Greetings from Laurel Canyon!
I’m enthusiastically working hard this week. My take on the music biz, or “the grind,” is that all of this is work, so every now and then I’ll take a break to count stars and dream of magical destinations. This week’s hour-long playlist is the soundtrack to one of those destinations. In my mind, it’s tropical.
Speaking of stars, my sister-in-law won an Oscar last Sunday. Even though I see Patricia only now and again, I am actually very proud of her and honored by her grace.
The Dodos do not feel like a two-man act. For a band that relies so heavily on so little—a drum kit, guitar, and vocals—they fill the stage with their energy and the venue with their indie, at times somewhat folky, sound.
In addition to displaying incredible talent on the two instruments that make up their band, Meric Long and Logan Kroeber seemed to have great fun with the audience—bantering about the cupcakes that were waiting for them backstage, gently mocking an audience member for unhelpful song requests, and dedicating “Black Night” from the album No Color to all the people in the audience who go running in the negative degree weather (thanks by the way guys, it’s chilly out there). Waiting for Long to tune after a guitar change, drummer Kroeber thanked the crowd for the “warm” welcome, noting that this was the band’s first snow day of the tour.
And the welcome was indeed warm. The audience head bopped along and joined in shouting “HA!” and “HEY!” in all the appropriate places, especially getting in to “Competition” off the band’s most recent album Individ and “Confidence” from Carrier.
“I actually didn’t truly discover the beauty of vinyl till I was about 21 years old when I found my mother’s childhood record collection in the basement of my grandma’s house.”
I grew up with cassette tapes and whatnot but when I found that collection, it changed the way I listened to music forever. The first record of hers I played was the Woodstock performance and was obviously blown away. I dusted off every vinyl she had and took them home with me and a new sound was born in my ears.
Now when I’m home, my passion for the classics grows and grows every day ’cause I put ‘em on at night by the fireplace and play ‘em thru my Gramophone.
On Saturday (2/28), expect to spend the whole day in the Faubourg Marigny as everybody’s favorite record store presents live music from 1-6 PM along with lots of camaraderie and freebies.
The Louisiana Music Factory has been around since 1992 and this is their third location after over twenty years in the upper French Quarter. The business is settling into a neighborhood teeming with music and music fans.
A recent visit last Saturday was a typical afternoon of in store performances. I arrived in time to catch the whole set from the 79ers Gang—a new Mardi Gras Indian group featuring chiefs from the seventh and ninth wards (hence their moniker). A large crowd swayed and clapped as the two chiefs alternated vocals and raised a mighty racket despite the fact that Carnival was already in the rear view window.
London folk noir four piece Hawk have finally released their beautiful EP “Clock Hands,” an explorative five track piece of art. It’s an EP that kisses you sweetly good night and haunts your dreams like a dark lullaby.
Prevalent throughout are Julie Hawk’s stunning vocals which are the band’s ace in the hole. Unlike Daughter, St Vincent, or other female artists and female led bands, Hawk are a unit, they are a real band and a stunning one at that.
“Clock Hands” stabs you in the heart like a shadowy fairytale, it’s poignant and emotional. “Hush” however is the backbone of the EP, it’s a sound that the band execute perfectly—the thin veil between post-rock and noir folk that has had some tongues wagging online. In fact, it’s this sound that would probably best serve the band going forward as they end in a less memorable note with track “Guardian,” a track that’s a little folkier and has less direction than the rest.
I have a bad feeling that no one is going to read this review. But that’s not my problem. My problem, or I suppose it’s more of a gripe about a gross injustice, is that Cows/The Heroine Sheiks frontman Shannon Selberg has never gotten his just desserts. Minneapolis’ clamorous Cows put on the best live shows I’ve ever seen, and Selberg remains the most entrancing front man I’ve ever seen dominate a stage. Add a slew of wonderfully scabrous Cows’ LPs full of noise rock classics like “Hitting the Wall,” “Dirty Leg,” “Walks Alone,” “Allergic to Myself,” and “Cartoon Corral” and you’re left to wonder, “What does a maniacal genius have to do to become famous around here?”
Because the great American listening public repaid Cows (and its successor, The Heroine Sheiks) by consigning them to the fringes, along with other great bands from the Midwest like Killdozer, Halo of Flies, and Scratch Acid. It peeves me, it does. Here was an intelligent madman who wore a skinny penciled-on handlebar mustache, mousetraps on his ears, and a horrible wig beneath a battered cowboy hat but never cracked a smile. Instead he would puff out his skinny chest and belligerently stare down the audience, like Joe Pesci saying, “What’s so fucking funny about me?” Never in my life have I encountered a human being so simultaneously amusing and downright menacing.
When Cows took a metaphorical captive bolt pistol to the forehead in 1998, Selberg relocated to New York City and took a stab at acting before founding The Heroine Sheiks, a very different glass of milk from the brutal onslaught that was Cows. Selberg supplemented his trademark bugle with a cheap toy keyboard, and proceeded to produce songs that were less pummeling than slinky and slyly insinuating, although the band didn’t completely abandon noise rock. I remember speaking to Selberg by phone about The Heroine Sheiks’ debut album, 2000’s Rape on the Installment Plan (an homage to Louis Ferdinand Celine’s darkly hilarious novel Death on the Installment Plan), and he told me, I believe in all sincerity, that The Heroine Sheiks’ aim was to “put rock back in the fucking business.” Indeed, he predicted that their debut CD would become a make-out masterpiece, the next Let’s Get It On.
“Industry Sets Friday as Global Record Release Day.“
“Clueless Soundtrack Set for 20th Anniversary Vinyl Reissue: Special edition of the alt-pop heavy compilation will be printed on yellow and black plaid vinyl“
“RIP Mammoth Cave Recording Co. or Why An Indie Label Can’t Survive in 2015: After 7 years and 44 excellent releases, the Canadian independent label home to B.A. Johnston, Ketamines, and a trove of vital punk reissues has called it quits.
“…Kevin Cheesman, from Milton-under-Wychwood, is organising the town’s first record fair in more than a decade. He hopes the renewed enthusiasm for vinyl sweeping the UK will mean fellow music-lovers turn out for the turntables…”
“Checker Records coffee journeys by Brew Crew: Local coffee shop Checker Records gives Volume Salon’s Kim Holtz the boost she needs to start her mornings right. The beloved hybrid record and coffee store, winner of the Hillsdale Daily News’ People’s Choice Award four years in a row, hooked Holtz on coffee.”
“I met Josh in 2006 when we were both 22 years old. We had a lot in common, including the fact that we were both aspiring musicians who hadn’t really accomplished much yet in terms of meaningful musical output. We formed Mariage Blanc in 2007 and it seems almost surreal to me that the last seven and a half years have passed by so quickly.”
“Anybody who has ever been in a serious band at any point can tell you that it’s not unlike most of the other relationships people experience in the different realms of their lives: you bask in some pretty amazing times and endure some pretty low times, as well. Members come and go over the years, weaving in and out of your life. Dynamics change and so do the people involved. I can say without any hesitation that my involvement in this band over the years has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, coming second only to my relationships with my fiancee, family, and friends.
A lot happens between your early 20s and 30s. During our time as a band, I’ve watched myself and my bandmates grow dramatically as both musicians and people. Invariably, this growth is accompanied by change. We came face to face with one of these changes when Josh and his fiancee made the decision to move from our native Pittsburgh to San Francisco last summer. It was a scary time for us. Josh and I have always had an understanding that we would continue this band until one of us is ready to stop, and while we were both fairly certain that the move wouldn’t mean the demise of the band, it was obvious that everybody (including myself) was nervous about the logistics of it all. Some friends and family were supportive about it; others seemed to doubt the likelihood of continuing a band under such circumstances.
For us, though, the bottom line was clear. We weren’t ready to stop, so we weren’t going to.
“The first records I remember holding in my hands were Canned Wheat by The Guess Who and Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica by The Ronettes. Growing up, I was constantly exposed to classic rock and girl groups of the ’50s and ’60s, thanks to my dad’s eclectic record collection. With Motown melodies and classic rock guitar riffs filling my brain, I knew from an early age what I loved about music and what I wanted to carry over into my own songs.”
“I’ve always admired the straight forward love songs of the ’50s and ’60s, and the melodies and harmonies used to tell the stories. I think our first single, “Last Forever,” is my take on blending my classic rock roots with my love for the sugary melodies and sentiments of ’50s and ’60s pop.
Diana Ross and The Supremes’ Let The Sunshine In… I’ll admit, I was first drawn in by the cover art (I’m a sucker for pretty packaging and labels), but once the needle touched down, I was hooked. I still have that record in a box under my bed today.
The Blue Nile helps you get a head start on festival season with two shows this week from artists with releases on Royal Potato Family Records. Marco Benevento plays Thursday night with Mike Dillon opening and Wil Blades returns on Saturday night.
Benevento is an adventurous keyboardist who is no stranger to New Orleans. Though his appearances tend to be around Jazz Fest, the last time I saw him was in late September 2013, which was a sold out show at the Blue Nile. He played with DaveDreiwitz on bass and Andy Borger on drums. Both will join him again on this tour.
During that performance, he mostly stuck to piano, but added some interesting effects that added up to a really big sound.
Mike Dillon opens the show tonight. He will feature Claude Coleman Jr. and JJ Jungle.