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New Father John Misty video: Leaving LA

Video: Father John Misty – “Leaving LA”

Father John Misty – "Leaving LA" [Official Music Video]

From Pure Comedy, out now on Sub Pop.

I know I know I know, a thirteen-minute hymn to your own hyper-awareness (a “10 verse chorus-less diatribe”) is self-indulgent horseshit. It’s impossible to argue with that.

And yet…

Try to forget for a sec what a bloated self-righteous asshole Josh Tillman has become, and just listen to the song. Listen to the string arrangement by Gavin Bryars and think of “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me” or “The Sinking of the Titanic” and just listen.

“Leaving LA” is arranged, performed, and recorded perfectly. It sounds great. It’s a beautiful song even if the sentiment is bitter.

Tillman claims to assume this song will cost him some fans. The “teenage rosebuds” and “college dudes” will “all jump ship” and think, “I used to like this guy but this new shit makes me want to die.” I dunno. Maybe. I’m a couple decades past being a college dude, and I’ll admit I prefer the manic hedonism of Fear Fun over the grumpy cynicism and misanthropy of the more recent stuff, but I’m guessing his core fanbase knows exactly what they’re getting into.

What I find fascinating about Father John Misty in general and this song in particular is Tillman’s quest to find some kind of balance between his onstage persona and his true self. I don’t think that’s a put on. I believe him. I think he honestly struggles with this dichotomy. Maybe everybody in showbiz does, but Tillman is unusually open about it.

Continue reading New Father John Misty video: Leaving LA

New Sufjan Stevens video solidifies theory of 50 States Project

Video: Sufjan Stevens – “The Greatest Gift”

Sufjan Stevens – The Greatest Gift (Official Video)

From The Greatest Gift Mixtape – Outtakes, Remixes, & Demos from Carrie & Lowell, out now on Asthmatic Kitty.

The mention of Asa Lovejoy (founder of the city of Portland) in this song is further evidence to prove the theory that Carrie & Lowell was indeed the “Oregon” installment in Sufjan’s “50 States” project, despite the fact that in 2009 Stevens dismissed the project as “such a joke” and admitted it was a “promotional gimmick.”

Almost every song contains at least one specific reference to Oregon: the Death with Dignity Act of 1994, the Oregon breeze, Spencer’s Butte, Eugene, Emerald Park, the Tillamook burn, Sea Lion Caves, Cottage Grove, The Dalles, the Blue Bucket Mine.

The outtakes from this newly released collection keep it going: Wallowa Lake, Asa Lovejoy, the hidden river, Hathaway Jones, the City of Roses, Pig-n-Ford races, Nike, Beavers, Ducks, and Trailblazers.

I mean, come on. This is as clear and obvious as anything on Illinois or Michigan, right?

There was also a mention of Rogue River in “Mystery of Love,” one of the songs Sufjan contributed to the soundtrack of the film, Call Me By Your Name.

And just yesterday, he released the “Tonya Harding” single, about the unlikely skating star who many considered to be “Just some Portland white trash.”

You could easily compile the most Oregony of these songs into an “Oregon” playlist to get the full effect.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this, either. Tuneage wrote a post about it and found a 2005 interview where Stevens discussed Oregon as a likely contender as a follow up to Illinois. Local publications mapped out every Oregon reference on Carrie & Lowell.

Carrie & Lowell is unquestionably the third installment of Sufjan’s Fifty States Project. Three down, only 47 to go! Snap to it, Soofy!

Sufjan Stevens: web, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Sufjan Stevens video solidifies theory of 50 States Project

What’s In a Name?

Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017, from esophageal cancer. Now Donald Fagen is suing his estate. [Update: Becker’s estate responds.]

The issue, it seems, is the name “Steely Dan.” Or whatever that is.

The two had signed what is known as a “Buy/Sell Agreement” after the band formed in 1972, which essentially lets one member to buy the shares of the other, on behalf of “Steely Dan,” should there be a departure or death. The Becker estate wants Becker’s widow to have the shares.

It is worth taking a look back at the band, such as it was, as one could say that it has always been a duo with an array of supporting musicians.

The first album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, was released in 1972. It was followed with a series of annual releases: Countdown to Ecstasy, ’73; Pretzel Logic, ’74; Katy Lied, ’75; The Royal Scam, ’76; and Aja, ’77. There was a short break, as Gaucho didn’t appear until 1980.

In 1995 Alive in America was released. The next studio album was Two Against Nature, 2000, the same year another live album was released, Plush TV Jazz-Rock Party.

The final Steely Dan album was released in 2003, Everything Must Go.

Fagen had four solo albums: The Nightfly, ’82; Kamakiriad, ’93; Morph the Cat, ’06; Sunken Condos, ’12.

Becker had two: 11 Tracks of Whack, ’94; Circus Money, ’08.

According to steelydan.com, in 1973, “The band in various configurations tours the U.S. and Britain.”

Then there was something of a touring hiatus, it seems.

The site notes that in 1980 “Becker and Fagen go their separate ways.”

So the first tour had an assortment of musicians and seven years later, after that flurry of annual albums and then Gaucho, that was it.

Continue reading What’s In a Name?

Taylor breaks a million for the fourth time

Three years ago this month, we reminded everybody that Selling a Million Albums in a Week is a Big Deal after Taylor Swift released 1989 and sold 1.287 million. At that time only 18 other albums had hit that mark since Soundscan began tracking sales in 1991.

Before Swift’s new album, Reputation, sold 1.216 million last week, only one more album had sold more than a million: Adele’s 25. And 25 crushed all sales records, selling 3.378 million copies in its debut week, 1.112 million in its second week, and 1.157 million in its fifth (Christmas). Which was historically bonkers. Since then, nobody’s come close and nobody probably ever will.

But 1.216 million is still a lot of albums. And those are sales. In just the United States. 709,000 digital albums and 507,000 CDs (no vinyl yet). As Billboard points out, that’s the “10th-largest sales week for any album since Nielsen Music began electronically tracking sales.” In fact, it sold 1.05 million copies in the first four days. That is a dedicated fanbase.

If you factor in streaming and track downloads, it moved 1.238 million equivalent album units (not much more because she’s holding it off streaming services for now).

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Forever Summer

Forever Summer by The Silence

I’ve been in bands my entire adult life. For most of that time, it was the most important element of my identity. Being in a band was not only a crucial creative outlet, but also a social space; it was how I met people beyond what is now the GLONO crew.

The first band I had–or at least the first group of guys who tried to get a functioning, performing band together–was The Silence. We were really only together for a summer, but we played a couple of shows, if you count basements as venues, and wrote and recorded eight songs. The best of these songs was a perfect little piece of electro pop called “Forever Summer,” written by Rick Grossenbacher.

The Silence, from top going right: Dan Terpstra, Mike DeRuiter, Derek Phillips (Author), Rick Grossenbacher

Rick was our keyboardist and sequencer. He loved electronic dance music way before there was anything called EDM. His flavor was more in the vein of Camoflage, Front 242, New Order and Depeche Mode. Man, he loved Depeche Mode. He and Dan, our lead guitarist, would go on and on quoting videos, interviews and studio banter I can only assume came from outtakes and bootlegs.

“Start the tape, Mart.”

At least I think that quote is from Depeche Mode. I don’t really know because that wasn’t my scene. I came from the Brit Pop school and was specifically focused on the Madchester sound of The Stone Roses. Happy Mondays and The Charlatans. The most important Manchester influence for me though was Johnny Marr and he was then in his dance band project, Electronic, with New Order’s Bernard Sumner. So if keyboards, drum machines and sequencers were good enough for Johnny, they were good enough for me.

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Live: Regina Spektor in Grand Rapids

The show was billed as “A Very Special Solo Performance” by Regina Spektor. And it certainly felt special. She was chatty and giggly between songs and seemed to sincerely appreciate the enthusiastic adoration of her fans at the sold out 20 Monroe Live. I’ve never been to a concert where the fans whiplashed between shouts of obnoxious requests and exclamations of love to complete silence and reverence as soon as the next song began.

Spektor took it all in. She spent most of the time seated at her Steinway grand, but played a couple songs on her blue Epiphone Royale, and a few on an electric piano. She even sang a capella, including the charming rarity, “Reginasaurus.”

Her songs are written from a unique perspective. She’s sometimes lumped in with the antifolkies of New York from the turn of the millennium, but I dunno. Her music sounds more like Stravinsky than the Moldy Peaches. Her classical piano training is obvious, although she clearly relishes subverting that by playing with one hand and beating on stuff with a drumstick in the other. Or making trumpet sounds with her mouth. Or beatboxing. Or singing about bobbing for apples in Somalia while “someone next door’s fucking to one of my songs.” At one point she explained why she doesn’t like people to clap along with her songs: “It’s nice, but I actually stretch time.”

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Questions. One Answer.

As I seem to be on the macabre musical beat, I received an email from a friend of mine who recently saw John Sebastian. (She lives in a small college town in Iowa, so they have some non-arena-filling musicians coming to their burg.)

Some of you may be unfamiliar—so you think—with John Sebastian. He’s the guy who performed “Welcome Back,” the theme song for “Welcome Back, Kotter” (which I guarantee is now an ear worm for many of you.)

Now you know who he is.

Some of you will be familiar with “Summer in the City,” the song that’s pulled out for its driving beat, especially when it is hot outside (“back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty”). That was Sebastian in The Lovin’ Spoonful, which also had regrettable compositions including “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice.” Seriously, it as saccharine as its title. But back in the ‘60s, not all was Janis stomping.

Sebastian played harmonica on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu. (Apparently pre-Young, he was asked to be part of the band. What line would musical history have taken had he gone that route?)

And some of you will know that Sebastian played harmonica on The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.” In addition to Morrison Hotel, Sebastian’s harmonica work appears on several songs on the In Concert recording.

Morrison, of course, is dead. Sebastian isn’t. He’s 73.

My friend wrote that he “is a very good guitar player and a GREAT harmonica player. However his voice is gone.”

Continue reading Questions. One Answer.

Number One Records: Rockstar

Audio: Post Malone – “Rockstar” (ft. 21 Savage)

Post Malone – rockstar ft. 21 Savage

After three weeks with the number one single, Cardi B has been dethroned. Post Malone and 21 Savage knocked her out with their mumble rap hit, “Rockstar.” Is this the first #1 song in 2017 that inarguably sucks?

The lyrics are inane, equating being a rock star with “fuckin’ hoes and poppin’ pillies.” The delivery is lazy and the beat is boring. It’s like these dingleberries based their idea of what it means to be a rock star entirely on Spinal Tap.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with rappers glomming on to “rock” signifiers. See Run-DMC’s “King of Rock” as a perfect example, or more recently, Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” which at least managed to highlight the fun and excitement of rock and roll. But Post Malone just sounds like he’s zonked out on ludes.

Switch my whip, came back in black
I’m startin’ sayin’, “Rest in peace to Bon Scott”
Close that door, we blowin’ smoke
She ask me light a fire like I’m Morrison

Uh huh, okay. That doesn’t make a lick of sense and it doesn’t even come close to rhyming. Maybe I’m just old, but this song blows. The kids, however, seem to like it.

“Rockstar” had 51.3 million U.S. streams and sold 48,000 downloads in the week ending Oct. 12, and 35 million all-format radio audience impressions in the week ending Oct. 15. But still…yuck. The world is going to hell, and we’ve got these bozos bragging about assaulting “bad bitches.”

Hit her from the back, pullin’ on her tracks
And now she screamin’ out, “no mas” (yeah, yeah, yeah)

No gracias.

[Update: Embedded YouTube, 11/22/2017.]

Continue reading Number One Records: Rockstar

New Sharon Jones video: Matter of Time

Video: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “Matter of Time”

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings "Matter of Time" OFFICIAL VIDEO

From Soul of a Woman, due November 17 on Daptone.

We were first turned on to Sharon Jones in 2007 when I (mistakenly, and which was debated at length in the comments) called Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black the best soul record in decades. Commenter “Matt” told me to go listen to Miss Jones and I’ve been forever in debt since.

I first saw Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings shortly after that article posted. It was revelatory. In the era of beard-stroking indie rock was this band of crack musicians fronted by a firecracker of a performer who took their jobs as entertainer seriously. Deadly seriously, as it turns out.

Sharon Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and documented her fight against it, while trying to also return to her passion and career fronting the Dap Kings, in the film Miss Sharon Jones! It’s a careful, honest look at the struggle and triumphs of serious illness. Jones, who was the personification of energy and strength on the stage, struggles throughout the film with the physical, emotional and financial strains of her illness and shows her vulnerability throughout and fights her way back to the stage and the road shows that pay her bills–and the bills of her bandmates, road crew and label staff. To know how the story ends, despite where the film ends, is heartbreaking.

Daptone Records announced Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ final studio album, Soul of a Woman will be released on November 17, 2017. Just typing those words, “final studio album” makes me sad. I hate that we’ll never see her perform again and that she won’t be creating new music. It’s hard to embrace the adage that we should “not be sad that it’s over, but be happy that it happened” when such a talented and big hearted woman has been taken away. But I’ll do my best and I’ll dance in my living room with as much vigor as I can muster. It’s what she would have done.

Post-script: Another Daptone flame was snuffed out by cancer recently when Charles Bradley died on September 23, aged 68. He was a James Brown impersonator in his past and used that time as a sort of apprenticeship that made his own live shows absolutely spellbinding. Seeing the clips of Sharon Jones talking shop and dancing with him brought an actual tear to my eye. The world has a little less soul and a lot less heart in it now. Fuck cancer.

Sharon Jones: web, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Not a Pleasant Subject

The passing of Tom Petty at age 66 of cardiac arrest earlier this week is certainly sad for those who listen to music as the man consistently worked with dedication and authenticity throughout what was a solid career.

Yet if we look at it in the context of his other Traveling Wilburys band mates, then it is disturbing to know that George Harrison was just 58 when he died of cancer and Roy Orbison was—and I must confess to being absolutely surprised by how low this number is—a mere 52 when he succumbed to a heart attack.

Jeff Lynne, 69, and Bob Dylan, 76, are still with us. But for them, as for us, the clock is ever clicking.

Without becoming macabre about the whole thing, there is a whole cadre of musicians from the ’60s and ’70s who are getting quite on in years and it won’t be long before there are many whose names will show up in alerts on the screens of our phones.

Jagger is 74. McCartney 75. Townshend 72. Jimmy Page 73. Brian Wilson 75.

And this list could go on longer than I would like to write.

This is going to happen.

Continue reading Not a Pleasant Subject