If Music Be the Food of Love, Get Off the Stage

I have a place where dreams are born
And time is never planned
It’s not on any chart
You must find it in your heart

Neverland.

It was 1972. My hair was long, my waist was thin and I had dark(ish) circles under my eyes from too many weekend nights spent drinking in a dive bar with my friends, smoking too many Kools. I was in a band. I ran what was the school’s “underground” newspaper.

And I had a tremendous crush on a cheerleader. Yes, read the previous paragraph again and put the previous statement into context.

Of course, were that just it, what I had imagined was my Hamlet-like charm (“sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”) would have managed that difference in our outlooks.

But there were a couple of other factors that seem, even in retrospect, to be somewhat insurmountable. Sally (1) had a boyfriend who was a year older and, yes, an athlete who didn’t care for me in the least bit for I represented everything that was pretty much anathema to him and (2) her father was the superintendent of schools and the newspaper I was putting out was causing all manner of organizational upset within the administration’s offices.

So I needed a plan. A plan that would get me in her good graces. Get her to realize that her boyfriend was a boor and that her father could just deal with it. Get her to have even a sliver of the feeling that I had for her for me.

And my plan included Todd Rundgren.

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New Father John Misty video: Total Entertainment Forever

Video: Father John Misty – “Total Entertainment Forever”

Father John Misty – "Total Entertainment Forever" [Official Music Video]

If you’ve been a bit concerned that Papa John Murphy has abandoned his sense of humor, this new video might cheer you up. It’s pretty funny.

Sure, the lyrics are still a little heavy handed. As Doreen St. Felix mentions in her spot-on review of Pure Comedy, Misty often comes across as a “precocious teenage misanthrope.” Indeed, someone’s been told too many times they’re beyond their years.

But he’s still funny. In a snide, prickish way. He’s an asshole, of course, but he’s funny. We’ve all known that guy. He impresses rubes and wannabes by talking about big concepts and scoffs at the trivialities of the less enlightened. 25 years ago he would’ve had a “kill your television” bumper sticker on his car. Today he’s all about unplugging the internet.

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New Blondie video: Long Time

Video: Blondie – “Long Time”

Blondie – Long Time (Official Video)

Johnny Loftus featured “Long Time” on Frontier Justice 3/25/17 and here’s what he had to say about it:

Debbie Harry has never stopped being cooler than everyone, and “Long Time” is the new proof. Written with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and feeding on the genetic material of “Heart of Glass,” it’s one of the lead tracks from Pollinator, out May 5, which will also feature collabs with Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), Johnny Marr, Sia, and the homie Charli XCX.

And now Blondie has made a video for the song featuring Harry as a taxi driver with more style and panache than anybody on the scene. They played at the local high school auditorium a few years ago and now I wish I would’ve gone. New Wave doesn’t seem like a genre that would lend itself to geriatrics, but I’ll be damned if Blondie doesn’t pull it off!

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Number One Records: Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

Video: Bruno Mars – “That’s What I Like”

Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like [Official Video]

We’ve got a new #1 song, America. Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” only stayed at the top spot for a single week. He’s all good though because DAMN. is still the number one album for the second week in a row.

Bruno Mars reached the top of the Hot 100 with “That’s What I Like” for chart date May 13. It’s his seventh #1. And it’s a pretty good song. You have to be a bit of a dick if you aren’t at least partially charmed by Bruno Mars.

“That’s What I Like” might not be as hook-laden as last year’s “24K Magic” and it’s not even close to as irresistible as his 2014 collaboration with Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk.” But honestly, what is?

Billboard points out that this is “the 1,063rd No. 1 in the Hot 100’s history” dating back to August 4, 1958 when the magazine fully integrated the best-selling and most-played pop singles. The chart now also includes downloads and streams.

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A bunch of new Handsome Family videos

Video: The Handsome Family – “King of Dust”

"King of Dust" by The Handsome Family

Jeez, I stop paying attention for a minute and when I open my eyes the Handsome Family has released four more videos from their latest album, Unseen, released last September. I guess it’s been nine months since they shared the video for “Gold”, and after that they’ve cranked out quirky, homegrown videos for “Back in My Day,” “Tiny Tina,” “The Red Door,” and now “King of Dust”.

I’m so happy these guys are still together and still putting out great music.

Continue reading A bunch of new Handsome Family videos

No Intro

I’ll be brief.

I have to be.

Otherwise you’ll stop reading. Perhaps you already have.

A doctoral student at The Ohio State University, Hubert Léveillé Gauvin, has done a study (pdf, press release) on 303 U.S. top-10 singles from 1986 to 2015. He looked at five parameters: number of words in title, main tempo, time before the voice enters, time before the title is mentioned, and self-focus in lyrical content.

Léveillé Gauvin has determined that popular songs today get right to the point. Titles are short. And they’re mentioned in the song post-haste.

What’s more, whereas musical intros that were part and parcel of songs on the Big ’80s—which, on average, were greater than 20 seconds in duration—are gone. Now it’s a five-second intro and the lyrics begin.

And the tempo has accelerated, too, by about eight percent.

It seems music streaming is one of the causes.

As Léveillé Gauvin told a writer for OSU, “It’s survival-of-the-fittest: Songs that manage to grab and sustain listeners’ attention get played and others get skipped. There’s always another song. If people can skip so easily and at no cost, you have to do something to grab their attention.”

This has taken about 45 seconds to read.

The Parson Red Heads – Coming Down

Every New Years Eve The Parson Red Heads cover a different album and invite friends to do the same, creating a night where everyone dresses up like someone else to listen to bands playing someone else’s songs. These kinds of tributes are very popular in Portland, which is odd given the huge amount of talent and original music coming out of this city. But I guess it’s also a fun way for some of these bands to wear their influences (or at least their interests) on their sleeves.

Those influences linger just below the surface in the band’s new single, “Coming Down” from their upcoming fourth studio album, Blurred Harmony. According to their press release, the new album is “the overdriven jangle of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star power-pop, the skewed psychedelics of the Paisley Underground, the bittersweet energy of New Zealand’s ‘Dunedin Sound’ movement, and the muted twang of Cosmic Americana, all crammed into 44 minutes.” All of which is true, but mixed up into a stew of its own.

Singer-songwriter Evan Way describes the track as “a song about anxiety, about how life and all it’s mania can start to make you feel like you’re losing it, and how in those moments the people that you love can sort of ground you and bring you back to reality and that sense of safety.”

Blurred Harmony is out on June 9 from Fluff & Gravy Records.

Video: The Parson Redheads – “To the Sky” (Live on OPB)

The Parson Red Heads: To the Sky

Parson Red Heads: web, twitter, fb, amazon, wiki.

*This article has been edited to correct the title of their album and the night they host their covers show.

Old Gibson Plant in Kalamazoo Getting Facelift

I was lucky enough to have spent some of my formative music years in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Not only was it a tour stop for national bands (Kalamazoo being exactly half-way between Chicago and Detroit), but it also had a banging local scene comprised of bands that I still count among my favorites. All of this was built on the foundation of a guitar company that stands as one of the pillars of American musical instruments: Gibson Guitars.

Founded in 1902 as “The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co., Ltd.” in Kalamazoo to make mandolins and guitars, the main plant was at 225 Parsons St. when Gibson left for Nashville in 1984. Heritage Guitars moved in shortly thereafter and while they made fine guitars, the small company kinda let the building go to pot.

But now new owners Archie Leach and Jeff Nicholson, who bought Heritage Guitars in 2016, are bringing the old girl back to life. Local Spins reports that the company is investing in their history and…ahem…heritage with a $12 million renovation of the plant to “turn the factory into a destination for tourists and local residents, while keeping the legacy of Gibson and Heritage alive and well in Kalamazoo.”

And because this is Michigan, there are plans to include a beer garden and restaurant as part of the renovations, which are expected to be complete by the end of 2018 or in early 2019.

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Cool Still Rules: Kendrick Kicks Ed in the Teeth to Take No. 1

Video: Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”

Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, I am pleased to announce we have a new number one record. After sitting at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for 12 of the year’s 18 weeks, that doughy English dweeb Ed Sheeran is finally knocked out. And who better to do the deed than righteous rapper Kendrick Lamar?

Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” is only the fifth number one record of 2017. Back in February I was telling Johnny Loftus about how I’m never exposed to the Top 40 anymore unless I make a conscious effort to seek it out. And when I do, I’m often surprised by how freaky and interesting popular music has gotten. Many big hits are more “experimental” sounding than a lot of stuff being released on our beloved indie labels. We thought we should at least cover the singles that reached the top of the chart, or as Johnny called it: “the most main of mainstreams.” But then dopey old Sheeran just stayed at No. 1, week after week after week. And come on. “Shape of You” is nothing to write home about. It’s so flaccid and predictable it makes John Mayer’s “Your Body Is A Wonderland” sound substantial. So good riddance. Finally.

And “HUMBLE.” is a jam! A sparse one-finger piano riff drives the beat and Lamar’s rhyming is effortless as always. It’s great that an artist as cool as Kendrick Lamar can reach number one on the pop singles chart. Lots of grumpy old dudes dismiss current music entirely, myself included. That’s a mistake. There’s always good new stuff being released and sometimes the most popular song is also the best song. “Sit down, lil bitch. Be humble.” That’s solid advice that we should all be listening to these days. Reminds me of the great Rookie essay by Charles Aaron where he shares some tips for how not to be a jerk; it boils down to: Fall back…listen…question. That’s an important lesson that can take a lifetime to master. I’m still working on it.

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New Shout Out Louds video: Oh Oh

Video: Shout Out Louds – “Oh Oh”

Shout Out Louds – Oh Oh

In the video for their first new song since 2013, our Swedish heroes explore the joys of breaking and entering into a villa on a Spanish island. If you like crafty, jangly pop music, you’re probably already familiar with these guys. Their fifth album is due later this year on Merge Records.

“Oh Oh” in some way feels like the trigger for this album. We felt, as soon as we had completed it, that the only way we could and should do this was to focus on the energy, the feeling in everything. We wanted to get back to our roots, to our togetherness and some kind of craftsmanship. We reminded ourselves that we are a band that love each other and playing together; the rest is pretty unimportant to us. “Oh Oh” is a lot about keeping that feeling, of never letting go of a dream.

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