Wednesday, May 30, 2012

LP - Into the Wild

I know it's hard sometimes, but remember how pop music is supposed to be good? Like, the whole point is that it's inoffensive and catchy. These days, the lyrical vapidity is what offends me most about pop music.

(Though I wonder if there were folks out there who said the same thing about '90s pop. But let's be real here, folks, "Dirty Pop" is an amazing song.)

LP (Laura Pergolizzi) has, in my opinion, single-handedly reclaimed pop music.

In the past few years she's paid the bills by writing songs for Rihanna and others. Now, she's resuscitating her solo career.

Check out her cover of Beyonce's "Halo."

This is what pop music should be: uplifting and, most importantly, fun. It's been a while since I've seen somebody look so happy to sing. And she totally kills the song.

Her own music is no less impressive. It's enough to make me buy her EP (which was recorded during this session) and her back catalogue.

LP -- Official, Facebook, Spotify

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires -- There Is A Bomb In Gilead

As I wrote back in February, this is a serious Southern rock album. I believe the words were "blistering declaration of intent."

I'm going to go as far as calling it a Southern rock manifesto. I will go even further and make comparisons to The Band: in addition to stellar displays of musicianship, it's hard not to hear Lee Bains and his band's love of Southern rock. Except these guys are actually from the South.

I'm just going to shut up and let the songs speak for themselves. All I can say is that you owe it yourself to get your hands on this album.


I'm sorry for the sporadic updates! This is my last week of grad school, so this will be my only post for the week. With a summer of unemployment on the horizon, you will absolutely be hearing from me 3x a week -- that's a promise!


Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires Official, Facebook
The Dexateens on Spotify


Monday, May 14, 2012

Scott Alan Simmons -- The Life and Death of Warren Peacemaker

Perhaps the comparison is really not particularly apt, but there's something about Scott Alan Simmons that reminds me of Warren Zevon -- without the dark sense of humor, or the raspiness (so, really, not at all.) But there's something about his vocal phrasings and confidence that make me wonder if this is what Zevon would have sounded like if his life had not been quite so bleak. I welcome you to disagree with me, but you'll have to listen to the album first. I direct you to his cover of "Georgia on My Mind," which is where the effect really stood out to me.

The album's opening song, "Beggars & Gamblers" treats the listener to a good old-fashioned rock tune. However, Simmons is much more versatile than that. Though I preferred the louder songs (I'm just not that into male singer-songwriters), songs like "Goodbye, Dutch Girl" and "I Wish You Were Gone" display a lyrical deftness and true talent for storytelling. The tasteful guitar interludes help bridge the rockers with the folkers, and help the album stand out from the crowd. Nothing on this album is particularly adventurous, but Simmons knows his strengths and plays to them well. It's a strong start, and I'm looking forward to continued growth from such a clearly skilled songwriter.

Scott Alan Simmons -- Official, Bandcamp, Facebook

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mercyland -- No Feet on the Cowling

As some of you know, I'm currently student teaching in an eighth grade social studies classroom. One of my kids is, like, really obsessed with the Beatles. She will only read books about the Beatles. Her English Lit teacher suggested she read Catcher in the Rye and she said she couldn't, because Mark David Chapman was obsessed with it. I tried to tap into her enthusiasm about the Beatles, but since it's clear that I'm not a hardcore fan, she's dismissed me as Someone With Whom to Talk About the Beatles. One of the other teachers mentioned that she had been obsessed with the Beatles in middle school. Shortly after the school day ended, she received an e-mail from my student filled with dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of Beatles .gifs from tumblr interspersed with questions like "Isn't Paul the best????? Look at his pouty face! <3 <3 <3"

If Cowboy Mouth had had a legion of tumblrs dedicated to them when I was in middle school, I would totally have sent my teachers e-mails just like that one.

Instead, I had messageboards, interviews, a small but tight-knit fan community, and liner notes with which to build my own Cowboy Mouth mythology.

One of my favorite recordings by the band is a song called "Tears Toward Heaven," a cover from a little-known punk band from Athens, Georgia called Mercyland.

Tears Toward Heaven by Cowboy Mouth on Grooveshark

You may, however, be familiar with the work of Mercyland's bassist and lead singer, Dave Barbe. He's been the producer for most of the Drive By Truckers' discography, and played bass in Bob Mould's pre-Husker Du band Sugar.

I tracked the song down to a compilation album issued by Rykodisc, called Spillage. It was a bunch of isolated recordings by the band, and the transfer from cassette to CD produced a muddy sound. It was my introduction to punk and I loved every muted drumbeat.

On a Google whim a few months ago, I found an interview by Dave Barbe on Aquarium Drunkard. After an offer from Fred LeBlanc of Cowboy Mouth to re-mix and re-release their only full-length, No Feet on the Cowling, and some presumed creative differences, Barbe went ahead and re-mixed the album himself.

The results is, not surprisingly, even more stunning Spillage. Every growl and lick is brought to the front here. Mercyland's combination of in-your-face-swagger and late-80s Athens jangle-pop creates a melodic version of hardcore punk that is hard to resist. I'm really glad that anyone with an Internet connection can access some truly fantastic movement that would otherwise be swept to the corners of a used CD store.

Mercyland -- Built to Spill on Amazon, Bandcamp

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cowboy Mouth: This Train

With little fanfare, Cowboy Mouth released its eleventh studio album on Friday.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous -- I wasn't all that into their most recent release, Fearless. As I mentioned earlier, the band's sound has certainly changed over its twenty years of existence - and I'm still ambivalent as to whether I like that change.

I finally realized what's different, though. And I know the band is going to read this, so please take it in the spirit of honest feedback. Cowboy Mouth knows what makes this band successful: they put on a live show unlike anything anybody else is doing. Period. Again, as I've mentioned earlier, it's a happy, sloppy, moshpit of joy and abandon and companionship. I am constantly surprised by the age and racial diversity of folks who come to the show.

And I feel like the last few years' of new material has basically been written to cater to the concerts. Most of the songs on this album are short, catchy, and primarily based on simple rhymes that you sing along to even when you're shit-faced.

But catchy pop tunes isn't how the band kept afloat after "Jenny Says'" success back in 1995. It was through strong, creative song-writing. And frankly, the songs on This Train should not be representative of veteran songwriters like Fred LeBlanc (who, unlike past albums, seems to be the only writer on this one.) -- particularly with songs like "Watcha Gonna Do?", "How Do You Tell Someone?", and "God Makes the Rain," in his repertoire. I'd love to see continued growth and maturity from Cowboy Mouth's songwriting -- I promise, we're not going to go anywhere while you're still tinkering.

That being said, This Train is a huuuuuuuuuuuuge step in the right direction. In spite of a couple of rather forgettable songs (like "Drama" and "Saturday High") this album has taken a decided shift towards blues rock -- and I think we all know I'd be the last person to complain about that. "This Train," the album opener, is a blistering fistful of the energy and passion Cowboy Mouth brings to every show. The canned crowd cheering at the end is a little cheesy, but I'll allow it. Overall, the album provides some more foot-tap-worthy songs that celebrate the joys and sorrows of life. It's also nice to see a few more love songs here than is typical of the band's output.

At six bucks, it's not a bad deal. Check out some of the songs for yourself below. You can buy the album from their site.

This Train
Rock and Roll
Be Alive Tonight 

Cowboy Mouth -- Official, Facebook, Spotify (Be warned -- there are a couple of bands out there with the same name and they're all listed together.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

FREE MUSIC: Bhi Bhiman

Sorry for the absence of updates, folks. I've had a real shit storm of a week. Good thing I've had some angsty white dude music to feed my fury and general resentment against The Man.

Hold on a sec -- Americana doesn't have to be that way?

Bhi Bhiman is a gent I've been meaning to post on here for a while now. You can get his first album, Bhiman, for free on Noisetrade.

Not only is Bhi Bhiman not your average white dude, he's not your average songwriter. When I first heard "Guttersnipe" on WFUV (our public radio/NPR affiliate) my initial reaction was to roll my eyes -- just another hipster who fancies himself a folksinger. At first it sounded a little too slick, a little too overproduced.

But then the album surfaced on Noisetrade and I was like "eh. Whatever. Free music, right?" and "Guttersnipe" had grown on me by that point.

What I found in Bhiman was nothing less than an inventive interpretation of folk music. "Kimchee Line" is a fun little foot-tapper about America's favorite Korean condiment. Songs like "Take What I'm Given" and "Crime of Passion" tread familiar folk territory deftly. "Ballerina" provides some soulful indie pop with an imaginative storyline and folkie instrumentation. Bhiman's poetry adds true depth to these songs.

But the real stand-out feature here is Bhi Bhiman's voice: at times high and lonesome, warm, and sardonic, Bhiman truly lives his songs.

So hop on board the Kimchee Line. I'm looking forward to being surprised and delighted by his further pursuits.

Bhi Bhiman -- Official, Facebook, Spotify