Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Kominas -- Kominas

Happy new year, everyone! Let's ring it in with some free music! Like my Facebook page so you can stay posted on this blog and get random tidbits. I'll also be creating a new "mixtape" every Monday (get it? Mixtape Monday?) to tide you over until the Wednesday update.

Also, check out the free Greenland is Melting/Jon Gaunt split -- especially if you like your music a little blue and grassy. ALSO:

Have you downloaded the new (FREE) Kominas album yet? Whyever not?



If you don't know who the Kominas are, then you're probably like most people. I first heard them two years ago when they came to perform at my college. They were a real breath of fresh air after three years of crappy hipster basement bands like Vampire Weekend, Beach Houses, and Neon Indians, who all skyrocketed to fame weeks after playing my school. Too bad the same isn't true of the Kominas. They're brash, they're loud, they play punk rock, and -- what seems to be a cardinal sin among cool kid bands these days -- they have fun and want to make sure you're having fun, too. In the past three years they've played my alma mater something like six times -- they even opened for Major Lazer. (Guess which band I stayed for.)

My background about the Kominas themselves is somewhat sketchy -- even though I've seen them play live a number of times now, I haven't scoured the Internet to learn every little detail about them. Frankly, that helps me appreciate the music more. However, if there's something I've gotten wrong, I welcome your corrections!

Here's what I know: the name is Urda for "scoundrel." They are basically the founders of a punk movement called taqwacore, which focuses on the issues Southeast Asians/Muslims face in a post-9/11 world. The band was featured prominently in the 2010 documentary Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam.

The new album represents a huge departure from their previous work. Their first album, Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay (2008) featured the band's caustic sarcasm with songs like "Suicide Bomb the Gap," "Rumi Was a Homo (But Wahhaj is a Fag)," and "Sharia Law in the U.S.A." Basically, the album was designed to strike fear into the hearts of conservative Americans everywhere. In case they needed a boost.



Their second album, the 2010 Escape to Blackout Beach was darker and more rap and sample-based. I have to admit that I don't listen to it often. However, like the first album, the band seamlessly incorporated Middle Eastern hooks into Western genres.

Their most recent effort, released on Christmas 2011, is a straight-up rock record. Unless "Disco Uncle" has some sort of subtext that I'm not picking up on, few of the songs have overtly political themes, and all of the songs are in English. I (like another reviewer) attribute this change to the addition of Sunny Ali and the Kid to the mix. The duo's mixture of what I can only call psychobilly and more traditional Middle Eastern music is most evident in "No One's Gonna Honor Kill My Baby (But Me)" which is about as Southern gothic as any song is gonna get. As I said before, it's very different from what I was expecting, and my ears need some more time to get used to it, but it's completely enjoyable and I can't wait to dance to these songs live.

Kominas Review by Rachel C on Grooveshark

So go download it. It's free.

Get more adobe and more teardrops on the Facebook page! Keep an eye out for Mixtape Mondays!

The Kominas official site, Facebook
Sunny Ali and the Kid on MyspaceBandcamp, and Facebook

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Present

I am excited about everything pertaining to The Hunger Games movie. And now The Civil Wars (and I guess Taylor Swift) have song on its soundtrack.

Consider this your "plus one" present before Christmas. That's my family's tradition.


(Give me a Christmas present by "liking" my Facebook page! See the link to the right of this post!)

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Favorite Albums of 2011

This is my last post of 2011 -- I'll be visiting the little lady through New Year's. Thanks so much for reading! I've got some really exciting stuff for you in the next few weeks! Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and happy new year!

This is a list and short descriptions of each album -- I'll do more complete reviews in the coming weeks; the calendar caught up with me!

The list is basically in chronological order. My criteria was "could I stop listening to it within one day after I bought it? No? OK, then."

1) John Moreland & The Dustbowl Souls -- Everything the Hard Way

I already told you about this album. If for some ungodly reason you haven't done this already, listen to it now:




2) State Champion -- Deep Shit

I actually listened to this album continuously for the three days after I bought it, and I'm still not sick of it yet. Everything about it is breathtaking. You can stream some of the songs here.

State Champion Official, Facebook

3) Shane Sweeney -- The Finding Time


The first solo album by Two Cow Garage's louder half. Plainspoken, introspective, and powerful. Stream the whole thing here.

Shane Sweeney on Facebook
Buy The Finding Time here! A mere $7.00 for a digital copy!

BONUS: Shane singing "I'll Be Home This Christmas"





Thanks again, y'all. If you love the music on this blog show me some love and stay posted on my Facebook page

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gary Clark, Jr.

Here's another Christmas/Hanukkah present:


I meant the EP, but you can interpret that any way you like.

I have a feeling Gary Clark, Jr. is going to be huge by this time next year -- the Black Keys certainly found a market for blues rock. Some critics are calling the Austin, TX guitarist the second coming of the blues. You can decide that for yourself. But damn if the man doesn't have swagger and the voice of an angel. As you can see from the sample of songs below, he's clearly mastered a number of genres. I for one can't wait for the full album to come out.

Gary Clark Jr. Review by Rachel C on Grooveshark

Gary Clark Jr. OfficialFacebook, Google Plus, Spotify

"Like" my Facebook to keep up with updates AND UNLOCK SECRET CONTENT, and send me music (see address to the right) and suggestions.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

John Moreland and the Dustbowl Souls -- Everything the Hard Way

Welcome, new readers! It's been a little over a week since I started this blog and I've already had 100 hits (not including spam bots.) Thanks for your time!

Since posting updates to my Facebook and G+ statuses is not the most effective way of reminding people there's a new post -- especially if you're not on my friend list -- I went ahead and created a Facebook page. I'd love to chat with whoever's out there reading this! It would be awesome to create a community around people who love music.

Which is why I'm giving you a Christmas present one week early! There was something John Moreland that caught my eye. It wasn't Ninebullets' gushing review. Maybe it was...this...



I've never seen an album cover that more eloquently captures an artist's tone than someone giving the finger to the rising sun.

Like a lot of the artists who will be featured on this blog, Moreland's main themes are about self-doubt, alienation, determination in spite of the odds, and the occasional moment where life is actually pretty great.

But where Moreland distinguishes himself are his whip-smart lyrics combined with solid, down-to-earth rock'n'roll. The entire album is a powerful personal manifesto.

As the reviewer on Ninebullets noted, it's really hard to pick out some lyrics to illustrate Moreland's talent.  So you might as well just go ahead and listen to the album. And you might as well buy it, since it's only five bucks, and it's the best five bucks you're going to spend in a long time. I've listened to Everything the Hard Way at least once a day since I bought it last week.

I can't embed the songs here, but my favorites are "Hounds of Youth," "Holy Ghost Haunted," "Christian Rock," and "This Town Tonight."

In "Holy Ghost Haunted," an anthem of dustbowl pride, Moreland sings

I raise a toast
To the East Coast
Maybe someday I'll see you out there
But now I'm in love with nowhere

I, for one, hope you make it out here soon.

John Moreland on Bandcamp, OfficialFacebook

And another side project?) on Spotify: John Moreland and the Black Gold Band


Friday, December 16, 2011

Cultural Hegemony and Rock'n'Roll

Apparently, Hampton Stevens forgot to take his crazy pills on Monday. He published this rant about the bifurcation caused by "red-state" and "blue-state" culture (because apparently somebody still uses those identifiers) as manifested by...

...the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame Selection Committee?

His main complaint is that supposed "blue state" favorites like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, and Laura Nyro (who?) will be inducted, when "red state" favorites like Rush, KISS, and Kansas are snubbed! KISS is third for all-time platinum records sold, so they totally deserve a spot.

As with most of their more inexplicable selections, the hall rationalized the Nyro choice by describing her as a huge influence on other artists. That would make great sense if the museum were called the Rock and Roll Hall of Most Influential People. Since, however, it’s a hall of fame, it seems like being at least marginally famous would be one prerequisite for getting in.

Jesus, people! Fame is in the name of the place so only famous people should be in it. Because it doesn't need to honor people who are like, talented and stuff.

Semantic arguments are always the most fruitful arguments.

The guy sounds like an angry 13-year-old, but maybe his rage at the supposed cultural elitism in the  rock'n'roll (because nobody really cares about the Hall of Fame, anyway) might not be totally misplaced. As he is quick to admit himself, rock'n'roll is all about cultural appropriation.

So let's talk about "red state" rock for a little bit, because there's no question that the music featured here has a special twang to it. Quick -- what are the first three folk/rock/Americana singers you can think of?

Was Bob Dylan one of them? He's a member of the Tribe and he's from Minnesota. Neil Young is from Canada. So are/were most of the members of The Band. Not much "red state" cred there.

As for the contemporary scene, the most popular Americana groups/artists I can think of are Dawes, The Low Anthem, and The Decemberists. None of them are from below the Mason-Dixon line.

And, then again, neither am I.

Other than Tom Petty (and let me know if I'm leaving anyone out) and Kings of Leon, I can't think of a southern rock artist that gets consistent play on mainstream radio.

Is there something more palatable about bands from urban areas imitating a country song, when artists like Two Cow Garage and Tim Barry can't get a break? (Though I'm pretty sure Tim Barry doesn't particularly want one.) Why is Americana only acceptable on urban terms? Does the alienation and loneliness so commonly expressed in the genre sound different when it's vocalized by people trapped in the anonyme of the city, rather than the desperation of the rural town?

Or, in the spirit of rock'n'roll, do critics only latch onto it when a more polished form bubbles up from "low-brow" (ie, Southern) musicians to the city slickers who adapt it to their own sensibilities?

Lemme know what you think in the comments section!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Basics: Cowboy Mouth

You might as well listen to this while you read:

Light It On Fire by Cowboy Mouth on Grooveshark

There are times I wish I went to college in the '90s. For one thing, finding a job would have been a lot easier. And I would've gotten away with wearing overalls and cargo pants and making it look awesome.

But the other reason is that I would have had bands like Cowboy Mouth coming through my campus, instead of synthesizer-laden shoegazers like Neon Indian and Future Islands and everyone else who's hot with the kids these days.

In case you couldn't tell by now (you did hit play, didn't you?) Cowboy Mouth is all about their live show -- almost as much as they are about New Orleans. Lead by lead singer and drummer Fred LeBlanc, the band has been a powerhouse for the last twenty (count 'em) years. (Here's a video of Fred doing his thing.*)

But I didn't see them live for several years after discovering them. Do you remember that episode of Pete and Pete? The one where Pete hears his favorite song for the first time? You should watch it if you haven't, because there's always time for Pete and Pete. That's how I felt when I first heard "Light it on Fire." I could not stop listening to this album. It really annoyed all of my cabinmates, since I was at summer camp. They were my first favorite band -- at least one that I genuinely liked. (I only got those Creed CDs because I thought I was supposed to have a favorite band. Really.)

Everything I listen to has at least a six-degree separation from Cowboy Mouth. That's thanks in part to the advent of Pandora (one of the advantages of going to high school in the '00s.) What really grabbed me about the band was their particular brand of Southern rock that managed to not be derivative -- a rock'n'roll that has been tempered by country, funk, cajun, zydeco, and rock-a-billy but still manages to be accessible. That is in no small part to inaugural members Fred LeBlanc's (drums and vocals), John Thomas Griffith's (lead guitar and vocals), and Paul Sanchez's (rhythm guitar and vocals) collective songwriting experience in the New Orleans music scene.

As you can see from the live clip above and from "Jenny Says," the majority of the band's songs are about heartbreak and setback...just like anyone else. But their more overt message is a relentless, almost religious optimism. No matter what kind of bullshit you have to deal with, life is a gift, and we have to live it to the fullest.

Unsurprisingly, the band's sound has changed over the years. The first song on this playlist was the inspiration for this blog's name. Paul Sanchez's songwriting talent is featured here in "Little Blue One" and "Great Wide Open World." There's a sensitivity and cleverness to his lyrics that I've certainly missed since his departure shortly after Hurricane Katrina. But that stage of the band's history ended on a high note with Voodoo Shoppe. "Voodoo Shoppe" represents, to me, the pinnacle of Cowboy Mouth's style: Sanchez's lyrical style, combined with JTG's deft guitar licks, and Fred's vocals (supported by the legendary John Boutte) eloquently justify the band's two-decade existence.

You can see from the video above, with the band's current line-up (Fred, JTG, Matt Jones on guitar, and Cassandra Faulconer on bass) are doing just fine, and Paul's doing great in his solo efforts. I've been to about 25 Cowboy Mouth concerts, and here's hoping to 25 more. Because nothing makes me dance and scream like a 12-year-old than the band that first lit a fire in my musical belly.

Cowboy Mouth by Rachel C on Grooveshark

*Holy shit, those kids are adorable.

Who was your first favorite band?

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Cowboy Mouth Official ...you know where to find the rest.

As always, leave comments. Send music and/or suggestsions to ubia61 @ gmail.com [sorry that there's no link. I've already been visited by three Russian spambots, and I'd rather not get spam.]

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Black Keys -- El Camino

If there's one thing you can count on from Nonesuch Records, it's great package design. Between the letterpress-printed CD jackets for The Low Anthem's Smart Flesh (which, as far as I'm concerned, is a minor work of art), or the heat-activated ink on the Brothers disk. El Camino came with a full-color, eight-page booklet of photographs of El Caminos and a sticker on the shrinkwrap that reads "Play Loud."

That's really the best prescription for this CD. I listened to it on my CD player (why yes, I still have a walkman) the first couple of times I listened to it. It definitely has a different character on my computer speakers.

That being said, I was pretty underwhelmed by the lead-off track and single, "Lonely Boy." For me, the album doesn't pick up until the third track, "Little Black Submarines," even though I feel the melody follows "Staircase to Heaven" a little too closely.

So what didn't I like? The first three tracks feel a little too mechanical to me. While that's a testament to Patrick Carney's skill as a drummer, I bought the album expecting more of the blues rock from Brothers. Instead, I hold in my hands a very competent dance album. But that's probably Danger Mouse's influence. Thanks...I guess.

However, the band is still true to form, which is why I highlighted the other three songs on this playlist. They each have a more human element than the first three tracks. And although I find "Little Black Submarines" a little grating now, it was the track that convinced me that I should check the album out. You can expect some excellent, hook-laden songs and lyrics about lust and heartbreak that are mysteriously pregnant with meaning. The additionally background vocals help the band sound more full.

All in all, I don't know if this album represents a huge step forward for the band, but it's certainly not a step backward.

Black Keys Review by Rachel C on Grooveshark

So what do you guys think of the songs? I'd love it if you tell me in the comments section! I want to know I'm not writing into a void!

As always, send me music and suggestions if you have them. Send this blog to your family and friends so we can build a community of people who love awesome music.
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Black Keys Official, Black Keys on Spotify (El Camino is not yet available)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Concert Review: The Alabama Shakes -- Brooklyn Bowl, New York

I decided not to deal with El Camino right now. To be honest, "Lonely Boy" didn't really grab me, and it's completely unfair to evaluate a CD after seeing The Alabama Shakes do their thing.

The band made a splash at SXSW and CMJ, but they basically came out of nowhere. (Well, obviously, they came from Alabama.) If you listen to this interview, things just magically fell into place for them.

As it should have. The Shakes' blend of blues, soul, rockabilly and gospel is as powerful as any music out there. The music takes you from the lowest point you've ever been at all the way to sublime enlightenment (see "Hold On" below.)

As for their concert...well, don't ever miss an opportunity to see them ever again. At one point, the band had to pause to figure out some technical detail. When lead singer Brittany Howard returned to the mic, she excused herself because she had "started to think about what I was doing" before launching into another scorcher. And that's clearly how the band approaches their performances: they're simply captured in the pure joy of performance. This joy, of course, was transferred to the audience. Any band that gets as many people dancing in Williamsburg (where unadulterated joy goes to die) is obviously doing something right.

But don't take my word for it:




And here's a comically horrible video of their song "Hold On," which will undoubtedly get some radio play or I'll eat my hat. I didn't realize holding the camera vertically would make everything sideways so...tilt your head. I'm sure some nice person has already put their vastly superior video on YouTube.

That being said, if this video (and the song) doesn't make you believe in the redemptive power of rock'n'roll, then you are too far gone for anyone's help, you sinner.


video

Will rock'n'roll save your soul?
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The Alabama Shakes on Bandcamp (only $4 for their EP!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Question:

What do these bands have in common?



Cowboy Mouth -- "How Do You Tell Someone?"


Roxie Watson -- "Jolene"




Xylos -- "In The Bedroom"

In terms of genre, some more than others. In terms of performance style, not a whole lot.

But all four groups are extremely good at what they do. 

And, in their own ways, it's obviously that all of these people would explode if they didn't perform music in front of other people on a stage on a regular basis. It's like their lives depend on it.

And that's what makes the best art: people who deeply believe in what they're doing and pour their souls into it. God knows we need more of that attitude in every aspect of our lives these days: there's just no room for half-assing anymore. 

Most of the music featured here will have some kind of Americana influence to it -- Xylos is obviously the outlier here. But I'm open to listen to whatever: the music just has to be real.

The title comes from "Man on the Run," a Cowboy Mouth song and the name of my college radio show.

This blog will update every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday (to accommodate my upcoming class schedule.) Hopefully I'll be able to stick to it! But there's only one way to find out.

Are you a band or artists that fits the above description? Do you know a band that does? Let me know!

Thanks for coming! Next up: The Black Keys and El Camino.
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Cowboy Mouth: Official, Facebook, Spotify
Roxie Watson: Official, Facebook
Two-Cow Garage: Official, Facebook, Spotify