New Orb video: Rush Hill Road

Video: The Orb – “Rush Hill Road” ft. Hollie Cook

The Orb – Rush Hill Road (Official Video)

From No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds, due June 22 on Cooking Vinyl.

The Orb is back to celebrate its 30th anniversary with a new album full of collaborations with a wide range of artists including Youth, Jah Wobble, Roger Eno, Guy Pratt, Michael Rendall, Roney FM, and the new single features Merge recording artist Hollie Cook.

I spent a lot of time in the 90s listening to the Orb’s “Little Fluffy Clouds” on repeat while studying the patterns in nature. If you look closely enough you can find all kinds of designs and sequences within individual blades of grass or pebbles of sand. I could stare at the sky for hours. And the clouds would catch the colors everywhere. It’s neat.

On the Fourth of July in 1991 President George H.W. Bush came to my hometown to watch our parade. My friends and I thought it would be a good idea to take part in this historical event, so we got an older brother to drop us off downtown. We never made it to the parade because we got distracted, opting instead to hang out in a little park with an Apollo space capsule. There was Secret Service everywhere, on top of roofs, armed with binoculars and sniper rifles. It was quite a scene. We eventually got hungry and decided to walk to Arby’s, a little disappointed that we had missed the parade and hoping we didn’t run into any of our parents. Independence Day. As we were crossing a street the police slammed down some barricades in front of us to close off the route. Before we could even figure out what was happening, Secret Service officers surrounded us and the presidential motorcade drove right by. We could clearly see President Bush grinning and waving to us through the bulletproof window of his limousine. We made eye contact. I may have not been a fan of his policies (no blood for oil!), but I was flattered that the President of the United States of America came to us that day. A sense of sincere patriotism overwhelmed me, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear.

Listening to the Orb always makes me think of that day.

The Orb: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Orb video: Rush Hill Road

New Frankie Cosmos video: Apathy

Video: Frankie Cosmos – “Apathy”

Frankie Cosmos – Apathy [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Directed by Tom Scharpling. From Vessel, out now on Sub Pop.

This video is funny. Greta Kline says, “I am a huge fan of Tom Scharpling’s work and was so thrilled that we got to work together on this video. I trusted him entirely and just wanted to let Tom and his team do their thing. We had so much fun making it… I was laughing so much that it probably took much longer than it should have to shoot my parts.”

Picking a unique band name is hard. Back in 2004, shortly after we released the second album on our label, Riviera’s At the End of the American Century, a different band calling themselves Riviera popped up out of Germany and started trying to sabotage our Riviera’s last.fm profile. The whole thing seems ridiculous in retrospect, especially since at least two more bands named Riviera have formed after that and continue to battle for dominance. The best part is that the most recent Riviera kind of looks like the “other band” in the Frankie Cosmos video. Dorks. Our Riviera, sadly, is now defunct and they even let their domain name expire, which breaks my heart. But hey, it was a good run.

And remember: Don’t mess with Greta Kline. She’s packing steel.

Frankie Cosmos: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Number One Records: This Is America

Video: Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Childish Gambino – This Is America (Official Video)

Directed by Hiro Murai. Single out now.

Protest music doesn’t typically reach the top of the charts. A couple notable exceptions: “War” by Edwin Starr (1970) and “Indian Reservation” by the Raiders (1971). Many songs that you may think of as big hits (“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, “Russians” by Sting) were kept out of the top spot.

But Childish Gambino has reached number one with “This Is America,” which he released immediately after performing it on the May 5 episode of Saturday Night Live. The video is powerful and shocking and thought provoking.

The song had 65.3 million U.S. streams and 78,000 downloads sold in the week ending May 10 and 9.4 million in all-genre radio airplay audience in the week ending May 13. The video made up 68% of the song’s streaming total.

Billboard points out that “This Is America” is a “rare socially-themed Hot 100 No. 1 (such as ‘We Are the World’) and perhaps the most pointed example since Lady Gaga’s equality anthem ‘Born This Way’ in 2011.” Socially-themed? That’s an odd euphemism but okay…

A friend I’ve known forever sent me the video that Sunday morning with the comment, “Of all the dumb shit I thought as a young man, thinking that I could somehow understand or identify with being black in America takes the goddamn cake.” It’s true. We were sheltered suburban white kids who listened to N.W.A. and read Malcolm X and watched Do the Right Thing and we sincerely believed we were down with the revolution. I listened to Gil Scott Heron without noticing that “Comment #1” was aimed directly at “silly trite motherfuckers” like me! The hubris of youth is something else. Adulthood is realizing you don’t know dick about shit.

I hope this video encourages people to question their assumptions about some things they think they know. And to shut up once in a while and just listen to others.

Childish Gambino: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading Number One Records: This Is America

New Kacey Musgraves video: Space Cowboy

Video: Kacey Musgraves – “Space Cowboy”

Kacey Musgraves – Space Cowboy (Official Music Video)

From Golden Hour, out now on MCA Nashville.

As much as I wish this was a cover of the Steve Miller Band’s 1969 deep cut, it is not. Its title, however, is surely a reference to Miller’s 1973 #1 hit, “The Joker.”

Musgraves is still a clever lyricist and inserts a comma between the words of the title:

You can have your space, cowboy
I ain’t gonna fence you in

“Space Cowboy” is the only song on Golden Hour co-written by the trio of Musgraves, Shane McAnally, and Luke Laird, who co-produced and co-wrote most of her first two albums. The new album is a bit of a change in direction from her classic country sound (vocoder! disco! yacht rock!), but with this song she’s throwing her original fans a bone.

I’ve loved her since I first saw the video of her performing “Follow Your Arrow” at the 2013 CMA Awards. I could hardly believe that this young woman in an adorable little daffodil dress was encouraging a mainstream country audience to roll up a joint and kiss lots of boys “or girls if that’s what you’re into.” She gave me hope for the future. That album, Same Trailer Different Park, is still one of my favorite albums of the decade. Every song on it is a short story with a cast of complex characters and surprising plot twists.

I’ve listened to the new album a few times now and I’m proud of her for drawing more critical attention, and I hope she sells enough albums to continue to keep doing this for as long as she wants. She’s an artist who’s certainly earned the right to follow her muse. Maybe it’ll grow on me but a lot of it reminds me of those obscure songs you hear in positions 25-40 when you’re listening to old Casey Kasem shows on the ’70s channel. It always blows my mind that there are still Top 40 hits from my childhood that I’ve never heard. But mostly they’re just boring or weird or bad. They’re songs that are fascinating to me as a snapshot of an era but make my wife say, “What is this shit?” Golden Hour isn’t boring or weird or bad, but it still hasn’t hooked me like her early stuff. But hey, at least it doesn’t sound like Dean Friedman (peaked at #26 in 1977).

Kacey Musgraves: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Kacey Musgraves video: Space Cowboy

Iowa Jam: The Grateful Dead at the UNI-Dome 2/5/1978

The word is it was a cold night with a biting wind that brought the real world temperature to around 20 below. The sky was overcast on that Sunday evening in Cedar Falls, Iowa and there was a chance of snow. It was a fairly common winter evening for this college town of about 50,000 residents nestled next to a river of the same name; some even perpetuated the myth that the University of Northern Iowa campus was the second windiest, trailing behind Loyola or some other Chicago-based college.

The Grateful Dead’s winter tour in the early months of 1978 had just played Madison and Milwaukee, making Wisconsin the lucky recipient of the band’s weekend mojo. The University of Northern Iowa was fortunate enough to book the band for the Sunday night in their large athletic arena called the UNI-Dome.

I should note that I am an alumnus of the University of Northern Iowa, so I’m very familiar with the campus and the area itself. I continue to live in the Cedar Valley and enjoy living here.

I’m also a fan of the Grateful Dead, to the point where my family rolls their eyes when I ask Alexa to play the band in the kitchen. But fuck those guys. I’m cooking them dinner and I want to hear “Jack Straw” sometimes while I’m boiling water.

Acknowledging both of these things is important, because it makes me a barely credible source regarding the time the Grateful Dead rolled into Cedar Falls and performed a concert at a regionally iconic venue/sports complex at the same university that let me walk away with a B.A. in Communications after only five completely underachieving years.

While I wasn’t present for the performance, I was very aware of the folklore of the show while attending the university a decade after it actually happened. The recollections were (literal) half-baked musings or suspect recounts of someone how knew someone who had a friend who went to the show.

Continue reading Iowa Jam: The Grateful Dead at the UNI-Dome 2/5/1978

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 10

Rolling Stone issue #10 had a cover date of May 11, 1968. 24 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo by Linda Eastman.

This is the issue that proved beyond any doubt that Rolling Stone was having a clear impact on the rock and roll scene it was covering. This is the issue where Jann Wenner proved he wasn’t afraid to bite the hand that feeds him. This is the issue that made Eric Clapton faint.

Clapton was on the cover and it featured the Rolling Stone Interview with Eric Clapton as well as a full-page ad for Disraeli Gears and Fresh Cream. But there was also a live review of a recent Cream show in Boston written by Jon Landau.

Cream has been called a jazz group. They are not. They are a blues band and rock band. Clapton is a master of the blues cliches of all of the post-World War II blues guitarists, particularly B.B. King and Albert King. And he didn’t play a note that wasn’t blues during the course of the concert. […] Yet melodically, the improvisation was indistinguishable from the one that took place on their next number, “N.S.U.,” and rhythmically they never did anything more advanced than a 4/4. By abandoning the chord progression of the song they started out with and improvising solely around the root chord, (which, by the way, is a far cry from having abandoned a chord structure, which Clapton says he is prone to do) they insure the incompatibility of the solo compared with the song. And ultimately what I wound up hearing was three virtuosos romping through their bag, occasionally building it into something, occasionally missing the mark altogether, but always in a one-dimensional style that made no use of dynamics, structure, or any of the other elements of rock besides drum licks and guitar riffs.

Ouch! Years later, Clapton admitted how this review affected him: “All during Cream I was riding high on the ‘Clapton Is God’ myth that had been started up. I was flying high on an ego trip; I was pretty sure I was the best thing happening that was popular. Then we got our first kind of bad review, which, funnily enough, was in Rolling Stone. The magazine ran an interview with us in which we were really praising ourselves, and it was followed by a review that said how boring and repetitious our performance had been. And it was true! The ring of truth just knocked me backward; I was in a restaurant and I fainted. After I woke up, I immediately decided that it was the end of the band.” (RS #450, 1985)

Is it an exaggeration to say that Jon Landau’s review broke up Cream? There may have been other factors, but it’s pretty clear that it had an effect.

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 10

New Albert Hammond Jr video: Set To Attack

Video: Albert Hammond Jr – “Set To Attack”

Albert Hammond Jr – Set To Attack (Official Video)

Directed by Carley Solether. From Francis Trouble, out now on Red Bull Records.

While bandmate Julian Casablancas is off making goofy artzy noiz with his biker gang the Voidz, guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. is sticking closer to the sound that put them both on the map. There’s no way to deny that this new song sounds like the Strokes. And that’s not a bad thing, right? We all love the Strokes!

I stood there like some dumb kid
The music played and the boys would take you far from where I was
I was still hoping that you were the victory to what felt like love

Albert Hammond Jr: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Ruby Boots video: Believe In Heaven

Video: Ruby Boots – “Believe In Heaven”

Ruby Boots – Believe In Heaven

From Don’t Talk About It, out now on Bloodshot.

Wow this song is cool. It took me a second to figure out what was going on since I was expecting something with more of the country soul vibe from her previous single, which was dumb of me since even then I acknowledged that you can’t pigeonhole Ruby Boots because the single before that one sounded like T. Rex!

“Believe In Heaven” has more of a Shangri-Las/Ronettes thing going on. “Come on be my angel / Heaven’s not that far.” And once it kicks in it turns into some kind of Brian Jonestown/Warlocks insanity complete with a fuzzed up guitar freakout at the end. It’s awesome. Wow!

Ruby Boots: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Sounds Like. . . ?

Apparently there is a museum in France dedicated to the works of a late 19th- early 20th century painter, Étienne Terrus.

The museum, located in Elne, France, in the Pyrénées, is full of paintings by Terrus.

Or at least many of the 140 paintings are by the artist.

And even more of them are, as has recently been discovered, fakes.

Experts have come in and determined that 82 of the paintings were not executed by Étienne Terrus, who died in 1922.

One of the clues in one of the landscapes: buildings that weren’t built until after the artist died.

You would think that something like that might be noticed.

But you often don’t see something unless you are looking, even if you’re looking right at it. And arguably there have been hundreds of people looking at those paintings, thinking to themselves, “That’s a nice Terrus.”

As the tagline for this site is not “Gouaches Can Change Your Life,” you are probably wondering what the Terrus Museum has to do with anything.

It got me to wondering about how we actually know whether music that we think has been recorded by an individual or a band really is aural evidence of that.

Continue reading Sounds Like. . . ?

50 Year Old Byrds video: Mr. Spaceman ft. Gram Parsons

Video: The Byrds w/Gram Parsons – “Mr. Spaceman” (1968)

The Byrds w/Gram Parsons- "Mr. Spaceman" 1968 (Reelin' In The Years Archive)

From Fifth Dimension (Columbia, 1966) via Reelin’ in the Years.

Filmed at the Roman Colosseum while the Byrds were in town to play the first International European Pop Festival in 1968, two full years after “Mr. Spaceman” was originally recorded by a very different Byrds lineup.

In the video, we see original Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman joined by newbies Gram Parsons, Kevin Kelley, and Douglas Dillard. (See below for audio of that lineup performing live at the Piper Club.) From Rome, the Byrds would travel to England where they met and hung out with the Rolling Stones before heading back to the States. This was May, and they’d be back in England again in July before heading down to South Africa. Except that Gram Parsons stayed in England with the Stones.

Keith Richards remembered it like this:

He was not aware of apartheid or anything. He’d never been out of the United States. So when I explained it to him, about apartheid and sanctions and nobody goes there, they’re not being kind to the brothers, he said, “Oh, just like Mississippi?” And immediately, “Well, fuck that.” He quit that night. (Life, pg. 248)

My guess is that this is a gross oversimplification and that the truth is more complex. Nevertheless, after less than four months in the band, Gram was out. But it’s pretty cool to see this footage from his brief time as a Byrd.

The Byrds: twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading 50 Year Old Byrds video: Mr. Spaceman ft. Gram Parsons

Rock and roll can change your life.