New L7 video: I Came Back To Bitch

Video: L7 – “I Came Back To Bitch”

L7 – I Came Back To Bitch (Official Video)

Single out now on Don Giovanni.

L7 is back! I had the chance to see them back in college when they played Club Soda in Kalamazoo, but for some reason I didn’t go. It was a Tuesday night and I wasn’t really familiar with their music, but I knew they were important. My pal who turned me on to Paul’s Boutique and suede Pumas told me about it so I should’ve gone. About six months later they released Bricks Are Heavy and had a college radio smash hit with “Pretend You’re Dead” and I realized my mistake. Live and learn.

And now they’re back. Donita Sparks told Rolling Stone the new song is “about greedy fucks throwing the word ‘rock star’ around because someone made a huge profit on somebody else’s back… Do not degrade the word ‘rock star.’ That’s what I find grotesque – because creative people, caregivers, civil servants – those are the people who are contributing to society… Capitalist motherfuckers are just making money off of polluting things and ruining neighborhoods. Everything is going to shit.”

Sock it to the man!

L7: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New King Tuff video: Psycho Star

Video: King Tuff – “Psycho Star”

King Tuff – Psycho Star [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From The Other, out April 13 on Sub Pop.

A wise man once said, “We could all die any day, but before I let that happen I’ll dance my life away.” There’s a similar sentiment undercutting King Tuff’s new song. The world is doomed, so we might as well get down.

Chaos and confusion
Maybe that is really all we are
The universe is probably an illusion
But isn’t it so beautifully bizarre?

I guess it is.

King Tuff: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New Mavis Staples video: If All I Was Was Black

Video: Mavis Staples – “If All I Was Was Black”

Mavis Staples – "If All I Was Was Black"

From If All I Was Was Black, out now on Anti.

Mavis Staples is 78 years old and she’s been singing professionally for 70 of those. Thank about that. She’s been getting paid to sing since before most Baby Boomers were even born. She’s a national treasure. This is the title track to her third album produced by Jeff Tweedy.

Director Zac Manuel told Rolling Stone, “The intent of this video is to highlight black excellence, and to provoke and encourage a larger public appreciation of the labor – physical and emotional – the people of color often are expected to bear. Using the symbolism of the ‘monument,’ a contemporary point of debate, I hope to steer conversation toward the acknowledgment of actual greatness; by replacing a negative and reinforcing a positive, this video will alter the image of who we often see immortalized in our country’s history.”

If it was up to me, I’d just replace every statue in America, confederate or otherwise, with a statue of Mavis Staples. Oh, mercy.

Mavis Staples: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Titus Andronicus video: Above the Bodega (Local Business)

Video: Titus Andronicus – “Above the Bodega (Local Business)”


From A Productive Cough, out March 2 on Merge.

I can keep a secret from my mama, I can keep a secret from my pa
I keep myself out of trouble, stay one step ahead of the law
And I can keep it from my neighbors – it ain’t like they even care
But I can’t keep a secret from the guy at the store downstairs

Sounds like Titus Andronicus might be making their Exile on Main Street, with all the horns, soulful background vocals, and lowdown lyrics.

Patrick Stickles says, “The first floor of the apartment building in which I live is occupied by a deli-grocery, to which I give my patronage several times a day. As a result, I have developed a particular understanding with the staff there which I have not so far heard articulated in song. Thusly, I took it upon myself to write the ‘ultimate’ song explicating the bodega clerk-patron relationship. More and more, we are defined by the things which we consume, and those who facilitate that consumption may glimpse a more truthful view of ourselves than the carefully curated image we share with our loved ones. No one knows the depths of my vice better than they who oversee the transactions which make it possible—in this way, the deli clerk knows me better than my own mother.”

Shoop shoop sha la la!

Titus Andronicus: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Playlist: History of British Rock (Sire Records, 1976)

I had this cassette in high school. I can’t remember exactly where or why I bought it, but my guess is that it probably came from the Columbia House tape club. Or maybe I bought it at the mall because it had a rare Beatles song on it.

It’s a weird compilation. Released by Sire Records in 1976, it’s not arranged chronologically but it spans from the first single by a British group to reach the American Top 20 (“Silver Threads and Golden Needles” by the Springfields, 1962) through Beatlemania and psychedelia all the way to 1971’s earthy noodlefest, “Layla.”

There’s nothing by the Rolling Stones, the Who, Herman’s Hermits, Hollies, Small Faces, Zombies, Them, Moody Blues, Pretty Things, Spencer Davis Group, or the Yardbirds, and the Beatles song is a goofy throwaway recorded in Hamburg before they had a record deal. Some of the songs never even charted on this side of the pond at all (“Black Magic Woman” by Fleetwood Mac, “Massachusetts” by the Bee Gees). So it’s just a strange listen. But it was my introduction to most of these songs, and to be honest, I haven’t heard many of them since I left home for college.

This comp is a distillation of the four-volume Sire Records series of historical releases issued between 1974 and 1975: History Of British Rock, Vols 1-3 plus Roots of British Rock. Seymour Stein created an ambitious program of double LP packages chronicling rock music’s history. Each original volume contained 28 songs with lots of cool photos and liner notes by Greg Shaw. So my tape was clearly a cheapo knockoff of the original set with no photos or notes. And Sire kept the crappy version in print. Weird!

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time most of these recordings were otherwise out of print and generally unavailable to the public. Stein told Billboard in 1975: “It is our feeling that rock does need to be available in some sort of historical context for today’s market.” He noticed that jazz and blues “have virtually everything ever recorded available on some sort of collection” and he wanted to do the same for rock and roll.

His plan didn’t last very long. Within a couple years Sire refocused on new music like the Ramones and Talking Heads. This type of historical release would be taken over — and perfected — by Rhino Records.

In fact, shortly after I rescued this tape from the budget bin, Rhino started releasing its nine-disc collection, The British Invasion: The History of British Rock, which seems to have been inspired by the Sire series, by then out of print. The Rhino box was compiled by Harold Bronson and contained 180 British songs that charted in the States. That’s a cool project and all, but my dumb tape was enough for me.

So I recreated it for you to stream…

Continue reading Playlist: History of British Rock (Sire Records, 1976)

New Frankie Cosmos video: Being Alive

Video: Frankie Cosmos – “Being Alive”

Frankie Cosmos – Being Alive [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From Vessel, out March 30 on Sub Pop.

I’m an idiot. For several years I’ve ignored Frankie Cosmos because I got her mixed up with some other Frankie that I don’t care for. I never gave her music a chance because I was convinced I wasn’t into it. But I was totally wrong. This is exactly the kind of music I love. Unfussy vocals, frantic drumming, clever lyrics. It’s got that slacker style that masks how much work it really takes to do it yourself.

Being alive matters quite a bit
Even when you feel like shit

Sounds simple, but it’s true.

Frankie Cosmos: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New They Might Be Giants video: The Greatest

Video: They Might Be Giants – “The Greatest”

They Might Be Giants – "The Greatest" (Official Video)

From I Like Fun, out now on Idlewild Recordings.

They call me the greatest
Because I’m not very good
And they’re being sarcastic

It’s wild to think that these guys have been around for over 30 years. And even now, there are not a lot of bands making this kind of “high geek” music. Sufjan Stevens came closest during his Illinois era, I guess. But it’s impossible for me to hear TMBG without flashing back to being a know-it-all nineteen year old, drunk on my own egocentrism (and Bacardi). Those were heady days, stumbling around college campuses, soaking up influences and experiences like a sponge, but still absolutely convinced I already knew more about everything than anybody. They Might Be Giants made you feel like you were part of a society of intellectuals, passing around tapes of Lincoln and Flood like a secret handshake, unlocking clues in the lyrics. “It’s from the point of view of a nightlight…get it?”

Fast forward to now, and John Flansburgh and John Linnel are still at it. Still doing the Dial-a-Song thing (844-387-6962), and still writing and recording quirky songs that don’t sound like anybody else. Nick Offerman is perfect in the video as the narrator, slowly getting tortured via voodoo. His faux gravitas as he sneers “G-O-A-T” is worthy of an academy award.

They Might Be Giants: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New Breeders video: Joanne

Video: The Breeders – “Joanne” (Michael Nesmith cover)

The Breeders – Joanne (Filmed at Electrical Audio, Chicago)

All Nerve is out March 2 on 4AD. “Joanne” is not on the album.

“Joanne” is one of my favorite songs of all time. I first heard it back in college when Leppotone supergroup Twister covered it live at Club Soda in Kalamazoo. I was already a huge Monkees fan but had not yet discovered the solo work of Mike Nesmith. It quickly became an obsession as I gathered up as many Nez albums as I could find in the used record bins.

Just recently, Nesmith reformed his “First National Band” and played some shows in California. Nez is the only original member since pedal steel virtuoso Red Rhodes and bassist John London are dead and drummer John Ware was not interested. But it’s still awesome that Nesmith is back into playing the style of country rock that he helped create years before Glenn Frey ever met Don Henley. (Just listen to “Papa Gene’s Blues,” which Nez wrote and produced for the first Monkees album in 1966.)

Anyway, Kim Deal does a fine acoustic cover, recorded — and apparently filmed — by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago. And while “Joanne” is not included on the upcoming Breeders album, it does appear as the b-side of the “Wait in the Car” single that is included in the vinyl bundle from 4AD.

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

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New Rostam video: Bike Dream

Video: Rostam – “Bike Dream”

Rostam – "Bike Dream" [Official Music Video]

From Half-Light, out now on Nonesuch Records.

I’ll admit I didn’t want to like this song. I’m still kind of mad at Mr. Batmanglij for quitting Vampire Weekend. I totally realize how juvenile that sounds, but what can you do? Gotta feel your feelings, right? So I was fully prepared to dismiss this out of hand, but I’m a sucker for street views of Paris and this video features our hero riding around La Ville-Lumière (plus Berlin and Copenhagen), so I gave it a chance.

Rostam’s voice comes off as a little too twee at first, but it grows on you and the fact that it sounds like he’s smiling while he sings is ultimately charming.

He told NPR, “The melody and lyrics for this song were originally written over completely different music. At some point I realized it was nearly in the same key as another beat I was working on that had a kind of T-Rex vibe to it. I put them together, and the song came out of marrying those two things. Though I played piano and electric guitar for the song, I used my playing to create measures of music that I could loop and layer with the sound of vinyl crackling. The idea was to reverse engineer the sound you get from sampling an old recording and building new music out of that. […] I don’t want to explain too much about this song lyrically, but I will say it’s about wanting the person you’re with to be two different people, maybe two different kinds of people.”

Two boys, one to kiss your neck
And one to bring you breakfast
Get you out of bed when
You’re sore from the night before

Rostam has also pointed out that “the two boys in the chorus aren’t actually two boys, but two versions of the same person. […] the boyfriend that’s not cool with himself vs the boyfriend that is.”

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

New Regrettes video: Come Through

Video: The Regrettes – “Come Through”

The Regrettes – Come Through [Official Music Video]

Directed by Claire Marie Vogel. From the Attention Seeker EP, out February 23 on Warner Bros.

Woo hoo! New Regrettes! They’ve got a new EP coming out in a couple weeks with two brand new songs, a cover of Dion and the Belmonts’ “Teenager in Love,” and two acoustic versions of songs from Feel Your Feelings, Fool.

I’ve made no secret that the Regrettes are my favorite new band of the moment. Lydia Night writes sophisticated pop songs and her band punches them out with precision without sacrificing any of their punk rock energy. Listen to that gnarly bass tone! They’re the best.

Night told Refinery29, “All the key people that made this video so magical were women. It’s just such a different energy on set. There’s something about [having so many women around] that’s so comforting and so comfortable. It’s so easy to feel free, especially for a video like this. I’ve never danced in a video or done anything close to this, so being surrounded by a bunch of badass women all day makes it so much easier to be vulnerable and in that headspace.”

They’re playing all the festivals this summer, so check them out if you’re going. I saw them last year at Riot Fest and I can confirm they put on a great show.

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

Continue reading New Regrettes video: Come Through

Rock and roll can change your life.