Something for the Season: NICK LOWE “Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All The Family”

Every year I try to resist the barrage of hype, try to keep it simple and just slide through the season. But last night I heard this album, and BLAMMO!  Today I am pulling out the extension cords and scouring the basement for those stupid lights! This straightened my head right out and my heart grew three sizes.  This album is awesome.  Check it out, get in the spirit, and then… go buy stuff!!

NICK LOWE “Children Go Where I Send Thee.”  Now, that’s a carol.


NICK LOWE “Christmas At The Airport”   A new Christmas Classic.


NICK LOWE “A Dollar Short of Happy”

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Research for Best of 2013

By now, I have a pretty good idea of some of the stuff that I will be including on The Best Of 2013 Blailist. But the team here has been scouring our sources to find other new stuff that should also be included.  I am not sure if any of this will make the final grade, but everything included below is pretty swell.


1.  LENKA  “Nothing Here But Love”  (from Shadows  2013).

2.  GOLDFRAPP  “Thea”   (from Tales Of Us   2013).

3.  SAM PHILLIPS  “When I’m Alone”  (from Push Any Button  2013)    SAM PHILLIPS is one of our best songwriters.  She has been throughout her 20 year career and it is too bad that more people are not familiar with her or her songs.  This song comes from another in a long line of fantastic albums.  Push Any Button will be on best of lists this year for sure.

4.  MILES KANE  “Inhaler”  (from Colour Of The Trap  2013).

5.  CAMERA OBSCURA  “Do It Again”  (from Desire Lines  20130.

6.  PET SHOP BOYS  “Vocal”  (from Electric  2013).   Wow, these guys are still making very interesting stuff.  So much more than just a good beat and catchy hook.

7.  YOUNG GALAXY  “Pretty Boy”  (from Ultramarine  2013).

8.  EDWYN COLLINS  “Carry On, Carry On”  (from Understated  2013).

9.  BETTIE SERVEERT  “Mayham”  (from Oh, Mayham  2013).  This band has been putting out great indie rock for over 20 years.  Or is it 200 years?

10.  RY COODER, CORRIDOS FAMOSOS  “Lord Tell Me Why”  (from Live In San Francisco  2013).   No video was relevant, but do yourself a favor and go check this album out.   It is beautiful and will appeal to guitar geeks, accordion geeks, brass section geeks… all sorts of geeks, actually.  As usual, RY COODER is a master of blending many styles and the band features some killer guests (including FLACO JIMENEZ).

11.  ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ROOTS  “Walk Us Uptown”  (from Wise Up Ghost  2013).

12.  ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER  “I Don’t Want To Bother You”  (from Personal Record  2013).

13.  HOODED FANG  “Bye Bye Land”  (from Gravez  2013).

14.  QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE  “I Sat By The Ocean”  (from …Like Clockwork  2013).

15.  THE VACCINES  “Everybody’s Gonna Let You Down”  (from Melody Calling EP  2013).


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This Year’s Mercury Prize Nominees

Last year, I used England’s Mercury Prize nominee list to discover some great new music. Some of that music turned out to be quite popular around here, and by the sounds of it, other places as well (BEN HOWARD, ALT-J and JESSE WARE).  So let’s see what this years group has in store.  Before even listening to the artists, the first things that struck me were the inclusion of some big names and some epic comebacks.  Like last year, I’ve selected a song from each album to create a nice little sampler.

1.  ARCTIC MONKEYS   “Snap Out Of It”  (from AM  2013).   Check out this cool acoustic version.

2.  DAVID BOWIE   “Valentine’s Day”  (from The Next Day  2013).  This is a strong candidate for album of the year.  I LOVE old Bowie.  (Thanks Alice, thanks Paul).

3.  DISCIPLINE   “When A Fire Starts To Burn”  (from Settle  2013).  Undeniably catchy.

4.  FOALS   “My Number”  (from Holy Fire   2013).

5.   JAKE BUGG    “Lightning Bolt”  (from Jake Bugg  2012).   BOB DYLAN?  nah…  LONNIE DONEGAL?  Maybe.

6.  JAMES BLAKE  “Retrograde”  (from Overgrown  2013).   Snooze fest…

7.  JON HOPKINS  “Open Eye Signal”  (from Immunity  2013).

8.  LAURA MARLING  “I Was An Eagle”  (from Once I Was An Eagle  2013).  I don’t get all the fuss.  Another snooze fest.

9.  LAURA MVULA   “Green Garden”  (from Sing To The Moon  2013).   I usually hate videos, but this is very cool.  Great song.

10.  RUDIMENTAL  “Feel The Love”  (from Home  2013).

11.  SAVAGES  “Husbands”  (from Silence Yourself  2013

12.  VILLAGERS  “Earthly Pleasure”   (from {Awayland}  2013).

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Album of the Month – Laura Veirs “Warp and Weft”

Warp = the threads that run up and down on a loom or in a woven fabric.  Weft = the filling thread or yarn in weaving, drawn through the warp.  It helped for me to know that when listening to the latest by LAURA VEIRS.

VEIRS‘ previous albums, packed with clever hooks and interesting harmonies, have become staples in my listening diet.  They have not grown old in any way and helped create some real anticipation for this latest collection.  VEIRS is a top notch songwriter.  I have read “Warp and Weft” described as more electric guitar based, and there is some truth to that, but it is some of the lyrics that are what strike me as different from “July Flame” (2010) or previous albums.  There are certainly less water and mermen references for starters.  Several of the songs are much more direct.   “Amercia” has VEIRS throwing her clear concerns about gun violence and our society right out in front of the listener.  “That Alice” finds VEIRS telling the story of ALICE COLTRANE’s contributions to music and culture.   “Sadako Folding Cranes” frames a beautiful melody around the story of SADAKO SASAKI who, as a two year old, survived the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.  These songs are clearly vessels for what is on VEIRS’ mind.

I have always been drawn to the interesting arrangements and tasty production from hubby TUCKER MARTINE.   This time there are great guests who are not just included for star power but who really help create and enhance the songs they are featured in.  NEKO CASE’s bridge in “Sun Song” is an exclamation point on an already fantastic song.  JIM JAMES, k d lang and others are in there too.  It’s fun to try to pick them out.

This album did not initially jump out at me like “July Flame” (2010) but, like “Year of Meteors” (2005) before it, it has slowly revealed it’s greatness.  If you are not familiar, LAURA VEIRS is the real deal and this is an excellent starting point.  This album is a real weft, another thread in a great catalog so far.  Hmm… is that proper use of the term?

Oh, and if you buy the actual CD, you get an origami!  C’mon.


“Sun Song”

“Dorothy of the Island”

“Finster Saw the Angels”

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August Blailist – All new (to me) music

This is actually June’s Blailist, so you know how well I’ve been keeping up.  Actually, I totally changed the theme today.  This is all new music to me.  A few I stumbled across myself but most my kids showed me.


1.  EMMA LOUISE  “Jungle”   (from Vs. Head Vs Heart 2011).   This one I found and then I saw it featured on Itunes, so others have found it too.


2.  RADIATION CITY  “Zombies”   (from Animals in the Median 2013).  From Portland, OR, this album is all over the place genre-wise.  Sorta CAMERA OBSCURA, sorta retro 60’s pop.


3.  WARPAINT  “Bees”   (from The Fool 2010).   Current favorite of my daughter.


4.  SURFER BLOOD  “Squeezing Blood”  (from Pythons  2013).  Current favorite of my son.  Equal representation.


5.  BRITISH SEA POWER  “Living Is So Easy”  (from Valhala Dancehall 2010).


6.  QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE  “I Sat by the Ocean”   (from Like Clockwork 2013).  This album is getting much critical acclaim.


7.  UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA  “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)   (from II 2013).  Features former MINT CHICKS member (and brother of KODYRUEBEN NIELSON.  The album has some very memorable hooks but wanders quite a bit too.  


8.  PEACE  “Bloodshake”   (from Delicious EP  2012)


9.  FLEET FOXES  “White Winter Hymnal”   (from Fleet Foxes 2008).  Not really new but worthy of mention.


10.  LOCAL NATIVES  “Heavy Feet”   (from Hummingbird  2013).


11.  SWIM DEEP   “She Changes the Weather”   (from Where The Heaven Are We  2013).


12.  DRY THE RIVER  “No Rest”   (from Shallow Bed  2011).


13.  TOY  “Lose My Way”  (from Toy  2013).


14.  MYSTERY JETS  “Luminescence”   (from Roadlands  2012).


15.  JOHNNY MARR  ” New Town Velocity”  (from The Messenger  2013).  Ok, this one doesn’t fit this month’s theme but this song was released as a single in July and is one of the highlights of The Messenger.  And now it has a video so here you go.



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Album of the month – Lloyd Cole “Standards”

LLOYD COLE’s new album, Standards, has been hailed as a return to form.  To be honest, when you google the topic, only three or four reviews show up and not much else.  That has basically been the problem for COLE for most of his career as a solo artist.  He has always been liked by critics but as time has gone by less people are aware of the consistent quality of his output.   Way back in the 80’s, LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS, were actually quite popular and had a good presence on college radio.

I do not agree that Standards is a return to form because I frankly think COLE has rarely slipped from being very good throughout his whole career.  I found Antidepressant (2006) excellent and Broken Record (2010) slightly less so. It is true that his albums do feel more homespun or more intimate as the years go on.  In fact, his last two have been partially funded by fans through his website, allowing the inclusion of a proper band.  (I just received my signed copy!)

So I do not want to review the new album so much as encourage you, dear reader, to check out LLOYD if you are not familiar with him.  And Standards is a great place to start.  The combination of wry literate lyrics and his brand of catchy pop songs are not diminished by a (weary?) 52 year old’s perspective.  His lyrics are still clever and his melodies still stick in your head all day.  He’s brought along his old pals (MATTHEW SWEET, FRED MAHER) that played on those great early 90’s albums Lloyd Cole (1990) and Don’t Get Weird On Me Baby (1991), and Standards certainly sounds more like those records.  For me, those albums were from a place and time I have fond memories of.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself and get all optimistic (a very un-Lloyd like thing to do) but I could see this album accompanying some good memories just as well.


LLOYD COLE   “Period Piece”

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Running Playlist – Can music make you faster?

Well, after last weekends half marathon, the answer for me was probably not.  But maybe they will make you run faster.  Some people are convinced that the faster the tempo, the faster the pace.  It’s never worked that way for me.  For starters, I need to use my runs as time to check out new music or concentrate on something I am interested in.  In addition, for me a song does not have to have pounding rhythm or a fast tempo to get me fired up.  In fact a big bombastic ballad or stark scary folk song where something really bad happens can easily get my heart pumping during the middle of a long run.  I take a lot of grief from those I live with about my choice of music during training runs.  I was charged with coming up with a playlist that was (mostly) up-tempo songs.  I had all week to compile a playlist, but as is always the case before a big race, I only remembered after I went to bed the night before.  So I hopped out of bed and this is (part of) what I came up with.

1.  THE ROLLING STONES   “Rocks Off”    (From Exile on Main Street 1972).    This song gets me fired up, especially when the horns come in.


2.  THE ROLLING STONES   “Respectable”    (from Some Girls  1978).   Ok, I need fast tempo.  Check.


3.  MATTHEW SWEET  “Come To Love”  (from 100% Fun  1995)   The tempo is slowing but this song rocks!


4.  SUGAR  “Good Idea”   (from Copper Blue  1992).


5.  DAN DEACON  “Lots”   (from America  2012).


6.  TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS   “St. John The Devine  (from The Tyranny of Distance  2001).   Slower tempo but driving rhythm, right?  The album this comes from is a classic and a great introduction to the very wise Ted Leo!


7.  VAMPIRE WEEKEND  “Diane Young”   (from Modern Vampires of the City  2013).   Wow, pretty good third album.  Alice says it’s all Rostam, right?


8.  ARCADE FIRE  “Keep The Car Running”   (from Neon Bible 2007).    Nothing keeps you moving more than a hurdy-gurdy!

9.  CURTIS MAYFIELD   “Move On Up”   (from Curtis  1970).


10.  SUPERGRASS  “Cheapskate”  (from In it for the Money  1997).


11.  PALMA VIOLETS  “Best of Friends”   (from 180  2013). One of the greatest debut albums since the dawn of time.  Says Oskar.


12.  TALKING HEADS  “Pulled Up”  (from TALKING HEADS 77  1977).  Hey, didn’t we see these guys already?  Oh wait, that was Vampire Weekend.


13.  NEW ORDER  “Weirdo”   (from Brotherhood  1986).


14.  RADIOHEAD  “Body Snatchers”   (from In Rainbows  2007).


15.  X   “Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not”    (from Los Angeles  1980).    A shot of adrenaline to finish the race!

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Goodbye Possum

I cannot let the passing of the best country music singer ever go unmentioned.  GEORGE JONES passed away yesterday.  He was larger than life and had a voice that could express all the pain and excess of that life.  That voice was the real star, the way it bent the notes.

I was in Japan some years back in a real karaoke bar.  It was an unreal experience, the lights, the drinks and a private booth for our party.  There was a lot of pressure to sing the right song.  After what seemed like forever thumbing through the catalog of songs to choose from, I stumbled across the perfect song:  GEORGE JONES‘ “She Thinks I Still Care”.

“The bars are all closed.  It’s four in the morning.  I must have shut ’em all down.  By the shape that I’m in.  I lean my head on the wheel.  And the horn begins honkin’.  The whole neighborhood knows that I’m home drunk again.”

C’mon, we’ve all been there.

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April Playlist – Some new, some old, some not as good as I remembered

1.  7 WORLDS COLLIDE   “Too Blue” (from The Sun Came Out 2009).  Last month I chatted about JOHNNY MARR’s recent album.  But I want to mention another excellent project that MARR was associated with back in 2009.   NEIL FINN’s “7 Worlds Collide” brought together great songwriters and musicians to create an album to benefit OXFAM.  Recorded in just a few weeks at Christmas time, it featured members of RADIOHEAD, members of WILCO, KT TUNSTALL, BIC RUNGA, AUGIE MARCH’s GLENN RICHARDS among many others.  It has a lot of memorable collaborations and great songs.  MARR’s playing and singing (“Run In The Dust”) is so essential to making this hodge-podge collaboration work.   I wish more people knew about this album here in North America.  Fans of all of the artists mentioned above will not be disappointed.  And purchasing the album or any of its songs will benefit OXFAM, campaigning for change, providing emergency support and finding ways to eradicate poverty.

2.  7 WORLDS COLLIDE  “Learn to Crawl” (from The Sun Came Out 2009).   So good, let’s hear another one from Neil, Liam and friends.

3.  JULIA HOLTER  “In The Same Room”  (from Ekstasis 2012).  This is a densely layered album that I would loosely characterize as electronica.  HOLTER uses diverse styles and instrumentation to enliven the atmospherics, all the while forcing the listener to peel back some of the layers to discover all the cool things going on.

4.  BETH ORTON  “Dawn Chorus”  (from Sugaring Season  2012).  BETH ORTON returned last year with a very nice collection of songs produced by Mr. LAURA VIERS (TUCKER MARTINE).

5.  SIGUR ROS   “Inni Mer Synger Vitleysingur”  (from Inni  2011).   Iceland’s Coldplay perhaps?

6.  ANAIS MITCHELL  “Wildland/Young Man In America”   (from Young Man In America  2012).  Admittedly, I am not an ANI DIFRANCO fan so it took me a while to discover ANAIS, but I have come to really appreciate her.  She’s from Vermont and maple syrup and skiing already get enough attention.

7.  THE BYRDS  “Here Without You”  (from Mr. Tambourine Man  1965)   During a recent epic car journey with my daughter, we listened to this album as part of an exercise we devised to help eat up the miles and time.  We decided to select one album from each year between 1960 and 1980 and listen to them start to finish.  Warts and all.  This album, for both of us, was a real highlight.  No warts or filler… rare for 1965!  I re-discovered the harmonies and chiming Rickenbacker that I had come to take for granted over the years as just more classic rock and my daughter saw the connection between the music she loves now and some of the music that directly influenced it.

8.  LAURA NYRO  “Poverty Train”   (from Eli And The Thirteenth Confession  1968)  Another album from our car trip.  Having never heard it before, I’m embarrassed to say I did not know of NYRO, a true one of a kind.  Yet I’m thankful that there are, for me, still stones left to turn over.  Now all the singer-songwriters and much of the soulful music of the 1970’s seems to finally make sense!

9.  ELTON JOHN  “Better Off Dead”  (from Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy  1975).   Yet another album from the trip, a classic from my childhood and I was really excited for my daughter to hear one my early heros.  I fully expected to re-connect with a great lost memory and get that warm fuzzy feeling.  What a disappointment…  This album is all over indulgent arrangements.  And those great lyrics you remember as a kid? They turn out to be coke fueled rambling rants.  Still, for 1975, it’s probably better than average and this song has a great melody.  Elton had (had) a great voice.

10.  ANDREW BIRD  “If I Needed You”  (from Hands of Glory  2012).  The entire album was recorded into one microphone.  That’s old school.

11.  TIFT MERRITT  “Traveling Alone”  (from Traveling Alone  2012).  Tift’s voice and songs keep getting better.

12.  SIMONE DINNERSTEIN/TIFT MERRITT  “Colors”  (from Night  2013).  Touted as folk meets classical, there is also some jazz thrown in there for good measure.  The two musicians clearly appreciate each other and seek to explore the other’s genres.  Excuse me, do you mind if I explore your genre?

13.  CARRIE RODRIGUIZ  “I Cry For Love”  (from Give Me All You Got  2013).  Either with CHIP TAYLOR or on her own, she is a very distinctive singer who can also wail on the fiddle!

14.  CHRIS STAMEY  “Lovesick Blues”   (from Lovesick Blues  2013).   Is this just me, or is this a very weird video?  I love CHRIS STAMEY either way.

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Neil Finn and Paul Kelly Live from the Sydney Opera House

NEIL FINN and PAUL KELLY recently embarked on their first tour of Australia together and their last show was webcast live to the world.  Due to the time difference, I had to leave to go to work right after the show started.  So today I finally watched it and I had to post this great collaboration between two of our best songwriters from the iconic Sydney Opera House.  For those unfamiliar with either, this is a great starting point showcasing some of their best and most well known songs.

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