New Exbats video: Ghost in the Record Store

Video: The Exbats -- “Ghost in the Record Store”

The Exbats - Ghost in the Record Store

Song for Record Store Day, April 18, 2020 released on invisible vinyl, limited edition of zero, for sale nowhere.

Are you missing shopping for inessential things like vinyl? Sad that Record Store Day has been postponed (or whatever it is they’re doing with it)? Well, just remember that some shops are haunted!

At night you might hear a quiet song
You sense his moves but the lights aren’t on
It’s just that friend and he’s still right there
Filling orders in his underwear!

Too bad you won’t be able to pick this one up on invisible vinyl. I’d line up over night for the chance to score one of these babies in its limited edition of zero! Rock and roll!

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

New Run The Jewels video: Ooh LA LA

Video: Run The Jewels -- “Ooh LA LA” (ft. Greg Nice & DJ Premier)

Run The Jewels "Ooh LA LA" feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier (Official Music Video)

Directed by Brian & Vanessa Beletic. From RTJ4. Single out now.

There’s nothing like a Run the Jewels song to make you feel better about the world and give you hope for the future! So glad these guys are back right when we need them most.

And it looks they got this video made in just the nick of time!

We shot this video only a few weeks before the pandemic hit with no clue as to what the future held. The fact that we got the chance to do it is damn near miraculous in hindsight.

In conceptualizing the video with our friends Brian and Vanessa Beletic we imagined the world on the day that the age old struggle of class was finally over. A day that humanity, empathy and community were victorious over the forces that would separate us based on arbitrary systems created by man.

This video is a fantasy of waking up on a day that there is no monetary system, no dividing line, no false construct to tell our fellow man that they are less or more than anyone else. Not that people are without but that the whole meaning of money has vanished. That we have somehow solved our self created caste system and can now start fresh with love, hope and celebration. It’s a dream of humanity’s V-DAY… and the party we know would pop off.

Love, RTJ

All hail Run the Jewels, the pride of this great republic!

Run The Jewels: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

A Hamburger Today: The Wimpy Approach to Tickets

One of the cartoon characters that has pretty much disappeared from the scene is Popeye the Sailor Man, the bizarrely configured individual with forearms the size of barrels and upper arms the size of twigs. He gained strength from eating spinach, not of the variety that most people might be familiar with from salads (which often had a warm bacon dressing, canceling any of the nutritional benefits), but from a can that he would crush in the middle such that it popped out of the top for quick consumption. Popeye needed the strength to take on his rival, Bluto, or Brutus, which at some point was claimed to be a set of twins, who typically was kidnapping Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend. Not even a 1980 Robert Altman movie starring Robin Williams (Popeye) and Shelley Duvall (Olive Oyl) with a screenplay by Jules Feiffer music by Harry Nilsson could save the strip.

At this point you are probably wondering whether you’ve accidentally stumbled onto some comic-book related website or that GloNo has transformed during this time of working from home.

Well, not exactly.

There is another Popeye Universe character that has recently come to mind: Wimpy. Apparently his full name is J. Wellington Wimpy. Something of a ne’er-do-well who seemingly came from a place of higher station and has fallen to a lower one. And who has become a con.

Wimpy’s catch phrase is: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

And you know that Tuesday never comes, even if it is Monday.

Even with states “opening up,” the likelihood that there will be concerts of any size anytime soon is slimmer than Olive Oyl.

Yet there are companies including Ticketmaster and AEG have sold tickets for concerts, and seem to be having a refund policy that would be familiar to Wimpy. You can get your money back on Tuesday.
Part of the approach is that a concert must be officially canceled or new dates have to be set for the show before a refund is considered.

Continue reading A Hamburger Today: The Wimpy Approach to Tickets

The Mountain Goats – Songs for Pierre Chuvin

Video: The Mountain Goats -- “Until Olympius Returns”

the Mountain Goats - Until Olympius Returns

From Songs for Pierre Chuvin, out now on Merge.

It’s hard not to feel doomed these days. Democracy, empathy, our general welfare: all of these things have been eroding away for the past few years. Longer, of course, but the erosion has ramped up lately like the rising waters of Lake Michigan eating away the shoreline.

Maybe it was inevitable. It’s probably irreversible.

This pandemic and the response to it might be the final nail in the coffin. Will our culture survive?

Our temples are record stores, independent book shops, and small restaurants. Our ceremonies are sweating with strangers in dark clubs with live music. Will any of that even exist in a couple years?

I hope so. We’ll see. Or maybe we won’t.

Do you think the fourth and fifth century pagans throughout the Roman Empire thought about stuff like that while the Christian mobs and Roman armies were systematically wiping them off the face of the earth?

On Songs for Pierre Chuvin, John Darnielle goes back in time to an era that’s hardly recognizable anymore: the 1990s. It was a time when dudes sat on the living room floor and recorded earnest songs about ancient esoterica into boomboxes. They dubbed copies of their cassettes and passed them around to their friends, who dubbed copies and passed them around to their friends, who picked out their favorite songs and compiled them onto mixtapes to impress pals and woo women. The world was physical and the exchange of these artifacts took place in dorm rooms and shitty apartments, face-to-face or delivered to mailboxes.

I first became aware of the Mountain Goats at the tail end of this era. All Hail West Texas was the last album that John Darnielle recorded on his Panasonic RX-FT500 portable cassette player. Since then Mountain Goats albums have gotten gradually more sophisticated, recording in professional studios, adding a bass player, then a drummer, eventually even a saxophone. Darnielle’s compositions have matured as well, as has his musicianship, and several recent recordings feature Darnielle on piano instead of guitar. 2017’s Goths features no guitar at all. It’s jazzy.

Continue reading The Mountain Goats -- Songs for Pierre Chuvin

The Crying of Lot 205

Friday, April 10, was the 50th anniversary of the breakup of The Beatles, so what better day than that to buy stuff?

Specifically, Beatles’ stuff.

Let’s face it, there hasn’t been a whole lot of interest in the actual music being put out by the two remaining people who had been part of the band, so that’s not driving a whole lot of revenue for anyone.

So a wide array of things that were associated with the once Fab Four were put up for auction at Julien’s Auctions.

In case you are wondering, that business is not operated by John Lennon’s son: he’s Julian. According to the folks at Julien’s, it is “the world record-breaking auction house to the stars.”

(And as we have a bit of time on our collective hands as we shelter at home, let’s think about that “auction house to the stars” claim for a moment. Also according to the firm, it “received its second placement in the Guinness Book of World Records for the sale of the world’s most expensive dress ever sold at auction, the Marilyn Monroe ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ dress which sold for $4.81 million.” That happened in 2016. Ms. Monroe sang that song to John F. Kennedy in 1962. Ms. Monroe died that same year. So one of the claims to fame of the “auction house to the stars” has no benefit to the star in question, as both the star and the person to whom her slinky vocal stylings were directed have both been dead for more than 50 years. In addition to which, in terms of the auction that we will be looking at in a moment—honest, I will get out of this parenthetical remark soon—again, two of the stars are no longer with us, as John Lennon died in 1980 and George Harrison in 2001, so again, how are they going to benefit from the auction? In case you’re wondering about the first placement in the Guinness Book of World Records, that occurred in 2009, when it auctioned off a white glove that had been worn by Michael Jackson, “making it the most expensive glove ever sold at auction.” Jackson died in 2009. It isn’t clear whether the glove sold before or after his passing. And the whole notion of a glove being owned by him is not worth thinking about too hard, or at all, for that matter.)

Back to the auction of the Beatles’ related materials.

Continue reading The Crying of Lot 205

New Courtney Marie Andrews video: Burlap String

Video: Courtney Marie Andrews -- “Burlap String”

Courtney Marie Andrews - "Burlap String" (Official Video)

Directed by V Haddad. From Old Flowers, due June 5 on Fat Possum.

Courtney Marie Andrews has an amazing voice. I discovered her strictly on the strength of her 2018 album cover, which is still one of my all-time faves. That’s an admittedly goofy reason to check out a record, but in this case it totally worked out. May Your Kindness Remain is as great as its artwork.

Andrews has a new album coming out in June, and this one is all about heartbreak.

Some days are good, some are bad
Some days I want what we had
Some days I talk myself into a lie.

The video is a tribute to a community of musicians in Bisbee, Arizona, where Andrews would visit as a teenager, including a couple named Derrick and Amy Ross who performed as Nowhere Man And A Whiskey Girl. Andrews says they “became my DIY musician mentors, being fifteen years older than me, and showing me it was possible to pay rent off of playing music. I adored them, and we did lots of shows together throughout my early twenties.” Tragically, they both died in 2013. “Losing them was a devastating blow. They were a large part of the Arizonan community. I still go back to Bisbee often, as it’s where my heart belongs in many ways.”

Andrews shot her new video on Young Blood Hill, a place “littered with catholic influenced memorials, shrines and crosses,” including the memorial of her friends. “By the end of the video, I am placing flowers on Derrick and Amy’s memorial, as a way of reckoning with their loss and each loss we grieve throughout our lifetime. Though this song was written for one of the great loves of my own lifetime, I wish to place flowers on heartbreak’s memorial as well.”

Courtney Marie Andrews: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Courtney Marie Andrews video: Burlap String

New Warlocks video: Dear Son

Video: The Warlocks -- “Dear Son”

The Warlocks - "Dear Son" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Vicente Cordero. From The Chain, out now on Cleopatra.

It’s been 17 years since Bobby Hecksher’s psychedelic Warlocks first blew our mind with The Phoenix Album. I still rank “Shake the Dope Out” and “The Dope Feels Good” as two of the best songs of that whole turn of the century “garage” rock scene. Seeing them at the first Chicago-based Lollapalooza in the middle of the day was a highlight of the whole weekend. And Johnny Loftus’ review of a 2002 Double Door show is one of my favorite things we’ve ever published.

And now the Warlocks are back with a brand new concept album about “two star-crossed lovers who commit a bank heist together.”

Hecksher recently talked to the Big Takeover: “In the video, we see them commit the crime and get caught. The Warlocks are playing to the fictional movie as if scoring it or writing music to it as it’s happening. Our male lead Rocky (played by Tygh Runyan) influences our female lead Diamond (played by Leslie Gladney) by fear to do the crime and her lawyers plead this. She’s loosely a Patty Hearst-type character and gets off. Rocky gets a public defender and the book is thrown at him.”

Right on. Bonnie and Clyde it up!

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

New Phoebe Bridgers video: Kyoto

Video: Phoebe Bridgers -- “Kyoto”

Phoebe Bridgers - Kyoto (Official Video)

Directed by Nina Ljeti. From Punisher, out June 19 on Dead Oceans.

It’s got to be so hard being a musician right now with no way to tour to make any money. How do you even promote an upcoming release if you can’t assemble a crew and make a video?

Well, as we’re seeing, artists are getting creative and doing it themselves, working from home like the rest of us.

In Phoebe Bridgers’ new video, she gallivants around Japan without leaving the comfort of her jammies. Dead Oceans says the original plan was to shoot the video on location, but who needs that hassle when you’ve got a green screen and some old Godzilla footage? Plus, you know, the whole global pandemic situation…

The only evidence of potential social distancing violations is a little hiccup with the person holding the fan who accidentally gets into the shot. They’re fired!

Day off in Kyoto, got bored at the temple
Looked around at the 7-11.
The band took the speed train, went to the arcade
I wanted to go but I didn’t.

Bridgers says, “This song is about impostor syndrome. About being in Japan for the first time, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and playing my music to people who want to hear it, feeling like I’m living someone else’s life. I dissociate when bad things happen to me, but also when good things happen. It can feel like I’m performing what I think I’m supposed to be like. I wrote this one as a ballad first, but at that point I was so sick of recording slow songs, it turned into this.”

We love your ballads, Phoebe Bridgers, but this is good too!

Phoebe Bridgers: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Phoebe Bridgers video: Kyoto

What to Listen to Now: Painted From Memory

If you have time to go through your stacks, pull out this disc.

One of the most evocative songs of the ‘60s is “Anyone Who Had a Heart” performed by Dionne Warwick. The song, released in 1963, was written by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics). The two were to write a number of other songs performed by Warwick, including “Walk On By,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” (cheesy, but infectious).

The Bacharach/David partnership, which was to result in an array of music that is known for its performance better than authorship (e.g., they wrote “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”).

Fast forward to the mid-90s. Bacharach and Elvis Costello collaborated on a song, “God Give Me Strength,” for a movie, Grace of My Heart, starring Illeana Douglas (a character loosely based on someone like Carole King) and Matt Dillon (think Brian Wilson), released in 1996.

Then, two years later, Bacharach and Costello put out an album, Painted from Memory, which includes “God Give Me Strength,” as well as 11 other songs that the two collaborated on.

While it might seem somewhat bizarre that Costello would work with Bacharach, it is worth knowing that even back in ‘78, when he was still sardonic, Costello performed “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” a David/Bacharach composition that was first performed by Dusty Springfield in 1964. The Warwick version was released in ‘66. And the White Stripes rendition of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” was released in 2003.

Costello has shown a tendency to perform against type during his career. Consider, for example, that sandwiched between the albums Trust (‘81) and Imperial Bedroom (‘82) is Almost Blue (‘81), an album recorded in Nashville of country covers. (Remember: this is 1982, long before something like that was considered to be not at all stretching any bounds.)

In 1991 there was G.B.H., the soundtrack for a British TV show about left-wing politicos in the Age of Thatcher; in ‘93 he released The Juliet Letters, which he performed with the Brodsky Quartet, a classical band of musicians, arguably as far from the Attractions as one could imagine.

While Costello has proven himself to be nothing if not productive, turning out albums at least every couple of years in this early period, what is somewhat interesting to note is that after Painted from Memory came out in ‘98 there wasn’t another record until 2001, For the Stars, on which he teams with a mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter for a series of songs including the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)”, the Beatles’ “For No One” and “This House Is Empty Now”–which appears on Painted from Memory. Clearly, he recognized that it is such a good song that it bore repeating sooner rather than later.

While it might be difficult to argue that Painted from Memory is Costello’s best album, it wouldn’t be hard to maintain the position that his voice has never sounded better on a recording.

Painted from Memory is, in some ways, a fully realized sequence of songs that perhaps had its genesis in “Alison.” But the cool, sophisticated arrangements of Burt Bacharach takes this to an entirely different place.

Continue reading What to Listen to Now: Painted From Memory

New Hallelujah the Hills video: People Keep Dying (And No One Can Stop It)

Video: Hallelujah the Hills -- “People Keep Dying (And No One Can Stop It)”

People Keep Dying (And No One Can Stop It) [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.

I wish the songs I love would stop being so goddamn appropriate to our current situation but so it goes. Welcome to 2020. Pour yourself a stiff one.

Many years ago for our honeymoon my wife and I went to Italy and visited the Capuchin Crypt in Rome. It contains the artfully arranged bones of 3,700 dead monks. The idea, apparently, is to remind us of our mortality. My favorite section contains a clock made out of arm bones with an inscription that translates to: What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you soon shall be.

Yep. Might sound glib but it’s true. Give or take 50 or 60 years, which is just a meaningless blip in the universe, our time will come. Can you take this fact and artfully arrange it? Hallelujah the Hills does.

Ryan Walsh says, “It’s a heavy song from a heavy album, and people have been asking about or pointing to this particular song frequently as things are getting worse and worse with COVID-19 in the U.S.A. The truth is, this song is about the baseline human condition that we’re all gonna die. Sadly in this current situation, we actually could’ve stopped some of these deaths if we had an inkling of competent leadership in the country. But this song was always about confronting that terrifying aspect of life as a way of realizing how special every single day is. It’s really hard to do right now, so, personally, focusing on creative things, like making video art with your friends, is a decent way to try to stay sane.”

Staying sane is key. Don’t freak out.

We’re all gonna die. Sic semper erat, et sic semper erit.

Hallelujah the Hills: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Rock and roll can change your life.