Favorite Albums of 2008

Stella Splice has read umpteen year-end lists via Largehearted Boy, and with only one offbeat exception they have all been found wanting. Big time. So it’s my turn to right the wrongs of the listing industry. Cheers.

2008 First Tier
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ~ Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!
The Raconteurs ~ Consolers of the Lonely (SS)
King Khan and the Shrines ~ The Supreme Genius of… (SS)
Black Francis ~ Svn Fngrs (SS)
Erykah Badu ~ New Amerykah Part One
The Black Keys ~ Attack & Release (SS)
Howlin’ Rain ~ Magnificent Fiend
Fleet Foxes ~ Fleet Foxes (SS)
Al Green ~ Lay It Down (SS)
Trampled Under Foot ~ May I Be Excused (SS)

2008 Second Tier
Dr. Dog ~ Fate
The Heavy ~ Great Vengence and Furious Fire (SS)
TV on the Radio ~ Dear Science (SS)
Devotchka ~ A Mad and Faithful Telling (SS) (SS)
Bob Mould ~ District Line (SS)
Toadies ~ No Deliverance (SS)
The Breeders ~ Mountain Battles (SS)
Bodies of Water ~ A Certain Feeling
Wolf Parade ~ At Mount Zoomer (SS)
Okkervil River ~ The Stand Ins (SS)

2008 Third Tier
Bon Iver ~ For Emma, Forever Ago (SS)
My Morning Jacket ~ Evil Urges
Grand Ole Party ~ Humanimals (SS)
Tobacco ~ Singles
R.E.M. ~ Accelerate (SS)
No Age ~ Eraser (SS)
Dirt Bombs ~ We Have You Surrounded
The Dodos ~ Visitor
Mates of State ~ Re-Arrange Us
Beck ~ Modern Guilt (SS)
Kings of Leon ~ Only by the Night (SS)
Shearwater ~ Rook
The Hold Steady ~ Stay Positive
The Whigs ~ Mission Control

Bands overlooked by Stella Splice in late 2007
Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights
[See Stella Splice’s Best-of-2007 list here.]


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Ryan Adams and The Cardinals

Heads up on this concert announcement. When you see a gig announcement in your town (vintage posters) for The Cardinals, note bene that it’s really the tried and true Ryan Adams and The Cardinals. I’m sure he’ll have something bitter and/or obtuse to say about it on stage, which is his normal m.o., from what I’ve seen.

August 23 ~ San Francisco ~ Fillmore
August 26 ~ Seattle, WA – WaMu Theater *
August 27 ~ Vancouver, BC – General Motors Place *
August 29 ~ Edmonton, AB – Rexall Place *
August 30 ~ Calgary, AB – Pengrowth Saddledome *
September 1 ~ Winnipeg, MB – MTS Center *
September 4 ~ Ottawa, ON – Scotiabank Palace *
September 5 ~ Montreal, QC – Bell Centre *
September 7 ~ Boston, MA – Bank of America Pavilion
September 9 ~ London, ONT – John LaBatt Center *
September 25 ~ Schenectady, NY – Proctor’s Theater
September 26 ~ Syracuse, NY – Landmark Theater
September 27 ~ Rochester, NY – Auditorium Theater
September 29 ~ Columbus, OH – Palace Theater
September 30 ~ Cleveland, OH – Palace Theater
October 2 ~ Indianapolis, IN – Murat Theatre
October 3 ~ St. Louis, MO – Fox Theater
October 5 ~ Madison, WI – Overture Hall


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Kings of Leon

You can grab a free mp3 Crawl hot off the Kings of Leon‘s September 23 release Only By the Night (thanks for the tip MOKB). Simply go to their site and they’ll send you a link in exchange for your email addy.

Think of the Kings of Leon sound, only maybe if they were making a theme song for Escape from LA and maybe if it were produced by Trent Reznor. Or something. On pills and booze.

If you don’t have the brothers’ (+ one cousin) older albums, gear up by buying them here. Because of the Times is very different from their even earlier stuff, so buy that disc and one older to cover your bases. Sounds like this new one will be a shocker even compared to that broad range.

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New Bond Theme

The rumors have been flying over the past few months, speculating on the theme song for the new James Bond 007 movie Quantum of Solace. But now it’s settled. On November 7th, we’ll hear the first duet in Bond history. Jack White (of The White Stripes and The Raconteurs) and Alicia Keys will perform Another Way to Die while Daniel Craig flashes across the credits. Very exciting.

Jack wrote the song and will also play drums; see here for his other appearances on soundtracks. The soundtrack will be out October 28th, featuring the duet plus the score by David Arnold.

In the trailer, double-oh-Craig appears to be exploring the darker, more troubled, and more vengeful Bond as featured in the Ian Flemming novels. I hope the complexities of the character in this era of the movie franchise are compelling enough to trump the glossy characature of previous years/actors.

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King Khan and The Shrines

You gotta listen to King Khan and The Shrines. It’s an Indian-Canadian dude who with his buddy BBQ turns out explosive German garage funk. It’s like Mick Jagger hung out a lot with James Brown and was backed up by the bass player for Sly and the Family Stone and horns and an organ arranged by Brian Wilson, all jamming in the Stax studios. In other words, so much fun it should be illegal. Watch!

This album, The Supreme Genius Of King Khan & The Shrines, is certainly going to be on my year-end best-of list. Go! Be sure to listen to a couple, because their sound varies, but def wait around for Torture and Took My Lady Out to Dinner.

Download these songs: the sweet little ditty Welfare Bread, Burnin Inside, and I Wanna Be A Girl.

I remember my local record store clerk telling me she was way into the The King Khan & BBQ Show disc, but I stupidly ignored her. Boy am I sorry now. Also, it makes me want to check out these dudes’ former band The Spaceshits.

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MySpace To-Do List

I have a list of MySpaces I need to listen to, and I’m tired of having them clutter up my Firefox toolbar, so I’m sharing them here. You might find something here you love that I may not post about later. Happy listening!

Blind Pilot

Russian Circles


Girls in a Coma

The Celebrated Workingman

The Still City

Candle Music

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Black Moth Super Rainbow

I’ve been listening to Black Moth Super Rainbow‘s 2007 album Dandelion Gum. This analog-sourced electronic synth pop drone James-Bond-theme-on-better-drugs whatnot occupies certain parts of your brain so the others can go into overdrive. It’s great stuff to blare while you’re brainstorming. My favorite tune is Forever Heavy.

I bought it because I downloaded the song Sun Lips, which quickly became a staple for all sorts of mixes. I like to pair it with the Air remix of the Beck cover of the Air song Heaven Hammer (Missing).

MOKB alerts me that BMSR is coming out with a new EP in August/September: Dippers (preorder). You can listen to one track, Happy Melted City, here at their MySpace or download the thing from YANP. Download some other tunes, including some old stuff of theirs, from their site.

Also! I have uploaded the tracks the band has released as a promo for Dippers, which they are calling Bonus dippers. The band has all the files zipped for download here, or you can download them individually through the miracle of ones and zeroes from my mp3 page. I recommend Slide 9, Day On a Bike, and Unfinished Sketch 3.

If you’re way into it, check this out. They played SXSW with their buddies The Octopus Project; together the two bands released a disc called The House of Apples and Eyeballs.

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Free and Legal mp3 Downloads

Please enjoy these songs from 2008, and then buy the artists’ albums. Stella Splice has made this post a page, accessible at the top of the blog, that you can check for updates throughout the year.

To download, click on the link, and on the resultant page scroll down just a bit until you can click on the orange Download Now button. Scroll down on that next page until you see “Your download should begin shortly. If it does not, try Download file now.” It never begins without me clicking on that link. Have fun!

American Music Club ~ All Lost Souls Welcome You to San Francisco
Band of Horses ~ No One’s Gonna Love You
Basia Bulat ~ In the Night
Benji Hughes ~ So Well
Benji Hughes ~ You Stood Me Up
Benji Hughes ~ Why Do These Parties Always End Up the Same Way?
Benji Hughes ~ The Mummy
Benji Hughes ~ I Went with Some Friends to See the Flaming Lips
Bodies of Water ~ I Guess I’ll Forget The Sound, I Guess, I Guess
Bowerbirds ~ In Our Talons
Brazos ~ Mary Jo
Dirty on Purpose ~ Mind Blindness
Dr. Dog ~ The Ark
Dr. Dog ~ The Old Days
Fleet Foxes ~ White Water Hymnal
Howlin’ Rain ~ Dancers at the End of Time
Iron & Wine ~ Innocent Bones
James Hunter ~ Jacqueline
Jens Lekman ~ The Opposite Of Hallelujah
Jens Lekman ~ Friday Night At The Drive-In Bingo
Jim White ~ Crash into the Sun
Kaki King ~ Two O’Clock
Ladytron ~ Black Cat
Lykke Li ~ Dance Dance Dance
Man Man ~ Top Drawer
Mates of State ~ My Only Offer
Mike Doughty ~ 27 Jennifers
Mike Doughty ~ I Just Want the Girl in the Blue Dress
Morning Benders ~ Crosseyed
Mudhoney ~ I’m Now
Mudhoney ~ In ‘n’ Out of Grace
My Brightest Diamond ~ Inside a Boy
My Morning Jacket ~ Evil Urges
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds ~ Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nina Simone ~ Revolution
No Age ~ Eraser
Oxford Collapse ~ The Birthday Wars
Port O’Brien ~ I Woke Up Today
Ra Ra Riot ~ Dying Is Fine
Saul Williams ~ Sunday Bloody Sunday
Saul Williams ~ World on Wheels
Science for Girls ~ Northern Lights
She & Him ~ Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
Shearwater ~ Leviathan, Bound
Shearwater ~ Rooks
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin ~ Think I Wanna Die
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks ~ Baltimore
The Acorn ~ Crooked Legs
The Acorn ~ The Flood, Pt 1
The Breeders ~ Bang On
The Dandy Warhols ~ The World The People Together (Come On)
The Dodos ~ Fools
The Dodos ~ Jodi
The Dutchess & the Duke ~ Reservoir Park
The Mountain Goats ~ Sax Rohmer #1
The Republic Tigers ~ Buildings and Mountains
The Whigs ~ Right Hand on my Heart
Tilly and the Wall ~ The Freest Man
Tilly and the Wall ~ Cacophony
Tokyo Police Club ~ In A Cave
What Made Milwaukee Famous ~ Resistance Street
White Hinterland ~ Dreaming of the Plum Trees
Wolf Parade ~ Call It a Ritual
Wolf Parade ~ Language City

If you own a copyright and would like your mistakenly posted song to be removed, or if one of the links is not working, please contact Stella Splice.

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Eddie Vedder

Eddie Vedder has announced solo tour dates, featuring the tunes he penned for the Into the Wild soundtrack. I feel strongly about this disc. The shows should be excellent. Buy tickets here.

August 1 ~ Boston ~ Opera House
August 2 ~ Boston ~ Opera House
August 4 ~ New York ~ United Palace Theatre
August 5 ~ New York ~ United Palace Theatre
August 7 ~ Newark ~ Performing Arts Center
August 9 ~ Montreal ~ Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier
August 10 ~ Montreal ~ Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier
August 12 ~ Toronto ~ Massey Hall
August 13 ~ Toronto ~ Massey Hall
August 16 ~ Washington, D.C. ~ Warner Theatre
August 17 ~ Washington, D.C. ~ Warner Theatre
August 19 ~ Milwaukee ~ Riverside Theatre
August 21 ~ Chicago ~ Auditorium Theatre
August 22 ~ Chicago ~ Auditorium Theatre

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Fleet Foxes

I’m a little behind posting on Fleet Foxes, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been enjoying them. I’m hosting the download of their song White Winter Hymnal here.

Harmonies, rounds, and soaring strings (including a violin bow on a guitar) embedded in the roots of rock makes them sound quintessentially American. I know that trite perspective on this Seattle band is overdone, but it’s as hard to avoid such analysis as it is to find fault in their execution. Here’s what the buzz has been saying:

“studiously rural aesthetic”

“mingling the Celtic and pastoral with Beach Boys harmonies and crashing Americana into moments of real darkness and disarming pop bliss” [the pastoral vibe is emphasized by their self-titled’s cover art, a painting by Pieter Bruegel]

“it was as close to perfect as a band could get in writing a song”

“It is easy to sneer at young men fetishising old music, but Fleet Foxes handle their antecedents with panache … All this musical experience comes couched in a breezy innocence which never becomes cloying.”

To take a closer look at Fleet Foxes, watch the stop-motion video for White Winter Hymnal here. Download He Doesn’t Know Why. Watch their Black Cab Session. Listen to their concert at The Black Cat in DC, courtesy of NPR. Check out their Daytrotter session that features downloads of the songs drops in the River and Sun Giant from the Sun Giant EP, and Sun It Rises and White Winter Hymnal from their self-titled CD.

I think it’s wise to listen closely to the album, and to apply what band member Robin Pecknold told Drowned In Sound regarding the painting gracing the cover of their 2008 release:

“When you first see that painting it’s very bucolic, but when you look closer there’s all this really strange stuff going on, like dudes defecating coins into the river and people on fire, people carving a live sheep, this weird dude who looks like a tree root sitting around with a dog. There’s all this really weird stuff going on. I liked that the first impression is that it’s just pretty, but then you realise that the scene is this weird chaos. I like that you can’t really take it for what it is, that you’re first impression of it is wrong.”

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Grand Ole Party

I love the disc from Grand Ole Party. Get out your plastic money and buy their album Humanimals.

The female lead singer plays drums. Watch the trio perform Bad, Bad Man. Her insistant, staccato vocals convict you with each piercing syllable; they fall somewhere between Heart and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with a dollop of Grace Slick.

For more superlatives about her voice and style, see this The Stonewailer article. At that link, you can also download songs I.N.S.A.N.E., Roll on Down, Turn On, Burn On, and Radio. Radio is a MUST HAVE. It’s a dubbed-out remix by The Scientist. I’m really loving dub lately.

Daytrotter offers three GOP songs for download: Dirty Spirit Rag, Gypsy March, and Look Out Young Son, plus an additional unreleased mp3 titled Next Day Nightmare.

I think the lyrics to the album’s opening track Look Out Young Son, which you can hear on their MySpace, illustrate the band’s overall aesthetic:

“I must be the devil’s daughter /  Such a dark father to dwell in me / Bastard child that I am / You can see it in my swagger / In the palmist’s lines of my hands / And my lips that bud like daggers … Look out young son / When I bloom you come a-crawlin.'”

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Black Francis

I like people who get excited about things. Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black, a.k.a. Charles Thompson, a.k.a. former frontman of The Pixies) gets passionately obsessed about weird things like fringe Dutch musicians. To paraphrase, “Is he weird, is he white, is he promised to the night?” Yes? Bonus.

In the last year Black Francis has released two EPs/short LPs, Bluefinger and SVN FNGRS. I was never a big fan of the Frank Black (and the Catholics) solo stuff, but these new discs more than deserve the old moniker. They rock like nothing I’ve heard of his since The Pixies, and the live show was impeccable.

Bluefinger is a theme album, based on or at least inspired by the drug-crazed life and times of Herman Brood. The disc contains a cover of You Can’t Break a Heart and Have It (by Herman Brood and His Wild Romance), in which you can hear coked-up pounding anguish that makes it such a good song for Black Francis. You can hear how it would influence him. Sort of like, if you listen real hard to Nirvana, it makes so much sense that Kurt Cobain‘s first band was a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band.

Listen to Threshold Apprehension from Bluefinger and When They Come to Murder Me from SVN FNGRS on his MySpace, but know neither song is as intense as the overall vibe of the discs.

But if I had to choose, I’d pick SVN FNGRS (vowels are so uncool) for sure. The incisively short songs vamp (or is it harp?) on those good ol’ bloody themes: birth, sex, battle, death. Watch the video for the song I Sent Away. The album’s title comes from the seven-fingered-and-toed Cúchulainn, a mythological hero from Irish folklore “known for his terrifying battle frenzy or ríastrad, in which he becomes an unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe.” Sounds like the transformation that occurs when pasty, bald (and blue suede shod) Charles Thompson rips into a two-minute song as Black Francis.

I saw Black Francis with a bass player and drummer perform almost every song from both discs at The Slowdown in Omaha, Nebraska. The jukebox, the beers, the size (capacity 470!), the jaw-dropping bookings, the overall aesthetic … everything’s perfect in that bar/venue. And Charles commented more than once on how great the club is for performers.

The Slowdown’s excellence comes from the fact that it was created by owner/operators who are musicians themselves–folks from Omaha’s own Saddle Creek Records (Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes, Cursive, et al.).

I highly recommend The Slowdown … and so do others. It was named Esquire’s Club of the Year.

Getting back to the obsessions of Black Francis. He has recorded songs to accompany the 1915 film Der Golem, which I think will be released as another album soon. This is the third film I know him to sing about, joining the ranks of Eraserhead and Un Chien Andalou.

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Beck and Benji Hughes

Tomorrow we can buy the new Danger-Mouse-produced Beck album, Modern Guilt. You can bet yer summer-lovin’ ass I’ll be there.

Listen on Beck’s MySpace to three songs from the disc, Orphans, Gamma Ray, and Chemtrails. For the scoop on what chemtrails are, check out this Guardian article.

Watch Beck Hansen perform the title track to the new album live on YouTube.

Drowned in Sound did a most-welcome song-by-song review of the album. It’s a fun read that will really whet your appetite.

If you’re a fan of Cat Power, you’ll be glad to know lead singer Chan Marshall does backing vocals on Beck’s Orphans track, according to Stereogum.

If you’re excited about the Beck, also let me recommend Benji Hughes‘ forthcoming (July 22) 25-song album A Love Extreme.

Listen at Benji’s MySpace. Sometimes he sounds like the stripped-down funked out bits of Beck, such as in his song Tight Tee Shirt. And sometimes it’s like The Eels covering Jack Johnson in a good way; see All You’ve Got To Do Is Fall In Love.

Download four free and legal Benji Hughes mp3s.

Unfortunately, his tour is already over. But to get ramped up for his debut release later this month, Ryan at Muzzle of Bees thoughtfully provides two mp3s (So Well and You Stood Me Up) for download. Also, you can pay to download five songs via iTunes that were released as an EP titled A Little Extreme.

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From the Basement TV: Radiohead, et al.

In addition to Black Cab Sessions, Take-Away Shows, and Handheld Shows, there’s a new kid in town trading in a little bit of those projects’ charms for more polish.

From the Basement filmed some of your favorite bands in a studio with no introduction and no audience. The clean-looking video can be seen in clip-form on the site or at the YouTube channel, and some of the full-song performances can be purchase on iTunes (just search From the Basement in the iTunes store). Some people, of course, have put some of the full videos (particularly the Radiohead) up on YouTube.

Radiohead recorded ten songs with From the Basement TV, including songs from In Rainbows. Songs include: Bodysnatchers, House of Cards, Nude, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, 15 Step, Reckoner, Go Slowly, Videotape, Bangers ‘n’ Mash, and All I Need.

According to the band, “Captured in a day, with direction by David Barnard and sound by [Radiohead’s buddy] Nigel Godrich, the videos represent the best recorded representation of Radiohead’s live performance to date.” And if Radiohead makes that sort of sweeping statement, it must be stinkin’ great.

Other performers so far are: Thom Yorke, Albert Hammond Jr., Envelopes, The White Stripes, The Shins, Neil Hannon, Beck, Jarvis Cocker, Jamie Lidell, Sonic Youth, José Gonzaléz, Laura Marling, PJ Harvey, Super Furry Animals, Free Blood, Operator Please, Damien Rice, The Eels, Autolux, and Architecture in Helsinki.

Bonus, unrelated link: Download mp3s of Radiohead’s April Fools’ Day Show courtesy of Alan at Sixeyes (who appreciates if you leave comments and click on ads in return for his generosity).

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Splice posts stem from the mixtape-making impulse (a.k.a. splicing songs together) that spawned this blog.

Download the mp3 of each of these two songs by clicking on the titles, and see if I can turn you on to something new.

Band of HorsesThe General Specificbuy

Fleet FoxesWhite Winter Hymnalbuy

This Splice is American without being dismissably folksy or hokey. It’s first foot-stomping, then sure-footed.

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Cody ChesnuTT

Happy fourth, folks!

Also, happy 100th Stella Splice post!

Gorilla vs Bear turned me on to Cody ChesnuTT‘s campaign song Afrobama: The Unified Party Anthem.

Download it for free (how cool does that webpage look!) or stream it at his MySpace.

I like the song quite a bit, though it doesn’t have a hook singable/simple enough to ignite the crowd at a rally. Instead I want it playing on a boombox while the singing kids play in a fire hydrant on a hot summer day. Worth checking out.

And after listening to this song, I find myself jonesing for Cody’s breakout (and really, his only) release The Headphone Masterpiece. If you don’t own it (it’s worth the price), you can at least download the free mp3 of the song Look Good in Leather from a succinct but good review in Salon.

For more on music/musicians’ relationship to the Obama campaign, read my earlier post.

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Metallica at Bonnaroo 2008

I’m not a die-hard Metallica fan, but I was looking forward to hearing some of the old classics live at Bonnaroo on the main stage. In high school, I think the only cds we had in the weight room were Boston and Metallica, and it rocked. I mean, in that context, you can’t help but act like Jim Breuer’s caricature/imitation of Metallica fans in his stand-up routine.

Of course, the band has pulled the YouTube clips of its Bonnaroo ’08 performance. Figures. They’re proprietary to the extreme: c.f. Napster and the blog review kerfuffle. You can of course pay them to download the mp3s of that show (and others) here.

It was predicted that Metallica would be anathema for Bonnaroo. And, yeah, having them there was a little incongruous. But us neo-hippies and indie rock geeks have other sorts of bands stashed in our musical foundation, bolstering our knowledge and impacting our tastes. I mean, no one was bitching that BB King and Willie Nelson were there. And I saw nothing but tens of thousands of people enjoying themselves.

We enjoyed ourselves because Metallica rocked our favorite old-school radio songs all night, and they were way into it. There were pyrotechnics (better than the unrealized Kanye West light show). And the sound was perfect (as opposed to the sound during The Raconteurs’ set on the same stage, which was wretched).

My only criticisms are that James Hetfield and crew looked so juiced-up (note that I said “looked” not “were”–I’ll have no libel suit over my head) that they appeared to be Lord of the Rings characters, like exaggerated action figures … oh, wait, Metallica action figures already exist. And James kept demanding that the audience adulate him, so much so that my friend started calling the band “ME-tallica.”

One more bit of trivia, to be filed under guilty pleasures: Metallica will be the feature in another band-specific Guitar Hero edition. Insert metal sign here!

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There’s no feeling in the world better than when you first find out your favorite band is coming to town.

Except the feeling when you learn that one of your favorite bands is back together, releasing a new album, and touring. Can you see me jumping up and down?!?!

The new Toadies album, No Deliverance, comes out August 19. Stream the title track at their MySpace.

An article/interview at Spin ends by quoting lead singer Todd Lewis on “what the Toadies, especially after all these years, can offer fans and the music industry that no other rock band can:

‘Balls. A ton of balls.'”

And they’ve got lots of tour dates in which to teabag us with their incredible charisma and raucous stage presence.

The Toadies broke up seven years ago while I was living in Dallas, just a couple of years after Tripping Daisy called it quits. It was a one-two punch to my rock-show loving soul. Two of my favorite frontmen, first Tim DeLaughter (a long post of mine) and then (real first name Vaden) Todd Lewis, gone away. Each quickly moved on to another great project, The Polyphonic Spree and The Burden Brothers, respectively. But I always missed l’original.

Before I rhapsodize about The Toadies, I do want to briefly plug The Burden Brothers’ discs Buried in Your Black Heart (buy it) and Mercy (buy it and listen to some of it). I can’t do much better than this Village Voice description: “BB are a kick ass hard rock combo who riff off Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age’s neo metal blues and Weezer /Pixies power chord sing-alongs.” It’s more in your face than you’re expecting, and who doesn’t want that? When I saw them, they hadn’t released a proper album yet, just a homemade EP, and for a 15-minute song they thrash-jammed while Todd was repeating (screeching) the phrase Dirty Sanchez, which whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy.

The Burden Brothers were/are something of a local supergroup, with Todd joined by Taz Bentley, the former drummer for Reverend Horton Heat. BB is shuffling other personnel right now but haven’t “broken up.” [It is hard to do … ]

Now, on to The Toadies!

In 1994 the album Rubberneck broke. Yeah, it’s the one with Possum Kingdom, which you know you crank on your radio every time it plays on “’90s at noon.” You also know you’re unsure what it’s about … you’re hoping you’re not getting too excited about date rape while you sing along from the drivers’ seat.

Here are some more YouTubed music videos for songs from Rubberneck: Tyler, Backslider, and Mister Love.

It wasn’t until 2001 when the band struggled through record company problems to get Hell Below/Stars Above released. The title track is perfect in so many ways, pushing the band into a dynamic range they had not previously revealed.

Both albums are amazing. So, so solid. I can’t wait for the new one in August!

In the meantime, grab these rare tracks from a die-hard fan:

Toadies’ I Hope You Die

Toadies’ Possum Kingdom (Live)

Toadies’ cover of Talking Heads’ Not in Love

And also download the mp3 of this cover of (you guessed it!) The Pixies’ Where is My Mind.


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Kanye West at Bonnaroo 2008

I didn’t think I’d say anything more about Kanye West’s ante meridiem show. But I had to put something up after reading Stereogum’s post about Kanye’s cap-locks blog rant regarding his postponed-then-much-delayed fizzle at Bonnaroo.

I stayed for the show, and I was glad to do so. I hadn’t seen a rap show in a decade (Ice Cube), and I think that Kanye has done some brilliant or at least incredibly interesting things.

But I agree with the commenters who say a simple apology or even acknowledgment of the audience’s tenacity in standing sardine-style waiting for him would have gone a long way toward building good will. Also, if he would have mentioned that his crew forwent some of the pyrotechnics in favor of actually getting on with the performance, we wouldn’t have been so disappointed in his “Glow in the Dark” tour’s much-hyped light show. Watch video of some people’s reactions at Bonnaroo (wait for the end for a woman to say “S my D, Kanye”) courtesy of Spin.

His blog post? Even if there is a “sorry” or two in there, and despite the logistical obstacles, his lyrics from the song Stronger say it all:

“You should be honored by my lateness
That I would even show up to this fake shit”

Live and die by the pen, dude.

Putting Bonnaroo aside, I’m uncommitted about how interesting Kanye is at this point … particularly after being initially fascinated by the three different music videos for the intense yet catchy song Flashing Lights, and then being horrified at the “she was asking for it” message at the end of one of them (the third one here on MOKB). In the chorus he says to his girl, “As I recall, I know you love to show off / But I never thought that you would take it this far,” which is innocuous in and of itself until paired with images implying the drunk golddigger’s rape at the end of the vid. Very uncool.

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The Best of Blogs Award

The Best of Blogs voting is in, and Stella Splice won first runner up in the Best Music Blog category.

Cue Abigail Breslin‘s Little Miss Sunshine scream.

Thanks, folks!

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Trampled Under Foot (TUF)

Kansas City blues band Trampled Under Foot gave a stellar CD release concert at Uncle Bo’s last Friday night in Topeka, Kansas.

Their latest release, May I Be Excused, is available for purchase here. My copy is still on its way, but judging from the evolution of their live shows (and because of the rough recording quality of some of their older work), this must-have 12-song disc will certainly be their best, showcasing their songwriting skills and commanding vocals. They won the 2008 International Blues Challenge in Memphis (in a field of 90 bands), and just in case you think these kids are fooling around, also note well that “big brother Nick” won the Albert King Award for Most Promising Guitarist at the IBC.

These incredibly talented siblings–vocalist and bassist Danielle, guitarist Nick, and drummer Kris Schnebelen–are part and parcel of the larger family of regional blues musicians. This is Kansas City, after all, and it ain’t known for its techno. So singeth Muddy Waters (listen here to Kansas City Blues).

Their mom and dad were musicians in KC-local Little Eva and the Works. Nick worked with the bands K-Floor (a.k.a. Killin’ Floor) and Buddahead on the east coast before returning to team up with the fam. Danielle came up in the KC scene via Fresh Brew Band, The Nortons (watch her here), and regular Friday gigs at the Grand Emporium as Danielle Schnebelen and the Rush Hour Rendezvous. She recently married Brandon Hudspeth, the front man for local blues group Levee Town.

This post updates (and eclipses) Stella Splice’s February review.

The Trampled Under Foot performance on June 27, 2008, was in the basement of the downtown Ramada. If you can rock the Ramada in northeast Kansas, you can rock any place imaginable.

I’ve also seen the band at other, bigger venues: B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, which is a must-go club for all those passing through, no matter the act, and also The Jazzhaus. These three shows, over the course of time, were like core samples of TUF’s evolution from great to call-everyone-you-know killer great.

I’m going to act like I’ve seen the hard-touring TUF crew a bunch of times and sketch a “typical” show.

They open with an instrumental, tuning you in to their groove. Then maybe Nick steps up to the mic, tearing into the most danceable sort of blues number with a voice that sounds chock-full with decades of whiskey, cigarettes, and no-good women. His smile is the biggest I’ve ever seen this side of a Crest commercial, but it’s twisted with a love for the bended blue notes he shakes out of his left-handed guitar (she’s a lefty, too). We hear the first round of Nick’s solos, and even the most recalcitrant concert-goer wants to hop up and see if they’ve got any boogie-woogie left in ’em.

The third song: it’s Danielle’s turn to sing. You could have listened to a Nick-fronted band all night, and been ecstatic for the chance. But once the force of nature that is her voice emanates from that woman’s soul, you just want more “D,” the little sister on bass. I recommend listening to the title track May I Be Excused on their MySpace. The butter-smooth song showcases Danielle, and even though it comes in just shy of seven minutes, she still makes you wanna beg for more. Don’t think for a minute that that song captures her energy on stage, though. In fact, my one and only criticism of her is she gets so into the vocals she sometimes twists her head away from the mic, and I don’t want to miss even those split seconds.

The rest of the show will go back and forth with Nick and Danielle trading songs. The real gems are when they (plus Kris, who is underused for this function) chime in on each others’ choruses, for that familial harmony that rings so true.

For the last song of the first set, D will leave the stage while Nick solos his ass off, guitar behind the head, taking you through a technical and emotional tour of blues history. Then Nick will leave Kris alone on stage for the sort of drum solo that makes you regret your current occupation–“Why didn’t I choose percussion in grade school?!?” Eventually, after waves of tom riffs and powerfully silent two-beats that make you yell out in hearty agreement, Kris drops back into keeping time and the others join him to finish off the song and the set. But not to worry, there’s so much more to come.

To kick off round two, Nick sets up at the trap set. He plays guitar and two-foots the bass and the top hat perfectly. It’s not a novelty; it’s just a great song that he plays himself. And it’s gotten much, much better over time.

The rest of the show may include Nick on the Dobro, a round of solos by each band member during the bridge of a couple of songs, a jam with a fellow musician (last night on the Hammond B3 organ), and a whirlwind of covers. Over the course of three shows, I heard Aretha Franklin’s Chain of Fools, which turned people into crazed fools on the dance floor, Gladys Knight & the Pips’ Midnight Train to Georgia, Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor and his Howlin’ for My Darlin’ (which Nick rocks with absolute authority, as if he penned it himself), the Janis Joplin version of Summertime, I Shot the Sheriff by Bob Marley and The Wailers, and Danielle workin’ it out on Etta James’ At Last. (D says Etta is her biggest influence.)

The most crowd-pleasing of their older original music is Honey Bee and Virginia Creeper, both streaming on TUF’s MySpace.

At the end of a third set, the band tried to get off the stage and no one wanted to let them. Brilliantly, Danielle satisfied the crowd and sent us off to bed with a sweet a cappella cover of Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz with big brothers on harmony. Very nice.

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The Swell Season at Bonnaroo 2008

The Swell Season captured the spirit of Bonnaroo best, of all the great bands I saw (pictures). You can download the show, transformed magically into mp3s, here, or any of 15 other live shows of theirs here.

I expected great things from Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, but I also know it’s hard to put a sweet sound out into the great outdoors and manage to maintain intimacy and vibrancy all at once. Their songs did just that, and their humility and joy refreshed us despite the mid-day heat. The two musicians really did fall in love while filming the movie Once and making the music that became not just a soundtrack but also this group The Swell Season. They interacted on stage just how I’d hoped: adoring looks, encouraging cues, an ever-so-slight touch on the shoulder while they worked out what to play next.

If you haven’t bought any of their stuff yet, I would recommend the collector’s edition of the Once soundtrack that also includes a couple of live cuts and a making-of DVD. Perhaps it talks about how they fell in love while filming and touring. And the actual movie DVD is out now, too, if you missed it in theaters. If you saw the movie, you won’t be surprised to know The Swell Season covered two Van Morrison songs, Astral Weeks and Into the Mystic.

Glen was much more of a showman than I expected. He orchestrated the audience without commanding us (see future post on Metallica at Bonnaroo), encouraging us to cut loose with no inhibitions in the spirit of a festival. We were hungry for this sort of communal happiness, and the packed audience ate it up and gave it back to the performers on stage tenfold.

Glen and Markéta were accompanied by Glen’s usual band (since 1990) The Frames. I’ve not been able to get into their records, but this show made me want to keep trying until it takes. The drummer was an incredible mix of charismatic and seriously absorbed, the guitarist and bass player were great role players, and the violinist played so emotively I actually looked for another woman singer when he laid harmonies over and under Markéta’s soaring vocals.

The song I loved best was originally a Frames song, called God Bless Mom. It’s not anywhere online live to show you. I’ll keep a lookout. The video for the original version of the song does nothing to capture the dynamic range with which The Swell Season infused it.

I love The Pixies. I was amped for a Pixies cover by a downloadable concert of The Swell Season at the 9:30 Club offered by NPR here. So when the band left the stage and Glen and Markéta had a confab and then broke into a cover of Levitate Me, I went ballistic. You can’t see me going apeshit about five rows back in  the crowd, which is only due to the camera angle, but it’s still fun to watch them.

The band worked a jam for a while, which was unremarkable in and of itself. But Glen asked poets to come up on the stage, and two people took the invitation. The man who went first looked at the crowd in awe, genuinely taken aback by the sea of people focused on him. Glen nodded in shared astonishment, and with that bolstering moment the dude plowed into a really good poem. I tapped him on the shoulder later and thanked him for letting us all be part of something special, and he seemed to take the compliment as seriously as I meant it.

Final note: They did an encore, Hey Day (written by Mic Christopher), which was racous. What more could ya want?

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I Covet These Speakers

Wired’s Listening Post turned me on to these Audioengine desktop speakers.

I can plug into them via laptop or mp3 player, at home or on the road. They’re powered, portable, and evidently powerful. I have neither the space nor money for big-kid speakers, and these little dudes come highly recommended (here and here). Just what I have been looking for.

Let’s see, with these on the mp3 player, my trusty home stereo, my laptop, and my car parked outside the living room window, maybe I can finally listen to The Flaming Lips‘ four-disc Zaireeka!

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Iron and Wine at Bonnaroo 2008

I really like Iron and Wine. I have loved the direction in which they’ve grown, fleshing out their sound and increasingly embracing grooviness. Woman King was my favorite until The Shepherd’s Dog, and there’s nothing more exciting than knowing one of your favorite active bands is cranking out ever-better discs [buy them!].

A lovely little review exultingly examines the change in Beam’s sound:

“Basically a one-man band until this release, Beam left his four-track machine behind in his bedroom and expanded his music to include polyrhythmic textures, percussive flourishes, and multicultural influences. Nothing too radical here, but if you’re familiar with the hushed intimacy of his earlier work, it’s significant.”

The author likens Iron and Wine’s shift to the change in Paul Simon’s career ushered in by Graceland. The comparison is too forced, but the article is endearing nonetheless. I mean, what (beyond over-exuberance) can be faulted in sentences such as this: “At its best, Iron & Wine’s music feels magically haunted like a Southern Gothic musicbox found in an attic that chimes intimate secrets into your ear.”

Now that I’ve established I’m a fan, I can safely say I hated seeing Iron and Wine live at Bonnaroo. They sounded good, all eight musicians. Sam was crooning, she was harmonizing and plucking her violin strings, the xylophone was hyping the beat, the trap set and auxiliary percussion balanced their contributions perfectly, et cetera, et cetera, as Yul Brynner pontificated. They even jammed out the riffs, as is appropriate for Bonnaroo.

But it was uninspiring. When I see a band live, I need the lead singer to acknowledge the audience exists. Make eye contact just once. Crack a smile or a joke better than the bitchy:

“Last time we were here, you guys danced like crazy when we played fast and shut the hell up when we played a quiet one,” Mr. Beam said from the stage after a few songs. “Are you going to do that again?” [from this lame NYTimes review]

It’s a festival, dudes; at least look up from your perfectionism and try to have a good time once in a while. Us audience members want to have a good time or at least be transfixed as we were for the similarly contemplative set by José González. Instead, I and my compatriots felt alienated and fidgety. In fact, two-thirds of us voted with our feet and left our primo spot center stage to catch Little Feat or Ben Folds.

I was seriously considering traveling four hours each way to see Iron and Wine earlier in the year. I’m glad now I didn’t spend the ticket and gas money. I love live music more than most things in life, but for this band I will be henceforth content to hear the songs, in all their brilliance, on disc or (for the live jams) online. If that appeals to  you, check this MPR show or the umpteen downloadble concerts.

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Lula Côrtes & Zé Ramalho

I went to two fine independent record stores recently and had a heyday. At one store, I waved around five discs I was intent on purchasing, and asked the proprietor, “What am I missing?” The staff stacked discs by the beat-up cd player, and through the fog of cat hair I would motion thumbs up or slide my fingers across my neck (“kill it”) so they’d load another album for me. We exclaimed about liner notes (Why did they thank Sasha Frere-Jones?), shared opinions about certain bands’ trajectories, and concocted complicated similes (Brimstone Howl is like Radio Moscow covering The Detroit Cobras). It was a fuckin’ cool geek-out.

One of the gems they pimped was Paêbirú by Lula Côrtes E Zé Ramalho. Go get your local music dudes to order it for you, in the spirit of this post, or buy it online if you must. It came out originally in the 70s, and was mostly destroyed in an act of god (couldn’t stand the competition), so rare copies cost thousands until the recent re-release (story here).

I listened to just a snippet at the store and it made me feel like I was levitating, filled with sound. Thumbs up.

Most of the music I listen to is like walking the earth at my normal gait, with a few pivots, jukes, and jumps for flair. But after a full play in the car, this Brazilian hippie symphony made me feel like I was swimming for the first time in a long time, and afterward previously underused aural muscles ached. In the good way.

See, this stuff makes me talk in fragments. It makes other reviewers talk like pretentious asses: “If you like good music, you will like this. If you think you like good music, but you hate this, then you don’t actually like good music at all.”

Much respect to Os Mutatntes, but in SAT-does-The-Beatles anlagy style, these songs are to Eleanor Rigby as Os Mutantes (another Brazillian psycholdellic rock band, who were very influential) are to Love Me Do.

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