The TVD Storefront

Needle Drop: Phox,
“Slow Motion”

Wisconsin 6-piece Phox dropped their debut album this past June. A stunning collection of artsy, alternative folk that sits as well on adult contemporary stations as it does on hipster blogs. Despite the AAA flair to their often jazz infused material, the band comes through with some surprisingly fresh and daring material for their first LP.

The gem of the debut is the deservingly singled out “Slow Motion” which showcases the husky vocal gymnastics of lead singer Monica Martin. The beautiful singing and songwriting which inhabits the song remains undeterred by the strange structure and rhythmic changes that seem to shape shift with every chord change. And is that a clarinet in there? It certainly is. Possibly the one move that shifted the song away from total mainstream appeal, but a delish musical moment none the less.

The band released their EP “Confetti” in early 2013 and after a Daytrotter session, positive press, a spot at SXSW and a national tour opening for Blitzen Trapper, began to garner some serious attention. The band played Lollapalooza as a last-minute addition in August 2013, drawing a large crowd despite their midday spot. A show people referred to as one of the best sets of the festival.

Phox is touring the UK, France and Germany until late 2014.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Il Sogno del Marinaio,
Canto Secondo

The second full-length by Il Sogno del Marinaio, an international entity comprising two Italians and an American, features a fresh yet familiar aural breeze combining progressive rock’s instrumental adeptness and expansionist possibilities with a lean punk-derived lack of malarkey. That the Yank is Mike Watt demands note, but it’s far from the only reason to investigate Canto Secondo, which is freshly available on CD/vinyl/digital via the Clenchedwrench label.

It’s important to respect this trio’s choice of handle, for it’s just one more example in the enduring tradition of naming that underscores the struggle for creative equality inherent to Rock’s communicative structure (furthermore, the Italian moniker translates into English as The Sailor’s Dream). But as stated in the paragraph above, a third of this unit does consist of the great bassist Mike Watt.

Another point in the triangle is guitarist Stefano Pilia, an Italian acquaintance of Watt who had the fortitude to ask a man significantly his senior and of considerable reputation to form a band with his drumming countryman Andrea Belfi. This they did in 2009, commencing a short tour almost directly afterward and recording that first LP between the shows.

La Busta Gialla didn’t come out until January of ’13, and it wasn’t really hard to understand why. While not aptly described as Experimental, a key component in its prog-influenced sensibility is indeed experimentation, as was the on-the-fly looseness that can only be transcended by the confluence of heavyweight talents.

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The TVD Storefront

We’re seeking interns for a record semester.

They come, they go—every 6 months or so it seems, leaving an indelible mark at TVD and on their own careers. Some depart to labels. Some are drafted by PR firms. Hell, some even stay on as TVD editors from their own home city—they’re just that good.

Fall 2014 looms and we still have a handful of internship openings for Autumn and even into Spring 2015. We’re seeking bright, self motivated, articulate future music industry professionals to join our team on the content side and the marketing and social media outreach that informs the day to day at TVD. Also, candidates need not be in Washington, DC where we’re based to be considered—just be awake when we are.

Interested? Drop Jon and Olivia an email introducing yourself.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Muddy Waters,
The Best of Muddy Waters

Where to start with the music of that sly titan of 20th century music Muddy Waters? Some will advise an inquisitive newbie to invest in an exhaustive multi-disc box set that retails in the neighborhood of a Franklin, while a closet Johnny Winter-aficionado might recommend one of his late-‘70s LPs for the Blue Sky label (and that’s definitely not the place to begin.) However, the most sensible way to commence a journey into the everlasting goodness of McKinley Morganfield is to simply follow the path many thousands have already made, and it leads directly to the doorstep of 1958’s extraordinarily enlightening The Best of Muddy Waters.

While a certifiable embarrassment of great LPs have been made since the format was first introduced in 1948, they don’t all command the same level of historical respect, even from individuals that happen to hold a deep relationship to the sounds those less revered records contain. For instance, after giving the realms of heavy-duty music connoisseurship a good inspection, there is no doubt that the Best of/Greatest Hits LP continues to shoulder something of a bad reputation, with its appeal often denigrated as being directed mostly to dabblers.

These records, awarded to artists who had managed to secure a handful of creative and/or commercial highpoints either in one fast spurt or in some period of sustained longevity, are reliably frowned upon by more intense listeners as essentially being easy primers designed by cash hungry record labels with the intention of giving more casual ears a quick fix and some level of conversance (a sort of career Cliff Notes, if you will) to discographies of considerable distinction.

That’s not necessarily an incorrect assessment. But there are other elements in the scenario, as anyone who ever got turned on to Donovan through their parent’s well-worn copy of his wildly popular Greatest Hits LP can surely understand. And when handed down by older siblings as they slouched off to spend four years in a cramped college dorm, the Best of/Greatest Hits album has surely functioned as a gateway into substantial musical discoveries of all types.

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TVD New Orleans

TVD Recommends:
The Songs of Townes Van Zandt at Chickie Wah Wah, 8/28

The musical poet laureate of Texas has never had a huge profile except among the musical cognoscenti, but since his death, his acclaim has only grown and is reaching a new generation of musicians who weren’t even born during his heyday. Thursday night at Chickie Wah Wah a gaggle of them are coming together to play the songs of Van Zandt.

The Kid Carsons are, pardon the pun, the newest kids on the block in New Orleans. Fronted by a brother and sister team, the band puts the country into country rock with fabulous original songs. I also heard them do a set of songs from the Byrds’ Sweethearts of the Rodeo album, which featured country rock avatar Gram Parsons, and was impressed by their musicality and attention to historic detail.

Alexis Marceaux has grown in stature far beyond her television claim to fame as a contestant on The Voice. Along with multi-instrumentalist Sam Craft, she fronts Alexis and the Samurai. But that band may eventually be eclipsed by their francophone big band project, Sweet Crude.

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TVD San Francisco

Tesla’s Frank Hannon,
The TVD Interview

Over 14 million records sold and one hell of a live show have made Tesla one of the longest running and most successful bands from an era when bands were known more for their hair than their music.

The blue-collar Sacramento rockers have just released a new record entitled Simplicity and they are currently in the midst of a tour across the country. Founding member Frank Hannon called me before a sold out show in Columbus, Ohio to talk about the past, present, and future of the band.

Do you have a favorite touring moment past or present.

It’s been 30 years with a lot of highlights that included both extreme highs and extreme lows. Back in the day when we were first starting out opening for David Lee Roth was a great thing. I remember we were playing in Buffalo, NY and every day he would go out and jog no matter what. This particular day there was a blizzard and I remember him walking in completely covered in snow. Then at the end of the tour, he invited us up to his hotel room and he had a different kind of snow.

I read somewhere that when you were a kid you broke your leg one summer and that’s how you really got serious about the guitar…

When I was a kid I had a little dirt bike, actually it was too big for me since I was only eleven. I actually started listening to music before that and started playing the guitar when I was ten. 1976 was a great year for music, Frampton Comes Alive, Aerosmith was big, and I loved the Rolling Stones, but when I broke my leg on that dirt bike, I was laid up for the whole summer with nothing to do except really practice my guitar. When I got out of my cast I was a lot better.

What was the first record you owned?

In 1976 on my tenth birthday I got a little turntable. My mom knew I loved the Peter Frampton record so she got me that, but I was also introduced to Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry then as well.

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The TVD Storefront

Surface Noise: D.F.C., Tchan Nan Nan Nan Nan

Every vinyl lover has been in this situation before: you are at your local record store digging through the crates. You have already picked through the good stuff like Beatles mono releases and original pressings of Ummagumma by Pink Floyd. You make your way over to the bargain bin—the cheap stuff—we’re talking $1-$3 here, and that’s when you find it. That one record you might not normally buy, but for $2? Why the hell not. It may have those familiar words on the price tag, Surface Noise. It comes with the territory in the bargain bin—wear and tear means a lower price tag, but it is here that we discover new things, whether they be amazing, horrifying, or sometimes even stupefying.

That’s what this column will be dedicated to—those wonderful bargain bin gems that we find while crate digging, the albums we might not give a second thought to, but for the low price, it’s suddenly worth it. With every installment of Surface Noise, I will explore the overlooked, eclectic, wacky, and just plain weird. Soundtracks to ’60s biker movies. A double LP of Polynesian Fire Dances. Maybe even some long-forgotten rock albums, like Head East, or the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack. I will find the best of the bargain bin, and I won’t spend more than $5 doing it.

Now that you’ve got where I’m going with this, let’s take a look at this week’s pick. Flipping through the $1 bin at Som Records one day after work, I came across this gem. From 1994, Tchan Nan Nan Nan Nan was D.F.C.‘s debut album. I had never heard of them, I just saw the outrageous cover art and had to at least give it a listen. I took it over to the in-store turntable, dropped the needle, and was floored by what was assaulting my ears.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Music Blues,
Things Haven’t Gone Well

Things Haven’t Gone Well is veteran bassist Stephen Tanner’s debut under the moniker Music Blues. A true solo effort, the record’s 11 tracks delve headfirst into topics most folks consciously try to avoid; depression, failure, and the inescapable disappointment of existence. A challenging yet consistently rigorous and ultimately rewarding collection, it arrives this week on CD, digital and aptly, double shit brown vinyl through the Thrill Jockey label of Chicago.

The promo-lit for Things Haven’t Gone Well explains that in the period after the death of his friend Jerry Fuchs (notable as the drummer for LCD Soundsystem, Turing Machine and !!!), Stephen Tanner crashed on the couch in the Georgia home of Creston Spires, his cohort in experimental sludge kingpins Harvey Milk. In the attempt to write that band’s next album he found himself drinking and watching six hours of the original Beverly Hills 90210 a day.

I can identify with that, though not specifically; during a personal mid-‘90s rough patch the viewing choice of this night-owl was early AM reruns of Law & Order on the A&E Network. And I have caught a few episodes of 90210 over the years, but by now the memory banks are a bit foggy; these days I mainly recall the program for providing a nascent example of Wayne Coyne’s increasingly relentless use of incongruence as promotional strategy via a guest spot by The Flaming Lips.

It’s been reported the Lips got the gig because Pavement turned it down; however, this is probably an untruth fueled in part by the lyrics to the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain song “Unfair.” Indisputable though is the Flaming Lips and Pavement helping to define a musical era, and one that Harvey Milk existed in without much fanfare.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Big Star’s Third Live at the 9:30 Club, 8/23

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Once a decade or eon or so, an LP comes along that is simply too tortured and nakedly honest for human ears. 1978’s twisted and raw Thirs/Sister Lovers is such an LP. The final offspring of the seventies’ incarnation of Memphis, Tennessee power pop band Big Star—which never dented the charts during its lifetime but has achieved cult superstardom in the years since—Third is anything but a catchy power pop record. I mean it could be, were it not lacking in the catchy, the power, and the pop departments. That said it is a bona fide 12-inch record, which ought to count for something.

What Third offers the listener instead of Big Star’s previous infectious and bittersweet tunes about teenage kicks, love, and heartbreak (you know, like the great Raspberries, only more emotionally complex and sonically all over the place) is the sound of former Box Top Alex Chilton teetering on the edge of the psychic abyss and about to completely lose his shit, to the loving accompaniment of some great string arrangements by Carl Marsh. (They should have entitled the LP Breakdown to Strings.)

As such, Third is every bit as nakedly powerful a work of art as Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack Up,” or heroin- and booze-ravaged Charlie Parker’s tortured 1946 Dial Records take on “Lover Man,” which he couldn’t even stand on his own to record and which was followed by a long “vacation” in California’s Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

Third’s honesty and vulnerability have moved innumerable music fans, even if I’ve never been one of them. Sure, I’m touched by some of the songs on the LP, and admire its complete disregard of commercial considerations—they certainly couldn’t have expected this one to go platinum—but I’ve always found it both cold and lacking in irresistible tunes, and really only like 5 or so of its 14 (or more, depending on which release you buy) cuts.

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD Live Shots: Kimbra at Graffiti Cafe, 8/21

Art and music. Twas a time when both were connected at the hip—with an emphasis on the hip, where albums covers were often as celebrated as the package’s contents.

As such, to celebrate the release of her brand new Warner Brothers full-length, The Golden Echo—out now in the US, Aussie chanteuse Kimbra presided over her own record release and listening party with a performance surrounded by 13 original pieces of art “each inspired by and corresponding to a song on the new record” at LA’s Graffiti Cafe.

The Golden Echo, we hasten to add, is available in a 2 LP configuration bundled with 3 limited edition lithographs, which points to a trend we’d like to see fostered.

We sent TVD LA’s Manny Hebron to check out the action last Thursday night.

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