an excerpt of Thomas Mann’s “Disillusionment”:
“The narrator is sitting in St Mark’s Square in Venice when he falls into a conversation with a fellow countryman. The man asks, “Do you know what disillusionment is? Not a miscarriage in small unimportant matters, but the great and general disappointment which everything, all of life, has in store?” He tells how, as a small boy, the house caught fire; yet as they watched it burn down he was thinking, “So this is a house on fire? Is that all?” And ever since then, life has been a series of disappointments; all the great experiences have left him with the feeling: “Is that all?” Only when he saw the sea for the first time, he says, did he feel a sudden tremendous craving for freedom, for a sea without a horizon… And one day, death will come, and he expects it to be the last great disappointment. ‘Is this all?’”
Peggy Lee, in the 1969 hit, chronicles a number of experiences, after which she sighs and deadpans, “Is that all there is?”. Death, ultimately, is the greatest disappointment. An existentalistadult contemporary piece (very impressive that it went as high as #11 on the charts in that era), this song won Lee the Grammy for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance. Fun fact: hear Peggy Lee on the soundtrack for Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”, with “He’s A Tramp”, the royalties over which Lee successfully sued Disney in the early 1990s, with the help of famed entertainment lawyer Neil Papiano.22. DUKE SPECIAL (WITH ORCHESTRA) — Brixton Leaves
“Using cheese graters, wardrobe doors, pianos, harps, brass, strings and an old gramophone…Duke Special is one of a kind, a unique and talented young Belfast man whose bruised romanticism and soft Northern tinged vocals are at sharp juxtaposition with his wild dreadlocks, smudged eyeliner and unfeasibly wide trousers….On stage, Duke Special explodes into musical mayhem the battered old trademark gramophone wheezes, huge cymbals clash, egg whisks and cheese graters break free from the kitchen, a stumpf fiddle screeches and the crushed velvet covered piano thumps and tinks in unison but its the very core of the songs, his heartfelt, passionate poems, that will remain in your head long after the lights have gone down.” And this is just what the guy has to say about himself! Softly and firmly making his presence known, Duke Special (real name: Peter Wilson — he got the stage name from an episode of “Frasier”) brings enthusiasm, experimentation, percussionists and drone boxes to the party — and there’s not too much bad that can come from such an inventive and collaborative effort. Off of “Songs From The Deep Forest” (2006), this track is off of the 2nd disc of the re-release; a live version with orchestra for the BBC.