Category Archives: Shorties

Killer Mike and El-P find out if NPR has rhythm

Video: Run the Jewels – Tiny Desk Concert

Run The Jewels: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

This is so great. I love these guys. They exude the righteous joy performers feel when they know they’re doing something awesome. RTJ can be fun and playful and serious and cutting all within the same verse. I wonder if Mike and El realize how much we need them right now and how perfect they are for this moment in time.

Songs performed:
“Talk To Me”
“Legend Has It”
“A Report To The Shareholders”

John Darnielle on Star Wars and very strong rum

It’s always fun when the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle has a new project out because he goes out of his way to do interesting things to promote it. In this case his new novel, Universal Harvester, is out February 7 from publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and instead of just going out on a regular book tour (which he’s also doing, of course), he’s also reviewing rum for the Wall Street Journal and composing a ditty for the director of the new Star Wars movie.

The WSJ article (“One Very Strong Rum, Multiple Alternate Realities”) is classic JD, incorporating references to Joan Didion, James Beard, and one’s careless, younger self. My favorite quote is: “Add a tablespoon [of rum] to pretty much any standard cake recipe and you’ve got yourself the kind of grown-up dessert that’ll allow you to imagine yourself in a Fitzgerald novel, preferably closer to the beginning than the end.”

I sometimes forget that I became a fan of John Darnielle from his writing (for Michael Goldberg’s InsiderOne/Neumu and JD’s own Last Plane to Jakarta zine/blog) before I ever heard a note of his music. But once I heard his music I immediately became obsessed, scaring off most of my friends and family with my zealotry. I’ve cooled off since then but every once in a while I still geek out.

When I saw his tweets about a new song inspired by a jokey twitter conversation with Rian Johnson, I didn’t know who that was. As much as I love Star Wars I’ve tried (and apparently succeeded) in remaining spoiler-free when it comes to news about the upcoming movies. For anybody who doesn’t know: Johnson is the director of Episode 8: The Last Jedi.

Darnielle’s summary:

I was saying how there’s an urgent need to speak out about the many deeds of the ultimate Jedi who wastes all the other Jedi and eats their bones. Rian agreed, and told me to get to work, that the story must be told! So I wrote the song and recorded it with a little help from my kids, who you’ll hear excitedly jumping in and out of the room while I work. Enjoy!

Hear it below…

Continue reading John Darnielle on Star Wars and very strong rum

Bowie Gets Posted

One thing that probably isn’t thought about a great deal—or at all—is the subject of postage stamps. If they’re thought of, it is in the context of suddenly finding oneself in the need of one.

But they can be thought about in relationship to music.

That is, the U.S. Postal Service actually has a broad list of musicians that it has put on stamps over the years. This includes:
• Louis Armstrong
• Ray Charles
• Elvis Presley
• Johnny Cash
• Sarah Vaughn
• Janis Joplin
• Jimi Hendrix

Now it seems that while there is a number of philatelists who collect the first-day covers and press sheets (with our without die cuts), there are plenty of people who, when going into their local post offices in need of stamps and are faced with the choice between a pickup truck and Janis make the Mercedes-Benz choice.

Back in the day when comic books ran ads for things like “X-Ray Specs,” there were sometimes ads for stamps that were—and are—printed by small countries that were trying to cash in on celebrities, whether it was a stamp with a superhero on it or some voluptuous Hollywood star that happened to be in the news. One could argue that that was probably a more sensible approach financially for putting ink on paper than plenty of other alternatives. They’d seize something of topical interest and turn it into a stamp that would certainly never be used.

It used to be that in the U.S. someone had to be dead (see previous list) before they’d get their face on a U.S. Postal System stamp. That changed in 2012.

Which explains things like Harry Potter stamps. After all, the U.S.P.S. isn’t immune to a need for revenue, and presumably a whole lot of Muggles would be more than glad to have a Potter collection stashed away in an album.

Meanwhile, over in the U.K. the Royal Mail has announced that for the first time in its history it is devoting a stamp issue to an individual artist or cultural figure:

David Bowie.

That’s right, there is a set of 10 Bowie stamps that will go in sale on March 14, that include:
• The covers of Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, Heroes, Let’s Dance, and Blackstar
• Four stamps showing Bowie in live performances (The Ziggy Stardust Tour, 1972; The Stage Tour, 1978; The Serious Moonlight Tour, 1983; A Reality Tour, 2004).

Incidentally: the Royal Mail, after 500 years, was privatized in 2015. Clearly its motives are not unlike those of the aforementioned small countries. Or the U.S.P.S., for that matter.

Nana Grizol video: TV Song

Video: Nana Grizol – “TV Song”

Nana Grizol – TV Song

The press release calls them “Elephant 6-affiliated folk-punks” which, I’ll admit, is enough to get my attention. I don’t remember ever hearing either of Nana Grizol’s first two records, Love It, Love It (2008) or Ruth (2010), but I like the sound of this song enough that I might have to go back and check them out. The new album, Ursa Minor, is due March 31 on Orange Twin Records.

Continue reading Nana Grizol video: TV Song

New Boss Hogg album coming soon: Brood X

Cristina Martinez and Jon Spencer are bringing back their New York art/punk/scuzz band Boss Hogg just when we needed them. We hadn’t heard from them since 2000’s Whiteout until they released a four-song EP in July. Along with veterans Jens Jurgensen on bass and Hollis Queens on drums, and newcomer Mickey Finn on keys, they’re releasing the full-length Brood X on March 24 on In The Red. Follow them on Facebook for all the latest revolutionary insurrection.

I’ve always thought Boss Hogg was cool. I still have my turntable mat from their eponymous 1995 album even though I got rid of the record years ago. I’m happy to hear they’re still making a ruckus.

And you can stream a couple of songs below…

Continue reading New Boss Hogg album coming soon: Brood X

New Father John Misty video: Pure Comedy

Video: Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy”

Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Another feel good party anthem from everybody’s favorite optimist, FJM. No official info yet on whether this is from his third album or just another one-off single he’s been upping of late, but it appears that he and video director Matthew Daniel Siskin have been thinking about the miracle of birth and the inauguration of our new orange fuhrer.

Siskin, by the way, is Beyonce’s webmaster (or something).

Update: Clever nerds have discovered a cached merch page indicating that a new album, also titled Pure Comedy, is due March 31. Plus: album artwork.

Update #2: NPR reveals that Pure Comedy is due April 7 on Sub Pop Records.

Continue reading New Father John Misty video: Pure Comedy

Yes, People Still Listen to the Radio

While I anxiously await Nielsen’s year-end music sales report, I thought I’d share a few highlights of their recent recap of the state of the radio industry at the end of 2016:

• “radio’s reach is larger than any other format [TV, PC, devices] and only continues to grow year-over-year”

• “radio reaches 93% of U.S. each week” (That’s 225,207,000 adults!)

• Old people (55+) love the “News Talk Information” format. Overall, it was #1 with a 9.6% share.

• Young people love Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR). It was #1 among both 18-34 year olds (with 12.2%) and 35-54 year olds (with 8.8%).

The way the radio industry describes its formats is weird and creepy though. You’d think I’d be used to it after 20 years of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, but I’m not. I still get skeeved out when I read about “Hot Adult Contemporary” and “Urban Adult Contemporary” which are different from plain old “Adult Contemporary” and, of course, “Urban Contemporary.” But what can you do?

Great ideas in record label marketing: Free Dirt

It must have been fun to work at Warner/Reprise in 1969. There were so many great groups on their roster: Joni Mitchell, Van Dyke Parks, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, the Kinks, the Grateful Dead… They were the cool label. Selling those records to all the hip kids must have been a piece of cake.

Or maybe not.

Because when it came time to come up with a campaign to promote Neil Young’s first album with his new band Crazy Horse, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, they ended up with a novel idea: free dirt. That’s not a euphemism for anything. You could send in a form and they’d mail you a baggie of dirt from Topanga Canyon. No self-addressed stamped envelope or anything!

“Miss Penny in shipping has demanded tranquilizers, overtime, and an Easter bonus for her boys if they have to bag dirt. But what the hell. Nobody understood Galileo either. Read on.”

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New Flaming Lips video: Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young)

Video: The Flaming Lips – “Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young)”

The Flaming Lips – Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young) [Official Music Video]

Well it looks like Wayne Coyne made it through his midlife crisis and is back to making music again. I’ll admit I was turned off by Coyne’s recent behavior where he left his wife, allegedly started taking drugs after years of relative sobriety, and began running around with Miley Cyrus (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Around that same time the Flaming Lips had become the feel-good, never-turn-down-a-festival-appearance party band, making a cartoon mockery of the fundamental weirdness that had made them so appealing in the first place.

Remember when it just seemed INSANE that “She Don’t Use Jelly” became a hit? That was 22 years ago, bubba, and Yoshimi was 14 years ago. You can’t begrudge a band for sticking with it and gaining fans and success, but it would be hard to argue that they hadn’t gotten sidetracked over the past few years. There’s more to life than confetti cannons and balloons.

I was pleased with the slow-burn psychedelia of their Riot Fest performance this year. There were still confetti cannons and balloons, of course, but the music didn’t pander to the shirtless party bros. They weren’t taking their music — or their audience — for granted. Longtime Lips fans will give all the credit for any return to form to Steven Drozd, and maybe that’s fair. Drozd is said to be the only real musician in the band, but even if that’s accurate, Wayne Coyne is still the front man and is clearly responsible for steering the ship. From the three songs they’ve released so far from Oczy Mlody, due January 13 on Warner Bros, they’re heading into some interesting territory.

Continue reading New Flaming Lips video: Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young)

New Tribe video: We The People…

Video: A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People…”

A Tribe Called Quest – We The People….

We all saw them do it on SNL last week and now here’s the official video for the first single from the new Tribe new album, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. Here’s the oral history of how this record came to happen; it’s a good read, so check it out.

All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go

Seems rather timely.

Continue reading New Tribe video: We The People…