Category Archives: Shorties

Hey Nineteen: Happy birthday to us!

She thinks I’m crazy
But I’m just growin’ old…

Sure, when you’re a grown-ass adult, 19 seems impossibly young. But when you’re a website? Well, 19 is old as dirt. C’est la vie.

2001 was a long time ago. A lifetime, really. It’s freaky to think how different the world was before Facebook, before Twitter, before YouTube, before iPhones…

Nineteen-year-olds today have no memories of life without a phone in everybody’s hand all the time.

But we do. And here we are. Still going. Still finding good music and sharing it. Occasionally still digging deep into something we care about. Mostly, we’re trying to stay positive and convey joy in an environment where that’s getting increasingly difficult.

But music helps. And whether it’s the thrill of discovering some kid’s debut single or the comfort of replaying something you’ve heard a thousand times, music provides a salve for our battered souls.

Skate a little lower now…

Audio: Steely Dan -- “Hey Nineteen”

From Gaucho (MCA, 1980).

Continue reading Hey Nineteen: Happy birthday to us!

New Cornershop video: St Marie Under Canon

Video: Cornershop -- “St Marie Under Canon”

Cornershop 'St Marie Under Canon' - ample play records

Directed by Chris Curtis. From England is a Garden, due March 6 on Ample Play.

Another single from the upcoming Cornershop album, this one “praising St Marie for all of our battles that she has overseen and adjudicated, ending with the modern day warfare of the public address sound system: amplifier, echo chamber, microphone and speaker. Music through the sound system is the weapon (or should be).”

Battle on!

This is what Tjinder Singh and his crew do best. A catchy riff with a relentless Motown beat and McCartneyesque fiddly bits on bass. The groove reminds me of their “Lessons Learned from Rocky I to Rocky III” from 2002’s Handcream For A Generation. What’s not to love?

Cornershop: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New Brandy Clark video: Who You Thought I Was

Video: Brandy Clark -- “Who You Thought I Was”

Brandy Clark - Who You Thought I Was [Official Video]

Directed by Claire Marie Vogel. From Your Life Is A Record, out March 6 on Warner.

There’s a line in a Wilco song that has gotten to me since the first time I heard it over twenty years ago: “What you once were isn’t what you want to be anymore.” People, especially those of us who are prone to nostalgia, spend a lot of their time looking back and thinking that life was better when they were younger.

At some point, maturity and a little self-awareness tend to kick in and you realize that your younger self was kind of a dipshit. At best, a lovable dipshit. But a dipshit nonetheless.

And then you might come to the conclusion that you’re still not quite the human being you’d like to be. And there’s a lot of work left to do. It’s humbling. And daunting.

Brandy Clark, who wrote my favorite song of 2018 (“Pray to Jesus” by the Oak Ridge Boys), gets it.

Now I wanna be honest
Now I wanna be better
Now I wanna be the me I should’ve been when we were together
I wanna be at least almost close to worth your love
I wanna be who you thought I was

Right? These are lyrics that will stick with you for the next twenty years.

John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, who is certainly no slouch when it comes to writing lyrics, shared this song and said, “Brandy Clark once again making the other songwriters, present company included, look like amateurs.”

A songwriter’s songwriter. I’ve been really getting into these lately.

Brandy Clark: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New Badly Drawn Boy video: Is This A Dream?

Video: Badly Drawn Boy -- “Is This A Dream?”

Badly Drawn Boy - Is This A Dream? (Official Video)

Directed by Broken Antler. Single out now on AWAL.

First new Badly Drawn Boy song in several years. And it sounds…highly compressed and terrible. Maybe it’s just YouTube but the mastering gives me a headache before the end of the video. (Update: the version streaming on Apple Music sounds slightly better.) Which is a shame because the song is a scootin’ little ditty about our current dystopian reality.

Welcome to the tragedy
It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, I know

The video is an appropriately psychedelic collage of absurdities. The whole thing is a lighthearted take on a subject that’s easy to be sour about.

Like a lot of Americans, I was introduced to Damon Gough’s music via a Christmas 2000 Gap ad. It’s hard to imagine now, but twenty years ago the use of good music in television commercials was a cause of great consternation. We were very concerned about “selling out” back then, which might seem quaint and naive today, but it used to be a very big deal. Volkswagen had made waves earlier in the year by using sadsack sacred cow Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” in a spot for its Cabrio.

My generation of rock snobs suddenly realized our people had infiltrated the big ad agencies. Those of us who still identified more with Ethan Hawke’s character in Reality Bites assumed that these corporate stooges were all a bunch Ben Stillers intent on cashing in on the coolness we had cultivated so carefully. (It would be a long time before we accepted the biting reality that Troy Dyer is equally if not more douchey than Michael Grates… Either way, Winona forever!)

But I’m thankful to the young professionals at Modernista! for turning me on to Badly Drawn Boy. Glad he’s back…and let’s all hope he gets on the right side of the Loudness Wars.

Badly Drawn Boy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New Exbats video: I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts

Video: The Exbats -- “I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts”

The Exbats / I Got the Hots for Charlie Watts

From Kicks, Hits and Fits, due March 13 on Burger.

The Exbats are a father-daughter duo from Arizona: Dad/guitarist Ken Mclain and daughter/drummer/singer Inez (named after Mike Nesmith, naturally).

“I Got The Hots For Charlie Watts” is the title of their 2018 sophomore album, but the song doesn’t appear on it. And I mean, really, if you come up with a title that great, you might as well use it to its full potential.

And what a great song. Their label describes them as “bubblegum garage punk” which is accurate enough, I guess, but it doesn’t quite convey the ramshackle homemade charm. Kinda reminds me of an early Brian Jonestown Massacre recording.

Ken talked to Punknews: “Swoon for Keith Moon? Check. Flame for Hal Blaine? Check. Hots for Charlie Watts? Check. ‘The old gods have a died, a couple survive. But it’s only echoes, cash from the past,’ but we can’t help a fascination with the titans of rock’s past. And for us, it keeps coming back to the Stones…and The Monkees. The Stones had the attitude and The Monkees had crazy 60’s energy with songs from the great songwriters of the time. Groups like these old timey guys inspire us. And one guy just totally kept his cool through decades of navigating enormous egos, Charlie Watts. He just didn’t give a shit about all the weird stuff going on around him, he just showed up looking great and doing his thing. Driving some of the most badass songs ever played. What a guy, man, he’s the best. Totally unflappable.”

It’s true, of course. Charlie’s the coolest Stone.

The Exbats: bandcamp, insta, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Belle and Sebastian video: There Is An Everlasting Song

Video: Belle & Sebastian -- “There Is An Everlasting Song”

Belle & Sebastian - There Is An Everlasting Song

From How to Solve Our Human Problems (Matador, 2018).

“The video is a small tribute to the amazing people who posed, modeled and enrolled to appear in our artwork for the How To Solve Our Human Problems EP releases.”

I spent a semester at the University of Aberdeen in 1991-92. My dorm room in Dunbar Halls (demolished in 2003) had a bed, a desk, and a sink. When I first arrived at my new home I was greeted by the 70-year-old porter who spoke entirely in Scotticisms with such a thick accent that I literally could not understand a word he said and he practically had to drag me to my room. In relatively short order I would be proficient enough to not only understand what everybody was saying, but I also could tell where anybody was from. Maybe not down to the neighborhood like Henry Higgins, but the region for sure. That knowledge fades fast. These days I can’t even determine if someone’s from Ireland or Wales. But I used to.

All the people I knew from Glasgow were good looking. And I’m sure that not everybody in a Belle and Sebastian video or record cover is from Glasgow, that’s what I remember them all looking like. The band goes for a certain look. And back in 2016 they asked their fans to submit headshots to use as artwork on their upcoming series of EPs. Over 1,100 applicants submitted photos and the band ultimately selected about 50 people to shoot professionally. These were used for the artwork on the How To Solve Our Human Problems EPs.

And as a Throwback Thursday a couple weeks ago, Belle and Sebastian made this “wee video” to honor those folks. And they’re all good looking, just as I remember them being.

Belle and Sebastian: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Torres video: Dressing America

Video: TORRES -- “Dressing America”

TORRES - Dressing America (Official Video)

Directed by Ashley Connor. From Silver Tongue, out January 31 on Merge.

Wow! Remember a couple years ago when Mackenzie Scott was dropped by 4AD for “not being commercially successful enough”? Well now she’s been signed by Merge and this is the first video from her new album.

She talked to Billboard back in July about her new home. “I’m glad to have found a label in Merge that’s actually run by artists and touring musicians.”

So glad she’s back and didn’t let the music business beat her down. “Three Futures” was one of the best songs of 2017 and “Dressing America” picks back up where she left off.

I tend to sleep with my boots on
Should I need to gallop over dark waters
To you on short notice

She’s from Georgia after all, so that cowboy hat and those boots are not cultural appropriation, ha ha.

Warning: The video features pastie-covered breasts so if that’s something that offends you (or your employer), you might want to hold off on playing the video.

TORRES: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Torres video: Dressing America

New Bonnie Prince Billy video: This is Far From Over

Video: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy -- “This is Far From Over”

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "This is Far From Over" (Official Music Video)

From I Made A Place, out January 31 on Drag City.

Middle age is tough. It’s hard to keep a good attitude when you see your body and the world falling apart. Our bonnie prince, who just turned 50 last week, understands this but offers hope:

Though half of life is gone for good
And we haven’t acted as we should
You feel it in your heart of wood
That this is far from over

Will Oldham knows there’s even hope in the world’s inevitable apocalypse:

Don’t worry if all life is gone
The rocks and sea will still roll on
And new wild creatures will be born
As this is far from over

That’s right, folks. We might be well on our way to rendering our planet uninhabitable, but guess what: Earth doesn’t care. It will carry on long after all of the humans, plants, and animals are killed off. And then it will start over. Or not. It will continue to orbit the sun, happy finally to be rid of all the monsters who have been torturing it for the past 250 years.

The video offers an optimistic vision of an alternate reality, where folks can be free from the horrors of humanity and commune with nature. A life at sea. Yo ho ho.

“This Is Far From Over” features and was edited by Captain Olivia O Wyatt. She just completed a solo transpacific crossing from San Diego to Hawaii on her 34 ft. boat, Juniper. The voyage lasted 23 days and was chronicled on her blog Wilderness of Waves. From Hawaii, she will sail around the world to destinations guided by humpback whale migration patterns. As Olivia traverses the sea, she is creating an ethnographic film exploring the mystery of humpback whale songs from the perspective of indigenous communities who revere them as deities.

Sail on, sister. Sail on.

Bonnie Prince Billy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Anna Burch video: Not So Bad

Video: Anna Burch -- “Not So Bad”

Anna Burch - Not So Bad [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]

Directed by Anna Burch. From If You’re Dreaming, out April 3 on Polyvinyl.

Anna Burch first caught our attention hula-hooping in her “2 Cool 2 Care” video. That whole album, Quit the Curse, was solid, and now she’s back with the first single from her second album. It features the same clean guitar tones and upfront double-tracked vocals that we first fell in love with but the instrumentation here is a little jazzier, i.e., features saxophone.

Burch says it’s “an optimistic love song about retreating into memories to find what you need to feel in control of your own narrative when everything else around you feels precarious.”

She adds, “I wrote ‘Not So Bad’ the day before I left to record, because I felt there was an important piece of the album missing—a hopeful, escapist pop song that dealt more positively with themes the other songs were circling around—and luckily it came together almost immediately. The chord progression felt light and jazzy, and when I started to write the words I remembered my mom bugging me about how melancholic my lyrics tend to be, ‘Surely your life hasn’t all been that bad!'”

The video was dreamily filmed at the Senate Theater in Detroit.

Anna Burch: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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Listen: Cosmic Cowboys, Longhaired Rednecks and Other Troublemakers

So every couple of years I like to re-read the 2012 Texas Monthly feature (“That ’70s Show”) on the 1972 Austin music scene that birthed the outlaw country movement. If you haven’t read it yet, just stop now and go read it and come back after you’re done.

Every time I read this fantastic oral history I pick up on new artists that for whatever reason I’ve overlooked before. The first time I read it I went out and tracked down a copy of Willis Alan Ramsey’s album. It’s amazing. This most recent time inspired me to look into the work of Mickey Newbury, which is kind of funny since he’s not even mentioned in the article. You know how it goes: you start googling around and one thing leads to another and all of a sudden you’re obsessed with something you’d never even thought about before.

It’s weird, though, that I’d never come across Mickey Newbury. “Luckenbach, Texas” is one of my all-time favorite songs and he’s namechecked in it: “Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Newbury’s train songs…” How is it that I’d never bothered to look it up before? I’ve been listening to that song all my life — I still have my dad’s copy of Ol’ Waylon. I’m a music nerd; I feel compelled to uncover every reference and backstory of every song I love. Back in college I figured out who the “Jerry Jeff” from Willie’s chorus was and picked up a wild live two-record set that features the drunkest version of “Up Against the Wall, Redneck” ever recorded. But Newbury escaped me.

Newbury was pals with Townes Van Zandt and wrote “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and arranged “An American Trilogy.” These are songs I have known and loved for decades yet I never looked into their composer. All the best songwriters have proclaimed their love of Mickey Newbury (Kris Kristofferson said, “I learned more about songwriting from him than any other writer”), and in 2011 Drag City reissued his most highly regarded three albums plus a disc of rarities in a fancy box set featuring liner notes written by Ben Fong-Torres, Chris Campion, Kenny Rogers, Kristofferson, and Will Oldham. It’s available on streaming services…minus the liner notes, of course.

So anyway, I made a mix. 21 songs, 69 minutes long, one song per artist, sequenced to maximize listenability but it’s loosely chronological. It tells the story of what happened when country songwriters, mostly in Texas, stopped caring about Nashville conventions and started to embrace the hippies. The bulk of these songs are from 1972 and 73. Tom T. Hall joked about the “illusion of literacy” this new type of songwriting brought to the country music scene.

Buckle up as we take you from the sublime to the ridiculous (and back and forth again) across this sad and beautiful country where someone’s always doing something dirty that decent folks can frown on.

Praise the lord and pass the mescaline!

Continue reading Listen: Cosmic Cowboys, Longhaired Rednecks and Other Troublemakers